From the Delaware Art Museum, a few turns and a straight drive down Delaware Ave will find you nine minutes away and on the corner of 7th and Washington, now home to the Art-O-Mat. This is the newest location from Wilmington Alliance, a local organization dedicated to the city’s economic revitalization. Like DelArt, the front of the Art-O-Mat is all glass and light; jazz plays here, and artists can create here. The contrasts between the two are clear: age is a big one—the Art-O-Mat just opened at the end of July—and the drastic socioeconomic differences of the neighborhoods where the two each reside is another. However, these opposing factors highlight the things they share, like their proximity and remarkably similar hopes to uplift Wilmington by investing creative resources in the community.
In August, DelArt hosted Charles Edward Williams for a two-week artist residency. This residency was facilitated through an opportune partnership with the Art-O-Mat. The location served as Williams’s primary studio space and, in turn, the residency marked the first partnership between DelArt and Wilmington Alliance.
Williams is a featured artist in the museum’s collection. His work focuses on translating historical moments in ways that resonate and connect with audiences today. In a previous commission for the Museum, Williams focused his gaze on Delaware’s history by taking inspiration from the life and legacy of Alice Dunbar-Nelson. In the residency, he continued his exploration of history. “It’s not about me documenting what happened in history,” Williams says. “It’s about…how can I reappropriate this moment in history from a photograph or from a video and then take it to [be] more hopeful, more positive, more abundant…what kind of added point can I [bring] to it?”
The added point came in the community participation that the Museum and the Art-O-Mat organized. Families and youth groups had the opportunity to come and assist in creating the first layer of Williams’s artwork, literally making their own marks. This effectively inserted community members into the long arch of Black cultural history and legacy that Williams eagerly engages with in his work.
The artist also had his own opportunities for reflection and inspiration throughout the residency. He visited the Delaware Contemporary, met with local artists and business owners, and toured the Delaware History Museum’s Mitchell Center for African American Heritage. With the Wilmington Alliance partnership, the residency presented the opportunity to go deeper into the Wilmington community, literally. Its activities and themes highlight the history and ties that run through both DelArt and the Art-O-Mat as locally established and emerging cultural organizations.
As DelArt continues to grow as an organization, we’ve had the pleasure of hosting public programs that bring hundreds to the museum, such as Julieta Zavala’s fashion show this spring and the exhibition-inspired KidChella earlier this summer. Events like these demonstrate the museum’s commitment to highlighting local creative voices and empowering community members to take ownership in the arts. Initiatives like the artist residency illustrate how this vision extends beyond the bounds of Kentmere Parkway, taking the museum to the people and providing advancement and enrichment inside and outside our institution. ~
Zoe Akoto, DelArt’s Summer Residency Bridges Communities and Histories
Top: Boys to Men, 2023. Charles Edward Williams (born 1984). Oil, acrylic and crayon on gesso watercolor paper, 102 x 4 inches.
Executive Director, Arsht-Cannon Fund at the Delaware Community Foundation
I have always dreamed of being an artist—like my late father-in-law, Dr. Norman Cannon, or my granddaughter, Randi H. Aquino. Falling short of this aspiration, I found something better—using my creativity to find ways to express my thoughts and emotions. Whether it is decorating a cake or making an appetizing entree, choosing and arranging a bouquet of flowers, making seasonal wreaths, or teaching my grand-daughter, Avery, how to cross-stich, I feel a powerful sense of release and control, that puts my worries—even grief—in the backseat for a while. Using art and creativity offers opposing opportunities to either dive deeply into anxiety and loss or to be temporarily distracted from the pain of it all. I have practiced and preached the benefits of art therapy for many patients, family caregivers, and nursing students during my forty years as a nurse.
The Arsht-Cannon Fund is very excited to provide a second year of grant funding to the Delaware Art Museum for its community-based program, Healing Through the Arts. Ten groups of Latinos from partnerships with the Latin American Community Center and the Hispanic American Association of Delaware (490 participants total in FY2022–23) were provided with culturally relevant and Spanish-language art wellness instruction from professionals through the Museum’s partnership with Mariposa Arts. Evaluated outcomes of the program included feeling more relaxed, less stress, feelings of inclusion and respect, and greater interest in being creative. This coming year, the program hopes to expand beyond New Castle County with pilots that combine participant stories followed by painting to express the thoughts and feelings of each person’s journey.
The Delaware Art Museum exemplifies the growth and expertise that the Arsht-Cannon Fund has fostered in its work over the last 16 years: greater inclusion, equity, and diversity among nonprofits; growing community engagement, participation, and leadership; and program excellence with opportunities to expand capacity to serve all Delaware’s Latino families. The Arsht-Cannon Fund at the Delaware Community Foundation, endowed by the late Honorable Roxana Cannon Arsht, the first female judge appointed in Delaware, and S. Samuel Arsht, a leading Delaware corporate attorney, is now advised by their daughter, Adrienne Arsht, a philanthropist who supports the arts nationally, and the environment internationally.
As the Executive Director of the Arsht-Cannon Fund, I work to carry out our mission to partner with Delaware’s nonprofit organizations to provide a variety of educational and support opportunities to our growing number of Latino families, many of whom are recent immigrants. Grants support language and literacy programs, early childhood through adulthood instruction, educational advocacy, health education initiatives, and arts and cultural learning projects.
I believe that the best results are obtained when nonprofits know and engage their communities and build trusting relationships with each other and other community organizations; in this way, they can collaborate to best meet the needs of their communities. La Colectiva de Delaware was created in 2018 by the Arsht-Cannon Fund and La Esperanza Community Center in Sussex County to foster this work. I strongly encourage arts organizations to work closely together when planning and implementing programs for the communities that they serve in common. It is a win for everyone.
A final personal revelation: In the thirteen years that have passed following the loss of my daughter, Jan, I have experienced the calm and peace that comes from being captured by the artistic work of others or when I am immersed in my own creative endeavors. Art truly can be healing for many.
Thank you, Dr. Cannon, for your ongoing support of DelArt and our work to serve Delaware’s Latino communities, including Healing Through the Arts, a program offered in partnership with Mariposa Arts.
Photo by Shannon Woodloe.
Drawing is an essential element of artmaking. Though drawing is often associated with observation or preparation, the act can also result in a discrete work of art.
Drawn celebrates the important gift of contemporary drawings from Sally and Wynn Kramarsky. These patrons have championed artists and works on paper, specifically, through their collection development, New York City exhibitions, and generous donations. In 2009, the Delaware Art Museum joined a list of public institutions throughout the United States to receive gifts from the donors. This selection brings together artists separated by generations and genres, grounded in the foundational practice of drawing. The distinct artistry of each work exemplifies the diversity and range of non-representational contemporary works on paper.
Artists like Suzanne Bocanegra use drawing as a means of observation and understanding. This work is based on Joachim Anthonisz Wtewael’s 1605 painting, Kitchen Scene with the Parable of the Great Supper. Bocanegra’s drawing is not a direct translation but is instead an accounting of the formal components in the Dutch painting.
Sharon Louden embraces the power of the singular line. She describes its ability to move across the page, becoming “tangled” in itself. This layering creates the illusion of threedimensionality on a flat surface.
Between the lines of a watery maze and the layered striations of condensed planetary photographs, Anna Bogatin Ott transforms a gallery at the Delaware Art Museum into a space for peace and contemplation in Our Red Planet. Her painting Mars Wanderings invokes a whole archive of photography documenting Martian environments, and yet I was most inspired to reflect on the ecological relationships that define life on this blue planet.
The title “Mars Wanderings” alone conjures some of the familiar NASA photographs of our neighboring planet. But what images come to mind exactly? Is it the ones of Mars taken at distance to reveal a vermillion, desert-like orb suspended in space? Or perhaps we easily recall Exploration Rover images that depict a rocky and arid Martian terrain. As mystifying as these images are, the environment seems wholly inhospitable. Yet even as we wander through the exhibition space, the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover is drilling for samples of rock and soil, searching for signs of ancient microbial life. The linear paint strokes in Ott’s Mars Wanderings are reminiscent of the grooved tracks left behind by Perseverance’s four predecessors, the only “bodies” from Earth that have actually traveled across Martian ground. The repetition of these lines suggests the iterative and redundant process of all five rover missions. The way they overlap might even emulate how those paths have crossed one another over time. Inspired by the work of abstract artists Agnes Martin and Barnett Newman, the paint strokes may also imitate the Mars horizon while the gradient tonality of red suggests shifts in its atmosphere and soil. As we think about our mission to find signs of life on Mars, Ott’s title also sparks wonder about the forms of life that have previously wandered its landscapes.
Without setting foot on the planet, how familiar can we truly become with the Mars environment using only soil samples and photoimaging technology? While this question partially underpins scientific investigations of the Martian climate, Ott cautions us against repeating the same extractive behavior that has distinguished the age of the Anthropocene––or the Plantationocene as Donna Haraway and Anna Tsing have astutely offered–– from other geological eras. Why venture into the solar system in search of more resources instead of repairing our relationship with the environment we currently inhabit? In the case of Martian sediment, studying soil samples might reveal the lifeforms that formerly supported its ecosystems. On earth, soil science reveals a whole ecology of microscopic agents that work together to prevent erosion, cycle nutrients and water, and aid the regenerative process of decomposition. Naturally, it provides insight into the most foundational layer of an environment, but what if we were to adopt a perspective scaled to the sediment? What if we began to look at things from the microbial level?
Mars Wanderings (detail)
When we look at Mars Wanderings from a distance, it is easy to view each panel as its own bodily whole, but as we get closer, we notice how each paint stroke becomes its own being. We also become aware of the scattered specks of glitter that evoke the glimmer of sand or glint of minerals. These individual agents assemble and animate Ott’s work so that, when viewed from afar, we see one whole embodied network, yet up close we see how multiplicities of bodies work together to create a new abstracted image scaled to their size. Like viewing through a microscope, the abstraction from this magnified vision provides a perspective that may be more productive in thinking about the future of life on our planet.
I borrow this concept from Art historian James Nisbet who offers environmental abstraction as a useful way to visualize environmental crises and pollution. In his 2017 article, “Environmental Abstraction and the Polluted Image,” Nisbet argues that the prolific images of pollution tend to oversimplify ecological situations. He reasons that sometimes ecological phenomena are not always visible to the eye. So, too, are the inner workings of systems and industries that pollute the environment. To his point, sometimes it is better to view at the abstract, microscopic, and microbial level.
At the microscopic level, we can observe the minuscule organisms in our soil that are responsible for the larger and often invisible processes that are crucial to sustaining life on this earth. And so, I return to the question of what happens when we take the perspective of microorganisms and when we incorporate a bit of abstraction in our looking? We begin to understand that we are not as disconnected from one another as we tend to believe.
Anna Bogatin Ott’s artwork asks us to reflect on the global impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. I think we can recall the image of coronavirus’s viral anatomy, that spikey orb which seemed to circulate as much as the disease itself. And over the course of a few years, we became hyper-aware of how infection occurred through invisible, microscopic droplets. In many ways, we had to think about how we occupied spaces and operated in terms of one another’s safety. The war in Ukraine presents a similar phenomenon. For example, technoscience scholar Michelle Murphy illustrates how the toxic fallout and pollution of modern warfare chemically and metabolically imbricate us all within these global conflicts, though we may not witness them directly in our backyard.
These examples are not cause for alarm but are a way to reflect on the benefits of understanding how events transpire even at the microbial level. We begin to realize how interconnected we are to our collective environments and understand our actions as part of a deeply entangled web of networks shared not only between humans but non-humans as well. Mars Wanderings does not offer Mars––nor any other planet in our solar system––as a solution for resolving our environmental crises here. Rather, I argue it provides another way of looking that might lead us to greater change. Perhaps, the terrain and soil of Mars offer us a key lesson in the value of contemplating how change occurs and involves us even at the microscopic level.
PhD Student, Department of Art History
University of Delaware
Images: Mars Wanderings, 2023. Anna Bogatin Ott (born 1970). Acrylic on canvas, each panel: 62 × 62 inches (157.5 × 157.5 cm), overall: 62 × 124 inches (157.5 × 315 cm). Courtesy of the artist, Larry Becker Contemporary Art, and Margaret Thatcher Projects.
A boy in a neon yellow beanie and round glasses sits on the subway, drawing pictures of the people around him. While his big sister plays on her phone, Milo imagines the lives of the other passengers and records his ideas on a sketchpad: the bride her white dress, the tired businessman, and a boy about his age with his father. When a troupe of break-dancers comes aboard, performing for donations, Milo and his sister are delighted to be distracted on the long ride to see their mother in prison.
Illustrator Christian Robinson captured these characters in Milo Imagines His World, a children’s book produced in collaboration with author Matt de la Peña. With characteristically spare outlines and sophisticated colors, Robinson conveyed the shifting emotions of his subjects as they travel across the city. The book is inspired by the illustrator’s childhood. Growing up in an apartment crowded with family, Christian Robinson took up drawing to make space for himself and create the world he wanted to live in. He went on to graduate from the California Institute of the Arts and worked with the Sesame Street Workshop and Pixar Animation Studios, as well as illustrating children’s books.
Instantly familiar to parents of young children today, Robinson’s illustrations appear in best-selling and critically acclaimed books. Published in 2015, Last Stop on Market Street, written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Robinson, reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and was awarded a Caldecott Honor, a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor, and the Newbery Medal. Playful, poignant, and full of positive energy, Robinson’s illustrations celebrate the value of different perspectives and kindness to all.
This summer DelArt is delighted to welcome the national traveling exhibition What Might You Do? Christian Robinson, which features 96 original works of art for 17 children’s books. The artist produces his colorful and modern pictures primarily in acrylic paint and collage, and the exhibition includes study drawings and finished works that give insight into the artist’s process. DelArt’s installation also features a drawing station, artist videos, and a “reading bus” designed by artist-musician Daniel Smith and stocked with Robinson’s books.
Join us to celebrate childhood and the arts on Thursday, July 27, at Kidchella, a family friendly music festival. The fun runs from 4 to 7:30 in the Copeland Sculpture Garden at DelArt.
Sculptor David Meyer uses various materials—aluminum, steel, or ribbon—to form objects that elevate our senses. The artist approaches each substance with the utmost respect for its inherent qualities and the myriad associations we each bring to viewing them. We expect metal to be heavy and chains to be set. In Revision, Meyer invites us to scrutinize our assessment of the world around us.
The exhibition combines several major series from the last 10 years. With Air into breath, Meyer creates delicate aluminum and ribbon sculptures to investigate the tension between what is seen and what is perceived. Meyer begins with found photographic images that he distorts to create new outlines vaguely reminiscent of the original. The artist explains, “Because of the undefined nature of the imagery within the work, the subject matter can shift from one thought to another and only becomes real when we believe it, like a ghost.”
Meyer began creating the numerous steel links that make up According to what years ago. The building blocks in Meyer’s wall sculptures are joined to generate a network of interlocking chains. Meyer creates entirely new and unique configuration of According to what each time it is installed. As with his other large-scale installations, the artist interrogates our perception of a seemingly static reality.
In Gilbert Magu Luján’s print Cruising Turtle Island, the road doesn’t disappear into the sunset. It stretches around the horizon, dipping just out of sight before reappearing to convey a colorful low-rider car along a surface of white sand. A fiery heart rises – or is it setting? – in place of the sun. Opposite, a city lights up an indigo night sky. Buildings in the shape of an “L” and an “A,” alongside cactuses and palm trees, help us get our bearings. As our eyes follow the car and its passengers, we find ourselves in a radically re-imagined Los Angeles where Luján pictures Chicano identity mapped onto the land.
Gilbert Luján, nicknamed Magu, grew up in East Los Angeles during the 1940s and 1950s, a time before his neighborhood’s streets were paved. He lived with his maternal grandparents, Eladio and Luciana Sanchez, who had emigrated from Mexico in 1926.1 After receiving an MFA in ceramics in 1973 from the University of California – Irvine, Luján moved home to East LA, where he became a founding member of Los Four, a group of artists intent on defining and advocating for a distinctive Chicano aesthetic. For most of his career, he worked primarily in sculpture, painting, and printmaking. Alongside other artists in Estampas de la Raza, he pieces together and narrates identities complicated by the US-Mexico border.
Luján uses utopian landscapes like this one to image a present rooted in Chicano and Indigenous realities rather than settler-colonial boundaries. Scholar Karen M. Davalos has written that his imaginary landscapes constitute a form of “emplacement.” According to Davalos, emplacement can be a process of healing: “The wounds emplacement addresses include those of injustice, erasure, and alienation—in other words, the injuries of nationalism and colonialism that continue to define the social order.”2 But I say image rather than imagine because, crucially, Luján represents a real cultural landscape even if it does not match Western conventions of representational space and time. Luján visualizes an alternate reality with such forcefulness and consistency that it becomes, in his work, real.3 As a leader within the LA Chicano movement, Luján was concerned with the protection and flourishing of Chicano identity and self-determination. As part of that movement, he helped give voice to new bodies of theory, stories, and ways of telling history.
Many of Luján’s prints combine the mythical Chicano homeland of Aztlán with his own self-made utopia, Magulandia. Aztlán was the northern mythical homeland of the Aztec and Mexica. During the 1960s and 1970s, it became an important symbol of cultural identity and unity for people of Spanish and Indigenous descent in the Chicano movement. Magulandia was a self-invented utopia that was part of Luján’s broader project of building a Chicano aesthetic and articulating Chicano identity.4 In this print, Luján positions these landscapes as part of “Turtle Island,” an Indigenous term for North America that originated with the Haudenosaunee’s creation stories but has become widely used in pan-Indigenous circles. By identifying Aztlán and Magulandia with Turtle Island, Luján aligns his work within the Chicano movement with pan-Indigenous assertions of sovereignty and self-determination across the United States.
The car carries two figures along the sweeping path. The driver’s body is visible through the car, almost as though it is a part of the body of the car. The figure wears sandals and a feather headdress that suggest he is an antepasado, or Aztec ancestor.5 The front fender has an Olmec head decoration while the body contains animals who seem almost to drive the vehicle forward. The passenger in the backseat wears a fedora, his body hidden by the car. Unlike the antepasado in the front, he is almost entirely hidden from view. Yet the two figures are in dialogue with one another, which Luján makes clear through the Nahuatl speech glyphs drifting out of the mouth of each. Nahuatl was the language of the Mexica and other Aztec nations. Spanish missionaries recorded Nahuatl speech glyphs in sixteenth century codices that had just received broader scholarly attention in the 1970s, a decade before Luján made this print. The swirls and curls of color around the car have a similar shape. Luján uses these glyphs to put the past and present into conversation with one another, showing that Nahuatl history and aesthetics are just as much a part of the present as they are of the past. Luján called cars, and especially lowriders, “cultural vehicles.”6 Surrounding and threading through the car—a symbol of modernity—these symbols establish an Indigenous present.
Luján uses the landscape to show that Chicano identity does not simply refer to immigrants who cross the settler border between Mexico and the United States. Chicano also includes the Indigenous people who are not defined by national borders and who maintain a relationship with their homelands and culture even as they travel, or cruise, across North America. Pyramids rise from the desert, illuminated with electric lights. Their blocky, geometric shapes reference Aztec architecture, but dogs’ legs form their bases as dogs’ heads howl to the sky at the peak. To the left, one of the pyramids is set up as a single-family home, another low-rider settled in the driveway next to it. Luján often uses dogs as a metaphor for mixed Indigenous-Mexican heritage. Karen Davalos has described these buildings as “contemporary technological developments.” They are not “neoindigenous” or “appropriations of an Indigenous past,” but proof of how hybrid forms of modernity are built upon Indigeneity.7 Western notions of forward progress usually define history as a forward driving line. Many Indigenous intellectual traditions see time as a circle. In Cruising Turtle Island, night and day hang simultaneously in the same saturated sky.
Luján made this print at Self Help Graphics, a community-based print shop run out of East LA. Like Los Four, Self Help and other print shops represented in Estampas de la Raza were integral to the development of a Chicano aesthetic and art market. Without these institutions and collectors like Harriet and Ricardo Romo, whose collection is on display, Chicano artists were largely cut off from the fine art world. Not only did artists need to build their own aesthetic; they also needed to generate their own market and values. In a founding document for Los Four, Luján writes that alienation is the fundamental experience of urban socialization.8 He worked through collaborations and workshops to make the Chicano art movement one of anti-alienation and community formation governed by values of love, acceptance, and celebration.
In Luján’s print, neither Aztlán nor Turtle Island are static places defined by the fixed lines and points that nation-states have used to impose themselves onto these landscapes. Instead, the inhabitants are modern people who inhabit their world and build new technology in fluid dialogue with their antepasados. Colonialism changed, but did not a rupture, their connections to the past. The burning heart blazing across the sky, on the chest of the anthropomorphic dog in the bottom right corner, and on the engine of the car parked in its driveway turns the landscape of Turtle Island into a place of belonging, powered by the revelatory light of acceptance.
PhD Candidate, Depart of Art History
University of Delaware
Image: Gilbert “Magu” Luján, Cruising Turtle Island, 1986, screenprint on paper, image: 24 1⁄4 × 36 1⁄2 in. (61.6 × 92.7 cm) sheet: 25 × 38 1⁄4 in. (63.5 × 97.2 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Frank K. Ribelin Endowment, 2020.22.1.
