In January of this year the Museum was fortunate to acquire a stained-glass window designed by Edward Burne-Jones for Morris & Co. The window, featuring the Old Testament patriarch Noah, was offered through a dealer, one of several windows featuring patriarchs and saints, originally installed in the Chapel of Cheadle Royal Hospital, near Manchester.

Between 1906 and 1915 Morris & Co was engaged in creating the windows for the newly built Chapel of the Cheadle Hospital. Stained glass windows made up a significant portion of the products sold by the decorative arts firm from its beginnings in 1861 as Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co, a collective which included Burne-Jones, among other members of the Pre-Raphaelite circle. The early years of the Firm coincided with the Gothic Revival and the subsequent boom in church building and refurbishment. The level of excellence which came to be associated with the Firm’s glass was crucial in establishing its financial success.

Morris and Burne-Jones’s interest in stained glass derived from a shared passion for the medieval period developed while the two were at Oxford University in the early 1850s. Their joint enthusiasm developed into a unique creative partnership in which Burne-Jones’s linear designs were augmented by Morris’s sense for color. Morris wrote, “Any artist who has no liking for bright colour had better hold his hand from stained glass designing.”[1] And Burne-Jones commented, “figures must be simply read at a great distance…the leads are part of the beauty of the work…”[2]

Cheadle Royal Hospital Chapel and WM Chairs Above, left to right: Cheadle Royal Hospital Chapel, c. 1920. Cheadle Civic Society Archives. | The Arming of a Knight and Glorious Gwendolen’s Golden Hair, 1856-1857. William Morris (1834-1896) and Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882). Painted deal, leather, and nails, Delaware Art Museum, Acquired through the Bequest of Doris Wright Anderson and through the F. V. du Pont Acquisition Fund, 1997.

With the exception of Miriam (1896),[3] all the designs were drawn within a two-year period, 1874-76. Their style reflects the artist’s assimilation of Italian Renaissance art developed on several visits to Italy and culminating in an 1871 viewing of the Sistine Chapel. His wife Georgiana recalled, he “…bought the best opera-glass he could find, folded his railway rug thickly, and, lying down on his back, read the ceiling from beginning to end, peering into every corner and reveling it its execution.”[4] His work from this point forward reflects the influence of Michelangelo and the artists of the High Renaissance.

It is estimated that Burne-Jones created over 750 stained glass designs in his lifetime, the number all the more astounding if consideration is given to the many other media in which he was simultaneously working. His style was uniquely suited to stained glass work. He understood its strengths and weaknesses, writing, “…It is a very limited art and its limitations are its strength, and compel simplicity — but one needs to forget that there are such things as pictures in considering a coloured window—whose excellence is more of architecture, to which it must be faithfully subservient.”[5] His understanding of the media enabled him to exploit to capacity the potential of the lead work, giving a level of expression and character rarely achieved to the flattened surfaces of the glass.

The commission for the Cheadle Chapel came well after the death of both Morris and Burne-Jones, however, the Firm’s huge stock of stained-glass cartoons continued to be re-used in new commissions. Window designs were recorded and photographed so that prospective buyers could choose from a selection of images for their particular building. The window program at Cheadle was directed by John Henry Dearle, who served as Art Director for the Firm after Morris’s death in 1896. When the Chapel closed in 2001, the stained glass was removed and sold. Several of the windows are now in Museum collections including St Paul (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne and six in the Stockport Story Museum.

Enoch and Noah, the earliest of the designs under discussion, were located in the south side of the Cheadle Chapel,[6] as were Daniel, Jeremiah in a stunning gold-hued robe, Isaiah, and Miriam. Attributes cue the viewer in the identification of each. For instance, the Delaware Art Museum’s recently acquired Noah, with a gloriously abundant and patriarchal beard, holds the ark in his left hand while the dove bearing the olive branch appears at upper right. Miriam, clothed in a cloak of red, holds a timbrel which she played and sang after the parting of the sea. St John, St. Elizabeth, and St. Mark were located across the Chapel on the north side of the building. St Elizabeth, wearing a multi-hued green gown over a patterned white tunic bows her head in modesty and reticence. Burne-Jones’s subtle manipulation of line conveys her character of gentleness and humility.

A drawing for this window design is included in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The drawing would have been given to the glass painters in the Morris & Co. workshop to be translated to the stained-glass medium. The design would have been enlarged to the size of the window and used as a template for cutting the individual glass pieces. In some cases, Burne-Jones would include notes on the drawing to aid the craftsman in their work, although there are none on this sheet.

Burne-Jones kept an extensive record of his work for Morris & Co. in a series of account books, now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. In addition to providing valuable information on date and cost, these books include a running commentary of humorous badinage, largely directed at Morris. Comments include lamentations over the poor remuneration received for work and apologetic criticisms for the quality of the work completed. In his typically self-deprecating manner, Burne-Jones described his designs for Isaiah and Jeremiah as two of “four major prophets on a minor scale designed I regret to say with the minimum of ability.”

This stunning group of windows is representative of the quality stained glass work produced by Morris & Co. a result of the deep friendship and collaborative creative partnership of Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris.

The Museum’s Noah will be featured in the reinstallation of the Museum’s Pre-Raphaelite galleries, part of a larger project to reinterpret all of the ground floor galleries. Noah will be presented adjacent to the two chairs, jointly created by William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti created for living quarters at Red Lion Square in London in 1855-6. This grouping of works will illustrate the importance of mediaeval art in the early Pre-Raphaelite aesthetic, as well as in the development of Morris’s arts and crafts practice.

Top, left to right: Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) for Morris & Company, Noah, 1909. Stained glass, 60 x 19 2/3 (with wooden frame). Delaware Art Museum, F. V. du Pont Acquisition Fund, 2020. | Noah, 1874. Edward Burne-Jones (1833–1898). Charcoal on paper, 45 3/4 x 15 3/4 inches. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1948, (48.52).

[1] Chambers Encyclopedia, 1890.
[2] [Cited in Haslam and Whiteway (2008): 3]
[3] Miriam was taken from a figure of Deborah drawn in 1896 for the Albion Congregational Church, Ashton-under-Lyne.
[4] Memorials II: 26.
[5] Georgiana Burne-Jones, Memorials, II:109.
[6] Enoch and Noah can be seen in situ today at Jesus College Chapel, Cambridge, part of a program which predated Cheadle.

Sometimes, despite the best efforts of art historians and even with the help of 21st-century technology and archival resources, as much as we dislike admitting it, there are questions that just can’t be answered definitively. The study of the work of Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (1829-1862), Pre-Raphaelite model, muse, artist, and poet, poses more unanswered questions than most, and that applies specifically to the drawing (one of three works by the artist in the Museum’s collection) under review here.

Best known as the face of avant-garde feminine beauty in the work of many of the early Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood paintings, Siddal’s own work has suffered the fate of many female artists of the past, having been cast aside as less important than those of her more successful male peers. In Siddal’s case, her artistic reputation was further expunged as she died at an early age, leaving little time for her mature style to develop. She died at age 33 of an overdose of the opiate, laudanum, potentially suffering from post-partum depression after the birth of a still-born child). She was daughter of a working-class cutler from Sheffield, employed as a dressmaker when she was first introduced to members of the Pre-Raphaelite circle. While her family was not poor, economic survival would have precluded advancement of artistic endeavors, just as her female gender would have limited opportunities for training.

Siddal first became acquainted with members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood through their friend, the artist, Walter Deverell. The initial connection was probably through dressmaking engagements for the women of Deverell’s family. According to art historian Jan Marsh, Siddal somewhat boldly took advantage of the family’s artistic connections and showed examples of her own work to Deverell’s father, who was a principal of the Government School of Design. The important part of this particular biographical detail is that it shows Siddal’s had artistic intentions and acted on them prior to her relationship with the Pre-Raphaelite artists.

We do know that in 1849 she modeled for the character of Viola in Walter Deverell’s painting of Twelfth Night Act II, Scene IV (1850, oil on canvas, Private Collection). She continued to model for several artists of the group, most notoriously, as Ophelia in John Everett Millais’s famous painting (1851-2; oil on canvas, Tate Britain, London) of a scene from Hamlet. Around 1852 Siddal met Dante Gabriel Rossetti and shortly thereafter began modeling for him as well. Within the year she became his pupil and left off modeling to focus on her own work.

The details of her life including modeling and her on-again/off-again relationship with Rossetti are relatively well known, however, her creative output as artist and poet is less so. As Jan Marsh clarified in the recent exhibition and catalogue, Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood (National Portrait Gallery, London 2019), Siddal’s professional artistic aspirations appear to have been well in place prior to any association with the Brotherhood members and she may have viewed modeling as a way of breaking into the patriarchy of the artistic profession. This suggests a powerful and driving ambition given the hurdles of her working-class status and gender.

Rossetti’s training included the sharing of his enthusiasm for the work of William Blake and medieval manuscripts, as well as his dislike of current trends as practiced at the Royal Academy. Siddal’s early work often addresses subjects from the poetry of William Wordsworth, Alfred Tennyson and their contemporaries, as well as the novels of Sir Walter Scott. While texts by these authors and others served as inspiration, much of her work seems to be strongly derived from her imagination.

“La Belle Dame sans Merci” is the title of a poem by John Keats and was a great favorite among the young Pre-Raphaelites. Three of the drawings show a female figure accompanied by a man who gently draws back the hair of his companion. In the Delaware Art Museum’s version, as in one of those illustrated in the portfolio, there is also a fountain and a third winged figure, almost assuredly an angel. But upon close inspection, this figure might actually be part of the stone fountain, from whose hands the water emits. In terms of identifying the subject, I would suggest the key elements are the male figure’s gesture of drawing back the female’s hair; the existence of the fountain; and the angel, whether human or stone. Unfortunately, none of these details seem to relate to Keats’s poem. The strongest association would be a more general one, related to the stanza in which a knight’s meeting a fairy woman in a meadow is described:

I met a lady in the meads,

Full beautiful—a faery’s child,

Her hair was long, her foot was light,

And her eyes were wild.

We do have confirmation that Siddal was working on a composition inspired by Keats’s poem from a letter Rossetti wrote to his friend, the Irish poet William Allingham early in 1855 (23 January):

“She is now doing two lovely water-colours (from “We Are Seven” and La Belle Dame sans Merci”) – having found herself always thrown back for lack of health and wealth in the attempts she had made to begin a picture. [Letters, II: 55.4]

(Just to add further confusion, it is worth noting that no known watercolor of this composition has as of yet been identified). Nonetheless, this mention is helpful both as it gives some explanation of William Michael’s suggested title but also in providing a possible date for her work on this subject. (Siddal’s work was rarely dated, further complicating the unraveling of her creative output.)

But we are still left with the visual elements of Siddal’s drawing which just don’t seem to match up with Keats’s narrative. The obvious question then becomes, if not “La Belle Dame” then what?! Even William Michael seems to have been unsure as the inscription bearing the title includes a question mark. What else do we know Siddal was working on? Again, the archival record is limited but there are a few possibilities. We know, for instance, that there was a projected book of Scottish ballads which Allingham was editing for publication in the mid-1850s. Siddal and Rossetti were to provide accompanying illustrations. In preparation Siddal was given a copy of Walter Scott’s Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, two volumes of which survive with her name inscribed inside. That she was actively pursuing the project is confirmed in a letter Rossetti wrote to the artist, Ford Madox Brown,

“I think I told you that she and I are going to illustrate the Old Scottish Ballads which Allingham is editing for Routledge…She has just done her first block (from Clerk Saunders) and it is lovely.” [Letters I: 54.49]

Could this (and the other similar compositions) relate to one of these ballads for which no known illustrations have yet been identified?