1 Gilbert “Magu” Luján, interview with Karen Mary Davalos, September 17, 19, and 22, and October 1 and 8, 2007, Ontario, California. CSRC Oral Histories Series, no. 4. Los Angeles: UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Press, 2013. 2 Karen Mary Davalos, “The Landscapes of Gilbert ‘Magu’ Luján: Imagining Emplacement in the Hemisphere,” in Aztlán to Magulandia: The Journey of Chicano Artist Gilbert “Magu” Luján, ed. Constance Cortez and Hal Glicksman (Munich: University Art Galleries, University of California, Irvine in association with DelMonico Books Prestel, 2017), 37. 3 Hal Glicksman, “Introduction,” in Aztlán to Magulandia: The Journey of Chicano Artist Gilbert “Magu” Luján, ed. Constance Cortez and Hal Glicksman (Munich: University Art Galleries, University of California, Irvine in association with DelMonico Books Prestel, 2017), 17. 4 Glicksman, 17. 5 University Art Galleries, University of California, Irvine, “Aztlán to Magulandia: The Journey of Chicano Artist Gilbert ‘Magu’ Luján,” Google Arts & Culture, accessed May 5, 2023, https://artsandculture.google.com/story/aztlán-to-magulandia-the-journey-of-chicano-artist-gilbert-magu-luján/ZwWRt0v2OfvRJw. 6 Maxine Borowsky Junge, “Gilbert ‘Magu’ Luján–The Social Artist,” in Aztlán to Magulandia: The Journey of Chicano Artist Gilbert “Magu” Luján, ed. Constance Cortez and Hal Glicksman (Munich: University Art Galleries, University of California, Irvine in association with DelMonico Books Prestel, 2017), 84. 7 University Art Galleries, University of California, Irvine, “Place and Placement: Symbolic Geographies in the Work of Gilbert ‘Magu’ Luján,” Google Arts & Culture, accessed May 5, 2023, https://artsandculture.google.com/story/place-and-placement-symbolic-geographies-in-the-work-of-gilbert-“magu”-luján/6QXBJBBLJhwCLw. 8 Constance Cortez and Hal Glicksman, eds., Aztlán to Magulandia: The Journey of Chicano Artist Gilbert “Magu” Luján: (Munich: University Art Galleries, University of California, Irvine in association with DelMonico Books Prestel, 2017), 119.
At the Museum on May 13, Julieta Zavala will showcase new designs in a Fashion Show inspired by our spring exhibition, Estampas de la Raza. Below, Zavala shares about her residency at DelArt, her Chicano son, and the driving source behind all she creates: leaving a legacy that he will be proud of.
Julieta Zavala was born in Mexico City and started her long road trip to Delaware before turning 21. Her dad drove two days straight to get her and her sisters to their destination while listening to the Virus album and trying to learn English along the way.
Zavala’s story and her deep interest in artistic creation go back to when she was a child. In her youth, she was captivated by the magic of doll dresses discovered in a small, unclaimed suitcase at her mom’s. The fantasy world those dresses inspired has populated Julieta Zavala’s creations ever since. She grew up watching her aunt sew with patience and dedication. “She always looked so happy while sewing.” Zavala never followed big-name designers, instead believing that she has “a little something different” that sets her apart from the rest.
The emerging designer tried to attend the prestigious art and design school in Mexico, Jannette Klein University, but couldn’t afford it. Instead, she immersed herself in fashion design by taking as many free classes as she could in basic sewing, sketching, and design principles. This path led her to a job at a department store where big clothing brands, like Diesel, train employees in creating pieces of clothing. Zavala learned about design trends, how to choose fabrics and colors, and best practices for displaying garments. She got the itch, “Ahi ya se me quedó la espinita,” that would drive her to overcome language and cultural barriers to become a fashion designer at the Art Institute of Philadelphia many years later.
Once in the United States, not knowing the language lowered her self-esteem greatly. Learning English became Zavala’s main priority to accomplish her dreams. She took classes at churches and every free place she could find. She took night classes and graduated with honors from high school, then attended the Art Institute of Philadelphia, graduating with a degree in fashion design. In her road to success, nothing came easy. Three months before graduating, she gave birth to her son, but it did not stop her. Despite the logistical challenges that student moms face, including pumping in public bathrooms, finding childcare, struggling with postpartum depression, and facing societal judgement, Zavala kept going. A college degree was not just personally important, but an especially significant achievement because Zavala’s ancestors weren’t able to access higher education. She cites her family’s and husband’s support and encouragement as an essential factor in achieving her dream of becoming an independent designer.
Julieta Zavala’s business began when her sister suggested going to a Cinco de Mayo event to sell her creations. She started small by making fabric totes and cactus-inspired pillows. That was a revelation that led her to create something based on her culture that made her feel happy and fulfilled. Her roots became her source of artistic inspiration.
The originality of Zavala’s designs is key to her success. She sources unique fabrics and creates garments not available in stores. Her artistic creative process includes discovering material, touching it, and discerning what can be done with it. Rather than sketching, Zavala pictures her designs in her mind, creating a vision that she turns into a piece of art.
Aware of the fashion industry’s negative environmental impact, Zavala centers her design practice on reusing, recycling, and upcycling materials to make one-of-a-kind garments. For a Wisconsin Dia de los Muertos celebration, she created dresses with corn husks. While she stayed at a farm, volunteers helped her produce amazing catrina outfits (elegant female skeletons), as well as garments full of seeds for native dancers. The latter was planned to create a rain of seeds with every dance movement that, according to Zavala, “returned them to the ground, like sowing.” Zavala also uses plastic tablecloths “like the ones in every Mexican household and typical restaurant” to create dresses.Even though the material is hard to manipulate, the results are incredibly beautiful. For an LGBTQ+ Pride Parade, she fashioned a unicorn outfit from multicolored plastic springs sourced from a thrift shop. Searching through thrift shops and secondhand fabric stores, where other designers dispose textile leftovers, gives Zavala a way to practice environmental and financial consciousness.
Zavala’s current project is inspired by the DelArt exhibition “Estampas de la Raza,” showcasing the unique heritage, history, and experience of Mexican Americans and Latinos in the United States. She is excited that DelArt “brings culturally diverse art to the area and to the Anglo-Saxon community.” For the exhibition, Zavala created a one-of-a-kind version of a La Virgen de Guadalupe dress called “La Mera Mera,” which hangs in the special exhibition. This unique piece is a combination of religious iconography and the chola aesthetic to express the duality of their culture. On the one hand, it imbues female modesty and the norms of society, and on the other, it challenges gender norms by combining the masculine and feminine. For Zavala, the virgin is a symbol of Mexican culture, as iconic as mariachis, the Mexican flag, the prickly pear (nopal), wrestling (lucha libre), and Frida Khalo. Zavala admires Kahlo and has enormous respect for her work, considering her a woman ahead of her times whose art wasn’t properly recognized until recently.
Join Julieta Zavala at the Delaware Art Museum on May 13 for a Fashion Show highlighting her designs and celebrating her artist residency. Tickets available now.
Veronica V. Vasko
Photo by Manuel Flores from Dream Art Studio.
An art museum is a unique location for a wedding, whether the couple are creative types or just want an event that stands out from the banquet hall model. The venue contributes significantly to the vibe of the big day, from the look, to the convenience and guest experience, to the vendor choices. Adding art makes a wedding especially memorable and can dramatically enhance the look of the event and the photos of the day.
We spoke to recently wedded couples and vendors we’ve worked with to give you some insight into what it’s like to have your wedding here at the Museum.
THE EXPERIENCE: Kristen and Ryan’s intimate autumn labyrinth vows
Laura Briggs Photography.
Kristen Nassif said “I do” to Ryan Lee at the Museum in October 2022. While Nassif and Lee mostly got ready at The Westin at the Wilmington riverfront, final dressing took place at the Museum, just before their ceremony.
This autumn wedding faced extreme weather challenges—a hurricane in the southern part of the U.S.—but in the end, the “I dos” took place where the pair wanted them to: in the former-reservoir-turned-labyrinth, situated at the north end of the Copeland Sculpture Garden.
Nassif and Lee did move the cocktail hour from the terrace inside to the Museum’s East Court, reflecting that the flexibility of the Museum, particularly given the climate challenges, was “really, really helpful.”
Photo opportunities can be a major factor in choosing a wedding venue, and Nassif says, “We took lots of pictures outside, using lots of wall textures and colors.” Taking photos on the indoor Chilhuly Bridge (featuring Dale Chilhuly’s blown glass Persian Window) was also a big draw.
Lee says that most of the photos, taken by
Laura Briggs of Kennett Square, show the wedding party in the Copeland Sculpture Garden. Family shots were positioned on the front steps, while his groomsmen posed in the labyrinth. His favorite photo, however, is one taken in a gallery. “It’s the background on my laptop,” he says.
Nassif further describes the photographic inspiration, as well as how it fit into their “minimalist-eclectic” design theme. “There’s all the stone and greenery and ivy, then you can also contrast that with the clean modern lines in the museum.”
Their guest count of 75 was “just right” for their reception in Fusco Hall, which featured dancing to DJ Mike Simmons.
Capping off the night was a very popular visit from an ice cream truck, which enabled them to make use of the terrace after all. In lieu of a cake, the UDairy frozen treat complemented the cake bites and chocolate fondue laid out by
Andrew Lukashunas and Roberto Torres tied the knot in October 2022.
After getting dressed in one of the large conference rooms in the Museum’s education wing, they made their way outside.
Their ceremony was in the Copeland Sculpture Garden, with the wedding procession entering the aisle directly behind the
Crying Giant sculpture. A beautiful stone wall in the garden served as the ceremony’s backdrop.
After the vows, photos with loved ones were staged in the grass. Other photos included a snap in front of the Chilhuly glass, and the pair posed in front of the Museum after dark for a romantic shot featuring the windows and two-story arches filled with red light.
This couple was able to make use of the (tented) terrace for their cocktail hour, moving inside to Fusco Hall for a sit-down dinner, with food from
Toscana Catering(which went the extra mile to create custom ocean fare for seafood-lover Torres) and a reception for 120 guests. The couple says they are still getting compliments on the food all these months later.
Christine Jennings of
Ever Lively Events served as the day-of coordinator for the wedding. She says that the linens can be so important because the tables take up so much real estate, noting that, “Roberto and Andrew were so open-minded and fun to work with. They leaned into the aesthetics of the Museum.”
In turn, Lukashunas says, “She helped us take some bold colors and blend them into a theme that looked extraordinary.” The orange linens on the terrace tables matched the napkins on the dinner settings, which made for an excellent color pop against the navy-and-white geometric-print tablecloths inside. The fun hues played off the warm golden paint that bedecks the front wall of Fusco Hall, as well as the art in that hall, and were also featured on the cake topper that crowned the cupcake tower.
Floral arrangements, from
DiBiaso’s Florist, incorporated bold colors, and were, as Lukashunas called them, “unobtrusive.” With a base of red, orange, and yellow, with blue and green accents, all the flower colors put together flowed into the handful of rainbow-colored accents, such as a cupcake tower and macaron towers provided by Michele Mitchell Pastry Designs.
Rumor has it, the wedding party hit the nearby Grottos Pizza en masse once the wedding festivities had concluded, before settling at The Westin for the night.
Lukashunas says, “I cannot stress this enough: we would not change a single thing about our wedding. The Museum was the perfect venue, and … everything went off without a hitch.”
He added, “Lauren McMahon [Museum Event and Rentals Manager] is a delight to work with; she has a wonderful tasteful eye and a calm and cool presence, and her lighting and signage recommendations were perfection.”
With the goal of making wedding preparations easy for the renter, McMahon says of couples, “Once they choose their vendors, I connect with each of them, and we all work together.”
The Museum has an excellent list of approved caterers and preferred vendors, and will also work with vendors couples may choose outside that list.
Jamestown Catering is a regular partner of the Museum, and Catering and Events Manager Ashley Ghione says the Museum setting facilitates creative menu planning. “We’ve created menus that vibe with the sculptures that are outside, and others that work with specific eras, themes, and exhibitions,” she says.
While they serve plenty of the familiar wedding fare, such as shrimp cocktail, soup shooters have become very popular in recent years. And sometimes they’ll create a new take on a classic, like Beef Wellington. Jamestown specializes in full-service catering, meaning they will help with anything from coordinating limos to rental of furniture, such as chaise lounges and boho furniture arrangements … and even rugs. Champagne wall rentals are a popular wedding choice, and Jamestown can fulfill such Instagrammable setups to complement the everywhere-art.
Ashley Black is the owner of
Fantail Photography in Kennett Square, PA. She says that the Museum offers cool options in terms of indoor and outdoor photography. “Some venues have no indoor options for rain,” she says. “I love the Chilhuly Bridge.” Black also likes the lighting options the Museum’s setting creates, and particularly enjoys shooting at sunset outside the Museum. “It actually accentuates the sunset because it reflects off the glass.” She also finds the Copeland Sculpture Garden presents interesting challenges. “There’s the installation [“Three Rectangles Horizontal Jointed Gyratory III” by George Rickey] that moves with the wind … it makes for a great frame but it’s always moving.”
Flowers by Yukie, winner of well over a dozen Best of Delaware awards, is a frequent florist to the Museum, from weddings to flower-focused fundraisers in the Copeland Sculpture Garden. Yukie Yamamoto describes a favorite wedding she helped adorn with blooms, “There was a really long table and I did a high and low flower arrangement. The dance floor was in the middle, and it was surrounded by high tops where guests could watch people dance.”
She complimented the Museum’s offerings, from interior contemporary spaces (which work well with blossoms such as orchids), to exterior green spaces, which can offer a country feel when floriated wooden arches are employed, and noted that there are opportunities to start with flowers outside and later bring them in. She sees the guest count and format as drivers of the floral plan, with sit-down dinners and cocktail buffets dictating different botanical choices.
“You could not have a more beautiful place to have a wedding,” says Yamamoto.
THE FINE POINTS
McMahon adds that just about everything at the Museum’s is flexible, except perhaps for start time, as the Museum stays open until 4 p.m. on typical wedding days. The earliest weddings typically begin no sooner than 6 p.m., but both vendors and wedding parties are welcome to arrive earlier in the day for setup, hair and makeup, and dressing.
“We have two conference rooms here that we use as suites for the wedding party. They have natural light, full length mirrors, closets for hanging clothing, and restrooms close by.” Your wedding can last until midnight. You’re welcome to return the next day to pick up items that have been stored on-site.
The Museum works with parties to consider indoor and outdoor spaces, for ceremonies, receptions and photo opportunities. The largest fully indoor space can accommodate a seated dinner for 130, and adding a heated/fan-cooled tent on the Museum terrace can increase capacity to 175. Standing cocktail receptions offer large capacity options as well.
Rain is always a worry for outdoor vows, and the Museum offers an indoor alternative for any ceremony.
With 85 dedicated parking spaces, as well as street parking, arrivals and departures are easy for guests—even if your ceremony requires guests to spend a brief period on the grass, you won’t need to subject your guests to muddy or rocky pathways to temporary parking in fields.
Both main entrances to the museum are easily accessed by shuttles, and ADA accessibility is built into our indoor spaces.
Climate control is very important to the Museum’s regular operations, so guests are neither likely to feel extreme cold nor heat, nor the humidity that is as bad for hairdos as it is for paintings.
The Museum also offers museum passes to share with all of the guests, whether in your favors, thank you notes, or hotel welcome baskets. The couple also receives a one-year museum membership.
Tables and chairs are included in your rental fee, as well as china, glassware, and flatware and access to a kitchen for your caterer. (Some limitations apply.)
Options you can choose to add onto your budget include special lighting (which often is part of a DJ’s offerings), video projection, photo booth, a coat check, and valet.
With a range of options to choose from starting at $1,000, Nassif says the cost of holding a wedding at the Museum is “so reasonable.”
Contact Lauren McMahon to schedule a walk-through and book your artful museum wedding:
Visitors to the Delaware Art Museum this spring are greeted by a colorful bodega in Orientation Hall. The mural, created by Philadelphia artist Cesar Viveros, celebrates Chicano culture and is inspired by our spring special exhibition, Estampas de la Raza: Contemporary Prints from the Romo Collection.
It’s almost impossible to walk or drive around the city of Philadelphia without admiring a magnificent Cesar Viveros mural. Viveros’ story of how he discovered muralism is as compelling as his art.
Cesar Viveros was born in the town of Veracruz, Mexico, and art was not part of his local high school’s curriculum. That didn’t stop his mechanical drawing teacher from encouraging his students to explore beyond that industrial side of illustration and ignite their creativity. This teacher conceived of contests to encourage the students to create and shared invaluable art supplies like canvas, acrylics, brushes and books. Viveros started making signage for shops and events to earn money. As a Mexican, he claims that murals and art are part of his unconscious, brought up in “muralist country.” People in his home country are used to living and breathing art as part of their daily lives, on the walls of their streets, in public sculptures, even on their currency. Artists like Diego Rivera and David Siqueiro have instilled muralism into Mexican culture.
Art school was not easily accessible to Viveros, financially or geographically. Seeking financial independence, Viveros pursued industrial scuba diving as his professional career instead of art. He was a Jacques Cousteau fan, always dreaming about exploring the oceans. This fantasy led him to work as a diver on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. There, he used any industrial paints he could get his hands on to create murals on the scuba departments walls, shops in the port area, and wherever building owners would allow him. His designs included underwater scenes of mermaids and tritons. Soon, other workers began commissioning Viveros to make drawings and paintings for themselves.
As he pursued his art, Viveros was rejected by art galleries big and small. But his luck took a turn in 1997 when Meg Salligman was painting a 10-story high mural in Philadelphia. Viveros, impressed by the work, approached her and offered to volunteer. This opened the door to new opportunities, including directing a 14-story mural in Louisiana celebrating the millennium with 50 artists from around the country.
Through his work at the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, the Philadelphia Catholic Diocese commissioned Viveros to paint a mural for Pope Francis visit in 2015 for the World Meeting of Families. The public was invited to help paint the mural through participation in a series of community paint days which broke a Guinness record for highest number of contributors to a painting. “The Sacred Now: Faith and Family in the 21st Century” mural was a learning experience and great exposure.
While he painted, Viveros worked multiple side jobs to support himself and his family. These gave him the opportunity to experience and learn from his surrounding community and their struggles, which he poured onto his art.
Cesar Viveros work was also guided by his late wife Ana. She was known as the queen of papier-mâché, and she was his inspiration and pillar for many his side projects, including various Ofrendas installations (offerings placed in a home altar during the traditional Mexican Día de los Muertos celebration) and piñatas workshops. This parallel work was focused on sharing culture and heritage. Viveros creates unique art pieces and spaces where stories come alive, like the Cesar Andreú Iglesias Community Garden, also called “el terreno,” where ancient traditions and contemporary art merge. This ongoing project started 10 years ago alongside a socialist group from Philadelphia. They cleaned up a piece of land that was being used as for garbage disposal. Their combined goal was to avoid real estate development of the space. From the beginning, Viveros offered his art as a weapon to fight against displacement, in the way Chicanos did at the southern border in the 70s. “This is a space to celebrate our Latin culture, which is so connected to the earth, and to organize and educate others about it,” says Viveros. With that goal in mind, he and his neighbors started to establish activities like food justice workshops, classes on sowing and harvesting corn and building a “barbacoa” (a hole dug in the ground covered with agave leaves). They shared sweat lodge ritual practices, Aztec Dances and ceremonies, and displayed altars for Day of the Dead celebrations, and created sculptures and mosaics. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the garden turned into a safe space for the community. Viveros found refuge and motivation in “el terreno.”
Viveros considers himself a Chicano art fan, inspired by the movement’s use of art for social action. When contacted by the Delaware Art Museum to create art inspired by the Estampas de la Raza exhibition, he saw s a window of opportunity to promote Chicano and Latino art in the area. He had the opportunity to meet and listen to members of the Hispanic American Association of Delaware and Los Abuelos, a senior group from the Latin American Community Center. “Meeting with the community of Delaware provided me with many stories that can be told through the use of ink and paper. My hope is that people can see themselves reflected in this transitional art, either displayed in a museum or attached to a wall,” shared Viveros. The mural painted by Viveros at DelArt represents a bodega or tienda de la esquina, a typical corner store which serves as a daily point of encounter in Latino neighborhoods. The bodega provides a gathering place where conversations about social and political issues can unfold. Screen prints are commonly posted in bodegas to advertise social events, political marches, and popular activities. Viveros remembers how screen printing was the most affordable way to promote these events, since the mainstream media wouldn’t provide the time or space for it. “This was before the Internet,” said Viveros, “and the only way to do outreach was to hang posters at the bodega in the barrio.”
Cesar Vivero’s goal is to take this type of art to more museums and galleries. He highlights the importance of giving recognition to Chicano and Latino artists. That is why he thinks Estampas de la Raza is an important exhibition in a greater movement. “DelArt is providing the space; now it’s time for the community of artists to take advantage of the opportunity that has been presented to them. Nobody will do the work for you, so if there’s a microphone, I will grab it; if there’s a stage, I’ll come up.”
Like all of Viveros’ work, this mural extends beyond its walls to the community around it. The screen prints on view in DelArt’s Orientation Hall are also posted on Latino businesses throughout Wilmington, bringing art into the neighborhoods that inspired it.
Top: Cesar Viveros in front of My Life, My Voice: Occupying Spaces mural. Photo by Shannon Woodloe.
Visit the galleries this Women’s History Month to view some of the many women artists in the DelArt collections. Follow our suggested tour of 10 favorites, below.
Step into the Pre-Raphaelite galleries. Around the corner in gallery 3, look for a painting by Alice Boyd alongside exquisite jewelry by Arts and Crafts-era designer Phoebe Anna Traquair. In fact, this whole case is devoted to women artists working against the odds in the Victorian era.
Cross the hall and imagine you’re jumping across the pond, into American art gallery 5. Here you’ll find Lila Cabot Perry’s self-portrait. Friend of Mary Cassatt and Claude Monet, Perry led a successful painting career and helped introduce Impressionism in America.
Further on the main floor, Violet Oakley’s actual-sized designs for stained glass windows are highlights of the American Illustration gallery. Oakley’s work is surrounded by that of fellow female Golden Age illustrators.
Over in special exhibition gallery 9, explore the abstract paintings and sculpture of Anna Bogatin Ott, featured in the just-opened solo exhibition, Our Red Planet.
Take the stairs up to gallery 15, and pause in front of Isabel Bishop’s captivating painting, Dante and Virgil in Times Square. Next door, take in the modern art of Loïs Mailou Jones and Beulah Woodard, whose art was influenced by the art of Haiti and Africa.
End your tour in contemporary art gallery 17, where you’ll find the work of women artists still creating today, including Elizabeth Osborne and Angela Fraleigh.
We’re actively collecting more women artists in all areas of the Museum, and we’re working on new exhibitions of women artists planned for 2024 and beyond. Celebrate women artists with us at the Delaware Art Museum this March, and year-round.
Left to right: St. Columba’s Farewell to the White Horse, 1868. Alice Boyd (British painter and draftsman, 1825–1897). Oil on board, 13 7/8 × 19 7/8 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Acquisition Fund, 2011. Pendant: The Song, 1904. Phoebe Anna Traquair (1852–1936). Polychrome enamel and silver foil on copper set in gold, 2 1/8 × 1 7/8 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. H. W. Janson, 1976.
The typical art museum experience for adults is pretty comfortable: paintings hung at eye level, captions that share insights into works of art, and staff or volunteers available to answer questions.
But a kid might easily find the adult museum experience to be too big, too still, and too two-dimensional.
The solution? The Museum offers children their own enriching arts experience with a dedicated interactive space. Known as Kids’ Corner, this junior oasis on the Museum’s lower level has fostered creative exploration for several generations of visitors, some of whom are old enough to return to the space with their own children.
HISTORY OF THE KIDS’ CORNER
Created in 1987, and later named Kids’ Corner, this child-friendly space on the Museum’s lower level has been reimagined regularly in recent years. Each incarnation is designed to foster creative and imaginative play, hands-on exploration, and storytelling.
And we really love the way the latest changes to the Kids’ Corner have changed the Museum as a whole.
Three families—all including artists from Delaware, Pennsylvania, or New Jersey—have designed the last four installations since 2016:
Kaleidoscope Cove was designed by the Volta Family in 2016.
Lenny the Ice Cream Man was dreamed up by the Smith Family in 2017.
Creative Power was the work of the Silverman Family in 2018.
Most recently, in 2019, the New Jersey-based Smith family—Daniel, Elin, and children Lilly, Ida, and Lukas—was tapped for a second time to reshape Kids’ Corner into an immersive art-as-play experience. More than just a paint job and new textiles, Kids’ Corner has been transformed into a colorful enchanted forest, with paths winding around giant trees containing tiny, magical displays. This second Smith imagining is called, “Who Hears Twell Van Dunder?” [Who here is twelve and under?] and is an immersive celebration of childhood and a place for older people to rediscover the wonder of play.
Still in place in Kids’ Corner at the start of 2023, it has original music by the Smiths, a shimmering, magnetic-fishing “pond,” stool-sized mushrooms encircling a fabric campfire, and a plush bird’s nest seat. The walls bear murals depicting sunsets and trees. A larger than life-sized, furry sheepdog named “Twell Van Dunder” is part of the décor, and makes for an Instagrammable posing destination.
The Museum is poised to reimagine the area, once again, and it’s looking for families to become our next Family-in-Residence. No, we aren’t asking a family to move in. Our Family-in-Residence concept is modeled after the widely known artist-in-residence model, wherein a museum recruits an artist to create work(s) and/or programming for a defined period of time. Instead of just one person, we want a whole family to conceptualize, design, and install the entire Kids’ Corner space.
Saralyn Rosenfield, the Museum’s Director of Learning & Engagement, describes how an artist-in-residence ask became a family-in-residence reality: “Artists are really busy and what we often hear is that they want more time with their families. The artist we approached to do the 2016 installation was someone who had a successful history of residencies. He actually came up with the idea to do this with his family, and we were thrilled!”
Just like we are reimagining the space, the Museum is reimagining the in-residence format.
What was once a fun idea to liven up a space was formalized into a full-on program. While our unique Family-in-Residence experiment began in 2016, we are rolling out a formal search for a new artistic family in 2023.
We invite regional creatives to watch for an announcement by the spring, and prepare to apply for this residency, which will start in the fall. We look forward to planning the next Kids’ Corner installation—and an opening celebration—with the selected family.
For the Family-in-Residence program, we encourage intergenerational collaboration on the look, vibe, materials, and interactive offerings of Kids’ Corner. Family can be however you define it, as long as each member contributes their own creative touch. As always, we hope the opportunity provides quality time for artists and their families.
We look forward to welcoming artists and their families to apply for the next Family-in-Residence.
HOW ME MAKE IT HAPPEN
Kids’ Corner has been fortunate to have support by the Pollyanna Foundation and Phyllis and Buddy Aerenson. The “Who Hears Twell Van Dunder” installation was also supported by Mannington Floor and Quality Finishers. Additional support is 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.
The Delaware Art Museum. The Delaware Contemporary.
Both art museums. Both long-time fixtures in the Delaware community. Both with passionate art lovers, funders and other stakeholders.
Many things distinguish the two museums. The Delaware Contemporary (TDC) puts its focus on living artists within a 250-mile radius of the facility. The Delaware Art Museum (DelArt) collects the work of British Pre-Raphaelite artists and American art from 1757 to today, with a focus on American illustration and the art of John Sloan.
But it’s natural to see where the two visual arts institutions align.
Leslie Shaffer, Executive Director of TDC says, “We do very similar things. We showcase artists. We perform outreach into the community with regard to art.”
The Delaware Contemporary has a strong focus on emerging artists, and the Delaware Art Museum has recently mounted a series of distinguished artist exhibitions, featuring artists late in their career.
But neither organization has any hard and fast rules about this. Visitors will find emerging artists’ work at DelArt, and TDC will show an internationally established artist, if it’s in the interest of a theme and complements the work of an emerging artist.
The one thing the two organizations absolutely share: arts patrons.
The two organizations are pleased to announce the first of hopefully many collaborations that the museums are forging in order to acknowledge the enthusiastic pool of patrons that support the spectrum of visual arts that exists in Wilmington.
They are working together to offer a joint bus trip – a Hudson Valley Art Adventure – planned for June 17-19, 2023. The group will travel several hours north by luxury coach. Tours on the trip include Magazzino Italian Art, Storm King Art Center, DIA Beacon, and the Al Held Foundation, as well as private collections and artists’ studios. Lodging and dining are top notch, with the guests taking over an entire boutique hotel: Le Chambord at Curry Estate, a charming country property.
What makes the collaboration even sweeter than the digs is that that experiences were selected jointly by representatives from each organization: Margaret Winslow (DelArt’s Chief Curator and Curator of Contemporary Art) and Maxine Gaiber (former TDC Executive Director) worked together to identify the arts, dining, and lodging experiences for the group, and will take part in the tours to help lead the conversations.
Shaffer says, “Pre-COVID, both museums planned trips for our patrons where we’d take a look at art in another place. After visiting museums and other arts destinations, the group might stay for a night, or maybe four nights, to intensively – together as a group – focus on that experience. Often, the trips would include a fun dining experience…something you wouldn’t get if you were to go on your own.”
Emerging from the pandemic’s restrictions on travel and period of social isolation, the organizations are now hearing from their audiences that patrons are eager to participate in travel programs again.
Shaffer says, “Knowing people are still tiptoeing into the idea of group travel, we thought, ‘Why not try planning a trip together?’”
Molly Giordano, Executive Director at DelArt, adds, “If this goes well, we’ll know there’s an interest in more travel. Maybe it will spark a more robust national and international travel program.”
More on the Horizon
Group trips are a straightforward way for two organizations to begin a growing collaboration. But TDC and DelArt’s plans don’t end there.
Giordano says, “We are excited that this is the beginning of a deeper partnership. We have so many shared goals and joint supporters. So many people are committed to the visual arts; it makes sense we are working collaboratively.”
She adds that this is not just a public relations move: the organizations intend to drive home the point that a strong artistic ecosystem is important for the future of artists in the area.
Shaffer says that the TDC sees itself as “…an organization that prepares artists to have a show at a place like the Delaware Art Museum.” Whether that means getting emerging artists in front of curators, offering residencies so artists can dedicate time to develop their art, or supporting an artist’s career by showcasing their work in an exhibition for the first time, it’s a community need. “We find it of value and so do they,” she says.
Giordano adds, “We need each other both to be strong, so that the emerging artist has access to studio space, the opportunity to hang their art in a show. It is a pipeline that is being built, so as an artist’s career strengthens, we may one day add them to our collections or mount their retrospectives here.”
“The ecosystem can’t function without both of us playing our respective parts,” says Giordano.
This is all on the heels of a trying financial period for not only the organizations, but for the general public.
Shaffer says that TDC is seeing the light at the end of tunnel, post-COVID, and that partnering with an organization with shared goals is natural.
“We are finding ways to be more efficient with our resources. Why would we both be doing the same thing with the same goals when we can do it together?”
Aside from resources, the organizations are looking at sharing information and experiences across their audiences, with the goal of creating a more successful product for both the museums and the visitors.
A feasibility study is under way. The organizations want to learn how they can build a bigger audience for what they do while identifying efficiencies.
Shaffer says, “We want to put the focus on art. Spend time building programs rather than raising funds.”
I strive to give the viewer an experience of serenity and calm, a safe, private space to contemplate, to heal, to connect to a greater whole. I hope by experiencing my work the viewer will find peace and joy. – Anna Bogatin Ott
Ukrainian-born abstract painter, sculptor, and digital artist Anna Bogatin Ott captures the sublime in nature and the complexity of human existence. This exhibition showcases her most recent work, informed by NASA images from Mars and the moon; her meditations on the COVID-19 pandemic; and the war in Ukraine.
The artist explains, “In the process of preparing for this exhibition, the outside world was getting increasingly more agitated with different political events and natural disasters all around the globe. The war in Ukraine is a devastating and very personal tragedy. Our Red Planet acquired another, more literal meaning. Our planet is bleeding red.” In response, Bogatin Ott introduced quieting works of art, creating contemplative space for reflection and restoration.
Bogatin Ott began studying art at an early age, training first in Russia before immigrating to the United States. Disconnected from unfamiliar cultural references in 1960s American Pop art and postmodernism of the 1980s, Bogatin Ott focused on painting tradition and philosophical content. With further study, she found inspiration in the work of artists who combined execution with spiritual content like Agnes Martin and Barnett Newman. Bogatin Ott’s exploration of Indian tantric drawing offered additional creative direction, opening her practice to abstract imagery and geometric structure that emphasizes the lines and brush strokes in her work.
With seamless applications of acrylic paint and watercolor, Bogatin Ott creates fields of color that shift in hue and tone. The natural world provides endless exploration from flowers to oceans to the sky and beyond. The artist uses details from her own photographs, enlarging and altering the digital image to emphasize subtle variations in outwardly uniform colors. Compositions in blue correlate to the sky and water; reds, yellows, and oranges to flowers and sunsets.
Recently, Bogatin Ott became intrigued with images from the NASA Mars exploration. The artist recalls an endless stream of news about space when she was growing up in the former Soviet Union. Today, the universe has simultaneously shrunk and expanded as advances in photography give us access to images of deep space. Bogatin Ott searches through these images, mining photographs in search of the sublime and an understanding of the human condition.
The central creation in the exhibition is a labyrinth that visitors are invited to follow. Bogatin Ott combined the millennia-old form with her photograph of ocean waves. A labyrinth is not a maze but is instead a single winding path used for meditation. Moving through the space is meant to heighten our awareness of our bodies and free our minds from anxiety. As worry dissolves, perception increases. Bogatin Ott explains that when she is painting, she “feels free.” Thus, the labyrinth journey reflects her painting process, a connection that is essential to the result. Our Red Planet invites us into a space of sanctuary and asks us to consider what brings us joy and inspiration.
Chief Curator and Curator of Contemporary Art
Top: Photography by Shannon Woodloe.
When the Montgomery Bus Boycott launched, Dr. Martin Luther King was only 26 years old and new to the city. He was selected to lead the newly established Montgomery Improvement Association, which guided the boycott and mounted the legal challenge to segregated buses. Artist Burton Silverman captured this picture of him in the courtroom listening attentively to testimony.
In 1956, Silverman and his fellow New York artist Harvey Dinnerstein traveled to Montgomery, Alabama, to record the Montgomery Bus Boycott, initiated when Rosa Parks, an African American woman, refused to give up her seat to a white man on the racially segregated city bus system. The artists explained their decision to head to Montgomery: “Our decision to record the events, as artists, was motivated in part by the virtual absence of photographic recording of the Boycott. We felt that this was the first real opportunity to show the efficacy of the artist’s eye in evoking the emotional as well as factual realities of an important human event.”
Working primarily with pencils, together, Silverman and Dinnerstein made over 90 reportorial drawings of the activities and people involved in the boycott. The drawings are lively and intimate records of a historical event, rather than carefully composed illustrations. They reflect the artists’ positions as outsiders—they were white, Northern artists—working quickly on the spot, but also their empathy for the community.
A few of these drawings were published, and about half of them joined DelArt’s collection in 1994. The Museum’s illustrations of the boycott have been exhibited in our galleries and at other museums, including, most recently, in the exhibition Imprinted: Illustrating Race at the Norman Rockwell Museum.
If you were driving down to the Delaware beaches this past summer, you likely passed by the capital of Dover. However, you may not have known that the State House in Dover holds an impressive work of art by a celebrated African American artist!
In 1924, the artist Edwin Harleston (1882 – 1931) was awarded a prestigious commission to paint the portrait of the Delaware businessman and philanthropist Pierre Samuel DuPont (1870 – 1954). This artwork represents an important instance of interracial collaboration during racial segregation in Delaware, as Harleston, an artist and activist who was then-known as the “leading portrait painter of the [African American] race,” was invited by a group of Black teachers to create a portrait in honor of DuPont’s support for Black education in the state.
Portrait of Edwin Harleston (1882 – 1931). Courtesy of the College of Charleston
Born in Charleston, South Carolina to a prosperous African American family, Edwin Harleston attended Avery Normal Institute and Atlanta University before enrolling at the prestigious School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. There, Harleston studied with contemporary masters of American painting, including Frank Weston Benson (1862 – 1951) and Edmund Tarbell (1862 – 1938) – as well as William McGregor Paxton(1869 – 1941) and Philip Leslie Hale (1865 – 1931), whose work can be found in DelArt’s collections. The so-called “Boston School” of American painting was concerned with the subtle effects of light on surfaces and the delicate rendering of skin tones. This influence can be seen in Harleston’s masterful use of shadow and a blending of colors to accurately portray the features and skin color of Black Americans (see, for example, Harleston’s paintings in the collections of the Gibbes Museum in Charleston and The Johnson Collection in Spartanburg, SC).
In a 1923 letter to his wife Elise Forrest, Harleston explained the greater meaning behind his artistic practice, as he hoped to carry on the legacy of the pioneering African American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859 – 1937) by portraying Black Americans “in our varied lives and types with the classic technique and the truth, not caricatures . . . to do the dignified portrait and…[show] the thousand and one interests of our group in industry, religion, general social contact.” i
For many years, however, Harleston struggled to achieve professional success, as both racial prejudices and familial duty constrained his practice. After completing his studies in Boston in 1914, Harleston was called home to assist in his family’s undertaking business. Still hoping to support his family through his art, in 1922 he and Elise opened an art studio across from the Harleston Funeral Home, where portraits in oil, charcoal, pastel, and French crayon were made available to members of Charleston’s Black community. Elise, a trained photographer, often produced photographs as source material for Edwin’s portraits.
In 1923, Harleston’s star rose following his participation in the annual Negro Arts Exhibit at the 135th Street Branch of the New York Public Library, in Harlem. Following the exhibition, Harleston’s painting The Bible Student (1923) appeared on the January 1924 cover of the progressive Black journal Opportunity with an accompanying article declaring that “a man of his genius should most certainly be widely known.” ii
It was in this context that none other than W.E.B. Du Bois, the renowned scholar and co-founder of the NAACP, recommended Harleston to the DuPont Testimonial Association, which was organized to share appreciation for DuPont’s support of Black schools and to “pass on to the country the spirit that has made Delaware public county schools for colored people the best in this country.” iii
As a member of the prominent DuPont family, Pierre Samuel DuPont was seen as the driving force behind the modernization of DuPont Chemical and General Motors and was widely recognized for his role in establishing American industrial pre-eminence around the world. Like many members of the DuPont family, Pierre was also known for his philanthropy. In addition to his stewardship of Longwood Gardens, DuPont spent millions of dollars of his own money to construct and rebuild educational facilities for African American children. In appreciation of DuPont’s support for Black Delawareans during this period of segregated education, teachers of color from throughout the state came together to honor DuPont through the commissioning of a portrait from the country’s leading African American portraitist, Edwin Harleston.
The resulting portrait is unique to Harleston’s practice; in fact, it is the only surviving portrait by Harleston of a white sitter. The work shows DuPont sitting in his office in a three-quarter pose, with his body slightly turned toward the viewer. With his elbows resting on the arms of the chair, DuPont rests a finger of his left hand inside a book – a sign of the importance of education.
Unlike Harleston’s portraits of Black Americans, which tend to show the subjects relaxed or at ease (see Harleston’s portrait of the Reverend Caesar Ledbetter), the artist has represented DuPont in a rather sober, even stiff posture. Importantly, however, unlike the picture of Ledbetter, who is depicted looking slightly down at the viewer, with an air of superiority and self-assuredness, DuPont is pictured looking directly out at the viewer – our equal.
As in his earlier works, Harleston’s approach to the DuPont painting is based on the tradition of the Boston school, which includes an interest in the effects of light on surfaces and skin. Harleston has defined DuPont’s figure through the use of strong direct lighting, as evidenced by the high values of light on his face and hands. As one scholar noted, “these areas of high intensity might have been constructed with flat, broad strokes,” but Harleston, building off his skills in rending the subtle of skin tones in Black Americans, has taken great care to model DuPont’s white skin with shadow and subtle variations of color.
This gradation of tone from light to dark – particularly in DuPont’s face – challenges the viewer to peer carefully into the shadows to see the fine details of his features. And, in fact, DuPont’s wife, Alice, thought that the shadows around the subject’s eyes and mouth made DuPont look stern rather than sensitive. Referencing the portrait of Pierre DuPont done by John Singer Sargent, which is in the collection of Longwood Gardens, Alice remarked that Harleston had “painted the mouth just as Mr. Sargent had done […] giving him two pronounced shadows under the lower lip and making him appear too severe.” iv As one scholar has written, “To be compared with even John Singer Sargent’s errors must have seemed almost complimentary to Harleston.” v But, to please Mrs. DuPont, Harleston later softened the shadows.
John Singer Sargent (1856 – 1925). Portrait of Pierre S. Dupont (1921). Image courtesy of Longwood Gardens
When Harleston unveiled his portrait of DuPont to the public at a special presentation at Booker T. Washington High School in Dover on December 5, 1924, both the public and DuPont himself expressed their pleasure with the outcome. DuPont later wrote the artist in gratitude, and informed him that the time spent posing for the artist had been both enjoyable and “worth while.” For the DuPont Testimonial Association, the portrait was an aesthetic triumph and cultural achievement that carried “the race one step higher.” vi Articles praising the portrait appeared in newspapers in New York, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, and with this project, Harleston finally achieved the national recognition for which he had been striving for most of his life.
Tragically, Edwin Harleston died of pneumonia in Charleston at the age of forty-nine, a promising career cut short. Today, we can see his portraits of African Americans and South Carolina landscapes represented in the collections of the Gibbes Museum of Art, the Johnson College, and the Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art. It is in our own state of Delaware, however, that we can see how this “leading portrait painter of the [African American] race” sought to apply his skills in rendering Black skin, to that of a prominent white American and supporter of opportunities for Black Delawareans.
Top: Edwin A. Harleston (American, 1882 – 1931). Pierre Samuel du Pont, 1924. Oil on canvas, 45.375 x 39.375 inches. 1976.077. Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.
i Edwin A. Harleston, Boston, MA., to Elsie F. Harleston, Charleston, SC, November 26, 1923. Quoted in Maurine Akua McDaniel, Edwin Augustus Harleston, Portrait Painter, 1882 – 1931, PhD. diss (Emory University, 1994), 156.
ii Madeline G. Allison, “Harleston! Who Is E.A. Harleston?,” Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life (January 1924), 21 – 22.
iii “Race Artist to Paint Portrait of Rich Donor,” Pittsburgh Courier (November 29, 1924): 2
iv McDaniel 196.
v Ibid 197.
vi Executive Committee DuPont Testimonial Association, Dover, Delaware, to Edwin A. Harleston, Charleston, SC, February 23, 1925. Typewritten letter, Mae Whitlock Gentry Papers, Emory University, Atlanta, GA.