Another possibility is that the drawings illustrate one of Lizzie’s own verses of which approximately 16 poems and a few fragments have been identified. (These have recently been collected, edited and published by Serena Trowbridge in a volume titled, My Ladys Soul: The Poems of Elizabeth Eleanor Siddall, 2018). However, careful reading of these verses does not reveal any details which might lead to association with this particular composition.

And so, I end as I began, with a lovely example of Siddal’s drawing style but no further clarity on the subject as depicted. The search continues…

Margaretta S. Frederick
Annette Woolard-Provine Curator of the Bancroft Collection

Image: Sketch for ‘La Belle Dame sans merci’, c. 1855. Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (1829–1862). Graphite on paper, 4 1/8 × 2 7/8 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Acquisition Fund, 2007.

Anyone who has visited the Delaware Art Museum Store over the past two years has noticed the store’s evolution from a traditional gift shop to a vibrant community bookstore, selling a variety of books for children and adults right alongside a unique selection of gifts, stationery, work from local artists, and other ephemera. With the Museum’s temporary closure, the Museum’s retail operation was faced with an immense challenge: how does the store continue to serve the community? Fortunately, the Museum Store had recently signed up to be an affiliate with Bookshop, an online platform dedicated to supporting independent bookstores through a partnership with the American Booksellers Association. Store Supervisor Jeanie Robino was optimistic about the opportunities Bookshop provided before the Museum’s temporary closure due to the COVID-19 crisis, but she realizes this new platform has become more of a necessity than ever. “I am excited to create new shopping experiences with our members and staff and to partner with the community,” Robino says.

The Museum Store Bookshop page (https://bookshop.org/shop/delartstore) was designed to emulate the selection and personality Museum visitors have come to expect from the store. The page features much of the Museum Store’s book inventory, including art books and catalogs from recent exhibitions, literary fiction, stories of all genres Museum supporters are sure to love, and a limited selection of stationery and art supplies. You will also find some of the store’s signature items in sections such as “Witchy Wisdom,” featuring beautifully designed tarot and oracle cards, and “Local Stories,” a celebration of local authors such as Chet’la Sebree, David Teague, Marisa de los Santos, Erin Entrada Kelly, and Julianna Baggott. The Museum Store staff and store collaborators such as Rachael DiEleuterio, the Museum’s Librarian and Archivist, lend their bookish expertise and explore their unique passions through their staff lists, while those looking to tell their own stories will find guidance and tools in “Inspired by the Wilmington Writers Conference: Writing Guides and Stationery.”

The Museum Store also has placed a special focus on recent exhibitions honoring contemporary artists, including Angela Fraleigh, Julio daCunha, Margo Allman, and Helen Mason. These collections, which include books, stationery, and puzzles, were designed to allow readers to gain a deeper understanding of these artists and what drives them to create. “The thoughtful selections from the Museum Store through Bookshop give our community exciting and interesting ways to connect with the Museum’s current exhibitions,” says Curator of Contemporary Art Margaret Winslow, who curated the exhibitions featuring the aforementioned artists. “You can learn more about the artists’ styles, read books by the authors who inspire them, and find beautiful stationery to use for your own artistic musings.” Of course, you’ll also find books by and about artists in the Museum’s permanent collection, including Pre-Raphaelite artists, Howard Pyle and John Sloan.

The store is also continuing to support virtual literary endeavors at the Museum. You can find all children’s books related to family programming, including the recent run of virtual Glory of Stories events, in the Kid Lit section: https://bookshop.org/lists/kid-lit. Anyone wanting to attend Zoom meetings of the Museum’s popular book club, the DelArt Readers, can shop for the club’s books in the DelArt Readers 2020 Selections list: https://bookshop.org/lists/delart-readers-2020-selections. (For book club times and dates, go to the DelArt Readers event page: https://www.delart.org/event/delart-readers/. Contact Eliza Jarvis, the Museum’s Manager of Youth Learning and Creative Partnerships, if you would like to join a meeting: ejarvis@delart.org.)

“We love being able to curate a selection in the store based on the art around us, the stories our staff loves, great new releases, and the many programs at the Museum,” says Jessa Mendez, Lead Museum Associate, who assists Robino with merchandising the store. “Thanks to Bookshop, we are able to continue to offer this to our community. We’re so grateful for the support we’re receiving as we navigate this strange time. I miss the store so much, but I’m so grateful Bookshop is giving us a way to connect with people.”

Head to the Delaware Art Museum Store’s Bookshop to get started: https://bookshop.org/shop/delartstore.

For book reviews, inside looks at the Museum Store Bookshop page, and more, follow the Museum Store on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/delartstore/.

For information on the Museum’s virtual programming, check out the Museum’s Online Resource Portal: https://www.delart.org/connectwithartfromhome/.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF SUPPORT

This organization is supported, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. The Division promotes Delaware arts events on www.DelawareScene.com. The Museum Store is a member of the American Booksellers Association.

PRESS CONTACT

Please contact Cynthia Smith, Marketing Manager, at csmith@delart.org or 302-351-8514.

ABOUT THE DELAWARE ART MUSEUM

For over 100 years, the Museum has served as a primary arts and cultural institution in Delaware. It is alive with experiences, discoveries, and activities to connect people with art and with each other. Originally created in 1912 to honor the renowned illustrator and Wilmington-native, Howard Pyle, the Museum’s collection has grown to over 12,000 works of art in our building and sculpture garden. Also recognized for British Pre-Raphaelite art, the Museum is home to the largest and most important Pre-Raphaelite collection outside of the United Kingdom and a growing collection of significant contemporary art. Embracing all disciplines, the Museum’s Performance Series ranges from concerts by Pyxis Piano Quartet, resident ensemble of over ten years, to cutting-edge, multi-disciplinary artists committed to social justice and pushing the boundaries of artistic practice.

Under the leadership of our Board of Trustees, the Delaware Art Museum is implementing a comprehensive approach to community and civic engagement. This exciting new strategic direction requires that we increase our value and relevance to all audiences. Visit delart.org for the latest exhibitions, programs, and performances or connect with us via social media.

The Delaware Art Museum is proud to present a robust slate of virtual programming, much of it free and family friendly, to support people of all ages during the Museum’s temporary closure. The Museum has always been a place where people can enjoy art and connect with others, so the Learning and Engagement team found ways to continue programming that Delawareans have come to love. Their tenacity and hard work have resulted in online resources that truly offer something for everyone.

“Museums around the world are adapting their onsite programs and using online platforms to serve their communities,” says Saralyn Rosenfeld, Director of Learning and Engagement. “Our virtual programs highlight our unique collection, feature local artists, and offer an educational, creative, and entertaining experience.”

Families missing Glory of Stories, the Museum’s popular storytelling program that incorporates works of art from the Museum’s collection, an art activity, and an exciting array of children’s literature, can head to the Museum’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/delawareartmuseum) for lots of kid-friendly art fun! Four recorded sessions of Glory of Stories are available here until June 1, 2020. The sessions, led by Assistant Director of Learning and Engagement, Amelia Wiggins, have featured works of art such as “The Mermaid” by Howard Pyle, accompanied by classic children’s book Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister, and “March” by Charles Burchfield, paired with Worm Weather by Jean Taft. Wiggins has also created a further modified version of Glory of Stories; while this version won’t feature video content, the Museum will still post a work of art accompanied by a fun art activity and a book suggestion. “Creative outlets are more important than ever during this time of dramatic change in families’ lives,” says Wiggins. “We hope these resources help kids and their grownups explore art and create together at home.” Upcoming art and book pairings include “An Attack on Galleon” by Howard Pyle with Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, the sculpture “Rain Forest Column XX” by Louise Nevelson paired with Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg, and Edward Burne-Jones’s fairy tale masterpiece “The Council Chamber” paired with Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Jan Brett. These books are all available to purchase via the Museum Store’s Bookshop page: https://bookshop.org/shop/delartstore.

The Museum will also be releasing a special Art Museum Babies video—a popular monthly activity for parents and infants that usually takes place during the Museum’s Family Second Sundays program. This is a great opportunity for parents and caregivers to bond with children under the age of two.

Those of you who are missing the Museum’s studio art classes or have always wanted to try your hand at creating with the Museum’s instructors, Studio Programs Manager Rebecca Howell has a treat for you! She is currently coordinating a video series of art projects and tutorials featuring a stellar lineup of art instructors. Howell says, “We really miss our art students and I know they miss us. Instructors are eager to connect with students virtually and help feed their creative life while at home so they’ve provided inspiration by giving project ideas, assignments, and demos, or even just showing a peek of what they are working on in their own studio!” One series will be led by beloved Artwise instructors Sam Mylin and Kate Mylin. These videos, around 5-10 minutes in length, will show kids and adults how to use whatever they have around the house, from old credit cards to junk mail, to create original works of art!

When it comes to continuing the Performance Series, Jonathan Whitney, the Museum’s Manager of Performance Programs and Community Engagement, had to get creative. The result of his massive coordination efforts is a series of 20-minute videos showcasing an exciting roster of performance artists and musicians, including singer-songwriter Jea Street, Jr., and Jeff Knoettner, pianist from the Cartoon Christmas Trio. The Museum is celebrating these performances and encouraging community connections by hosting virtual watch parties on Friday nights for each video’s release on the Museum Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/delawareartmuseum. See below for the full lineup and schedule. “Through this series of virtual performances, or watch parties as we are calling them, we are able to highlight some of the amazing musicians in our region and support them as they adapt to a more virtual existence,” says Whitney. On May 21, the Pyxis Piano Quartet, the Museum’s ensemble in residence, will present a 50 minute watch party of solos. As per the Museum’s values, all artists are being paid for the performances they present. Donations are being accepted to offset this cost to the Museum.

FULL LINEUP FOR WATCH PARTIES

All parties begin at 6:30 pm

Shawn Qaissaunee (guitar) – April 24, 2020
Rob Swanson (bass guitar) – May 1, 2020
William Fields (algorithmic improvisation) – May 8, 2020
Jea Street, Jr. (singer-songwriter) – May 15, 2020
Jeff Knoettner (pianist) – May 22, 2020

More online programming is on its way. For the latest updates and links to this content and much more, head to the Museum’s online resource portal: https://www.delart.org/connectwithartfromhome/.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF SUPPORT

This project is sponsored by the Amphion Foundation. This project is supported, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. The Division promotes Delaware arts events on www.DelawareScene.com. The Museum would like to thank the following individual donors for their support of the Pyxis Piano Quartet performances:

Anonymous
Dr. and Mrs. Stuart Fleming
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas F. Bayard, IV
Mr. and Mrs. K. Peter Hurd
Dr. and Mrs. R. Bertrum Diemer, Jr.
Mrs. Nancy G. Frederick
Mr. and Mrs. Richard Lonie
Ms. Virginia S. Mayforth
Mr. and Mrs. P. Coleman Townsend, Jr.
Dr. Suzanne Collins
Dr. Margaretta S. Frederick and Mr. Michael Martin
Ms. Gwen Fuller and Mr. Ralph Fuller
Mrs. Mary C. Goodrick
Ms. Jan Jessup
Mrs. Barbara N. Reilly
Mrs. Roberta Y. Smith
Dr. Noble L. Thompson, Jr.

PRESS CONTACT

Please contact Cynthia Smith, Marketing Manager, at csmith@delart.org or 302-351-8514.