It began with a piano. Well, arts endeavors truly begin with the artist, and this one was no exception. Pyxis was born from the creativity of violinist Meredith Amado, but the Museum’s piano was a starring player.
The instrument is stored in a nook on the Museum’s main floor, swaddled by the building’s highly controlled temperature and humidity. It’s a Steinway “Satin Ebony” Concert Grand B – a 6-foot-11-inch model introduced by the iconic company in 1878 and still manufactured today. Verified by its serial number, the Museum’s instrument was built in 1905. It seems to have come via a gracious (and unidentified) donor sometime in the 1980s; no existing records cite that person to whom musicians and audiences over the years have been grateful.
In 2008, then-director Danielle Rice (1951-2019) and musician Meredith Amado began to talk about presenting chamber music in the Museum. The Juilliard-trained violinist and her husband David (conductor of the Delaware Symphony) had moved to Wilmington several years earlier, and Meredith had previously created a music series in St. Louis. She felt that the Museum galleries would be a perfect locale for an ensemble, and Danielle agreed. At the time, I was working at the Museum, and since I was an experienced producer, my boss tasked me with making the series a reality. We decided to call it Concerts on Kentmere.
Meredith wanted to create a piano quartet – three string players (violin, viola, cello) and a pianist. But first we had to ascertain if the Museum’s piano – played periodically for events – was still concert-worthy, so I asked two gifted keyboard artists (both named David!) to play the instrument. Conductor David Amado is also a Juilliard-trained pianist, and organist/composer David Schelat trained at Eastman School of Music. Each came for a “road test,” giving the same verdict: The piano was a sound (and good sounding) instrument, but it needed substantial work to bring it to a concert standard.
The Museum agreed, and in 2009 this work (including some rebuilding) was completed. Meanwhile, Meredith – who was playing with groups throughout the region – identified the ensemble’s players. She would be the violinist, Amy Leonard would play viola, Jennifer Jie Jin would play cello, and Hiroko Yamazaki would be the pianist. With a democratic aim – no formal leader and input from all – the four women set about the intricate process of getting to know one another musically, discussing potential repertoire, and (of course) rehearsing.
The group also had to find a name, and their research led them to “Pyxis Piano Quartet.” Pyxis is a constellation named by 18th century French astronomer Nicolas de Lacaille, and it represents the magnetic compass used for navigation. The ensemble’s bio reflects the still-apt reason for their choice: “The group takes its name from the Pyxis constellation, also known as the Mariners’ Compass, whose symbol is the compass rose. The points of the compass rose represent the new artistic directions that the group strives to take together while recognizing the different backgrounds and experiences of its musicians.”
Pyxis played its very first concert on October 1, 2009, an evening of Mozart and Brahms in the Museum’s iconic Pre-Raphaelite Gallery. The ensemble determined that future repertoire would include both familiar masterworks and music (old and new) that should be better known. Those early concerts moved from gallery to gallery, and the group quickly became known for their virtuosic musicianship and lively explorations. Pyxis is not so peripatetic anymore – to accommodate the audiences, concerts are now held in the Museum’s expansive Fusco Hall.
All ensembles evolve over time, navigating changes, and Pyxis is no exception. In 2015, Meredith decided to retire from the group, and for the 2015-16 season the players invited a series of other violinists to join them. One of those esteemed guest artists was Luigi Mazzocchi, who formally joined the ensemble in the 2016-17 season.
During the pandemic shutdown (a difficult time for performers) Pyxis kept afloat via online or live-streamed concerts. After that challenging time of reflection and regrouping, violist Amy Leonard moved on to other endeavors, and the three players determined to continue as Pyxis Piano Trio, exploring the repertoire of their new configuration.
The 2022-23 season marks the ensemble’s 14th year in residence at the Museum. They’ve been making music among its exhibitions and collections for an appreciative audience, some of whom have been attending since that inaugural 2009 concert. Pyxis is especially grateful to Emerita Curator Margaretta Frederick, who first made artistic space for audiences and musicians – and that big concert grand piano – in the iconic (and often crowded) Pre-Raphaelite galleries. It’s fitting that this year’s concerts are in conversation with the groundbreaking exhibition A Marriage of Arts & Crafts, which Margaretta co-curated. On to the future!
Gail Obenreder O’Donnell writes critically about the arts, formerly for The News Journal and now for Broad Street Review, Philadelphia’s online arts journal. A 2016 Fellow of the O’Neill Theater Center’s National Critics Institute, she is also an experienced arts professional, presenter, and producer. When she worked at the Delaware Art Museum (from 2005 to 2013) she helped to create Concerts on Kentmere and has been gratefully affiliated with Pyxis since their very first 2009 concert.
Photograph by Shannon Woodloe
Contrary to popular belief, not all galleries are indoors.
Some galleries don’t have four walls, security guards, and a sign reading “please do not touch the art.” Nor do they have their art shielded behind vitrines and frames within a climate-controlled environment. In fact, some galleries are right outside your door. Whether you notice or not, public art is all around us: abstract sculpture in front of your office building, a mural on the side of the community center two blocks from your apartment complex; works of art you pass by daily but may not stop to appreciate.
Wilmington’s outdoor gallery boasts artworks ranging from the 19th century to the present. From memorials and sculptures to mosaics and murals, our environments are beautified by artists. Artists are essential to our communities. They use the city as a canvas to inspire their neighbors. Their creations enliven the cityscape, acting as tangible expressions of their city’s cultural heritage, and becoming beacons for civic engagement, public pride, and even attracting business investments.
However, unlike indoor galleries and museums, our city’s artistic outdoor installations are not under constant supervision. As a result, the efforts of our artists are at risk. With chipping and fading paint, rust, and corroding metal, much of Wilmington’s public art has fallen into disrepair, exposed to years of neglect and weather damage. If left unattended, these pieces will only deteriorate further until unrecognizable by their community.
To prevent the ruin of these artworks, the Delaware Art Museum is debuting a transformative new initiative, the Public Art Stewards Training Program. This workforce readiness program will train Public Art Stewards to clean, conserve, and document public art. A six-month pilot, funded by the American Rescue Plan Act, begins next year with a cohort of six to eight Wilmington residents who will steward 30 works of public art in downtown Wilmington and surrounding neighborhoods.
As a cultural fixture in the community, the Delaware Art Museum is highly knowledgeable of public art needs. With its influence and connections, our institution intends to share our resources to remedy these issues, giving Wilmington and its residents the support to revitalize our city’s outdoor gallery. Focusing on stewardship and sustainability, the Public Art Stewards Training Program will both expand the field of conservation and develop participants’ transferable skills, supporting their workforce readiness.
Professional conservator Margalit Schindler will teach the Public Art Stewards how to assess, conserve, maintain, and document their outdoor gallery. With onsite hands-on experience, Margalit will train participants in the skills and tools necessary to care for and document 30 key works of art around Wilmington. In tandem with Margalit’s teachings, local partners will add training in essential readiness skills, including digital literacy and financial coaching. With these additional trainings, participants will be equipped to both obtain and sustain employment.
Applications for the Public Art Stewards Training Program will open in early December to Wilmington residents. Partnering with the Creative Vision Factory, with support from the State of Delaware and City of Wilmington, we will prioritize Black, Indigenous, and People of color, individuals on the behavioral health spectrum, and those navigating economic precarity and displacement. With the progression of this project, we intend to advocate for the program to take root outside of Wilmington, expanding to all three Delawarean counties in the future. We believe that art is essential, here in our city and throughout our state.
Full length Kalmar Nyckel Mural courtesy of Michael Kalmbach.
Top: Creative Vision Factory Members in front of the Kalmar Nyckel Mural courtesy of Michael Kalmbach.
Exhibitions of art by Evelyn and William De Morgan and forgotten Pre-Raphaelite artists debut this month at the Delaware Art Museum.
The Delaware Art Museum celebrates British Pre-Raphaelite art with two new exhibitions this fall. A Marriage of Arts & Crafts: Evelyn & William De Morgan makes its American debut at DelArt on October 22. The exhibition showcases Evelyn De Morgan’s symbolic Pre-Raphaelite paintings and her husband William’s Arts & Crafts-style ceramics. Recently opened, Forgotten Pre-Raphaelites displays artworks from DelArt’s collection rarely on view. A new art history course, lectures, tours, and a Member’s Preview Party are planned during the exhibitions’ run.
A Marriage of Arts and Crafts: Evelyn and William De Morgan is the first retrospective exhibition of Arts and Crafts pottery maker William De Morgan (1839-1917) and Pre-Raphaelite painter Evelyn De Morgan (1855-1919). As a power couple in Victorian England, the artists moved in influential cultural circles, shared an interest in spiritualism, and engaged with social issues of their day. Yet both artists have gone relatively unrecognized until now. This visually stunning exhibition brings together William’s brilliantly colored tiles, pots, and plates and Evelyn’s richly symbolic paintings.
The De Morgans weren’t the only artists in the Pre-Raphaelite circle who didn’t get their due. Forgotten Pre-Raphaelites displays over forty works by overlooked artists who experimented with Pre-Raphaelite themes and techniques, including art by the American Pre-Raphaelites and work by women artists. The Delaware Art Museum’s Pre-Raphaelite collection is the most comprehensive outside of the United Kingdom.
“This fall’s special exhibitions are an opportunity for visitors to fall in love with artists they might not yet know,” says Executive Director Molly Giordano. “We’re calling this The Year of Pre-Raphaelites, and we can’t wait to share the masterpieces, exhibitions, and educational programs celebrating this rich period of art history.”
DelArt will host a lecture on October 21 at 5 p.m. by Sarah Hardy, Curator of the De Morgan Collection, followed by a Member’s Preview Party from 6-8 p.m. Guided special exhibition tours are available weekly on Saturday afternoons. A Pre-Raphaelite art history course starts October 13, with virtual and in-person options. Dr. Margaretta Frederick, Delaware Art Museum’s Curator Emerita, will give a lecture on the closing day of the exhibition, February 19 at 2 p.m. Dr. Frederick also edited the show’s catalogue, which is for sale in the Museum Store and at delartstore.org.
Organizers and sponsors:
A Marriage of Arts & Crafts: Evelyn & William De Morgan was organized by the DeMorgan Foundation. This exhibition is made possible through support from the Nathan Clark Foundation and the Dr. Lee MacCormick Edwards Charitable Foundation. 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.
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 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.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: A Marriage of Arts & Crafts: Evelyn & William De Morgan
WHEN: October 22, 2022 – February 19, 2023
WHERE: Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway, Wilmington, DE 19803
COST: Free with admission
October 1, 2022 – February 5, 2023
To complement the major special exhibition, A Marriage of Arts & Crafts: Evelyn & William De Morgan, the Delaware Art Museum has mounted the show, Forgotten Pre-Raphaelites, drawn primarily from the museum’s permanent collection. One of the significant contributions of A Marriage of Arts & Crafts is to foreground the work of two artists who have been understudied in the robust literature on the Pre-Raphaelite, Aesthetic, and Arts and Crafts movements. On view simultaneously, Forgotten Pre-Raphaelites brings together over forty works by similarly overlooked artists affiliated with the Pre-Raphaelite circle. By featuring these lesser-known artists, the show seeks to recover them from the margins of art history and position them at the center of the Pre-Raphaelite narrative.
The exhibition is comprised of four sections:
Partners & Daughters
Women artists were crucial to the Pre-Raphaelite movement and their work accounts for more than half of the objects on view. Several were the wives and daughters of better-known male counterparts. Artists represented include Winifred Sandys, Marie Spartali Stillman, Effie Stillman, Constance Phillott, Barbara Bodichon, and Alice Boyd.
Left to Right: Taste; Smell; Hearing; Touch; Seeing, 1911-1912. Winifred Sandys (1875–1944). Watercolor on ivory, 3 × 2 1/2 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Memorial, 1935.
Winifred Sandys received artistic training from her father, Frederick Sandys, an artist closely associated with the Pre-Raphaelites. A group of her miniatures in the exhibition personify the five senses. Each woman engages with an object that stimulates a sensory response. Despite the modest dimensions, each scene is portrayed with intricate detail. Sandys pictures patterned textiles, delicate jewelry, and elaborate hairstyles.
White Mayde of Avenel, after 1902. Winifred Sandys (1875–1944). Watercolor on vellum, 8 × 6 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Memorial, 1935.
Following her father’s death, Winifred sought to support her family in creative ways. In addition to selling her own work, she also made copies of her father’s. White Mayde of Avenel is a miniature replica of her father’s drawing of the same title. It illustrates a supernatural character from Sir Walter Scott’s novel, The Monastery (1820). The figure’s windswept hair and scarf, paired with her white garment, add to her ghostly appearance.
Followers & Assistants
Left: Apple Stem, 1878. Frederic James Shields (1833–1911). Graphite, watercolor and gouache on buff paper, 9 × 7 1/2 in. Delaware Art Museum, Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Memorial, 1935.
Right: Apple Blossom, c. 1878. Frederic James Shields (1833–1911). Graphite, ink, watercolor, and gouache on buff paper, 9 9/16 x 7 11/16 in. Delaware Art Museum, Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Memorial, 1935.
Many lesser-known artists in the Pre-Raphaelite circle served as assistants to their more famous peers. Objects in this section include work by Joseph Swain, Frederic Shields, Thomas Rooke, and George James Howard. Shields, for instance, supported Dante Gabriel Rossetti in return for studio use. He created closely observed drawings of apple blossoms as a visual aid for Rossetti’s A Vision of Fiammetta. Faithful to the key features of the apple blossom, Shields included the blossoms’ hallmark pale pink petals, elliptical leaves, and yellow-tinged stamens.
A Gate leading to the North Transept of Chartres Cathedral, France, 1894. Thomas Matthews Rooke (1842–1942). Watercolor over graphite, 19 1/4 × 9 ¼ in. Delaware Art Museum, Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Memorial, 1935.
Rooke similarly aided Edward Burne-Jones, painting flowers into one of his massive canvases, Sleep of King Arthur in Avalon. He was also commissioned by John Ruskin to travel across Europe depicting sites that might soon be demolished. Rooke visited Switzerland, Italy, and France, executing meticulous watercolors of cottages, churches, and Alpine scenery. Chartes and its cathedral were among Rooke’s favored subjects. His watercolors register what contemporary cameras could not, particularly the subtle chromatics of aged stone. Beneath the arch of the stone gate are figures represented with nearly transparent wash. They serve as a reminder that much of the surrounding architecture is near vanishing.
Such proximity to celebrated painters had tangible benefits for amateur and aspiring artists. They accessed materials, studio space, and instruction from prominent colleagues. But their contributions to acclaimed works were often uncredited.
The American Pre-Raphaelites
Forgotten Pre-Raphaelites is one of few exhibitions to place British Pre-Raphaelite works alongside those of the lesser-known American Pre-Raphaelites. The American movement began roughly a decade later than the founding of the British Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The American Pre-Raphaelites were a uniquely interdisciplinary group composed of politically radical abolitionist artists and like-minded architects, critics, and scientists. Active during the Civil War, they united in a spirit of protest, seeking sweeping reforms of national art and culture.
Anemones, 1884. Henry Roderick Newman (1843–1917). Watercolor on paper, 9 1/2 × 7 1/4 in. Paul Worman Fine Art, Worcester, MA.
The exhibition features watercolors, intricate graphite drawings, and etchings by Thomas Charles Farrer, Henry Farrer, John Henry Hill, Henry Roderick Newman, and William Trost Richards. They applied Pre-Raphaelite techniques to their paintings and drawings of American landscapes. Like their British counterparts, the American Pre-Raphaelites captured natural elements with precise detail. But they rejected the medieval, biblical, and literary narratives of the British movement. Instead, they produced landscapes, nature studies, and still lifes of modest dimensions.
Barbara Bodichon’s Landscapes
Ventnor, Isle of Wight, 1856. Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon (1827–1891). Watercolor and gouache on paper [with scratching out], 28 × 42 1/2 inches. Delaware Art Museum, F. V. du Pont Acquisition Fund, 2016.
The Delaware Art Museum holds a number of works by Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon, an artist and activist for women’s rights, and a group of her landscapes represent one section of the exhibition. Bodichon gained financial independence at age 21 and she subsequently toured Europe widely. Breaking with social conventions, she often traveled without a chaperone and with female friends, including the writer George Eliot. Bodichon’s thirst for freedom also extended to her painting practice. She enjoyed working out of doors, often in difficult-to-reach locations. Rossetti described her as “a young lady . . . who thinks nothing of climbing a mountain in breeches, or wading through a stream in none.” 
Many of the works by Bodichon on view in the exhibition are sketches she completed while traveling. Her large watercolor, Ventnor, Isle of Wight, is the centerpiece of the installation. The artist’s vibrant palette and intricate depiction of flora and rocks were Pre-Raphaelite hallmarks. When Bodichon exhibited the picture at the Royal Academy in 1856, Dante’s brother William Michael Rossetti described it as a “capital coast scene . . . full of real pre-Raphaelitism.” 
Between A Marriage of Arts & Crafts and Forgotten Pre-Raphaelites, visitors to the Delaware Art Museum this fall will be introduced to numerous artists associated with Pre-Raphaelitism, each of whom are deserving of significant scholarly and popular attention.
Annette Woolard-Provine Curator of the Bancroft Pre-Raphaelite Collection
 Dante Gabriel Rossetti to Christina Rossetti, November 8, 1853. Letters of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, eds. Oswald Doughty and John Robert Wahl, vol. I (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965), 163.
 William Michael Rossetti, “Art News from England,” The Crayon, August 1856, p. 245.
Top image: Coastal landscape by moonlight, not dated. Alice Boyd (1825–1897). Watercolor over graphite with scratching out, with gouache and lead white, 10 1/16 × 13 15/16 inches. Delaware Art Museum, F. V. du Pont Acquisition Fund, 2022.
Figure 1 (above). The Arabian Nights Entertainments (New York: Blue Ribbon Books, 1931). Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum, Gift of Robert and Mary Walsh.
Recently, Delaware Art Museum Members Bob and Mary Walsh donated a few boxes of books to the Museum’s Library. For years the Walshes have been hunting down publishers’ bindings on their travels and very generously purchasing them for the library, and I am always excited when Mary brings in their latest finds. This time around I was doubly excited, as one of the books held an extra treasure inside its colorful cover. The book, The Arabian Nights Entertainments, illustrated by Louis Rhead and Frank E. Schoonover, is part of the Rainbow Bindings series published by Blue Ribbon Books. Schoonover’s cover illustration presents a bare-chested and bejeweled genie framed by a Moorish arch. The towering genie’s exaggerated features, dark skin, and exotic attire—as well as the dazzling scimitar slung across his back—create an orientalist fantasy that mirrors Arab stereotypes reflected in the stories. (See this article for more information about the role the Arabian Nights stories played in creating such stereotypes.)
We have other titles from this series in the Frank E. Schoonover Library Collection, but this one contained an advertising brochure aimed at booksellers—a rare piece of ephemera that I hadn’t seen before. This, of course, sent me down a rabbit hole of research to find out everything I could about the series. Unfortunately, there isn’t much information out there, which makes this brochure even more valuable.
In 1930 a consortium of publishers (Dodd, Mead & Company, Harcourt, Brace & Company, Harper & Brothers, and Little, Brown and Company) established Blue Ribbon Books as a reprint publisher, intent on competing with Grosset & Dunlap, who had built a very profitable business by purchasing softcover books and rebinding them as hardcovers. The publishing firms behind Blue Ribbon Books drew on titles from their back catalogs to produce affordable reprints for just $1.00 (roughly $18.00 in today’s money) and promoted them with the statement “The success of this book as originally published at $3.00 makes possible the Blue Ribbon edition at one dollar.”
Figure 2. Promotional paper band, which originally would have been wrapped around the dust jacket
In the fall of 1931 Blue Ribbon Books introduced Rainbow Bindings for the juvenile book market. For this series, Harper & Brothers tapped their catalog of Louis Rhead Classics and reprinted them in colorful and durable bindings. Rhead (1857–1926) was one of the most popular designers and illustrators of the early twentieth century and an unofficial rival of Howard Pyle, particularly in the field of illustrated juvenile classics. Appearing just in time for the Christmas gift season, these Rainbow Bindings were advertised as being both beautiful and indestructible, designed to “brighten and decorate children’s bookshelves” and be wiped clean with a damp cloth. A review in the article “The Christmas Book Shelf” from the December 1931 issue of The Elementary English Review recommended the books, stating that they are “attractively bound . . . [and] are gifts of unusual merit and not unpleasing to a youthful eye.”
Figure 3. Rhead’s illustrations from The Arabian Nights Entertainments
Each book in the series contained numerous illustrations and decorations by Rhead and featured a full color illustration by Schoonover that was used for both the frontispiece and the cover. This was not the first time the two artists had shared the role of illustrator—a decade earlier they had collaborated on several successful reprints of classics published by Harper & Brothers. A letter to Schoonover from Rhead in the Frank E. Schoonover Manuscript Collection explains how this relationship initially came about, and why Rhead was happy to share the credit with Schoonover:
I welcome your pictures in the books. It gives a joyous tone to the serious somberness of pen work. You may not know it, Harper’s acted nice about it. From a business standpoint, they knew American mothers are attracted by a color picture (if good), and they asked me to do it – I told them I could – but it would be better to have work from a man whose regular work was color – and it was I who suggested you to them. And glad I am they acted and got you, for it has boosted up sales.
Figure 4. Letter from Louis Rhead to Frank E. Schoonover, c. 1923. Frank E. Schoonover Manuscript Collection, Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum
When Blue Ribbon Books decided to reprint the Rhead classics in their new Rainbow Bindings series they contacted Schoonover, asking him to send to them his original small spine illustrations so that they could make new plates from them. Schoonover, obviously confused, must have sent a letter to Harper’s asking about this. Although the initial request from Blue Ribbon and Schoonover’s query to Harper’s are not in our collection, Harper’s reply to Schoonover, in which they inform him that Blue Ribbon Books is part of their company, is, as is another letter asking him to send along three of his cover illustrations so that they could be displayed in the juvenile book shop at F. A. O. Schwartz over the Christmas season.
Figure 5. A selection of Rainbow Bindings from the Frank E. Schoonover Library Collection showing Schoonover’s spine illustrations
Figure 6. Letter from William E. Mears, Harper & Brothers, to Frank E. Schoonover, 1931. Frank E. Schoonover Manuscript Collection, Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum. In this letter Mears asks Schoonover to send three of his original paintings for display in the book department of F. A. O. Schwartz over the Christmas season. He also requests a price for the originals, “as the Schwartz store attracts people who possess the necessary means and the desire to have some of the better things in their homes.” Schoonover sent five paintings for display, all of which were returned to him in early 1932.
Though finding these letters in our collections was exciting as they helped me piece together more information about the series, the real star of this story is the brochure itself. Calling the series “A Sensational Innovation in Book Making,” the brochure touts the technological advancements that make the Rainbow Bindings unique:
For the first time in the history of book making a way has been discovered of reproducing on the cloth cover of a book miniature oil paintings which retain the full beauty and color of the original. It is a truly amazing discovery, developed and distributed solely by Blue Ribbon Books. “Rainbow Bindings”, as these covers will be called, are washable and indestructible, and add an indescribable distinction to America’s most famous series of Juvenile classics.
Figures 7 and 8. “Introducing Rainbow Bindings” advertising brochure. Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum, Gift of Robert and Mary Walsh.
The brochure continues by highlighting the series’ “11 Unusual Features,” including novelty (“Nothing like ‘Rainbow Bindings’ have ever been offered”), durability (“‘Rainbow Bindings’ are specially treated and will not tear, break, crack or fray”), and quality (“Although ‘Rainbow Bindings’ are low in price they give an appearance of quality that cannot be equaled by any other line of children’s books”). The brochure also notes that the technological innovation of producing the color illustration directly onto the cloth results in a superior reproduction than if it had been printed on a paper jacket or inlay, as was the previous fashion. In fact, Eugene Reynal, head of Blue Ribbon Books, was so confident about this new format that he was quoted by the Kansas City Star as declaring that “paper book jackets will soon be a thing of the past.” But perhaps the most compelling reason to purchase the Rainbow Bindings series, according to the brochure, and the one that must have appealed the most to Rhead’s “American mothers,” is the claim that “a love for these books will give [children] a love for books all their lives.”
“For me, the transition from science and technology to art was an easy one.” Wes Memeger
Wes Memeger has explored the square for decades. In his early career as a chemist, he analyzed the skewed bonds in an almost square carbon and hydrogen compound. As an artist, Memeger studied the works of abstract painters, reading and viewing their considerations of the basic and ubiquitous shape. He explains, “From the 1970s to the 1990s, while I was still working as a chemist, I read intensely and thought about art matters focusing on abstractionist painters such as Kazimir Malevich, Josef Albers, Piet Mondrian, Johannes Itten, and Franz Kline.” These artists and their approach to the essential elements of artmaking provided Memeger with inspiration and points of departure.
Drawing from these seemingly disparate backgrounds, Memeger uses the square as a building block, developing abstract compositions that layer form, color, and texture. The artist adds circles and arcs, gold leaf, or fluorescent colors creating works that capture for him, “significant dynamism, but at the same time, surprising tranquility.” Memeger continuously incorporates experimentation into his work. A series begun in 2013 blends painting with three-dimensional forms, creating what the artist refers to as a ziptych composed of two, touching z-shaped canvases.
Memeger muses, “Looking back over decades of experimentation, I find that it has been challenges that have most advanced my thinking and my artmaking.” The paintings in this exhibition are as much about the square as they are about our perceptions of supposedly rigid shapes in our world and their slightly, but constantly, shifting nature.
Healing Through the Arts. The name of this growing DelArt program series identifies its impact. The goal, says creator Vanesa Simon, is to use art to help community members heal. A cancer survivor herself, Simon has a singular understanding of how art can help people through deep trials and connect them with others in a community of support.
The idea was sparked in 2017, when community members Vanesa Simon and Luisa Ortiz shared ideas about the role of creativity in healing. DelArt gave seed money to pilot their initial idea – three painting workshops and a community celebration for cancer patients. From this first event, Healing Through the Arts grew as a joint venture between the Museum and Simon’s company, Mariposa Arts.
Grief drumming, watercolor, and clay workshops were soon offered to partner organizations serving the cancer community. Cris Vitsorek and fellow Museum Guides developed gallery tours to complement the program. Guides facilitated reflective dialogues and deep looking centered on select works of art, some sharing their own experiences with cancer.
In contrast to traditional services like cancer support groups, “I find that looking at art, and talking about art, provides a different vehicle to reflect on your experiences,” shares Vanesa Simon. “That’s what’s special about the tours Cris and the Guides developed. Participants come to the Museum, a place that doesn’t have anything to do with cancer. They look at beautiful art, or even challenging art, and see things in it they’ve never noticed before. They talk about their observations with a group of people that know what they are experiencing. Sometimes it isn’t about cancer, but they have space to talk about their lives through a different lens.” Within the tours and workshops, relationships develop and participants bond. “As we’re exposing people to new materials and different kinds of art, we’re leaving space for what grows organically, for community-building to happen.”
When the pandemic hit, Healing Through the Art sessions moved online. DelArt and Mariposa sustained their relationship with the Cancer Support Community of Delaware through online guided art workshops and virtual tours. “We saw that we could continue to offer experiences to the cancer community, but we also realized that the rest of the world needed art for healing as well,” shares Simon. The challenges of the pandemic crystallized the widespread need for art as a tool for healing. Healing Through the Arts expanded its focus to serve not only people experiencing cancer, but also people experiencing environmental traumas, including gun violence, social conflict, and adverse childhood experiences. Healing Through the Arts workshops are now offered at several partner sites throughout the city, and the content changes to reflect the needs of each new audience.
“We returned in-person in 2021 with an outdoor labyrinth workshop led by the artist KYMA. We’d all been cooped up and only connecting online. Participants were moved to tears, in front of strangers, by the power of sharing space. It was beautiful to witness. I observed a man grieving – maybe he had lost someone, I’m not sure,” continues Simon. “That workshop was so special – people connected so deeply with KYMA’s practice. I could feel the power of our shared experience and see the healing it brought to our community.”
As Healing Through the Arts developed new community partnerships, the approach to collaboration and to teaching changed as well. “I know what a cancer patient goes through, and I have an idea of what helps them. But as we went into new kinds of organizations to help people with different traumas, our role shifted to one of listening. We let our partners know about the resources we offer, and we asked what could best help their communities,” shares Simon. “I did not experience gun violence, nor the level of poverty or other stressors that some of the students at The Teen Warehouse face. I wasn’t sure if my art teaching would reach these teens. But the partner told us that the teens are interested in mindfulness, and they asked me to instruct them. At the Warehouse, I encountered situations that were new to me as a teaching artist. In one of my classes while I played soft music to create a quiet atmosphere, a teen began laughing uncontrollably. I checked in with her to make sure she was ok, but she continued laughing for ten minutes. I reflected on the experience afterward with art therapist Christine Byma. Byma identified the teen’s laughter as a possible traumatic reaction. I realized that I needed to pursue additional education in this area, and I sought out trauma-informed practice training through the Bartol Foundation. I learned techniques to help people through their trauma.”
Healing Through the Arts now delivers art experiences through eight partners in greater Wilmington. In alignment with DelArt’s strategic focus on developing anchor partnerships in the region, further growth is planned. “We have a lot of goals. We are now sharing the program in Spanish and reaching out to the veteran community, and we hope to expand these areas. It’s all about to happen,” shares Simon. “But it’s important to continue this work in a way that is human-centered, even as we grow. These are not just quantities of people that we count – these are individuals experiencing real pain, whether environmental, health, mental health, or just the challenges of daily life – they are experiencing real stressors. Each of these people matter, as does each person who works behind the scenes to run the program, to teach art, or to collaborate with us.”
We’re introducing art as a tool for wellbeing. The goal isn’t to become a trained artist or a master of technique, but to find wellbeing through the practice of art. It’s lovely to get your hands into all kinds of artistic media. We hear a lot of protesting that “I’m not an artist!” You don’t have to be, to participate.
In the coming year, formal evaluation will assess the program’s impact. But Simon knows Healing Through the Arts is having an effect. She’s overheard teenage girls sharing how they see each other growing. She’s witnessed her teaching space become a refuge. She’s seen adults process their experiences while modeling clay. She’s read participants’ reflections on how art gives them confidence or makes their days better. Art is a healing force in our community, and it’s available to all.
Healing Through the Arts sessions are offered free of charge, thanks to the generosity of funders and individual donors. You can help DelArt deliver healing experiences with art to all in our community by making a donation to the Museum in support of Healing Through the Arts.
Experience Healing Through the Arts yourself by registering for a virtual Looking and Reflecting Tour, open to all on select Sundays at 2 p.m.
In the photograph How the West is One, two men look towards one another in a standoff. The figure on the left wears a collared shirt, a cuff, and an intricate metal necklace holding eleven pendants. His hair is tied in a tsiiyéél, indicating wisdom and disciplined thought in Diné/Navajo culture. On the right, the second figure appears dressed in a white collared shirt, pinstripe vest, tie, and a leather work glove on his raised hand. A wide-brimmed cowboy hat sits on his head. Though their attire sets them apart, the men’s faces reflect one another in profile as they intently gaze towards the other.
The two figures in How the West is One are duplicates played by the artist Will Wilson. In this double self-portrait, Wilson depicts himself as the quintessential late nineteenth-century character types of the “Cowboy” and “Indian” together in one picture frame. Each is generalized as a trope but seen through Wilson’s unique lens. The figures recall the popular children’s game “Cowboy and Indians,” which pits these two groups against one another in the struggles over the American West. They are often set up in old Western movies and books as diametrically opposed. In How the West is One, however—the “Cowboy” and “Indian” are both distinct and the same. Wilson plays on simplified and outdated narratives of identity in his photograph, highlighting the ways that photographs are deeply complex spaces of self-definition.
Will Wilson’s Critical Indigenous Photographic Exchange
Will Wilson (b. 1969) is a contemporary Diné/Navajo artist and citizen of the Navajo Nation living and working in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The work shown in this summer’s exhibition at DelArt, In Conversation: Will Wilson, represents an overview of a series known as the Critical Indigenous Photographic Exchange (CIPX). Begun in 2012, CIPX is a series of portraits made through the wet collodion photographic process, similar to the one the early twentieth-century photographer Edward S. Curtis was well-known for using in his The North American Indian project (1907-1930). In this process photographic negatives are printed with light-sensitive chemicals on a metal or glass surface, often referred to colloquially as a “tintype.” Wet collodion photography became massively popular for portraiture in the latter nineteenth century due to its high level of detail, reproducibility, durability, and relative cost-effectiveness.
For Wilson, developing photographs of Native peoples through this process puts him in direct conversation with Curtis and other photographers of his time who turned their cameras towards representing Indigenous peoples, often depicting them incorrectly as vanishing representations of the past. Curtis was famous for post-production editing of his photographs through dodging, burning, cropping, and retouching elements (manual processes that can now be done in Photoshop) to make them appear more nostalgic. Wilson’s project considers Curtis’s impact while wholly rejecting his conclusions. In Wilson’s images, sitters are living, breathing, and thriving. Wilson’s hope for the Critical Indigenous Photographic Exchange (CIPX) is that he can “indigenize the photographic exchange,” through collaboration and exchange that can then “form the basis for a re-imagined vision of who we are as Native people.”
Wilson held the first series of Critical Indigenous Photographic Exchange (CIPX) photoshoots at the 2012 Santa Fe Indian Market in New Mexico. He invited friends, students, and colleagues to be subjects, thus beginning the project that is now in its tenth year. Wilson engages his sitters in a direct process of reciprocity, wherein he gifts them with the resulting 8×10 tintype plate after taking a high-resolution scan for his archive. These scans are then titled with the person’s name and a designation for the site the photograph was taken at, making them traceable to their source. Each subject is encouraged to come to their session in whatever clothing and objects are significant to them. Through the Critical Indigenous Photographic Exchange (CIPX), Wilson has created a counter-archive of nearly 4,000 photographs that feature both Native and non-Native subjects from across the globe. The series has become a central part of the artist’s practice, and he has been sponsored by institutions worldwide to host photoshoots highlighting contemporary Indigenous communities.
In May 2022, Wilson’s CIPX series was brought to Delaware when citizens of the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware (The Original People) and the Nanticoke Indian Tribe (The Tidewater People) were invited to sit for their own CIPX portraits. Working with Principle Chief Dennis J. Coker (Lenape) and Chief Natosha Carmine (Nanticoke), the Delaware Art Museum facilitated a day-long photoshoot that featured individuals, families, and objects/images of personal significance. Many shared stories of what and who they brought with them, which will be exhibited alongside the final photographs. These personal narratives are powerful examples of fortitude, family, and cultural continuity within these communities.
Finally, Wilson pushes the Critical Indigenous Photographic Exchange (CIPX) project into the contemporary with the inclusion of “Talking Tintypes,” which use Augmented Reality (AR) technology to bring the images to life. You can download the free app in the App Store and/or Google Play, and scan select exhibition images to access interactive AR content. Across this survey of ten years of work, Wilson’s still and moving images make clear that Indigenous peoples persist and continue to reclaim the camera as a meaningful mode of self-representation. In Conversation: Will Wilson is a powerful testament to such work and the important conversations it propagates.
Kaila T. Schedeen
PhD Candidate at the University of Texas at Austin, Guest Curator
The Delaware Art Museum acknowledges with respect that the Delaware Art Museum and its grounds stand on Lenape land. The Lenni Lenape (The Original People) have lived in our region for thousands of years. Many were forced to migrate west and north where their descendants live today, but some never left, and some returned.
The region we now call Delaware is home to the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware, the Nanticoke Indian Tribe (The Tidewater People), and diverse Indigenous peoples today. We pay respect to their Elders, past and present. We honor the animals, plants, and waters of Lenapehoking—the traditional Homeland of the Lenape people within which we stand.
We invite you to join us in acknowledging the sacredness of this place, honoring its original and living stewards, and offering respect and care for the land and its resources.
We also acknowledge the land, elements, and beings of Oga Po’geh (“White Shell Water Place,” known today as Santa Fe, New Mexico) and Dinétah (“Among the People,” the ancestral homelands of the Diné), where the Diné (Navajo) artist Will Wilson lives and creates much of his work. We honor these places and their Indigenous peoples from the past, present, and future.
Top image: Will Wilson (born 1969).How the West is One,2014, printed 2016. Archival pigment print from wet plate collodion scan, 24 × 36 inches. Collection of the artist.
In Conversation: Will Wilson is organized by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, with generous support provided by Art Bridges. This exhibition and its related programming are sponsored by M&T Bank. This exhibition is made possible in Delaware by the Emily du Pont Exhibition Fund. 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.
Ultimately, I strive to breathe new life into discarded material to create forms which deliberately deny their past history in order to serve a new formal purpose. – Stan Smokler
Stan Smokler’s celebrated, steel sculptures continue the trajectory of modernist abstraction. Rather than sculpting an easily recognizable object from stone or wood, Smokler assembles found items, creating expressive, geometric works of art. The constructed environment and industrial landscape provide his materials. Smokler reclaims metal detritus—steel cogs, springs, pipes, beams, chains—and models them into evocative forms. The sculptures are hewn from industry, forged from the discarded. A keen observer of volume and space, Smokler invites us to consider the structures around us—the scaffolding that shelters us or bridges a river.
Making sculpture for me is an ongoing exploration of how material affects the space it occupies. – Stan Smokler
Smokler’s resulting works of art span a range of references from the whimsical to the celestial. The artist pairs his sculpture with meaningful and inventive titles that indicate a person, an animal, a particular place, or another aspect of the built or natural world. Seemingly flat, steel parts are sculpted to suggest an Islamic castle (Alcazar, 1996) or the folly of a 16th-century Dutch painting (Hieronymus Bosch: Garden of Earthly Delights, 2015). Smokler’s perhaps unexpected incorporation of red into his later sculptures creates an additional layer of depth, realizing his continual goal of moving from “flatness to roundness.”
The Distinguished Artist Exhibition, Stan Smokler: Steel in Flux, offers visitors a broad perspective of Smokler’s creativity in varying materials and scale. The show includes work from the late 1970s through 2020 along with several of the artist’s charcoal and pastel drawings of his completed sculptures, showcasing the breadth of his experimentation in form and metal.
Smokler’s embrace and elevation of discarded materials points toward a generous and open personality, of which many other artists have spoken. In addition to nurturing generations of art students while teaching at the Delaware College of Art and Design from 1998 until his retirement in 2016, Smokler shared his love and knowledge for steel in a unique way. The artist greatly valued his 1985 participation in Sir Anthony Caro’s Triangle Artists’ Workshop in upstate New York. The opportunity to study with sculptor Caro was an invaluable experience, and Smokler pledged to offer that to his community.
In 2004, Smokler established his Marshall Bridge Workshop. The Workshop is an immersive training opportunity for artists of all levels interested in working with welded steel. Smokler has been praised for his supportive approach to teaching that nurtures artists at various stages in their careers. With his commitment to exploring the possibilities of steel and mentoring students, Stan Smokler has guided the trajectory of contemporary abstract sculpture.
This fall the Museum will host the first retrospective exhibition of the work of Pre-Raphaelite painter Evelyn Pickering De Morgan (1855-1919) and her husband, the stained glass and pottery designer William Frend De Morgan (1839-1917) [FIG. 1 above]. The two artists met and married in 1887 after both were well-established in their careers. As a couple, their work touched on several influential artistic circles of the day including the Pre-Raphaelite, Arts and Crafts, and Aesthetic Movement. More broadly speaking, their individual and shared political and social views put them in connection with circles outside the art world – among others, socialists, suffragists, and pacifists — with the result that their combined reach within Victorian society and culture was quite broad —even comprehensive. And yet, they have received relatively passing recognition —William perhaps because he was a craftsman, a genre which has historically taken a back seat to fine arts, and Evelyn because of her gender. She was in fact often written off as simply a disciple of Edward Burne-Jones, a painter with whom she had very little if any professional relationship. Addressing the two artists within one exhibition allows for a comprehensive view of the expanded cultural milieu in which they functioned, not least regarding new attitudes towards Victorian marriage as a working partnership.
William De Morgan
William was born in 1839. His mother, Sophia, was a writer, activist, and an important figure in the spiritualist movement. His father, Augustus, was a mathematician and logician who taught at the newly founded University College, London. William shared his father’s facility for mathematics but was determined to pursue a career in the arts. Originally intending to be a painter, he enrolled at the Royal Academy Schools in 1859. There he met many members of the Pre-Raphaelite circle through whom he was introduced to William Morris around 1863. This was the moment that Morris’s newly founded decorative arts partnership, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co., was finding success in the fitting out of newly built Gothic Revival churches, particularly with stained glass. William De Morgan began designing in this media. His lifelong inclination for experimentation led to improvements in the firing of stained glass, an interest that undoubtedly inspired his turn to pottery making.
In 1869, William De Morgan began his own pottery firm, focusing on the production process and the design of the decoration. His designs reflect his absorption of varied sources, including Pre-Raphaelite medievalism, Italian Renaissance maiolica, and ancient Middle Eastern lusterware [FIG. 2]. Additionally, his decorations feature a menagerie of anthropomorphized creatures that were the product of his own vivid imagination [FIG. 3]. Unfortunately, despite his acumen for invention and his facility for design, he was not a businessman. The pottery was never financially viable – in fact, Evelyn may have contributed to keeping it afloat during the early portion of their marriage – and by 1907 he decided to close the pottery business.
Left to right – Figure 2: William De Morgan, Vase with persian floral decoration, 1888-1897. Earthenware. De Morgan Foundation. Figure 3: William De Morgan, Red and gold lustre dish with winged felines, 1872-1904. Earthenware. De Morgan Foundation.
Evelyn Pickering De Morgan
When Evelyn Pickering was born in 1855, William was 16 years old and at the very beginning of his professional career. Evelyn’s family straddled the upper middle class and aristocracy. Her father was a London lawyer and Queen’s Counsel; her mother was a descendant of the 1st Earl of Leicester. Evelyn’s artistic inclinations were evident early on, and despite familial resistance, she insisted on pursuing an artistic career. She was assisted in dodging her mother’s opposition by her uncle, late Pre-Raphaelite painter John Roddam Spencer Stanhope (1829–1908), who had experienced similar opposition to his career choice. “Uncle Roddy” offered both mentorship and artistic tutoring.