ABOUT THE DELAWARE ART MUSEUM

For over 100 years, the Museum has served as a primary arts and cultural institution in Delaware. It is alive with experiences, discoveries, and activities to connect people with art and with each other. Originally created in 1912 to honor the renowned illustrator and Wilmington-native, Howard Pyle, the Museum’s collection has grown to over 12,000 works of art in our building and sculpture garden. Also recognized for British Pre-Raphaelite art, the Museum is home to the largest and most important Pre-Raphaelite collection outside of the United Kingdom and a growing collection of significant contemporary art. Embracing all disciplines, the Museum’s Performance Series ranges from concerts by Pyxis Piano Quartet, resident ensemble of over ten years, to cutting-edge, multi-disciplinary artists committed to social justice and pushing the boundaries of artistic practice.

Under the leadership of our Board of Trustees, the Delaware Art Museum is implementing a comprehensive approach to community and civic engagement. This exciting new strategic direction requires that we increase our value and relevance to all audiences. Visit delart.org for the latest exhibitions, programs, and performances or connect with us via social media.

The Delaware Art Museum may be closed, but you can still visit the Museum and its collection of over 12,000 works of art through a variety of innovative tours across email and social media.

The Museum recently launched “The View from DelArt,” an email highlights tour of the collection, in which staff, members and friends of the Museum share their favorite works of art. The tour kicked off with member Steve Gregg’s meditation on “Water Willow” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a popular painting from the Museum’s extensive Pre-Raphaelite collection. Gregg expressed his love for the painting and dropped this fun fact: “The view is of Kelmscott Manor, in the 1870s, a retreat in England where Jane Morris lived with her husband William, but more importantly the site of Rossetti’s liaison with Jane Morris, which adds intrigue and a bit of scandal to the painting.” The emails have also featured an illustration by John Sloan, glass art by Dale Chihuly, and a sculpture by Domenico Mortellito.

Meanwhile, the staff is taking over the Museum’s social media feeds with their favorite works of art, offering insight into the people who make the Museum a vital hub for the community. Lead Museum Jessa Mendez shared her love for “The Spring Witch,” George Wilson’s Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece. Meanwhile, Chief Curator and Curator of American Art Heather Campbell Coyle highlighted the bright blossoms featured in Howard Pyle’s murals because “they capture spring in this area so perfectly.”

The Museum is also celebrating what would have been the opening of the exhibition, Layered Abstraction: Margo Allman & Helen Mason, with a virtual tour. “So many individuals have worked together over the past several years to create this exhibition in celebration of the careers of Margo Allman and Helen Mason,” says Margaret Winslow, Curator of Contemporary Art, who curated Layered Abstraction. “One of the joys of being a curator is seeing the response visitors have when they enter the gallery and see the results of such a large project. I’m eager for that moment but excited to share a sneak peek through our virtual tour of the gallery.” Head to https://www.delart.org/ for this video and other online resources. For snippets of the Layered Abstraction virtual tour, follow us on social media:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/delartmuseum/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/delawareartmuseum
Twitter: https://twitter.com/delartmuseum

The Museum continues to be a place where people can come together, enjoy art, and find community. Whether our doors are open or closed, we are always here for you. Sign up for our newsletter for all the latest information from the Museum: https://www.delart.org/about/e-news/

Acknowledgement of Support

This project is supported, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. The Division promotes Delaware arts events on https://www.delawarescene.com/.

Press Contact

Please contact Cynthia Smith, Marketing Manager, at csmith@delart.org or 302-351-8514.

About the Delaware Art Museum

For over 100 years, the Museum has served as a primary arts and cultural institution in Delaware. It is alive with experiences, discoveries, and activities to connect people with art and with each other. Originally created in 1912 to honor the renowned illustrator and Wilmington-native, Howard Pyle, the Museum’s collection has grown to over 12,000 works of art in our building and sculpture garden. Also recognized for British Pre-Raphaelite art, the Museum is home to the largest and most important Pre-Raphaelite collection outside of the United Kingdom and a growing collection of significant contemporary art. Embracing all disciplines, the Museum’s Performance Series ranges from concerts by Pyxis Piano Quartet, resident ensemble of over ten years, to cutting-edge, multi-disciplinary artists committed to social justice and pushing the boundaries of artistic practice.

Under the leadership of our Board of Trustees, the Delaware Art Museum is implementing a comprehensive approach to community and civic engagement. This exciting new strategic direction requires that we increase our value and relevance to all audiences. Visit delart.org to for the latest exhibitions, programs, and performances or connect with us via social media.

Angela Fraleigh’s triptych, Sound the Deep Waters, connects women young and old, creating an imagined community in a dreamlike realm. Shared experience and a collective consciousness are important themes for the artist. The paintings build upon Fraleigh’s previous work bringing attention and recognition to undervalued female historical actors including site-specific pieces at the Edward Hopper House Museum and Study Center and the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site that acknowledge women who inhabited the spaces. Similarly Sound the Deep Waters, a commissioned work by the Delaware Art Museum, celebrates the women who reside in the museum’s permanent collection, including female artists and subjects in the Pre-Raphaelite and American illustration galleries such as the artist Barbara Bodichon and Frederick Sandy’s painted subject, May Margaret.

image Sound the deep waters, 2019. Angela Fraleigh (born 1976). Oil and acrylic on canvas, 90 × 198 inches. Courtesy of the artist. ©Angela Fraleigh. Photograph by Kenek Photography.

But Fraleigh brings her personal story to bear upon the pieces. She sets bygone figures alongside those from the contemporary day by incorporating her former students, the emerging artists Nokukhana Langa and Abbey Rosko. Her own hand as an artist is evident as well, and they show her mastery of both a precise realist style of rendering figures, in keeping with the techniques of the artistic forbearers she references, and of a loose, flowing, and sweeping application of color, in many ways reminiscent of the artistic practice of female abstract expressionist such as Helen Frankenthaler and Joan Mitchell. Secondly, Fraleigh’s hand is perhaps best represented in a case that contains facsimiled flowers at the entrance to the space. The flowers in many ways serve as surrogates for women, and they correspond with painted flowers in the triptychs themselves, especially a poppy meant to recall Ethel Reed, a graphic artist whose death resulted from an overdose of sleeping medication. In the case, while some of the sculpted flowers were created by Fraleigh, others were commissioned from artists around the world. Although each flower composition stands in for its maker, and Fraleigh’s hand appears amongst a constellation of other female artists’, each flower remains unidentified so that the case as a whole becomes a signifier for universal womanhood and its creative energies. Finally, Fraleigh’s intellectual investments shape the experience of the installation for those who read the labels which reference writings by female authors such as Goblin Market and Other Poems by Christiana Rossetti, the sister of Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Fraleigh’s literary inspiration is also evidenced by her recommended reading list, included in the exhibition pamphlet, which places her in the context of other artists who have authored feminist alternative histories, such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

image Our world swells like dawn, when the sun licks the water, 2019. Angela Fraleigh (born 1976). Oil and acrylic on canvas, 90 × 198 inches. Courtesy of the artist. ©Angela Fraleigh. Photograph by Kenek Photography.

Although visitors in the immersive space have an intense sense of the Fraleigh’s presence, they do not see her, and, much to the chagrin of one visitor who attended my Inside Look program on the series, she does not incorporate her own self-portrait into the triptych. Fraleigh frequently used her own visage in her works from 2003 and 2004, paintings she did not consider self-portraits but rather representations of the “every woman.” In this project, she investigated, in her own words, “how ideas are projected onto figures and how women create, manifest or repel those projections.” After this project, she tired of featuring herself. But in many ways, she has continued to investigate this same theme as her focus has turned from depictions of an every woman to specific individuals from the historical past. Now, in an attempt to understand “them,” to de-mythologize them and “see them as real people,” part of her practice has become constructing potentially new narratives for them. Fraleigh’s exhibit captures her versatility as an artist, as a maker of paintings, sculptured flowers, and even narrative stories.

Olivia Armandroff

Top: Where summer ripens at all hours, 2019. Angela Fraleigh (born 1976). Oil and acrylic on canvas, 96 × 144 inches. Courtesy of the artist. Delaware Art Museum, Acquisition Fund, 2020. © Angela Fraleigh. Photograph by Kenek Photography.

Wilmington, DE (March 2, 2020) — Music and dance have always been closely linked, but what if your body became the music? This is the thrilling concept behind Drumfolk, the latest work from dance company Step Afrika! The Delaware Art Museum, as part of its Performance Series, is hosting Step Afrika! the week of March 29, 2020 for a residency in which the company will visit several sites in New Castle and Kent Counties for workshops, performances, and lectures.

The weeklong suite of events, which culminates in an April 3 performance of Drumfolk at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington, provides an opportunity for as many Delawareans as possible to get to know Step Afrika! and this vital piece of American history. After the smash success of Step Afrika’s 2018 residency with the Delaware Art Museum, Jonathan Whitney, Manager of Performance Programs and Community Engagement, was eager to bring the company back for what is sure to be another brilliant series. “This year’s residency by Step Afrika! is a continuation of our mission to use art, in this case dance, to bring about change in our community,” says Whitney.

In Drumfolk, Step Afrika! focuses on the historical significance of rhythm, including how the forced removal of drums inspired people to use their bodies to create music as means to survive oppression. Drumfolk explores the Stono Rebellion of 1739, a revolt that took place in South Carolina, and the aftermath of that event, particularly the Negro Act of 1740, in which drums were outlawed for Africans. This birthed forms of dance in which the body became an instrument and is seen today in dances such as stepping. In fact, Drumfolk includes multiple stepping pieces, as well as other forms of dance including the Ring Shout, a centuries-old style of dance, and a new exploration of African masquerade traditions..

A particularly exciting aspect of this residency is the level of youth involvement. “Students from across New Castle and Kent Counties will experience stepping taught by members of the company,” says Whitney. “The community event in Wilmington is being planned by teens through a partnership between the Museum, Jack and Jill, Inc. New Castle County Chapter, and the Warehouse (a new space for teens by teens), giving them invaluable leadership and project management experience.”

For more information on student events and to sign up, visit https://www.delart.org/education/school-teacher-programs/stepafrika/. For information on the Riverside Rhythm event for teens on April 1, please visit, https://www.delart.org/event/riverside-rhythm-with-step-afrika/?instance_id=17883.

Step Afrika! is also heralding the return of the Museum’s extended Thursday hours with a demo performance and a spring happy hour. Heather Morrissey, the Museum’s Director of Advancement and Operations, is thrilled to welcome Step Afrika! back with this special happy hour. “What a perfect opportunity to bring everyone together to celebrate! The Museum will host a special indoor happy hour with live music and a pop-up performance by Step Afrika! Be sure to join us for this entertaining evening.” However, this goes beyond entertainment. Whitney is excited that “through this work, the Museum will continue to strengthen its role as an anchor in our community.”

The Delaware Art Museum would like to thank the many partners that have been vital to creating this residency: The Grand Opera House, Delaware Institute for Arts in Education, The Warehouse, REACH Riverside, Jack and Jill, Inc., and the New Castle County Chapter Men of Color Alliance from Delaware State University.

FULL RESIDENCY EVENT SCHEDULE

Monday and Tuesday, March 29-30, 2020 – Dancers from Step Afrika! visit 20 to 30 schools for “stepping workshops” in partnership with the Delaware Institute for Arts in Education: This was a highlight from 2018’s visit. The company will be split into groups of two and three dancers to visit schools throughout New Castle and Kent Counties to give immersive stepping workshops to students.