In 1873 Evelyn was accepted at the newly opened Slade School of Art. The Slade offered one of the few opportunities for women to receive artistic training, and it was there that Evelyn’s mature style was nourished. Specifically, The Slade offered a rigorous program focused on drawing from the figure, and female students were permitted to draw from the live model. Evelyn’s education was further enhanced through continental travel, providing access to historic works of art, particularly those of the early Italian Renaissance, the touchstone of her mature style. Several watercolor copies of Renaissance paintings confirm her close study of the art of this period. In images like Flora [FIG. 4] we can see her borrowing from Sandro Botticelli’s Primavera.
Evelyn began her exhibiting career in 1876, showing first at the Dudley Gallery, a small outpost of avant-garde and early career artists. In 1877 she was one of only two female artists invited to exhibit at the inaugural exhibition of the trendy new Grosvenor Gallery, an avant-garde outpost for the Aesthetic Movement. This was a milestone in her career, indicating her professional success.
Left to right – Figure 4: Evelyn De Morgan, Flora, 1894. Oil on canvas. De Morgan Collection, Courtesy of the De Morgan Foundation. Figure 5: Evelyn De Morgan, The Gilded Cage, c. 1900. Oil on canvas. De Morgan Collection, Courtesy of the De Morgan Foundation.
Willam & Evelyn’s shared passions
In 1883 William and Evelyn, who had for the last decade been travelling on parallel but separate tracks, came together. In addition to art, they were particularly committed to three causes — Victorian spiritualism, the early efforts of the women’s suffragist movement, and pacifism in response to the overwhelming devastation of the First World War. Many of Evelyn’s paintings reflect these concerns, for instance, The Gilded Cage [FIG. 5], depicting a beautiful young woman gazing wistfully out of the window of her richly furnished home at a group of revellers. At right, her aging husband slumps dejectedly in a chair. The scene conveys the constraints of being a woman in a traditional Victorian marriage. In The Worship of Mammon [FIG. 6], inspired by a story from the New Testament, the god of worldliness, a giant stone statue holding a bag of coins, is approached by a female figure who desperately clutches at his knee. The economic disparity of the ear distressed William and Evelyn.
The De Morgans lived well beyond the Victorianism and Pre-Raphaelitism of their youth. This included the last and particularly bloody expansion of the British Empire and the First World War. The Red Cross [FIG.7] depicts Christ being carried heavenward by a team of angels, while beneath a field of crosses litter the Belgian landscape — a direct reference to the extreme and extensive loss of lives brought about by the war.
Left to right – Figure 6: Evelyn De Morgan, The Worship of Mammon, 1900-1909. Oil on canvas. De Morgan Collection, Courtesy of the De Morgan Foundation. Figure 7: Evelyn De Morgan, The Red Cross, 1914-1916. Oil on canvas. De Morgan Collection, Courtesy of the De Morgan Foundation.
US debut of De Morgan exhibition
Evelyn and William De Morgan’s art will be on display in the exhibition A Marriage of Arts & Crafts: Evelyn and William De Morgan, which makes its US debut at the Delaware Art Museum this fall. Drawn entirely from the collection of the De Morgan Foundation in Guildford, UK, I have been planning the exhibition for five years with co-curator Sarah Hardy, Curator, De Morgan Collection. Paintings, drawings, and pots by this artist couple will be featured.
The exhibition will travel on to two further venues: the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA (17 September, 2023-7 January 2024) and the Museum of Fine Arts St Petersburg, FL (27 January 2024 through May, 2024). A publication of essays will accompany the exhibition: Margaretta S Frederick, ed. Evelyn & William De Morgan: A Marriage of Arts & Crafts (London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2022). The catalogue will be available at the Museum Store later this year.
Annette Woolard-Provine Curator of the Bancroft Collection
Top: Figure 1: William and Evelyn De Morgan, undated archival photograph. De Morgan Foundation.
This painting was included in Mark Bradford’s 2015 solo exhibition, Scorched Earth, at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Born in LA, Bradford explores the histories of place—the 1992 uprisings in the city, for example—through a unique painting process. Bradford begins by applying layers of paper—construction paper, advertisements, posters, and newsprint found in the city—to a stretched canvas, securing each layer with clear shellac. The artist will sometimes embed string into the layers. Once the layering is complete, Bradford excavates the surface, removing the string and using power sanders to reveal layers below, a method he describes as “both décollage and collage,” referring to his process of equally removing and building up an image. Sometimes the textual clues from posters remain while other times the source is transformed beyond recognition. The results are abstract and topographical, hinting at a striated landscape revealed through natural erosion or mechanical digging.
A 2009 MacArthur Fellow, Bradford represented the United States in the 2017 Venice Biennale. In 2014, the artist, along with Allan DiCastro and Eileen Harris Norton, co-founded Art + Practice, a Los Angeles nonprofit dedicated to providing transition-age foster youth free access to contemporary art exhibitions and programs.
The Next Hot Line is a temporary loan on view in the Delaware Art Museum’s Lynn Herrick Sharp Gallery until mid-summer. Stop by on your next visit to take in its textural surface and rich, dimensional details.
This spring, Brendon Perry, Omar Russ, Jayla Legare, Phil Medford, Dave Masonheimer, Zach Yetter, Brie Bittenheimer Butler, Collin Potter, Jada Stephens, Maria Franey, Sonya Donawa, Steven Waldorf, and Star White joined the staff of the Delaware Art Museum as Museum Ambassadors. Their friendly faces appear in our galleries daily, providing warm guest experiences, protecting the art, and sharing knowledge.
We sat down with Heather Morrissey, Director of Operations, and Brendon Perry, Lead Museum Ambassador, to learn more about this new team and their work.
Heather Morrissey, Director of Operations (HM): We know that the interactions between frontline staff and visitors are a powerful tool for building a positive Museum experience. But an ongoing barrier to success was our security staffing. We were contracting security guards via a third-party vendor. We had guards coming in who were not trained in DelArt’s customer service policies, nor in the art collection, and they were often not familiar with our building.
Last year, our third-party vendor was unable to supply the number of security guards needed. This was during a popular exhibition, at a popular time of year. Museum staff stepped in to fill that need. It was taxing on staff, but it also opened our eyes to learning more about our visitors. We observed that our guests want to engage with people inside the museum, and they ask so many intelligent questions. Our visitors expect a high quality of interaction with staff. That understanding drove home the need for a change. We decided to hire a team of Museum Ambassadors to protect art and engage our visitors. And we’re already observing positive results.
We want our team to reflect the rich diversity of our Wilmington community and be a vibrant part of our community. We want to fully train them in all aspects of the Museum so they are comfortable interacting with all our guests. The Museum Ambassadors will serve as a congenial link between the collection, artwork and guest safety, and audience engagement. Brendon Perry exemplifies these values, and he is the perfect person to lead this team.
Brendon Perry, Lead Museum Ambassador (BP): I started here five years ago, on a whim, contracted by the third-party vendor. I was only at the Museum for 16 hours a week as a guard during school tours, and I worked at different sites as well. I was given the opportunity to cover the console shift at the Museum, then I became a permanent floor monitor, and then I was promoted to site supervisor. The Director of Operations approached me about working directly for the Museum as part of the operations department at the end of 2018, and I said, “Absolutely!” The job at the Museum was a no-brainer for me. It was a growth opportunity. I learned more about the Museum’s day-to-day operations and took on more responsibilities.
I fully support this change, creating a new Museum Ambassador team in-house. Because they are employed by the Museum directly, everybody really cares and shows up to help each other out – it’s not just another site for them. I have a great team around me that I can rely on.
Most people new to museums don’t know what they can and can’t do inside an art gallery. It’s a learning experience for both parties. A new visitor might be thrown off by coming into the museum, getting too close to art, and being told they are breaking a rule. But Museum Ambassadors can engage them. For example, the sculptureTunnel tends to be touched because it’s an optical illusion. A Museum Ambassador can say to a visitor, “Hey, you can look at it, but please don’t sit on it. Let me share with you how this work of art was created.”
Some people are naturally good at dealing with confrontation, but I learned by fire. This group will be trained from the start on de-escalation techniques. Right now we’re training, training, training, to get everyone up to speed and make sure they are comfortable in the situations required of their role. And when they don’t feel comfortable, my colleagues and I will be there.
Heather – Yes, we now have a team of people who can respond. They won’t need to be on their own. They are working together now during training, shadowing the more experienced staff. It is my hope that we retain this strong team of Museum Ambassadors. We have created an environment our team can enjoy, continue to learn in, and where they can grow.
When we started this process, we looked at competitive rates for security guards. We also considered Delaware’s commitment to increasing its minimum wage by 2025. Based on those factors, we raised our starting wage to meet both of those expectations. In the Museum Ambassador job description, we highlighted the Museum’s vision and commitment to inclusion. We shared that we are diversifying the collections to include more artists of color and women artists. The Museum Ambassadors themselves are critical to making the Museum welcoming and inclusive.
We made employment offers to the guards at our former security company with whom we had long-standing relationships, and all those offers were accepted. Concurrently, we initiated a search to fill the remaining positions. We were very happy with the quality of candidates recruited, and we value the team we’ve brought onboard. We are taking great care in the training process to instill that they are part of the Museum, and their voices matter. We structured the role so that they interact with staff throughout the Museum, and we will be giving them opportunities to grow within the Museum.
Brendon: I hope the team will gain knowledge of both Museum security and the collections. If they learn about 50 or 100 works of art, that would be great. And I hope they’ll jump in to help their colleagues out. I hope they continue to grow here; that’s what I wish for most.
Heather: Another change we made was to do away with uniforms. Museum Ambassadors come to work in their own clothes, in clothes they feel good in. That was important to us. We also want our visitors to recognize the Ambassadors as staff members they can direct questions to. The Ambassadors wear simple name badges and carry a radio. We’ve already heard positive feedback from Museum guests on these changes.
Brendon: When you can show up as your authentic self at work – when you can identify as who you are and wear what you like to wear – you do feel like that’s a place for you. The Museum is a place for all of us.
When you visit the Museum next, please introduce yourself to a Museum Ambassador, and join us in welcoming these new staff to the Delaware Art Museum.
As spring approaches, the Delaware Art Museum welcomes visitors to the gorgeous exhibition Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Driehaus Collection. With its delicate floral-form vases and atmospheric landscape windows, the show is a fitting tribute to the coming season. Nearly all the work hails from the esteemed Chicago collection of Richard H. Driehaus—a vast and extraordinary collection of Tiffany. However, we couldn’t resist making one addition to the show: the windows from the home of Samuel Bancroft, who assembled the Museum’s collection of Pre-Raphaelite treasures. Adding Bancroft’s windows to the exhibition inspired me to dive into the research files and deepen my knowledge of these works known as Spring and Autumn, and I have a few secrets to share with you.
Exhibited at the 1893 World’s Fair
A tantalizing note in our file suggests that Bancroft’s windows may have been exhibited at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and I wanted to confirm it, because this world’s fair was a very big deal (and the subject of my undergraduate thesis). At their height from the mid-19th through the mid-20th centuries, world’s fairs were opportunities for the display of art and industry from around the globe. Like the Olympic Games today, world’s fairs were massive events requiring the construction of villages, generally within major cities. They lasted for several months and attracted national and international tourism. The organizers of the Chicago World’s Fair were particularly keen to display the artistic accomplishments of the nation, as American artistry had been derided at earlier fairs. A team of top architects and designers created a temporary “White City” of neoclassical buildings, water features, and sculptures in Jackson Park, and American artists and designers were encouraged to send their very best work to the show.
Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company created a chapel at the center of the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building. Inside the chapel, light streamed in through several stained-glass windows and emanated from elaborate electrical fixtures, illuminating lavishly decorated elements, including a jewel-encrusted metal altar cross. A photograph of the Tiffany pavilion in the archives at the Morse Museum shows DelArt’s Spring. I located a copy of an original brochure from the exhibition and was delighted to find a “domestic window” illustrated and attributed to Lydia Field Emmet within.
Designed by Successful Painter
Lydia Field Emmet was born in New Rochelle, NY, Jan 23, 1866, the seventh of ten children. Her mother, Julia Colt Pierson, was an illustrator. Emmet studied at the Académie Julian in Paris and spent time at Giverny among other American artists. At the Art Students League of New York, she became a student of William Merritt Chase, who painted a striking portrait of her. Emmet established herself as a designer and illustrator, as well as a successful portrait painter. In 1893, the windows she designed for Tiffany were only one example of her work at the Chicago World’s Fair. She painted a mural panel for the Woman’s Building, which also featured murals by her sister Rosina Emmet Sherwood, Mary Cassatt, Mary Fairchild MacMonnies Low, and other prominent female painters.
Most mentions of Emmet related to the Fair reference her prominent mural. The Tiffany window is identified as her work on page 8 of the exhibition brochure, and it’s titled Autumn. Although similar format and style to the Bancroft windows at DelArt, this Autumn is definitely a different window. So, what’s the deal?
Autumn or Summer?
Logically, Emmet would have designed windows representing all four seasons. Representing the seasons allegorically as female figures was very popular in the 19th century. Correspondence between Bancroft and Tiffany representative J. C. Platt sheds light on the situation. Repeated mentions of windows coming from Chicago and from “the big show” assured me that both of our seasonal windows were on display. The letters, in the collection of the Delaware Historical Society, reveal some confusion about the identities of “the glass girls” coming to Wilmington. Bancroft and Platt go back and forth about whether Spring was being joined in Delaware by Summer or Autumn. We only have one side of the conversation, and Bancroft seems to have called her Summer in early letters and later Autumn, but I suspect the panel on the right was produced to represent summer. The lush greenery framing the woman seems more summery than autumnal, and Autumn was clearly identified in the brochure. Now, the real mystery, at least for me, is what Winter looks like and where I can see it!
The fact that these windows were produced for display at the World’s Fair may explain their elaboration. The Bancroft windows combine Tiffany’s innovative glass techniques. Folded drapery glass makes up the clothing, while the foliage combines confetti and streamer techniques. Chunks of faceted jewel glass form Spring’s collar, and both faces are extremely well painted. These were showpieces meant to display the technical brilliance of the company for an international audience. The designs were so successful that other versions of Spring and Autumn were produced. An alternate version of Spring, in an oval format, is in the Driehaus Collection and featured on the Wikipedia page for Louis Comfort Tiffany!
Briar Rose Border
Bancroft’s windows are framed by a border of interlaced flowers which wasn’t present in the World’s Fair display. After a conversation with his architect Frank Miles Day, Bancroft suggested the “Briar Rose” border to Platt, who sketched a design and recommended that Philadelphia artisan George McLean produce it. The inspiration was a painting in Bancroft’s collection: Edward Burne-Jones’s The Council Chamber. The picture represents the second scene in the Briar Rose series, a project that occupied Burne-Jones for more than 30 years. The series was based on the story of “Sleeping Beauty,” retold during the Victorian period by Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) in his poem “The Day-Dream.” Indeed, Bancroft’s growing art collection was part of the impetus for the renovation and redecoration of his home. Like many wealthy Americans in the Gilded Age, Bancroft hired Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company for the job. The result was a sumptuous and harmonious space that incorporated his paintings, and the arrival of a stunning set of Tiffany windows in Delaware.
Heather Campbell Coyle
Curator of American Art
Image: Spring and Autumn, c. 1892. Designed by Lydia Field Emmet (1866-1952). Tiffany Studios (1878-1933). Leaded glass, 37 x 51 ½ inches. Delaware Art Museum, Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Memorial, 1935.
Inspired by Tiffany’s innovative glass and the brilliance of this sparkling work, the ensemble will play elegant offerings that include Ernest Bloch’s Three Nocturnes for Piano Trio (1924) and piano trios by Arthur Foote (1907-08) and Amy Marcy Cheney Beach (1938). The evening will begin with a short curator’s talk at 7 p.m., followed by the concert at 7:30 p.m.
Pyxis members Luigi Mazzocchi (violin), Jennifer Jie Jin (cello), and Hiroko Yamazaki (piano) have chosen American music from the early 20th century, a period when the innovative Tiffany Studios were in full artistic flower. Amy Marcy Cheney Beach (1867-1944) was an accomplished pianist who was largely self-taught as a composer. She was a member of the legendary “Boston Six,” a group of influential American composers that also included Arthur Foote (1853-1937).
Foote was the first major classical American composer trained entirely in the United States. He was also a renowned organist and founder of the American Guild of Organists, an organization still thriving today. Ernest Bloch (1880-1959) was a pre-eminent Swiss-born composer who became an American citizen in 1924 who had a major U.S. teaching career. The concert also includes a contemporary work for violin and cello by Los Angeles composer Mark Summer.
Now in their 13th season, Pyxis musicians have been the Museum’s resident ensemble since being founded there in 2009. “There are no words to describe how inspiring it is to perform in the Museum’s galleries,” says the Trio. “Especially since our pandemic hiatus, we are so grateful to return to this exquisite setting, perfect for our chamber music!”
Music and art lovers can register for the March 31 concert at delart.org.
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 most comprehensive Pre-Raphaelite collection on display 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.
These two drawings are by Holly Trostle Brigham, part of an artist’s book tracing the life of Pre-Raphaelite muse, model, artist and poet Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal. The book is included in the exhibition,‘I Wake Again’: Holly Trostle Brigham on Elizabeth Siddal on view February 26 – May 29, 2022. Brigham, a Philadelphia based figure painter, recovers and champions the work of accomplished women from history. Her artistic practice combines thorough research, iconographic detail, and vivid imagination to re-present stories erased by the patriarchal past. In this exhibition, Brigham turns her eye to Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (1829-1862). Known today as a muse to Pre-Raphaelite artists, Siddal in fact created a significant body of visual and written work herself.
Brigham’s book includes poetry by Kim Bridgeford, which I found particularly compelling as I considered Siddal’s all too brief life. Until recently, Siddal’s life story has been reduced to a sexualized fixation with her brilliant red hair. In the poem “Autumn,” Bridgeford insightfully captures the burden of emotional and creative erasure which Siddal’s hair placed upon her both during and after her lifetime:
You take a feature: it is here
In a glimpse of bright red hair.
It could be something else, of course:
But in this read, it is the purse
That makes the story what it is.
Hair like this can make a business.
You don’t want to think that this is true:
You would like the truth to be of you,
Your talent, and you’re this and that.
Instead, the truth is random, but
We make the most of what is what.
It’s always been that way. The random
Is re-made to what is seldom
Talked about: the curl of autumn.
Siddal’s desire to become an artist pre-dated her association with the young Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood members, a fact that has been historically overlooked, along with the visual and written work she created during her lifetime. Once she began modeling, first for Walter Deverell’s Twelfth Night followed infamously by John Everett Millais’s Ophelia, it was Siddal’s hair, not her talent by which she was judged.
These two images by Holly Trostle Brigham capture the dichotomy between Siddal’s identity as an artist and how the world saw her. Creation shows a young Siddal at work on a drawing adhered to an easel placed before her. The composition of the drawing resembles Siddal’s own painting Madonna and Child with Angel. To the right, light streams in through a bottle glass window, a familiar detail of Pre-Raphaelite compositions. The second drawing, Resurrection, the only color image in Brigham’s book, is an expanded detail of Siddal’s hair. Red curls fill the picture plane, successfully obliterating any trace of the individual whose head it adorns.
The historic erasure of the individual, and of female creativity, is not unique to Siddal. The patriarchal nature of western culture has systemically omitted the contributions of women, artistic or otherwise. At the Delaware Art Museum, we are committed to acquiring new works and displaying special exhibitions featuring women artists and widening the stories we tell with art to build a more inclusive Museum.
Margaretta S Frederick
Annette Woolard-Provine Curator, Bancroft Pre-Raphaelite Collection
Join an upcoming Artist Talk at the Museum or a Virtual Art Chat to hear Holly Trostle Brigham speak about her images of Elizabeth Siddal.
Donald Camp vividly recalls reading the news of Emmett Till’s brutal murder in 1955. The artist had also recently celebrated his birthday in the summer of that year, turning 15 to Emmett Till’s 14.
The 14-year-old African American boy from Chicago was visiting his relatives in Mississippi when he was lynched after an accusation that he had whistled at a white woman. In September 1955, an all-white, all male jury found Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam not guilty for his murder. Mamie Till Mobley, Emmett Till’s mother, insisted on an open-casket funeral so that the violent treatment of his body, beaten beyond recognition, would be witnessed by the more than 50,000 people who attended the service. The response to his gruesome murder was one of horror, and as the story was widely shared—through publications like Jet magazine—the fight for civil rights grew in strength.
Camp’s powerful composition, Emmett Till / America 1955, pairs a photograph of Till—taken from a widely circulated portrait with his mother—with an image of the United States flag. Camp created the work by coating the glass panels with a photographic medium and then exposing the plates to the found imagery. The cracks throughout and yellow hue occurred when the artist allowed the material to bake in the sun. The appearance emphasizes the nearness of history, and the reflective nature of the work frames the viewer as an active participant in a critical moment in history. Through the pairing of Till’s youthful image with the flag, Camp invites the consideration of the rights supposedly afforded to American citizens and the severe, and often deadly, injustices that exist in this country.
Emmett Till / America 1955 is on view in the Lynn Herrick Sharp Gallery for Contemporary Art. Find more information about Donald Camp, including other works of art in the Museum’s collection, online.