Monday evening, March 29, 2020, 7pm – Step Afrika! performs as part of the DSU pageant, in partnership with Men of Color Alliance (MOCA)

Wednesday evening, April 1, 2020, 6 pm – Community Event “Riverside Rhythm” at The Warehouse, Wilmington, DE: This event has been planned by teens for teens. The Museum brought together teens from Jack and Jill, Inc. New Castle Chapter and The Warehouse to plan and present a community event as part of Step Afrika’s residency. Riverside Rhythm will highlight the ways the rhythm survived in Wilmington. It will include performances by local drill teams, tap dancers, and drummers followed a performance by Step Afrika! After the performances, there will be a 30-minute Q&A with Step Afrika! around life after high school, attending and applying to HBCUs, and life after college. All of the dancers in Step Afrika! are college graduates and the teens saw this as an opportunity to learn from men and women not far removed from where they are now. This will be the first major event at the Warehouse.

Thursday, April 2, 2020 – Lecture and Demonstration with excerpts from Drumfolk performances for Students at The Grand Opera House, Wilmington, DE (9:30 am and 12:30 pm): This program, which will serve approximately 2,400 students, will include excerpts from Drumfolk, combined with Step Afrika’s award-winning lecture-demonstration on the African-American percussive dance style of stepping.

Thursday, April 2, 2020 at 6 pm – Step Afrika! Happy Hour at the Delaware Art Museum: Experience Step Afrika! up close, and celebrate the Museum’s return to extended Thursday night hours with a special spring edition of our popular happy hour!

Friday, April 3, 2020 at 8 pm – Public performance of Drumfolk at the Grand Opera House, Wilmington, DE: Back by Popular demand, Step Afrika! returns to Wilmington with its blend of the percussive tradition of stepping with African and contemporary dance. The Company’s newest creation, Drumfolk, inspired by the Stono Rebellion of 1739, explores this little-known event in American history that forever transformed African-American life and culture. When Africans lost the right to use their drums, their rhythms found their way into the body of the people, the Drumfolk. New percussive forms took root leading to the development of some of our country’s most distinct performance traditions like the ring shout, tap, and stepping.

PRESS CONTACT

Please contact Cynthia Smith, Marketing Manager, at csmith@delart.org or 302-351-8514.

ABOUT THE PERFORMANCE SERIES

The Delaware Art Museum’s Performance Series features bold, adventurous works from a variety of art forms. With a focus on social justice and cutting edge performance, this series brings artists to Delaware who push creative boundaries and respond to present day-events in innovative ways. Performances will take place on the Museum’s campus and out in the community.

ABOUT THE DELAWARE ART MUSEUM

For over 100 years, the Museum has served as a primary arts and cultural institution in Delaware. It is alive with experiences, discoveries, and activities to connect people with art and with each other. Originally created in 1912 to honor the renowned illustrator and Wilmington-native, Howard Pyle, the Museum’s collection has grown to over 12,000 works of art in our building and sculpture garden. Also recognized for British Pre-Raphaelite art, the Museum is home to the largest and most important Pre-Raphaelite collection outside of the United Kingdom and a growing collection of significant contemporary art.

Under the leadership of our Board of Trustees, the Delaware Art Museum is implementing a comprehensive approach to community and civic engagement. This exciting new strategic direction requires that we increase our value and relevance to all audiences. Visit delart.org to for the latest exhibitions, programs, and performances or connect with us via social media.

The Delaware Art Museum is proud to continue spotlighting impactful local artists with its latest exhibition, Julio daCunha: Modernizing Myths, which opens Saturday, February 29, 2020 and runs until Sunday, May 10, 2020. DaCunha, who originally hails from Bogotá, Colombia, has a storied history in Delaware, teaching at the University of Delaware for nearly 40 years and exhibiting at several local and regional institutions, including the Delaware Art Museum.

Julio daCunha: Modernizing Myths, located in the Ammon Galleries and comprised of 40 works of art, including paintings, prints, and drawings, promises to be an exciting retrospective of a prolific, innovative artist and community leader whose work spans different styles. The 2019 Alfred Appel, Jr. Curatorial Fellow Olivia Armandroff, who organized this exhibition, says in her essay accompanying the exhibition, “Coming of age in the mid-20th century, in a period when artists were so often described as figurative or not, daCunha refused to be essentialized,” noting later that, “[a]lthough never devoting himself entirely to one style or the other, the majority of his work, mid-career was figural while his later artistic production was primarily devoted to abstraction.”

It is no surprise, then, to learn that daCunha worked in many mediums, including acrylic paint, oil paint, and graphite, and that his influences are wide-ranging, featuring a number of artistic luminaries. He counts Spanish artists such as Francisco de Goya as stylistic influences, while writers such as Charles Baudelaire and Edgar Allan Poe, along with femme fatale films, theater, music, and mythology—both classic and ones of his own making—largely inspired him thematically. In fact, daCunha was surrounded by art as a child. His mother was a musician, and his father was a diplomat, artist, and theater manager. It was through his father that he got to know the poet Pablo Neruda and famed artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. In a 1984 interview in The Review, a University of Delaware publication, daCunha says, “I made a little drawing for [Rivera]…and he gave me a drawing of a clown’s head which is now one of my most valuable possessions.”

Armandroff is deeply grateful for daCunha’s influence on Delaware and hopeful that he will continue to be a part of the lives of Delawareans. Julio daCunha helped shape the University of Delaware’s art department, and his teaching left an indelible mark on generations of students who went through that program.

“After arriving at the University of Delaware, he immediately involved himself in teaching students by instituting a very active exhibition schedule that brought traveling exhibitions to the university,” says Armandroff. “I was fascinated by daCunha’s investment in the American tradition, despite the fact that he had not grown up with it. I loved stories about his involvement with the local theater groups on campus and his dramatic flair. Most rewarding was hearing from his students, and after I began reaching out and contacting some, word on the exhibit quickly spread. People began to contact me, eager to share their own memories of Julio and his generosity as a mentor. Such narratives helped me begin to see the huge impact he had on the Delaware art community.”

Those who want to know more about daCunha and his work can hear more from Armandroff on Sunday, March 1 at 2:00 p.m. for a gallery talk. This event is free to attend. The exhibition is also accompanied by a free mini catalog featuring the aforementioned essay by Armandroff and full-color illustrations, available both at the exhibition gallery and in the Museum Store. The Museum Store will also be selling a selection of books by some of daCunha’s influences, including Charles Baudelaire and Edgar Allan Poe, as well as two exclusive cards featuring works of art from the exhibition.

About Julio daCunha

Julio daCunha was born in 1929 in Bogotá, Colombia. Following the completion of his master of fine arts degree at Cranbrook Academy of Art, daCunha arrived in Delaware in 1956 to teach at the University of Delaware. The artist places himself within the Spanish tradition and cites the influences of Arshile Gorky, Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso, Roberto Matta, and Francisco de Goya. While at the University, daCunha served as department chair from 1966 to 1969 and taught until his retirement in 1994.

PRESS CONTACT

Please contact Cynthia Smith, Marketing Manager, at csmith@delart.org or 302-351-8514.

ABOUT THE Distinguished Artist Series

The Distinguished Artist Series is a celebration of those artists who have impacted contemporary art in the greater Wilmington area through their artistic practices, teaching, and support of the community and its various institutions. Through unique exhibitions, the series will present exhibitions of these artists, surveying their legacies as they relate to local, national, and international trends.

ABOUT THE DELAWARE ART MUSEUM

For over 100 years, the Museum has served as a primary arts and cultural institution in Delaware. It is alive with experiences, discoveries, and activities to connect people with art and with each other. Originally created in 1912 to honor the renowned illustrator and Wilmington-native, Howard Pyle, the Museum’s collection has grown to over 12,000 works of art in our building and sculpture garden. Also recognized for British Pre-Raphaelite art, the Museum is home to the largest and most important Pre-Raphaelite collection outside of the United Kingdom and a growing collection of significant contemporary art.

Under the leadership of our Board of Trustees, the Delaware Art Museum is implementing a comprehensive approach to community and civic engagement. This exciting new strategic direction requires that we increase our value and relevance to all audiences. Visit delart.org to for the latest exhibitions, programs, and performances or connect with us via social media.

The Delaware Art Museum is thrilled to welcome Joel Ross Good Vibes as part of its celebrated Performance Series lineup this Thursday, February 13 at 8 p.m. Joel Ross Good Vibes is a jazz quintet led by Chicago native Joel Ross, a musician who has received accolades from noted organizations such as the Thelonious Monk Institute and performed with jazz icons, including Herbie Hancock.

Jonathan Whitney, Manager of Performance Programs and Community Engagement, can’t wait for Delawareans to meet this contemporary jazz band and its leader: “Joel is touring and recording with who’s who of the next generation of jazz legends,” says Whitney. “This is an awesome opportunity to catch a special player, who is maturing quickly, in an intimate setting before he is only able to play larger venues.”

Tickets are selling fast! Prices are $30 for Members, $35 for Non-Members, and $25 for Students with a valid I.D. For a sneak peek, check out the Joel Ross Good Vibes Event Page: https://www.delart.org/event/performance-joel-ross-good-vibes/.

PRESS CONTACT

Please contact Cynthia Smith, Marketing Manager, at csmith@delart.org or 302-351-8514.

ABOUT THE PERFORMANCE SERIES

The Delaware Art Museum’s performance series features bold, adventurous works from a variety of art forms. With a focus on social justice and cutting edge performance, this series brings artists to Delaware who push creative boundaries and respond to present day events in innovative ways. Performances will take place on the Museum’s campus and out in the community.

ABOUT THE DELAWARE ART MUSEUM

For over 100 years, the Museum has served as a primary arts and cultural institution in Delaware. It is alive with experiences, discoveries, and activities to connect people with art and with each other. Originally created in 1912 to honor the renowned illustrator and Wilmington-native, Howard Pyle, the Museum’s collection has grown to over 12,000 works of art in our building and sculpture garden. Also recognized for British Pre-Raphaelite art, the Museum is home to the largest and most important Pre-Raphaelite collection outside of the United Kingdom and a growing collection of significant contemporary art.

Under the leadership of our Board of Trustees, the Delaware Art Museum is implementing a comprehensive approach to community and civic engagement. This exciting new strategic direction requires that we increase our value and relevance to all audiences. Visit delart.org to for the latest exhibitions, programs, and performances or connect with us via social media.

ILL. #1 Top, left to right: Hymen, the goddess of marriage holding a harp; A Married couple being blessed, 1876. Edward Burne Jones (1833–1898). Graphite on paper laid on card, 13 3/4 x 8 1/8 inches (top), 14 1/16 x 7 7/8 inches (bottom). Delaware Art Museum, F. V. du Pont Acquisition Fund, 2019.

The Museum was recently able to purchase two drawings [ILL. #1], which served as preparatory sketches for our painting of Hymenaeus [ILL. #2] (1869, oil over gold leaf on panel) by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898). In the painting, Hymen, goddess of marriage, is shown at left, blessing the nuptials of the couple on the right. In the drawings, the three figures are split between the two sheets of paper, allowing the artist to work out the individual poses. Certain details which appear in the final painting are not included in the drawings. For instance, the harp held by Hymen is only partially sketched in and the flame-bearing altar, which serves to separate goddess from couple in the painting, is omitted in the earlier drawings.

In the late 1860 and early 1870s Burne-Jones took up the theme of marriage in a number of drawings and paintings. The earliest, now in the Tate Gallery, The Temple of Love, begun in 1868 but left unfinished, depicts a young couple standing before an altar as the goddess of love kneels down to bless them. Some years later, a watercolor drawing, heightened with gold, entitled The Altar of Hymen (1874) was executed. This composition is more closely related to the Museum’s painting as the couple is placed in the foreground with the altar and flame to the left. The winged figure of Cupid stands next to Venus at the upper right, in what also looks to be a temple setting. Hymen’s harp is first depicted in an otherwise unrelated composition entitled The Sacrifice to Hymen. Of particular interest in relation to the two recently purchased drawings is a quickly executed, charcoal and wash drawing on brown paper [ILL. #3] which is quite similar in composition to the Museum’s painting, and executed on a single sheet Although nowhere near as finished as the Museum’s new drawings, the artist has clearly developed the arrangement of figures and poses. This is particularly clear in the depiction of the couple, whose tenderly entwined arms reflect their profound love.

image ILL. #2 Hymenaeus, 1869. Edward Burne-Jones (1833–1898). Oil paint over gold leaf on panel, 32 1/4 x 21 1/2 inches, frame: 36 x 49 1/2 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Memorial, 1935. ILL. #3 Study for Hymenaeus, undated. Edward Burne-Jones (1833–1898). Charcoal and wash on brown paper. Private collection.

Burne-Jones created the painting as a wedding gift to his close friend and patron Luke Ionides and his bride, Elfida Bird who were married in August 1869. Several years later, as indicated by the inscription and date at upper right and left respectively, the preliminary drawings were given to artist and writer Agnes Graham, later Dame Agnes Jekyll. Agnes was the daughter of William Graham, a devoted patron of the Pre-Raphaelites and loyal friend to Burne-Jones. The artist became quite fond of Graham’s daughters as expressed in substantial correspondence. William Graham was a passionate collector of Italian Renaissance art as well as that of Burne-Jones and the Pre-Raphaelites. His enthusiasm for quattrocento painting, which was shared by Burne-Jones contributed to the strength of the relationship between artist and patron. In 1876 (the date of the inscription on the drawings) the Graham family were touring Italy. Burne-Jones wrote a series of letters to Agnes, advising her on what to see amongst the Renaissance treasures in the country. The letters suggest a mentor-student relationship (he addresses her as “dear little Aggie”) in which the artist strives to instill an appreciation for Florentine art in particular — “I try to remember what things in Florence you might miss…” Burne-Jones loved children and his letters reflect a playful relationship with Agnes. Of Santa Maria Novella, he wrote, “…there are 2 little old pussycats called Missies Forbes — the Twa Forbies I call them, countrywomen of yours [the Graham’s were Scottish], who live in Florence & they would show you every nook & corner & the last Botticelli fragment found on the walls of a house.”

The two drawings stayed in the Graham family, passed down from one generation to the next, until they were recently offered for sale, at which time they were acquired by the Museum. They can be seen in the Pre-Raphaelite galleries hanging nearby the painting.

Margaretta Frederick
Annette Woolard-Provine Curator of the Bancroft Collection

In February 1971, the newly formed Delaware organization, Aesthetic Dynamics, Inc., presented its first major undertaking: the exhibition of over 130 works of art—drawings, prints, photographs, paintings, and sculptures—by 66 African American artists. Numerous factors led to artist Percy Ricks’ founding of Aesthetic Dynamics and their ambitious inaugural exhibition, most notably the trauma suffered from the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the subsequent nine-month National Guard occupation of Wilmington and Ricks’ desire to emphasize the influence of African American artists in Wilmington.

Now, on the eve of its 50th anniversary, Aesthetic Dynamics, Inc., the Delaware Art Museum, and current cultural leaders from Wilmington institutions are returning to this conversation with a restaging of the 1971 exhibition. Afro-American Images 1971, which will be on view at the Museum from March to June, 2021, will include most of the over 130 original works of art exhibited in the 1971 show at the Wilmington Armory (the space used by the National Guard in 1968).

Many of the works of art for the 2021 exhibition are being borrowed from museum collections, while others will be lent by individuals and artist estates. By trying to rehang the show as accurately as possible, the partnering organizations hope to examine the exhibition’s role in the Black Arts Movements 50 years ago, as well as question why was this seemingly successful event was neglected by historians in the decades that followed.

“Through this restaging, we are combatting historical amnesia and doing everything that we can to ensure that the archival record is as complete as possible,” says Margaret Winslow, the Museum’s Curator of Contemporary Art. “With the 2021 presentation of Afro-American Images, we have a remarkable opportunity to look back at how Wilmington played a role in the Black Arts Movement. What were the reasons for Ricks’ exhibition then and what stories does it tell today? Why was the Delaware Art Museum not an active partner with Aesthetic Dynamics in 1971? Today, the Delaware Art Museum seeks to bring art into the lives of the community in ways that support myriad interests and involves authentic civic engagement. Restaging the original exhibition, 50 years later, addresses numerous historic gaps such as the biased archival record and lack of local institutional support. By collaborating with Aesthetic Dynamics members 50 years later the Delaware Art Museum is afforded the opportunity to investigate its engagement with the Black community. As we certainly see in the Museum’s own renewed focus on acquiring work specifically of women and artists of color, this is still such an important aspect of the curatorial work that we do at this museum.”

In an effort to accurately represent and fully involve all voices in its gallery spaces, the Museum—in addition to partnering with current institutional leaders—is seeking community members with memories of the 1971 exhibition or particular research interests in the restaging. Interested parties are encouraged to connect with Margaret Winslow at mwinslow@delart.org or 302-351-8539.

Helping coordinate the exhibition and its presentation are members of an exhibition Advisory Committee co-led by Arnold S. Hurtt, who has served as an officer of Aesthetic Dynamics since the organization’s inception in 1971, and Dr. James E. Newton, Emeritus Professor of Africana Studies at the University of Delaware and the director of the Black American Studies program for over two decades.

“Percy Ricks served as a major advocate for the arts in general, in particular for African American artists,” says Dr. Newton. “His legacy continues with this historic exhibition.”

Hurtt agrees with the importance of preserving and promoting Ricks’ legacy: “Percy was an artist, educator, and advocate,” says Hurtt. “He saw the soul in creative expression and believed art links to humanities and culture.”

About the Delaware Art Museum

For over 100 years, the Museum has served as a primary arts and cultural institution in Delaware. It is alive with experiences, discoveries, and activities to connect people with art and with each other. Originally created in 1912 to honor the renowned illustrator and Wilmington-native, Howard Pyle, the Museum’s collection has grown to over 12,000 works of art in our building and sculpture garden. Also recognized for British Pre-Raphaelite art, the Museum is home to the largest and most important Pre-Raphaelite collection outside of the United Kingdom and a growing collection of significant contemporary art.

Under the leadership of our Board of Trustees, the Delaware Art Museum is implementing a comprehensive approach to community and civic engagement. This exciting new strategic direction requires that we increase our value and relevance to all audiences. Visit delart.org to for the latest exhibitions, programs, and performances or connect with us via social media.

For more than 50 years, Margo Allman and Helen Mason have challenged traditional expectations for contemporary art in the greater Wilmington area. The Delaware Art Museum is celebrating these two pioneering artists with Layered Abstraction: Margo Allman & Helen Mason, a Distinguished Artist Series retrospective in its premier exhibition gallery space from March 21 through September 6, 2020.

Both Allman and Mason have dedicated their artistic careers to exploring the infinite possibilities of abstraction. Margo Allman’s work was first exhibited at the Museum during its 43rd Annual Delaware Show in 1956. Since then, Allman has participated in countless juried and curated shows at the Museum and throughout the region. Her prints, paintings, and sculptures, which are inspired by nature, bring form to the invisible. Layered Abstraction will feature more than 50 of Allman’s works of art, including her early 1950s avant-garde prints; her sculptures in marble, wood, concrete, and synthetic fiber from the 70s and 80s; her signature series of ovoidal paintings; and her graphic drawings dating from 2004 to 2019.

Helen Mason, who arrived in Delaware in 1967, has exhibited at the Delaware Art Museum and played an active role on the Delaware State Arts Council—all while teaching generations of students at the Tatnall School in Wilmington. Materiality is a consistent inspiration for Mason, as is Minimal art and the Japanese techniques of layering, bundling, gathering, knotting, and folding. Layered Abstraction will feature more than 80 works of art by Mason, including her jewelry, paintings, and ceramics from the 1970s through today, and selections from her 1988 Delaware Art Museum exhibition Form and Spirit, along with her recent sculptures in recycled black rubber.

About Margo Allman

Margo Allman is an abstract artist who works in painting, printmaking, and sculpture. She attended Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia where she studied with the abstract expressionist artist Leonard Nelson. She also pursued further study with Hans Hofmann. Since 1954, Allman has participated in countless solo and group exhibitions in the United States and abroad, including at the Delaware Art Museum, the Biggs Museum of American Art, and the West Chester University Art Gallery. Her work is also featured in many regional collections, including the Delaware Art Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

“My life in art and its driving preoccupation is to both explore and form my emotions, my yearnings and the mysteries of nature,” says Allman. “My never-ending goal is to enrich others with the quality of my true and unique talents.”

About Helen Mason

Helen Mason received her MFA from the University of Delaware and her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design/Brown University. Among her many honors are a National Endowment for the Arts/Delaware State Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship, a Gulbenkian Foundation Grant, and a Delaware Art Museum Purchase Award. She was appointed by the Governor to the Board of the Delaware State Arts Council serving two terms, served on the Board of the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, and directed the Art Program as Chairman at the Tatnall School in Wilmington. Mason’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at the American Craft Museum (MAD) in NY, the National Museum of Women in the Arts in DC, the Biggs Museum in DE, the Delaware Art Museum, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Vonderau Museum in Germany, Takashimya Gallery in Japan, and the Aaron Faber Gallery in NY. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Delaware Art Museum, the Hercules Powder Co in DE, the Kalamazoo Institute of Art in MI, and the High Museum.

“As a sculptor, I see myself constructing shapes that are self-contained, uncompromising, and singular, often thinking in different scales to explore an idea,” says Mason. “My inspiration is drawn from Minimalism and the stability and refinement of geometric forms. The color black is always a constant, incorporating a strong influence of the East, symbolizing mystery, serenity, and elegance. My motivation is a search for innovative ways to test convention, always with the desire to break the boundaries between art and craft.”

Media interviews with both artists are available upon request. Please contact Cynthia Smith at csmith@delart.org or 302-351-8514 to request an interview.

About the Delaware Art Museum

For over 100 years, the Museum has served as a primary arts and cultural institution in Delaware. It is alive with experiences, discoveries, and activities to connect people with art and with each other. Originally created in 1912 to honor the renowned illustrator and Wilmington-native, Howard Pyle, the Museum’s collection has grown to over 12,000 works of art in our building and sculpture garden. Also recognized for British Pre-Raphaelite art, the Museum is home to the largest and most important Pre-Raphaelite collection outside of the United Kingdom and a growing collection of significant contemporary art.

Under the leadership of our Board of Trustees, the Delaware Art Museum is implementing a comprehensive approach to community and civic engagement. This exciting new strategic direction requires that we increase our value and relevance to all audiences. Visit delart.org to for the latest exhibitions, programs, and performances or connect with us via social media.

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Image: Drawing #1, 2016, Margo Allman, Ink on clay board, 6 × 6 inches, frame: 7 1/2 × 7 1/2 inches, Courtesy of the artist. © Margo Allman.

On January 6, a Delaware native and his gorgeous painting by American illustrator Frank Schoonover were featured on PBS’s Antiques Roadshow, which was filmed at Winterthur last year. The painting, originally published with the caption “At a Hail from the Boat He Went to the Rail,” is an illustration from the 1923 book Privateers of ’76, a tale of Massachusetts boy Stephen Claghorn and his adventures at sea during the American Revolution. The painting pictures the moment toward the end of the story when Claghorn, alone and adrift aboard a derelict ship, is rescued, improbably, by his Salem schoolmaster. The Delaware Art Museum is thrilled to announce that it will display the painting in its American illustration gallery for the next six months.