The moon hangs low at the casement window. The red-haired woman – as the painting’s title explains, Elizabeth Siddal as Mariana – stares out from her desk, pale eyes piercing with exhaustion and defiance. Her hands cup her chin and elbow, a posture which echoes the figure from Dürer’s Melancholia, which she has spent the night copying. That figure sits with a measuring device, and the drawing measures her mood, is measured by the calipers that rest atop it, folds into the name of the play – Measure for Measure – that gave rise to the painting’s subject. But, as its creator Holly Trostle Brigham assures me, this nocturnal sketcher is no longer waiting. She has made it through the night, supported by inspiration from another artist – and now she looks up, because someone has come in.
Brigham’s painting is also inspired by another artist: Elizabeth Siddal. As Siddal did, Brigham picks apart a Tennyson poem and reimagines it in watercolour. Mariana was not depicted by Siddal (as far as her surviving corpus shows), nor was she a figure for whom Siddal posed, though both Siddal and Mariana were painted by Siddal’s Pre-Raphaelite contemporaries. This space lets Brigham make the subject her own, exploring contemporary and personal resonance alongside Siddal’s methods. Brigham’s Mariana was painted in the moated grange of lockdown, working through loneliness towards an uncertain future. But, though she may be aweary, Siddal-Mariana does not disappear in death. In the inspiration her creative work offers Brigham, and the new exhibition which draws on her practice, she wakes again.
I Wake Again: Holly Trostle Brigham on Elizabeth Siddal, opening at the Delaware Art Museum on February 26th, 2022, explores the ‘two voices’ of the contemporary feminist painter and the chaotic Victorian artist-poet. Elizabeth Siddal as Mariana appears alongside an artist’s book intertwining depictions of Siddal’s life with poetic responses by Kim Bridgford, a textile tangling Siddal’s initials into foliage, and a screen painted with the heroines of Spenser’s Faerie Queene. Sometimes Brigham’s work imagines the artist-poet at her easel, or alongside her husband and occasional collaborator Dante Gabriel Rossetti, or rapt in a book. Elsewhere, Brigham evokes Siddal as a precedent, making something after the fashion of a piece Siddal made, or could have made. The Faerie Queene screen applies Siddal’s medievalist methodology to a new literary source, whilst the box containing the artist’s book pays homage to the jewel box Siddal decorated for Jane Morris.
Brigham’s engagement with Siddal – artist to artist, recognising shared techniques and imaginative complexity – fascinates me, partly because I work in a similar way. My work is also inspired by Siddal’s creative practice, drawing on her disruptive impulses to produce queer readings of her art and poetry. I met Brigham whilst on the long-delayed, thoroughly wonderful Amy P. Goldman Pre-Raphaelite Fellowship at the University of Delaware and Delaware Art Museum, gathering research for my PhD thesis on Siddal.
So what is Siddal’s story? She was born in London in 1829, on July 25th – a birthday she shares with Brigham. In 1849, she showed her drawings to Walter Deverell senior, principal of the Government School of Design, and modelled for his son. Deverell junior was close with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, among whom Siddal found more modelling work. Her early artwork The Lady of Shalott (1853) shows Siddal altering the spelling of her surname – a common practice amongst Pre-Raphaelites embracing a new artistic identity. Siddal’s works on paper attracted John Ruskin’s patronage, allowing her to purchase paints to produce medievalist watercolours like Clerk Saunders and Lady Clare (both 1857). In 1857, her work was exhibited and purchased in Britain and America – whilst Siddal broke from the overbearing Ruskin and moved to study art in her ancestral Sheffield. Her movements are less well-known away from the Pre-Raphaelites. In 1860, she married Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and her known art production resumed: she planned an illustrated book with Georgiana Burne-Jones and helped decorate William Morris’s Red House. She became addicted to laudanum in or around 1860, suffered a stillbirth, and died of a laudanum overdose on February 11th 1862. She also wrote poetry, in largely untitled manuscripts which remained private until after her death.
ILL. #2: Sketch for ‘La Belle Dame sans merci’, c. 1855. Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (1829–1862). Graphite on paper, image: 4 1/8 × 2 7/8 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Acquisition Fund, 2007.
The Delaware Art Museum has a rich Pre-Raphaelite collection, including some Siddal works. Brigham has long admired Pre-Raphaelite art, and brings her art-historical background to bear on her creative interpretation of this complex, jewel-toned, deeply literary artistic legacy. In the world of the Pre-Raphaelites, the hierarchy of media is unsettled, and books, decorative arts and easel paintings intertwine in a creative conversation. It’s a dynamic which informs the fascinating interplay between the pieces – from paintings to textiles to tiles – in Brigham’s exhibition.
Researching Siddal amidst the Pre-Raphaelites has, as Brigham explains, been an educative experience. She relishes Siddal’s complicated compositions, her ambition, her dynamic lines and diagonals, her penchant (which Brigham shares) for using herself as a model. Brigham has discovered new texts through Siddal’s unusual subjects. Indeed, both artists’ works affirm the power of text – which Siddal espouses in her literary source material, and Brigham explores through her artist’s books. For Siddal, words are ripe for pictorial reimagining; for Brigham, they clarify her art’s feminist message. Though few of Siddal’s personal papers survive, leaving little record of her discussing her work with others, Brigham is eager to start conversations – to reward this jet-lagged scholar’s aweary ‘Why Mariana?’ with talk of measures and Melancholia. Brigham’s work, like Siddal’s, offers viewers this chance to be curious, to discover, to delve into a myriad of small details and be rewarded tenfold for your interest.
I started with a painting, and I end with a box, patterned with the Four Seasons and the artist’s EES. Inside, Brigham has placed three things. There are pages from another Tennyson poem, a sketchbook – the artist’s book – and a bottle of dried pigment. There’s potential – for the poem to become a sketch, for the sketches to become paintings, for the pigment to become the paint – but there’s also the resources to realise this potential. The inspiration, the materials and the production. Here, and throughout, Brigham pays homage to Siddal as a creative force, whilst her own creativity shines through in every brilliant, meticulous detail. The act of making art is foregrounded and celebrated – as a wonder, a comfort, a reawakening.
‘Nat Reeve is a PhD candidate at Royal Holloway, University of London, working on queer reading the art and poetry of Elizabeth Siddal. They are also a novelist: their debut Neo-Victorian novel Nettleblack will be published in 2022 by Cipher Press, and isavailable for pre-order. Nat was the 2020/2021 Amy P. Goldman Pre-Raphaelite Fellow.’
With fervent thanks to Holly Trostle Brigham for a wonderful discussion, and Margaretta S. Frederick and Mark Samuels Lasner for their covid-defying patience with the Fellowship.
Ernest Crichlow was born in 1914 in Brooklyn, New York and passed in 2005. He was an African American painter, illustrator, and graphic artist. He won a scholarship to the Commercial Illustration School of Arts which he attended for three years during the height of the Great Depression. Crichlow was an advocate for new and established African American artists. Crichlow, together with Romare Bearden and Norman Lewis, founded the Cinque gallery in 1969. His works have appeared in exhibitions in the Mid-Atlantic and beyond for several decades.
Figurative paintings composed the majority of Crichlow’s work. He studied people in his Brooklyn neighborhood as inspiration. Waiting, like many of his other pieces, features an African American girl as the primary subject. Crichlow intentionally placed African American women and girls as central components in his works, as they are often underrepresented and devalued in life and art.
Ernest Crichlow’s Waiting (1968) is breathtaking and moving. The portrait of a young Black girl gazing out behind a barbed wire fence evokes many feelings. The young girl’s expression is one of anticipation, hope, and sorrow. This piece was created during the period of the Civil Rights Movement and in the year Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a prominent leader of the Civil Rights Movement, was assassinated. For centuries, African Americans had been told to wait for freedom, equality, and civil rights. The movement shook the nation and made it clear through various events that African Americans were tired of waiting. Changes and actions needed to be made, whether America was ready for change or not.
Crichlow’s decision to depict a young African American girl with a dark complexion instead of a young boy or an adult adds an extra layer of meaning to the print. The subject’s gender and age symbolize innocence. The viewer notices her expression and respectable, clean white dress and styled hair. The child’s clear innocence and neat presentation create a strong juxtaposition with the barbed wire, raising questions for the viewer. Waiting asks viewers to ponder the social, cultural, and political implications of the times this work was created in, and its meaning today.
Graduate Student in History and Museum Studies, University of Delaware
For this most recent Delaware Art Museum commission, Charles Edward Williams commemorated the life of Alice Dunbar-Nelson, the poet and political activist who spent most of her career writing and lecturing in Wilmington. The works of art are displayed alongside historical portraits in the Museum’s early American galleries until February 6, 2022. An intervention of sorts into this gallery space, Williams’ exhibition honors the life of this important literary figure as her image joins the faces of others in the room.
Artist Charles Edwards Williams’ recent projects draw on historical photography of the Civil Rights Movement. Pairing vibrant colors with distinct portraits, Williams establishes an emotional connection between the image and the viewer. When exploring Alice Dunbar-Nelson’s life, Williams began by surveying Dunbar-Nelson’s diaries, photographs, and published works.
Alice Dunbar-Nelson’s life spanned many significant historical events. She was born in New Orleans just ten years after Union troops arrived in Texas on June 19, 1865 to declare the freedom of enslaved Black people in that state, a date we now mark as Juneteenth. She witnessed the ratification of the women’s right to vote in 1920, as well as World War I, and the Great Depression. Throughout her poetry and personal writing, Dunbar-Nelson reflected on these, and many other, key social and cultural moments. Williams was drawn to Dunbar-Nelson’s frustration with the hindrances of a male-dominated world and her determination to actively respond to the first World War. His multimedia work, I Sit and Sew, explores this tension. Referencing Dunbar-Nelson’s 1918 poem of the same name, Williams’ seven-panel piece layers the etched lines of her poem over paintings of her image. Across the star-patterned linen support, Williams has stitched the words, I Sit and Sew. The artist used the physical act of sewing as an interpretation of Dunbar-Nelson’s poem and her desire to aid in the war efforts. She writes,
My soul in pity flings
Appealing cries, yearning only to go
There in that holocaust of hell, those fields of woe—
But—I must sit and sew.
When faced with this inner conflict, both writer and artist chose a seemingly tedious task that has historically been considered women’s work. Interestingly, embroidery was used as a form of therapy for soldiers wounded during World War I. Williams describes the meditative work as “spiritual, reflective, and transformative.” With each stitch, progress is made.
In Wish You Were Here, Williams follows Dunbar-Nelson’s travels and leisure time fishing along the banks of the Mississippi, Platt, Mystic, and Potomac Rivers. The artist’s paintings of her are less formal, more intimate, and over them Williams used fishing line to trace the shape of the rivers. In this way, Williams makes the literary giant approachable.
Williams’ I AM (Queen), is the most formal portrait of Alice Dunbar-Nelson, and elements within the composition are layered with meaning. The treatment of her dress references her racial background growing up in a Creole community in Louisiana. Dunbar-Nelson’s mother was Black and her father was white, and the poet wrote about her experience navigating two racial identities. The transition from the darker to lighter fabric across her shoulders indicates the barriers she felt connecting to both races.
Charles Edward Williams reflected on this project:
As an American visionary, writer, and political activist, Alice Dunbar-Nelson sought after the truth of the human spirit and the vast wonders of togetherness. In her challenging circumstances, she remained faithful to self-discovery and shared those tender truths for helping us, humans, find our way.
Socially confined and racially unbound, her plight for redeeming souls became the forefront of her vision. In a world where she felt alone, she shared in her writings what it felt to be connected. Each day, we must have the inner strength to learn to become part of a more significant cause for others and, more importantly, for ourselves.
David Kim wrote about the poet and political activist:
Alice Dunbar-Nelson (1875-1935) is one of the most important figures in the canon of Black women writers. Born in New Orleans, she moved to Wilmington, Delaware where she lived a life of letters and activism. She wrote poems, short stories, essays, novels, and a nationally syndicated column, all in her unique voice that often challenged both the literary conventions and the political alignments of her time. As an activist and educator, she organized the women’s suffrage movement, headed the anti-lynching activism, and founded schools in advocacy for Black girls. She often wrote passionately about Wilmington, as her home and cause.
A sampling of Dunbar-Nelson’s poetry can be found online.
About the Artist
Charles Edward Williams was born in 1984 in Georgetown, South Carolina. Williams completed his bachelor of fine arts degree at the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2006 and his master of fine arts degree from the University of North Carolina in Greensboro in 2017. Between 2016 and 2019, Williams attended residencies at the Otis College of Art and Design and SOMA Mexico City. Additionally, he was an artist-in-residence at the Gibbes Museum of Art and the McColl Center of Art and Innovation.
Williams has received numerous awards and grants for his work including a Mississippi Humanities Council Grant and a National Endowment for the Arts Grant. Solo exhibitions of Williams’ projects have been presented at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts in Grand Rapids and the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, among others. He has participated in group shows at the Knoxville Museum of Art, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, and Allentown Art Museum, among other galleries and museums across the United States and abroad. Williams is represented in numerous collections including the Mississippi Museum of Art, 21c Museum Hotels, the North Carolina Museum of Art, and the Petrucci Family Collection of African American Art.
Photograph by Mitchell Kearney.
Alma Thomas’ Spring-Delightful Flower Bed (1967) provides an excellent introduction to the genre of abstract expressionism and more specifically, to the work of the Washington Color School. Developed in the 1940s and 50s, abstract expressionism remained an influential style in American artistic circles through the 1970s. The movement focused on the idea of instinctual or subconscious painting, pulling away from replication by emphasizing automatic gestures. Famous participants include Jackson Pollock’s splattered “action-paintings” and Mark Rothko’s color fields, where large spans of a single tone dominated the canvas.
Inspired by these works, the Washington Color School followed slightly behind its New York City-based predecessor. Led by Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland, the group focused on color-field painting. Notably, the Washington Color School artists were not fully aligned with the abstract expressionists as they did not rely on automatic painting, instead developing new techniques. However, the two are closely tied in chronology and methodology in other ways. They both focus on colorful stripes and shapes without engaging directly with figural representation, generating distinctive and complex styles of abstraction.
Alma Woodsey Thomas (1891-1978), the creator of Spring-Delightful Flower Bed (1967), turned to abstraction in 1960 after retiring from her career as a public-school art teacher in Washington D.C. Educated at Howard University and Columbia University, she was a skilled painter throughout her life, drawing inspiration from flowers and the natural world around her. Despite focusing on figural work previously, the bold, striking shapes in her abstract art style allowed her to innovate artistically even though she had developed arthritis in her hands. As a participant in the Washington Color School tradition, Thomas mastered the use of color, concentrating on the evocative and powerful ways in which people relate to different tones and shapes. Over the 20 years Thomas worked in this style, she created her own distinctive technique, juxtaposing bright tones in rainbow-like images. Reminiscent of watercolor paintings, labyrinths, and planetary figures, her work transcends representation and speaks to a wide variety of visual influences from the Impressionists to the German Bauhaus, intermingling with the development of gestural abstract art. Her characteristic, kaleidoscopic brushwork calls both to the luminous color-field paintings of her predecessors, as well as speaking to her fascination with nature, gardens, and space exploration.
As a long-term public-school educator, Thomas believed strongly in the ability of art to empower people and in the radical idea of beauty produced by the innovative practices of Black artists. Her incredible skill earned her high praise and accolades. Spring-Delightful Flower Bed was featured as the cover of Crisis Magazine, the NAACP’s publication, and her paintings are now found in institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the White House Collection. Although not as politically focused as some of her contemporaries, Thomas’ work serves as a critical moment within American aesthetics, bringing attention to the excellence of Black abstract artists working in mid-century America.
Lois F. McNeil Fellow Winterthur Program in American Material Culture
As we re-emerge post-COVID, I like many have been wistfully thinking about travel. This painting by Royal Academician George Frederic Watts was begun while on holiday in the late summer of 1876 on the Isle of Wight. Watts began two portraits of Eveleen Tennant (1856-1937), or Evy as she was known throughout her life, and a third of her sister Dorothy (or Dolly). The Isle of Wight was a popular destination for members of the Holland Park Circle, an informal group of aesthetic-minded artists and collectors centered around Watts. Members included many of the Pre-Raphaelite coterie.
In celebration of this painting, a new publication, Evy: George Frederic Watts’s Portrait of Eveleen Tennant written by scholar Kedrun Laurie is now available in the Museum store. This extended essay is being published as one in a continuing (if sporadic) series called an “Occasional Paper,” a tradition initiated to highlight particular aspects of the Museum’s collection and archives. We are particularly grateful for the assistance of the Clark Family Foundation in support of this volume.
Eveleen, or “Evy” as she was known all her life, and her sister Dorothy (“Dolly”) were great beauties, a bit eccentric and “not the least conventional” as described by Dr. Laurie and as is evident in the portrait. The work was left unfinished when the Tennant family left the Isle of Wight to return to London in October and was not taken up again until the fall of 1879. Watts kept the finished portrait until 1900 when he decided to sell it through the London dealer Agnews. It was at this time that the portrait came to the attention of Samuel Bancroft who purchased it for his collection which came to the museum by bequest in 1935.
Eveleen Tennant married Frederick William Henry Meyers in 1880 after which she took up photography. Her portraits of many well-known contemporaries can be found in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London.
Dr. Laurie’s book is available in the Museum Store and online. It is full of new information and intriguing details about the sitter, the artist, and the portrait’s passage over time into the collection of the Delaware Art Museum.
Margaretta S. Frederick
Annette Woolard-Provine Curator of the Bancroft Collection
Hinook-Mahiwi-Kalinaka, also known as Angel De Cora, was a Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) artist, designer, and educator. Born on the Winnebago Reservation in Nebraska in 1868 or 1869, she was forcibly removed from the reservation (“caught wild,” as she called it) to the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institution in Virginia when she was around 14 years old (Waggoner 2008, 270n6). After graduating she attended Smith College and then Drexel Institute to study illustration under Howard Pyle, who would later recall De Cora as one of his most talented pupils.
Left to right: Wigwam Stories told by North American Indians, by Mary Catherine Judd (Boston: Ginn & Company, 1901), Special Collections, Helen Farr Sloan Library and Archives, Delaware Art Museum. | Yellow Star, by Elaine Goodale Eastman (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1911), Special Collections, Helen Farr Sloan Library and Archives, Delaware Art Museum. | The Indians’ Book, by Natalie Curtis (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1923), Special Collections, Helen Farr Sloan Library and Archives, Delaware Art Museum.
Throughout her career, De Cora illustrated and designed the covers for several books, including Yellow Star, Wigwam Stories, and The Indians’ Book by White ethnomusicologist Natalie Curtis. For the latter, De Cora was hired to design several parts of the book including the cover, which she based on a parfleche (a rawhide case used to carry objects) painted by Cheyenne artist Wihunahe (Chief Woman). She also designed the title page, its significance described in detail by Chippewa artist and designer Neebinnaukzhik Southall:
The title-page, by Angel De Cora, (Hinook Mahiwi Kilinaka), has for the motive of its design an adaption of an old Indian design which represents in highly conventionalized form the Eagle, and the Eagle’s Song. The soaring eagle is seen in the grey figure whose points are the two out-spread wings, with the tail in the centre. The paler spot at the top of the figure is the eagle’s head; from the beak rises the song – waving lines which broaden out as the song floats on the air. The whole symbol is used in decorative form throughout the page, two eagles being joined together by the tips of wings and tails to form a symmetrical design. In the centre of the page, at the top and bottom, and at the sides, is seen the eagle-symbol, while the page is framed, as it were, in the symbol of the song.
The eagle is loved and revered by the Indians. He is the strongest of all birds. He soars aloft, and he may look upon the sun, the giver of life, the celestial emblem of divine force. Therefore has the symbol of the Eagle and the Eagle’s Song been chosen for the title-page of “The Indians’ Book” (2020, par. 6).
Title page for The Indians’ Book, by Natalie Curtis (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1923). Angel De Cora (c. 1868-1919). Special Collections, Helen Farr Sloan Library and Archives, Delaware Art Museum.
Perhaps her most notable contributions to The Indians’ Book are the title page decorations for the chapters, which are inspired by specific tribal legends and songs. The publishers were expecting the designs to be the same for each chapter, but De Cora surprised them by creating distinctive lettering based upon each tribe’s own motifs. Southall explains the design of De Cora’s Winnebago title page:
For the Winnebago title page, DeCora created an illustration based on loom beadwork made with glass seed beads, likely based on a garter worn around the knees to hold up leggings, or perhaps an armband. The center of the design is depicted in detail, which then fades out to strings rendered in a wash. The pattern is very typical for Great Lakes tribes, and is also seen in Anishinaabe designs [. . .]. DeCora’s letters draw from the beadwork design, not only in the green and orange color scheme, but also in their use of square motifs as anchors flanked by triangles. DeCora also uses the stepped form in most of the letters, notably the K, and the jagged floral-like form in several letters — the two Es, the W, and G (2020, par. 17).
Chapter title page lettering for The Indians’ Book, by Natalie Curtis (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1923). Angel De Cora (c. 1868-1919). Special Collections, Helen Farr Sloan Library and Archives, Delaware Art Museum.
Curtis would later write that the publishers were so pleased with De Cora’s work that they paid her more than she was expecting.
In 1906 De Cora accepted the position as art teacher at Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania on the condition that she “shall not be expected to teach in the white man’s way, but shall be given complete liberty to develop the art of my own race and to apply this, as far as possible, to various forms of art industries and crafts” (Curtis 1920, 65). Throughout her nine years at Carlisle, De Cora revamped the curriculum to do just that, teaching her students that their inherent artistic talent was worthy of recognition and deserving of a place in the larger arena of American art.