The owner’s family purchased the painting directly from the artist for $300 in June 1960. During the Antiques Roadshow segment, the owner described his father’s love of illustrated books, and how his mother saved for two years to purchase a work from Schoonover’s Rodney Street studio in Wilmington.

When the owner was told on air that his beloved family painting was worth approximately $125,000, he teared up and said: “My father would be so thrilled to know that people were being turned on to illustrations, and my mother would be really thrilled with what you just said.”

John Schoonover, grandson of the artist and proprietor of Schoonover Studios, agreed: “I was very pleased to see my grandfather’s illustration on Antiques Roadshow, and glad [Roadshow expert and art dealer] Debra Force acknowledged the increasing interest in American book and magazine illustration.”

The Museum has a robust collection of illustrations by Frank Schoonover (1877-1972). Schoonover, a prominent artist of the Brandywine School, studied with Howard Pyle in the late 1800s, even receiving a coveted scholarship to study with him in Chadds Ford, PA, in the summer of 1899. He later moved from his native Philadelphia to Wilmington to set up his studio, where he also conducted classes.

Schoonover was renowned for his illustrations of stories featuring pirates, cowboys, historical heroes, and other romantic adventurers. He produced covers and illustrations for classics of young people’s literature, notably Kidnapped, Robinson Crusoe, Heidi, Hans Brinker, and Swiss Family Robinson. Schoonover also produced images of coal miners and other laborers, especially in industrial northeastern Pennsylvania.

Schoonover was one of the founders of the Wilmington Society of the Fine Arts (the predecessor of the Delaware Art Museum) and remained closely involved with the Museum and its teaching studios throughout his life. At his death in Wilmington in 1972, after a career of over 60 years, he had produced about 2,200 illustrations for over 130 books and numerous magazines, including The Saturday Evening Post, Harper’s Magazine, Scribner’s Magazine, Outing, American Boy, The Ladies’ Home Journal, and Collier’s.

In addition to this loaned painting, the Museum currently has seven Schoonover illustrations on view.

About the Delaware Art Museum

For over 100 years, the Museum has served as a primary arts and cultural institution in Delaware. It is alive with experiences, discoveries, and activities to connect people with art and with each other. Originally created in 1912 to honor the renowned illustrator and Wilmington-native, Howard Pyle, the Museum’s collection has grown to over 12,000 works of art in our building and sculpture garden. Also recognized for British Pre-Raphaelite art, the Museum is home to the largest and most important Pre-Raphaelite collection outside of the United Kingdom and a growing collection of significant contemporary art.

Under the leadership of our Board of Trustees, the Delaware Art Museum is implementing a comprehensive approach to community and civic engagement. This exciting new strategic direction requires that we increase our value and relevance to all audiences. Visit delart.org to for the latest exhibitions, programs, and performances or connect with us via social media

STEP AFRIKA! DEBUTS NEWLY COMMISSIONED WORK ON NATIONAL TOUR BEGINNING JANUARY 2020

Drumfolk premieres in arts centers across the United States with performances in Pennsylvania, Illinois, California, New York, Delaware, Washington, Massachusetts, Iowa, Maryland and the District of Columbia

Washington, D.C. – Step Afrika! continues the celebration of its 25th anniversary into 2020 with an expansive national tour that highlights a newly commissioned work, Drumfolk. The piece, which is based on historical events that took place during the 1700s in the Deep South, debuts in selected arts centers and college campuses from January through November 2020. The tour also features the company’s highly anticipated return to New York City’s beloved Theater District and summer performances in venues across the Washington, D.C. area, Step Afrika!’s home base.

Drumfolk is the second work by Step Afrika! that celebrates and chronicles the African American experience in America,” shared C. Brian Williams, Founder and Executive Director. “This new production is grounded in extensive research and over 25 years of Step Afrika!’s percussive practice and investigation into the tradition of stepping. We’re thrilled to be sharing it with our audiences.”

A seminal addition to Step Afrika!’s dance canon, Drumfolk is inspired by the Stono Rebellion of 1739 – an uprising of 20 enslaved Africans from Angola, who used their drums to start a revolt in South Carolina. Although the rebellion was suppressed, this little-known event in American history forever changed African American life and culture. When Africans lost the right to use their drums through The Negro Act of 1740, they began to use their bodies as percussive instruments in response. This act of survival and activism earned them the name of “Drumfolk,” as coined by famed folklorist Bessie Jones, and their percussive movement gave rise to some of the country’s most distinctive art forms, including the ring shout, tap, hambone and stepping. Step Afrika!’s Drumfolk explores this pivotal moment in history and honors the succeeding cultural evolution.

Drumfolk takes audiences on a journey from the 17th century, when the African drum found itself in the then-colony of South Carolina, to present-day America, where the instrument has shaped new art forms like hip hop and African American social dance. Highlights include: Step Afrika!’s first presentation of dance and drumming traditions from Angola; an exploration of the ring shout, which is a 200+ year-old African American dance rarely seen on our country’s stages; and a contemporary routine of stepping and vocal percussion to demonstrate the drum’s influence on other mediums.

Drumfolk debuts in Eisenhower Auditorium at Penn State’s Center for the Performing Arts on January 31, 2020. The tour then travels to: Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign from February 6-7, 2020; The Soraya at California State University Northridge (Los Angeles) on February 23, 2020; the New Victory Theater in New York City from February 28-March 15, 2020; the Delaware Art Museum on April 3, 2020; Meany Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Washington from May 7-9, 2020; ArtsEmerson at Emerson College from July 22-August 1, 2020; and Hancher Auditorium at the University of Iowa from September 14-20, 2020. Step Afrika!’s residency in each venue will include feature-length performances for the general public, as well as student matinees, master classes and workshops leading up to the aforementioned dates. The summer 2020 performances in Maryland and Washington, D.C. will be announced at a later date at www.stepafrika.org.

STEP AFRIKA! DRUMFOLK 2020 NATIONAL TOUR

Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State/January 27-31, 2020
102 Eisenhower Road, University Park, PA 16802
https://cpa.psu.edu/events/step-afrika

Krannert Center for the Performing Arts/Urbana, IL/February 4-9, 2020
500 S. Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801
https://krannertcenter.com/events/step-afrika-drumfolk

The Soraya at California State University Northridge/Los Angeles, CA/ February 19-24, 2020
18111 Nordhoff Street, Northridge, CA 91330-8448
https://www.thesoraya.org/calendar/details/step-afrika-drumfolk

The New Victory Theater/February 28-March 15, 2020
229 W 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036
https://newvictory.org/

Delaware Art Museum/Wilmington, DE/March 29-April 5, 2020
818 North Market Street, Wilmington, DE 19801
https://www.thegrandwilmington.org/productions/6492-step-afrika:drumfolk

Meany Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Washington/Seattle, WA/May 7-9, 2020
4040 George Washington Lane NE, Seattle, WA 98105
https://meanycenter.org/tickets/2020-05/production/step-afrika

ArtsEmerson/Boston, MA/July 22-August 1, 2020
219 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02116
https://artsemerson.org

Hancher Auditorium at the University of Iowa/Iowa City, IA/September 14-20, 2020
141 East Park Road, Iowa City, IA 52242
https://hancher.uiowa.edu/

Funding Credits

Drumfolk was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Lead Commissioning Support provided by ArtsEmerson, Hancher Auditorium, Eugene Lang Foundation and the Strathmore Performing Arts Center. Additional support provided by Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, The New Victory Theater, Delaware Art Museum, Meany Center for the Performing Arts, The Soraya and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

About Step Afrika!

Founded in 1994 by C. Brian Williams, Step Afrika! is the world’s first professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping—a polyrhythmic, percussive dance form that uses the body as an instrument. Step Afrika! promotes stepping as a contemporary dance genre through critically-acclaimed performances and arts education programs. Creatively engaging audiences in this nascent art form, the Company creates new full-length productions that expand on stepping’s unique American history.

With 14 full-time dancers and administrative team of 6, Step Afrika! is one of the top 10 U.S. African American dance companies. The Company reaches thousands each year through a 50-city tour of American colleges and theaters and performs globally as an official U.S. Cultural Ambassador. New work, such as The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence and Drumfolk, tour to major U.S. cities. Step Afrika! is featured at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture with the world’s first interactive stepping exhibit.

Media relations for Step Afrika!

Camille Cintrón Devlin/Bucklesweet
camille@bucklesweet.com
571-317-9317

Amanda Sweet/Bucklesweet
amanda@bucklesweet.com
347-564-3371

Black Iris Project’s solo ballet centers around one mother coping from the loss of her child to a racially motivated murder

The Delaware Art Museum is pleased to announce that it will host A Mother’s Rite, the Black Iris Project’s groundbreaking solo ballet, on Thursday, January 23 at 6:00 p.m. Founded in 2016 by choreographer Jeremy McQueen, The Black Iris Project is a ballet collaborative and education vehicle that creates new classical and contemporary ballet works that celebrate diversity and Black history. A Mother’s Rite, which is set to Igor Stravinsky’s iconic composition Rite of Spring, is a moving 38-minute solo performance about how a mother copes with the loss of her child to a racially-motivated murder by police.

Jeremy McQueen, artistic director and choreographer for the Black Iris Project, says about the inspiration of A Mother’s Rite, “I was first inspired to create A Mother’s Rite when I attended a Solange concert at Radio City Music Hall. Solange was performing a song called ‘Mad’ and started to increasingly appear physically and emotionally distressed. As I was watching this almost ritualistic shedding of pain, I started to think about what I and Black Americans have the right to be mad about and I started to think more and more about the senseless killings of Black men and women across our country. A Mother’s Rite is choreographed to illustrate a side of the story that is often kept very private, one that the public is not often exposed to.”

The Museum is offering A Mother’s Rite in conjunction with their participation in One Village Alliance’s Raising Kings 2020, a week of events (January 20 – 25) around Wilmington focused on empowering young Black men and their families. In addition to the January 23 Black Iris performance, the Museum will host a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service on Monday, January 20.

“MLK Day of Service is a time for us to celebrate our many accomplishments around building equity in our city, but also for us to reflect on the work that still needs to be done,” says Jonathan Whitney, the Museum’s Manager of Performance Programs & Community Engagement. “We are inviting the community to join us on MLK day to make chess sets for youth, knit caps for infants, and drop off winter coats for the homeless, while also hearing flash talks about voting rights, the importance of census participation, the school to prison pipeline, and infant mortality. We hope people will then come back that Thursday for A Mother’s Rite to reflect with us on the effects of racially motivated violence on families and communities of color.”

Keeping in line with its vision to collaborate with local organizations, the Museum is also partnering with Pieces of a Dream, Inc., Christiana Cultural Arts Center, and Cab Calloway School for the Arts around A Mother’s Rite.

Leading up to the public performance, Pieces of a Dream, Inc. will offer a free ballet master class for dancers with the soloist from A Mother’s Rite on Wednesday, January 22 from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. at their Lancaster Avenue dance studio. Interested participants should pre-register at Delart.org.

During the first half of the public performance on January 23, ensembles of local dancers from both Pieces of a Dream, Inc. and the Christina Cultural Arts Center will perform. This will be followed by a brief intermission, then Black Iris Project’s 38-minute solo piece A Mother’s Rite. A Q & A between director Jeremy McQueen and the creative mind behind Raising Kings Week, Chandra Pitts from One village Alliance, will immediately follow the performance.

“The opportunity for the Black Iris Project to visit Delaware for performances and workshops is fundamentally important to the social and cultural development of our state,” says Ashley S.K. Davis, Executive and Artistic Director at Pieces of a Dream, Inc. “While there is no shortage of ballet companies in the region, there is a poignant lack of African-American bodies on these illustrious stages. For aspiring young Black ballerinas and ballerinos to see themselves represented in this genre can be inspiring and life-changing. It is also important for the community at large, dancers and non-dancers alike, to see this classical dance form centered on Black bodies and focused on Black stories.”

Both the MLK Day of Service in conjunction with Raising Kings and the Black Iris Project performance are part of the Museum’s ongoing effort to present forward-thinking artists who are addressing topics relevant to its local community.

The MLK Day of Service will take place on Monday, January 20, 2020, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The event is free, but donations are encouraged. A Mother’s Rite starts at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 23, 2020. Tickets, which can be purchased at Delart.org or at the door, are $10 for students with a valid ID, $20 for Museum Members, and $25 for Non-Members.

Sponsors: This engagement of the Black Iris Project is made possible through the Special Presenter Initiatives program of the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. Additional support was provided, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. The Division promotes Delaware arts events on www.DelawareScene.com.

About the Delaware Art Museum

For over 100 years, the Museum has served as a primary arts and cultural institution in Delaware. It is alive with experiences, discoveries, and activities to connect people with art and with each other. Originally created in 1912 to honor the renowned illustrator and Wilmington-native, Howard Pyle, the Museum’s collection has grown to over 12,000 works of art in our building and sculpture garden. Also recognized for British Pre-Raphaelite art, the Museum is home to the largest and most important Pre-Raphaelite collection outside of the United Kingdom and a growing collection of significant contemporary art.

Under the leadership of our Board of Trustees, the Delaware Art Museum is implementing a comprehensive approach to community and civic engagement. This exciting new strategic direction requires that we increase our value and relevance to all audiences. Visit delart.org to for the latest exhibitions, programs, and performances or connect with us via social media.

Above: The Alhambra by Washington Irving, cover design by Alice C. Morse (New York: Putnam, 1892) Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives.

Most Americans are familiar with the writer and historian Washington Irving and his well-known legends of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle. Irving (b.1783-d.1859) was one of the first writers from the newly formed United States to be recognized across Europe and he set the standard for a uniquely American form of fiction writing. Less well known are some of Irving’s works of history or his time spent in Europe as part of the diplomatic corps. Two works that came out of Irving’s foreign adventures were histories of medieval Spain during the period when modern day Andalucia was controlled by the Nasrids, the Moorish Muslim Emirate of Granada. Known as The Alhambra and The Conquest of Granada these books remained so widely read that 30 years after Irving’s death they were re-released in revised editions with cover designs by the well-known female decorative artist Alice C. Morse (b.1863-d.1961). Pictured below, both books are a unique look at 19th-century interest in orientalist design.

Irving first came to southern Spain in 1826. His family’s merchant business in New York City had been severely damaged by the War of 1812, and they were no longer able to support his literary career. Hoping Spain would provide him with inspiration for a new book, Irving was given access to both the American consul’s library on Spanish history and the Duke of Gor’s collection of medieval manuscripts. With this source material, Irving compiled his chronicle of the conquest of the Emirate of Granada in the 1480s by Isabella I of Castille and Ferdinand II of Aragon. This was the basis of The Conquest of Granada.

Eventually, Irving was given the opportunity to move into rooms at the Alhambra of Granada. This fortified hilltop was the seat of power for the Nasrids, and the location of an elaborately decorated palace from the mid-14th century. It is also arguably one of the finest examples of Moorish architecture in the world. Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand chose this location as the site of their own royal court after the conquest. It was here that Washington Irving drew the inspiration for The Alhambra, a series of essays and short stories about the palace structures, their history, legends from the region, and musings about the complex’s current residents. In his preface to the revised edition Irving described it thus, “It was my endeavor scrupulously to depict its half Spanish, half Oriental character; its mixture of the heroic, the poetic, and the grotesque; to revive the traces of grace and beauty fast fading from its walls; to record the regal and chivalrous traditions concerning those who once trod its courts; and the whimsical and superstitious legends of the motley race now burrowing among its ruins.” This content fed the 19th-century West’s growing and ravenous interest in all things “oriental” and “other,” likely leading to the continued reprints of these works after Irving’s death. By 1842 Washington Irving was officially appointed Minister of Spain, due in large part to the contacts he had made in the region 15 years before.

Published in 1892 and 1893 respectively, the revised reprints of Irving’s The Alhambra and The Conquest of Granada were intended as gift-books. Consequently their designs, while simple, are pleasing. They represent the height of book fashion in the 1890s. During the Victorian period dark and rich colors were popular choices for book covers, but by the turn of the century lighter colors of book-cloth grew in popularity. Both covers contain decorative lozenge-shaped fields containing interwoven designs known as “arabesques.” This same style of design-work was carried over into the books’, as shown below.

image Above, left to right: Chronicle of the conquest of Granada by Washington Irving, cover design by Alice C. Morse (New York: Putnam, 1893) M.G. Sawyer Collection of Decorative Bindings, Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives. | Endpaper possibly designed by Alice C. Morse from The Alhambra by Washington Irving (New York: Putnam, 1892) Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives.

Many elements of these two book covers betray Alice C. Morse skills and experience as an artist and designer. Morse was trained in the applied arts and their history at the Women’s Art School at Cooper Union in New York City. This institution was tuition-free for any students unable to pay and was dedicated to teaching emerging artists skills and techniques that would ensure them jobs in the field after graduation. Morse was assuredly one of these non-paying students and her time at Cooper Union allowed her to break into a number of the design industries. She spent several years working at the Louis C. Tiffany & Company as a stained glass artist before shifting into regular work designing book covers. Morse found that creating designs for stained glass works was very similar to that of book covers, even if the resulting media differed drastically. Yet, it is clear from her work that Morse was familiar with the artistic processes of production as well. Morse’s book cover designs predominantly involved a creative use of stamping techniques, a process in which heated stamps would be applied to cloth book covers to create designs in relief; the creation of raised and pressed areas. It is likely that Morse collaborated with the engravers who were responsible for executing her designs to create complex effects.

Moreover, the use of arabesque forms on the covers of The Alhambra and The Conquest of Granada indicate Morse’s art historical knowledge. The design of the cover and endpaper of The Alhambra resemble illustrations in Owen Jones’s 1856 scholarly work The Grammar of Ornament. In the introduction to his chapter on “Moresque” or Moorish ornament from the Alhambra, Jones stated, “The Alhambra is at the very summit of perfection of Moorish art, as is the Parthenon of Greek art.” While problematically othering, as Jones made a point of separating Moorish art into a category distinctly separate from Greek art at the center of the Western canon, in the 19th century this work was the foremost authority on ornamental designs for English-speaking audiences. Alice Morse clearly referred to this text when developing her designs for Irving’s two books. In addition to drawing upon some of the illustrations, Morse was well versed in the written descriptions as well. In particular, Jones stated that Moorish ornament was often comprised of primary colors such as blues and reds, along with a predominance of green backgrounds. Further he stated that yellow tones were often expressed with gold. Morse’s designs follow these principles. For example, in the case of The Alhambra Morse has created an interlocking design in blue and gold on a green background. Jones additionally expressed the Moorish interest in constructing geometric forms out of vine-like and vegetal elements. The endpaper for The Alhambra is an example of this concept. The main design resembles two large and two small broad leaf-forms along with four half-leafs all radiating out of a circular center. All around these leaves are a series of regular arabesques that weave between one another like vines. The entire composition is symmetrical and organized in a way that would never occur in nature, although inspired by its forms.

Alice C. Morse applied her design skills to a number of other book covers in the Delaware Art Museum’s collection. An exhibition of this material in the Special Collections Cases located in the lower lobby outside the Library and Kid’s Corner will coincide with the exhibition Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Driehaus Collection opening on October 17, 2020. Check back then to learn more about this unique artist.

In addition to the four large paintings Angela Fraleigh created for Sound the Deep Waters, the artist assembled five bouquets to complement the Victorian-era imagery on view. Floriography, or the language of flowers, is the use of a flower as a means of coded communication. By the middle of the 1800s, guides were published to denote the meanings, and the many—and sometimes varied—connotations were generally understood. A specific type of flower may reference an individual’s trait, intention, sentiment, social concern, or condition. Aside from symbolic associations, many flowers have practical uses—aromatic, medicinal, or toxic—and their use has been explored and regulated depending on social norms.

Sculpted by Fraleigh and international, female flower artists from cold porcelain—a polymer clay—the blooms appear lifelike. Fraleigh gathered arrangements that are hopeful and powerful, poisonous, can induce menses, denote LGBTQ+ identity, or refer to the Greek goddess Circe. To the experienced, such intentions are known; to others the implications remain hidden in plain sight.

Flowers and Their Sentiments

image Above, left to right: Just like moons and like suns, still I’ll rise (Fanny Eaton to Maya Angelou), 2019. Cold porcelain, wire, oil paint, and pastel in glass vessel. | The ocean could not be swept back with a broom. The truth was out and it illuminated the world. (Margaret Sanger to Madame Restell), 2019. Cold porcelain, wire, oil paint, and pastel in ceramic vessel.

Hawthorn – Hope
Lily of the Valley – Delicacy or Return of Happiness
Maidenhair Fern – Sincerity or Strength
Peony – Hardiness
Ranunculus – Radiant with Charms
Snowdrop – Consolation or Hope

Foxglove – Salubrity or Insincerity
Hellebore – Folly or Scandal
Rue – Disdain, Grace, or Regret
Tansy – Declaration of War or Resistance

image Above: Daughter of the Sun (Circe’s Garden), 2019. Cold porcelain, wire, oil paint, and pastel in glass vessel.

Dandelion – Oracle
Datura – Deceitful Charms or Disguise
Poppy –Impudence, Sleep, My Bane, or My Antidote
Snowdrop – Consolation or Hope

image Above, left to right: The stars tell all their secrets to the flowers, and, if we only knew how to look around us, we should not need to look above. (Margaret Fuller to Simone de Beauvoir), 2019. Cold porcelain, wire, oil paint, and pastel in ceramic vessel. | Stained with moonlight, nurtured by the stars (Lord Alfred Douglas to Oscar Wilde), 2019. Cold porcelain, wire, oil paint, and pastel in glass vessel.

Cold porcelain, wire, oil paint, and pastel in ceramic vessel
Southern Magnolia – Dignity or Perseverance

Malmaison Green Carnation – Strong and Pure Love
Pansy – Tender and Pleasant Thoughts
Violet – Faithfulness

A Botanical Reading List

Eve’s Herbs: A History of Contraception and Abortion in the West by John M. Riddle (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999)
Flowers; Their Use and Beauty in Language and Sentiment edited by Arthur Freeling (London: Darton and Co., 1851)
Language of Flowers by Edmund Evans, illustrated by Kate Greenaway (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1884)
The Language of Flowers: A History by Beverly Seaton (Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1995)
“The Magnolia of Lake Pontchartrain,” by Margaret Fuller in The Dial: A Magazine for Literature, Philosophy, and Religion (January 1841)
“Rooted in Truth,” by Matt Kaplan in Discover Magazine (November 2015)

Artwork courtesy of Angela Fraleigh and international flower artists Bohdanova Olena Anatoliivna, Tatiana Godunova, Julia Oleynik, Shaile Socher, and Maria Varganova. Photographs by Carson Zullinger. © Angela Fraleigh.

Above: Untitled, 1990s. Mitch Lyons (1938-2018). Clay monoprint, 17 x 37 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Gift of the artist, 2012. © Estate of Mitch Lyons.

Mitch Lyons worked as a traditional potter until 1980, the pivotal point in his career when he refined his method of printing directly from clay. Experimental forms of printmaking have been pervasive throughout the history of art; however, never before has such an inventive matrix, medium, and process been utilized for image transfer. Lyons began by wetting the stoneware clay slab he used for nearly 40 years. He created imagery using fairly conventional ceramic decoration techniques. Lyons poured clay slips of various colors directly onto the surface and drew, painted, or cut directly into the clay with a variety of traditional and unexpected tools—brushes, stencils, and cookie cutters. After framing the desired image with drywall tape, the artist pulled a thin layer of clay that is permanently embedded in the fibers of Reemay—a DuPont-engineered polyester fabric that Lyons preferred as his support. The distinct nature of the medium and technique ensured the uniqueness of each print.

Infinite Avenues of Artistic Expression

Like most traditional potters, Lyons was motivated by a love for the material and described himself as a “clay person making prints,” though he also created pots and mixed media sculpture. Chance was an inherent part of his technique, which reminds one of surrealist automatic drawings and the incorporation of chance procedures embraced by artists like John Cage, who worked in the 1950s. Lyons sought to achieve a “balance between spontaneity and structure” and captured in his work the sense of energy and intuition he embraced in the studio.

Distinguished Artist

Mitch Lyons: The Hand Translated continues the Delaware Art Museum’s Distinguished Artist Series and celebrates the artist’s unique creative endeavors. Artists in the series have made an impact through their artistic practices, teachings, and support of our community. Lyons embraced the roles of mentor and teacher, sharing his knowledge and technique for the advancement of ceramics, printmaking, and all choices in-between.

Senior Artists Initiative

The Delaware Art Museum worked with the Philadelphia-based Senior Artists Initiative and Richard Weisgrau to create an intimate documentary of the artist’s life. With the help of artists Dennis Ambrogi and John Baker, stories were gathered together from Lyons’ family, friends, and colleagues. Watch Mitch Lyons: The Hand Translated to see Lyons’ demonstrate his unique process and talk about his artistic inspirations, in addition to hearing interviews by those who were influenced by his creative process.

image Above, left to right: Untitled, 1980s. Mitch Lyons (1938-2018). Clay monoprint, sheet: 33 3/4 × 34 3/4 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Gift of the artist, 2012. © Estate of Mitch Lyons. | Untitled pot, not dated. Mitch Lyons (1938-2018). Ceramic, 10 3/8 x 6 ½ inches. Collection of the Estate of Mitch Lyons. © Estate of Mitch Lyons. Photograph by Carson Zullinger.

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Mitch Lyons: The Hand Translated

Above, Fig. 1. Landscape Box (open), c. 1988. Po Shun Leong (born 1941). Cherry burl, wenge, mahogany, and Hawaiian koa woods with built-in lamp, 19 × 21 5/8 × 6 1/2 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Gift of Nancy and Joe Miller, 1998. © Po Shun Leong.

A box is a practical device, but artists have long seen greatness in its form. Some artists, like Donald Judd, celebrate the box for its simplicity. Joseph Cornell adopted the box given the practical role it served: its walls were boundaries that divided outside realities from the world he constructed within. Judd, Cornell, and the many other artists achieved their artistic success with boxes by playing upon their audience’s expectation of discovering mystery, mysticism, and magic within the unknown interior space.

Similarly, Po Shun Leong has mastered the dramatic potential of the box. A contemporary wood artist working in California, in 1988 Leong created what he refers to as a Landscape Box that is in the Delaware Art Museum’s collection today (Fig. 2). Solidly constructed out of glowing woods—cherry burl, wenge, mahogany, and Hawaiian koa—it is a foot-and-a-half tall and, in its closed state, it seems to be a fine objet d’art, destined for tabletop display. The simplicity of line in its overarching bonnet and elegant side columns belie its actual complexity, but a gaping hollow at its center offers a peephole into another environment within. It begs to be opened. And it can be. In fact, each individual layer individually swings outward to progressively reveal a better view of the hidden sanctum at the core of the box (Fig. 1). Much like the pulling back of a curtain, the opening of the box reveals the stage set of Leong’s design. Embracing accessibility, Leong even incorporated a light into the design to better reveal the shadowy, unknown interior. Leong speaks of his desire for his viewers to touch and interact with his constructions. His mastery is not only the invocation of a wonderful mystery within his box but the permission he grants his audience to play, explore, and learn about that unknown.

image Fig. 2. Landscape Box (closed), c. 1988. Po Shun Leong (born 1941). Cherry burl, wenge, mahogany, and Hawaiian koa woods with built-in lamp, 19 × 21 5/8 × 6 1/2 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Gift of Nancy and Joe Miller, 1998. © Po Shun Leong.

Inside, the viewer discovers an interior that is like an illustrated glossary of architectural forms (Fig. 3). At the box’s central base, double archways lead to another set of interior archways, which are then succeeded by spiral staircases and columnar forms. On the level above, obelisks and broken columns point the way toward the main tier and the focal point: a propylaea or monumental gateway which frames a cavernous interior space. Peering inside, one finds this space is outfitted with even more staircases. In a strikingly simple uppermost level, a final staircase terminates in an enclosed, turreted space.

image Fig. 3. Landscape Box (open) (detail), c. 1988. Po Shun Leong (born 1941). Cherry burl, wenge, mahogany, and Hawaiian koa woods with built-in lamp, 19 × 21 5/8 × 6 1/2 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Gift of Nancy and Joe Miller, 1998. © Po Shun Leong.

It comes as no surprise that Leong’s first career was not in woodcarving but in architecture. Trained in England where he was raised, as well as for a time under Le Corbusier in France, Leong ultimately settled and practiced in Mexico. Although his 1982 move to California marked a shift in his career, as well as his country of residence, he never abandoned his interest in architecture which is manifest in all of his wood constructions.

While Leong has invited us to physically explore a miniaturized world, this is hardly a dollhouse. Leong’s masterful recreation of architectural forms makes the space look familiar, but it fails to operate as a cohesive unit. The maze of staircases borders on the preposterous, both in the number of them and in their seeming inability to connect. Given the impossibility of navigating its constructions, the viewer is ultimately denied entrance into the sacred space of the box. Instead, there is a Surrealist element to the imagery. Leong seems to be invoking the prints of M. C. Escher who experimented with mathematical principles to play tricks upon the eye, as can be seen in one of his most famous lithographs from 1953 Relativity.

Escher’s print, and other work by Surrealists, took inspiration from the 18th-century printmaker Giovanni Battista Piranesi who famously rendered mazes of staircases in his series of 16 prints, Prisons (Fig. 4). Not only do Leong’s staircases recall Piranesi’s precedent, but his overall respect for architectural classicism parallels the other prints of Piranesi whose principal mission was to capture the Rome’s greatest architectural achievements centuries after they had fallen into disrepair. Piranesi celebrated the beauty in their time-worn aesthetic, even including tourists in his scenes who would pilfer spolia or decorative elements as souvenirs. Leong also chose to depict ancient architecture in its state of imperfection. He used the natural decay of the wood and sections with unfinished and jagged edges to suggest the erosion of time on the upper surfaces of many of his arches, including atop the pediment on the central propylaea. In such a modern, contemporary box, Leong is able to create a sense of venerable timelessness. In his other projects, too, Leong has taken inspiration from specific sites of the historical past: Pompeii, Petra, Mesa Verde (Fig. 5). These sites are constructed of stone and their grandeur and endurance is partially predicated on their materiality. Leong’s decision to recreate them in wood, a medium much more vulnerable to decay, could be an ironic reference to the inevitable destruction of any kind of art.

image Clockwise, from left: Fig. 4. The Drawbridge, from Carceri, 1780s. Giovanni Battista Piranesi. Etching, engraving, scratching, National Gallery of Art, Rosenwald Collection. Fig. 5. Mesa Verde, 1994. Po Shun Leong. Buckeye burl woods, 55 x 40 x 9 inches. Image from Po Shun Leong. Fig. 7. Portrait collage of Henry David Thoreau, 2001. Po Shun Leong. Wood, 60 inches. Image from Po Shun Leong. Fig. 6. The Course of Empire: Destruction, 1836. Thomas Cole. Oil on canvas, 39 1/4 x 63 1/2 inches. New York Historical Society, Gift of The New York Gallery of the Fine Arts.

In many ways, an interest in classical decay is a characteristically American subject. Thomas Cole dedicated himself to a series on desecration and destruction, The Course of Empire, in which a city is born, reaches its height, and falls to ruin in five panels (Fig. 6). Cole intended these paintings as a commentary on society’s profligate indulgences, a cautionary warning against turning a blind eye to the future. While Leong’s box still has the sheen of a newly constructed piece, there is the subtle implication that as we manipulate the wood and play with the form, we are contributing to the slow process of its disintegration.

Leong’s interest in sustainability drove his artistic practice. Even before becoming a wood artist, his work in Mexico included designs for prefabricated housing, support of indigenous weaving practices, and the creative use of efficient materials such as fiberglass for chair designs. Most significantly, after becoming a wood artist, he has sought out recycled sources of wood. After a 1994 earthquake damaged a large collection of wood art and turnings, its owner offered the fragments to Leong who has since incorporated them into his art. In some cases, he recycles significant sources of wood in order to endow his objects with a special significance. In 2001, he was commissioned to create a portrait of Henry David Thoreau using the wood from fallen trees at Walden Pond (Fig. 7). And in the following year, Leong approached the renowned wood turner Bob Stocksdale and requested to use his scraps in order to create a “Cabinet of Curiosity.” Most importantly, Leong recycles his own work, incorporating sections of past projects into new ones. In a sense, his boxes become collaged assemblies of found objects like the art of Cornell or Louise Nevelson, among others. This practice of reuse is in-keeping with Leong’s investment in history. As old elements are creatively recombined, they bring their past meanings to a new context and the work becomes a repository of memories.

Leong’s environmental ethos compliments his liberal approach to defining who can produce his kind of art. Much like the permission—even mandate—he grants his audience to touch, he seeks to put his art in the hands of the broader public by facilitating their own production of it. As complex as his constructions appear, Leong emphasizes his lack of training and his use of the most basic tools and techniques, including the avoidance of joinery. He promises there are no dovetails here. Under the subheading DIY, his website offers directions on how to produce ancient ruins. And in 1998, a guide to constructing an array of his artistic boxes was published.

The Museum’s Landscape Box showcases a number of contradictions, something key to any art piece produced by an active and creative thinker. While its form cultivates an air of mystery, its artist also makes it accessible by embracing interaction with and even replication of it. Although it depicts historical subjects, it was made by someone invested in contemporary issues. Not easily categorized, the architect-turned-wood-artist Po Shun Leong realizes his unique visions and offers them to the world to explore.

Olivia Armandroff
2019 Alfred Appel, Jr. Curatorial Fellow, Delaware Art Museum
Lois F. McNeil Fellow, Class of 2020, Winterthur Program in American Material Culture

Sources:
Leong, Po Shun. “Po Shun Leong: Floating Between Craft, Design and Cultures” filmed on June 18, 2016 at at the Craft in America Center, Los Angeles, CA, YouTube. Video, 43:00. Accessed August 7, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDEmQGin4UU.
Leong, Po Shun. PO SHUN LEONG: a portfolio of art in wood. Accessed August 5, 2019. http://www.poshunleong.com/.
Leong, Po Shun. “Po Shun Leong.” Collectors of Wood Art. Accessed August 5, 2019. http://collectorsofwoodart.org/artist/portfolio/152.
Ligate, Tony. Po Shun Leong: Art Boxes. Sterling Pub Co Inc. New York : Sterling Publications, 1998.