De Cora died in 1919 of pneumonia brought on by the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. In a memorial published in The Outlook, Curtis wrote, “The death of Angel De Cora, the first Indian artist to express in the white man’s world what her people might become, should rouse us to a keener realization of the significance of her conviction: ‘My people are a race of designers. I look for the day when the Indian shall make beautiful things for all the world’” (Curtis 1920, 65).
References and Further Reading:
Curtis, Natalie. “An American Indian Artist.” The Outlook, January 14, 1920, 64-66.
De Cora, Angel. “Angel DeCora—An Autobiography.” The Red Man by Red Men, March 1911, 279-80, 285.
Southall, Neebinnaukzhik. “This Just In: Angel DeCora’s The Indians’ Book and Wigwam Stories.” December 7, 2020. https://letterformarchive.org/news/view/angel-decoras-lettering-in-the-indians-book
Waggoner, Linda. Fire Light: The Life of Angel De Cora, Winnebago Artist. Norman, OK: Oklahoma University Press, 2008.
Top image: Angel De Cora, c. 1897. Anna W. Hoopes’ photo album, 1897 – c. 1898, Frank E. Schoonover Manuscript Collection, Helen Farr Sloan Library and Archives, Delaware Art Museum.
Though Percy Eugene Ricks, Jr. began what would be a long career in arts and education in Wilmington in 1947, the roots of what would become Aesthetic Dynamics, Inc. took hold in the mid-1960s. It was in 1964 that Ricks began teaching at P. S. DuPont High School as the art and humanities instructor. Four years later, he was still there during the uprising that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and National Guard occupation of Wilmington. By creating Aesthetics Dynamics and curating Afro-American Images 1971, Ricks nurtured a group of Wilmington’s dedicated arts and culture professionals. In doing so, he created an innovative model that addressed the needs of the African American and artistic community in the city circa 1970.
Left to right: Photograph of Simmie Knox (center) during Afro-American Images 1971 installation, Wilmington Armory, Delaware, 1971. Photograph by Photographers Collaborative (Woldemar Shock and Richard Carter). | Photograph of Gertrude Redden Jenkins (left) and others during Afro-American Images 1971 opening, Wilmington Armory, Delaware, 1971. Photograph by Photographers Collaborative (Woldemar Shock and Richard Carter).
Ricks’ first position in Wilmington was as an art teacher at the Absalom Jones School in 1947, and in October 1948 he was employed as the first full-time African American art instructor in the city’s school district. Ricks quickly immersed himself in the cultural fabric of the city and began to establish the networks that would later support Aesthetic Dynamics’s membership. He exhibited his work with Edward Loper Sr. and served on the planning committee for the development of F. D. Stubbs Elementary School, where he would later teach. Ricks also became active in the Delaware Fine Arts Council, serving as chairman in 1959. Education was at the core of his work. He chaired the planning committee for Stubbs Day (established in 1960 to celebrate the life of Dr. Frederick Douglass Stubbs, the elementary school’s namesake). In 1961, he was a member of Studio Ten. Other members included Robert C. Moore, Theodore Wells I, Gertrude Jenkins, Marilyn Rittenhouse, Muriel Cooper, Marie Goss, and C. Charles Carmichael. Such were Ricks’s networks when he started at P. S. DuPont High School in 1964.
Photograph of Carol Shrier Reed during Afro-American Images 1971 installation, Wilmington Armory, Delaware, 1971. Photograph by Photographers Collaborative (Woldemar Shock and Richard Carter).
In 1968, in addition to teaching, Ricks was in a critical position as program consultant for the Greater Wilmington Development Council. He shared with his mentor, James A. Porter, that plans had begun as early as 1965 to shift the focus of the then Christina Community Center of Old Swedes from recreational programming toward what Ricks saw as a dire need: integrated support of the visual and performing arts for greater New Castle County. Informed by more than 20 years’ work in arts and education in Wilmington, and a summer 1968 feasibility study, Ricks embarked on a holistic development and evaluation process to establish a program that would meet the needs of all ages in personal and cultural growth. His “Wilmington Visual and Performing Arts Center” model addressed new media (television), African American history, theater workshops, and gallery space, for example. Ricks believed that by nurturing first the “various ethnic groups in the immediate community which have made cultural contributions to our society” and then expanding “to encompass a knowledge of worldwide ethnic groups and their contributions to the society of man,” the entirety of Wilmington’s social and cultural life would be enhanced. As Ricks continued to develop and expand the description of the Christina Cultural Arts Center’s programming, he specified emotional, intellectual, aesthetic, perceptual, physical, and social growth as objectives.
Photograph of (left to right) Delilah W. Pierce, Alma Thomas, and Dorothy Porter with Larry Erskine Thomas’ Africa—The Source during Afro-American Images 1971 opening, Wilmington Armory, Delaware, 1971. Photograph by Photographers Collaborative (Woldemar Shock and Richard Carter).
To begin to understand Ricks’s goals for the 1971 exhibition, it is useful to examine his motivations in establishing an entity with the tagline, “creative use of the arts and sciences for humanity.” Numerous factors likely led to the founding of Aesthetic Dynamics and its ambitious first project, but the 1968 occupation of Wilmington was a probable key local influence. The city’s residents joined in the national mourning of the loss of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968. When the community’s response escalated, the National Guard was activated, and remained in the city for nine months, constituting the longest occupation of a U.S. city following King’s murder. Tensions from the prolonged military presence, coupled with the flight of many downtown residents to the suburbs, created for some a culture of fear and uncertainty about venturing into the city. Such anxieties were mitigated through various solutions initiated by government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private individuals, such as Ricks.
With the traumatic events of 1968 still fresh, Ricks and the group of dedicated arts professionals established Aesthetic Dynamics and conceptualized a major exhibition to connect the local community with the contemporary contributions of Black artists. Of equal significance for Ricks was a means to publicly recognize and celebrate several distinguished individuals in the field. The exhibition was dedicated to his mentor James Porter, who had passed away on February 28, 1970. Romare Bearden, Loïs Mailou Jones, and Hale Woodruff each received an honorarium for their contributions to the arts and humanities at the February 5 opening events.
Photograph of Dr. Albert J. Carter and guest with James A. Porter’s Self-Portrait (1957), Shattered Mirror (1955), and Spanish Man with Ribbon (date unknown) during Afro-American Images 1971 opening, Wilmington Armory, Delaware, 1971. Photograph by Photographers Collaborative (Woldemar Shock and Richard Carter).
Descriptions of Afro-American Images 1971 and its objectives from the time vary. The newly founded Delaware State Arts Council was the lead sponsor, and council coordinator Polly Buck announced it as the first original exhibition of art by African Americans in the state. The Wilmington Armory (where the guard was housed during the 1968 occupation) hosted the exhibition, and while rentals were common, the art exhibition, which the writer compared to the 1913 New York Armory show, was a first. The space was selected for its size, location, and status as a community space, with Ricks noting that, “The armory is a place where you can walk in regardless of how you are dressed, unlike a museum.” Afro-American Images 1971 represented the creation of a space for Black artists who were largely excluded from major arts institutions and an experience for Black museumgoers who, in 1971, were likely still experiencing de factor segregation in many parts of the United States, Wilmington included.
Listed on the exhibition pricelist and the catalogue’s title page are the names of Aesthetic Dynamics members, with whom Ricks had established deep connections. Writers, dancers, visual and performing artists who served as teachers, cultural promoters, and social activists gathered to realize Afro-American Images 1971. Poet Lula Cooper published in Wilmington’s The People’s Pulse and was a member of the executive committee of the Concerned Citizens, a multiracial group dedicated to protesting businesses in Wilmington with discriminatory practices in the mid-1960s. Additionally an artist and civil and social justice activist, Cooper served as director of the YWCA Delaware, among other positions. Gertrude Jenkins was a graduate of Delaware State University, settling in Wilmington in 1960 to teach physical education and dance in the public school system. As an active member of Aesthetic Dynamics and Play Crafters, she became a well-known choreographer in Delaware and Pennsylvania. She taught at P.S. DuPont High School for several years and was there when Afro-American Images 1971 was staged. Also at the school was Carol Shrier Reed, an art teacher who shared an office with Ricks. Reed felt Ricks’s plans for Aesthetic Dynamics and the inaugural exhibition were significant, especially considering the recent National Guard occupation. Reed recalls Ricks speaking of the timeliness and urgency to celebrate Black creativity. As an Aesthetic Dynamics member, Reed traveled with Ricks to pick up work from participating artists and helped assemble the partition walls and install the show at the Wilmington Armory. Reed’s father, Alfred, and sister, Linda, assisted with fundraising and marketing of the exhibition.
Photograph of (left to right) Loïs Mailou Jones, Dr. Albert J. Carter, Delilah W. Pierce, and others during Afro-American Images 1971 opening, Wilmington Armory, Delaware, 1971. Photograph by Photographers Collaborative (Woldemar Shock and Richard Carter).
Photographer Woldemar Shock taught social studies at P. S. DuPont High School, where he met Ricks. In addition to assisting with the installation of Afro-American Images 1971 as an Aesthetic Dynamics member, Shock photographed the works of art for the exhibition catalogue and gathered invaluable documentation of the project, capturing the assembly of the show as well as the opening. Shock’s pictures comprise the greatest visual archive of the exhibition, showing how it was configured in the Wilmington Armory’s vast drill hall and capturing key individuals in attendance like Dr. Albert J. Carter, Loïs Mailou Jones, Delilah W. Pierce, Dorothy Porter, Alma Thomas, and Governor Russell W. Peterson, among others.
Aesthetic Dynamics member Jane Laskaris, on staff at Delaware State University, taught psychology, and her husband, painter Leo Laskaris, taught art at Stanton Central Elementary School. Member Barbara Greenhill was an art instructor at Tatnall School, and Simmie Knox—a key member and collaborator of Ricks—taught art at Howard High School with Robert C. Moore.
Photograph of Governor Russell W. Peterson and Percy Eugene Ricks during Afro-American Images 1971 opening, Wilmington Armory, Delaware, 1971. Photograph by Photographers Collaborative (Woldemar Shock and Richard Carter).
Perhaps the most fitting way to conclude this essay is by briefly acknowledging the longevity of Ricks’s creative undertaking. Aesthetic Dynamics continues to this day, 50 years after its founding, and over those many years, the collective has presented visual and performance arts programs that celebrate Black creativity. Ricks was explicit in asserting that Afro-American Images 1971 was not assembled for political purposes, but rather with the intention to “make the public, both [B]lack and white, aware of the wealth of artistic power and talent found in Black America.” The group’s membership has grown, fed by arts educators and advocates like Arnold Hurtt, Rita Volkens, Valerie Kennedy, B. Ben Pearce, and Carl Vincent Williams. It is a living entity, a model that shifts to meet the needs of Delaware’s communities, utilizing the “creative use of the arts and science” as inspiration.
1. Percy Ricks, “The Wilmington Visual and Performing Arts Center,” 4, Rose Library, Emory University Archives, James A. Porter, collection no. 1139, box 43, folder 3.
2. Ruth Jillya Kaplan, “75 Black Artists—And Guard’s the Host,” Evening Journal (Wilmington, DE), January 26, 1971, 21.
3. Percy Ricks, “Introduction,” in Afro-American Images 1971 (Wilmington, DE: Aesthetic Dynamics, Inc.), 3.
Top: Photograph of Percy Eugene Ricks with unknown painting, 1970. Courtesy of JENN and Associates.
I had the pleasure of leading two “Inside Look” gallery talks at the Delaware Art Museum this September on Randolph Rogers’s sculpture Ruth Gleaning (c.1850). Museum visitors and I were fortunate to have the opportunity to gather in-person to discuss Rogers’s work, in the Museum’s recently reimagined American art galleries. As a graduate student studying nineteenth-century American art—and the artworks of Rogers in particular—I was thrilled to interact with Museum visitors and spend time looking closely at the sculpture. Together, we discussed the narrative depicted, Rogers’s practice abroad, and the technical aspects of carving marble. More broadly, examining Ruth led us to consider evolving tastes in American sculpture, and why Rogers’s work was exceptionally admired in the nineteenth century.
Ruth Gleaning illustrates a story from the Book of Ruth in the Old Testament. A Moabite widow, Ruth accompanied her mother-in-law Naomi, also a widow, to Bethlehem. Searching for food after they arrive, Ruth resorts to picking remnants of grain from the recently harvested field of Boaz, a wealthy landowner. Boaz spots Ruth and goes to see her, inviting her to continue to harvest in his fields. Taken by Ruth’s selflessness, loyalty, and beauty, Boaz falls in love. The two eventually marry and have a son named Obed, an ancestor of David.
Rogers’s sculpture depicts the moment when Ruth meets Boaz for the first time. Crouched on the floor with wheat in her arms, Ruth pauses her labor and looks up at her future husband. Although many other sculptors portrayed Ruth, Rogers distinctively captured a fleeting moment of heightened emotional tension, allowing viewers to connect with his subject in new ways.
Rogers travelled to Florence in 1847 to study with the Italian Neoclassical sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini. He modeled Ruth in clay in 1850, shortly before he set up his studio in Rome in 1851. Ruth Gleaning was his first important work and secured his place within a colony of American artists working in Italy. Rome offered American sculptors unparalleled resources: training by Italian artists, access to marble, collections of classical works of art, and trained artisans. For Rogers, the latter was essential; like many of his fellow countrymen, Rogers did not know how to carve marble. He relied on skilled workmen to execute his designs in stone. His studio functioned almost like a factory, with teams of artisans responsible for each component of the sculpting process. As a result, Rogers was able to produce as many as fifty copies of Ruth Gleaning over the course of his career.
As museumgoers and I began to look closely at the sculpture, we noticed its technical sophistication. One participant pointed to the realism of Ruth’s toes, which appear curled to bear the weight of her pose. Another identified the convincing way in which Rogers had rendered her hair, which cascades over her left shoulder, as well as the foliage below her feet. The drapery was notable, too, imbued with a sense of weight and naturalism that revealed the contours of Ruth’s body. We discussed how Rogers was known for combining elements of realism and neoclassicism, the prevailing style at the time. Details like her idealized facial features, partial nudity, and drapery derived from the antique. Rogers drew upon classical sculptures like Crouching Venus for his composition, utilizing local collections in Rome to his advantage.
Most striking to museum visitors was Rogers’s proficiency as a storyteller. Folded over like the wheat she holds, Ruth’s pose corresponded to the nineteenth-century ideology of “true womanhood,” which related a woman’s virtue to submissiveness, humility, and domesticity. Interestingly, many of Rogers’s patrons were women, who ordered sculptures like Ruth Gleaning to reclaim control over and redomesticate their homes in the years following the Civil War. Statues like Ruth Gleaning were not only markers of wealth and status but also reflections of the virtuousness of their owners. As tastes in sculpture changed and the New Woman movement emerged in the 1880s, however, such ideals were threatened. Indeed, by the early 1900s, Rogers’s sculpture had found its way into a popular tourist destination in New York City: an Italian restaurant named Mama Leone’s.
Now on view at the Delaware Art Museum, the sculpture can be seen in a new light once again. Carved in Rogers’s studio in Rome, Ruth crossed the Atlantic to the United States, taking on new meanings over the course of the sculpture’s life. As museumgoers and I examined Ruth Gleaning, we began to uncover the many ways in which Rogers’s sculpture continues to tell stories even today.
Ph.D. Candidate, Art History, University of Delaware
In January 1894 author and artist George du Maurier took the world by storm with the first installment of his serialized novel, Trilby. The saga of the doomed artist’s model, which featured illustrations by du Maurier, appeared in eight installments in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, each issue selling out rapidly. In September 1894 Trilby was released in book form and by February 1895 had sold over 200,000 copies in the United States alone, making it one of the best-selling novels of the Victorian era.
Wistful and sweet, from Trilby, by George du Maurier (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1895). M. G. Sawyer Collection of Decorative Bindings, Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum.
Set in the 1850s in bohemian Paris, the story follows the lives of the title character, an artist’s model said to have “the handsomest foot in Paris,” her love interest, artist Little Billee, and a musician named Svengali. Smitten by Trilby’s beauty and wanting to possess her, Svengali puts her under his spell with his powers of hypnotism, making the previously tone-deaf model an accomplished singer who performs all over the world in an amnesiac trance. Svengali keeps Trilby in this trance for five years, cutting her off from Little Billee, her true love, and ruining her health. Of course, this sensational tale has an equally melodramatic ending, with Svengali dying of a heart attack, Trilby dying of a nervous affliction, and Little Billee dying of a broken heart.
The popularity of Trilby is impossible to overstate. Author and poet Margaret Sangster acknowledged the profound effect it had on popular culture in her 1894 Harper’s Weekly article, “Trilby from a Woman’s Point of View”:
There are not a few people who will remember the first half of 1894, not for the hard times, nor for the strikes, nor the yacht-races, nor any other thing of public interest or private concern, so much as for the pleasure they had in reading Trilby. Never before did the month intervening between installments seem so long, nor did so many readers anxiously await the next development.
By the end of 1894 Trilby was a cultural phenomenon that had permeated nearly every facet of society, from fashion (Trilby-inspired shoes, hats, and—coinciding with another craze of the times—bicycling costumes) to housewares (foot-shaped toothpick holders and snuff boxes), to food (ice cream and even sausages in the shape of a foot).
Advertisement for The Trilby from the Montgomery Ward & Company Catalogue & Buyers’ Guide, 1895. Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum.
Of course, nothing this popular is safe from satire, and Trilby was no exception. The odd story of a woman’s beautiful feet inspired countless parodies, including an operatic burlesque called Thrilby: A Shocker in One Scene and Several Spasms, an amateur play by John Sloan and his friends called Twillbe, and a novel called Billtry, in which the title character is a male model with very long feet. Instead of becoming an accomplished singer, like Trilby, Billtry is taught to play the accordion with his feet while standing on his head by the evil Mrs. Snively.
A gentleman . . . standing on his head on a footstool, from Billtry, by Mary Kyle Dallas (New York: The Merriam Company, 1895). Carol Jording Rare Book Acquisition Fund, Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum.
In the collections of the Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives we find a few examples of these spoofs: the John Sloan Manuscript Collection contains photographs, a playbill, ticket, and script of Twillbe, performed at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in December 1894 by Sloan (as Twillbe), Robert Henri (as Svengali), C. S. Williamson (as George Domarryher), and Everett Shinn (as James McNails Whiskers). Note Sloan’s enormous foot in the photograph!
Ticket and playbill for the performance of Twillbe at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, December 1894. John Sloan Manuscript Collection, Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum.
Photograph of John Sloan as Twillbe, 1894. John Sloan Manuscript Collection, Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum.
We also have a copy of the novel Billtry, which is what I find the most exciting as the cover design itself is a parody of the original 1895 design for Trilby attributed to artist Margaret Armstrong. The Armstrong cover features references to the plot of the novel, including a book and quill, an artist’s palette, and a winged heart caught in a spider’s web, meant to symbolize Svengali’s ensnaring of Trilby and her inability to escape him. The parody cover, rendered by an unknown artist, looks very similar at first glance. Upon closer inspection, however, we see that an accordion and jug of wine have replaced the book and quill (a nod to Billtry’s ability to play the accordion with his feet), a pig with wings has replaced the palette (a reference to the phrase “when pigs fly,” meaning something that is impossible), and a pair of large feet have replaced the heart.
Left: Trilby, by George du Maurier (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1895). M. G. Sawyer Collection of Decorative Bindings, Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum. Right: Billtry, by Mary Kyle Dallas (New York: The Merriam Company, 1895). Carol Jording Rare Book Acquisition Fund, Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum.
Though Trilby brought du Maurier fame and fortune, it also brought him an untimely death; some of his final words were reportedly, “Its popularity has killed me at last.” He died in October 1896, at the height of the Trilby boom and just after completing his last novel, The Martian, which began its first installment in Harper’s that very month. In a tribute to him, Willa Cather wryly noted that “Du Maurier certainly did his duty by his American publishers. They made a fortune on Trilby, and now to effectually advertise his new book he conveniently dies.” Trilby’s popularity waned significantly after du Maurier’s death, and most twenty-first-century readers have never even heard of it, though its influence on popular culture is still apparent today: it is often cited as the inspiration for Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel Le Fantôme de l’Opéra (The Phantom of the Opera), and the term Svengali is still used to describe a person who manipulates and controls with evil intent.
A virtual exhibition, featuring more Trilby-inspired items from the Museum’s collections, may be found on the DelArt website, and several items are on view through November in the cases outside the Library on the lower level of the Museum.
For 150 years Americans have been fascinated with the medieval past. From Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court to HBO’s Game of Thrones, medieval fantasy realms have inundated literary and pop culture. The same is true in the medium of young adult fantasy literature and its illustration. The Delaware Art Museum’s upcoming Fantasy and the Medieval Past exhibit explores how American fantasy authors and illustrators have reinterpreted and reused the medieval past to populate their own fantasy worlds. The exhibit showcases 19th and early 20th century works from the permanent collection by the artist Howard Pyle in conversation with contemporary illustrations created within the past 20 years. These conversations allow visitors to experience the changing American understanding of the medieval world over the past century.
One such conversation is between Howard Pyle’s King Arthur of Britain and Leo and Diane Dillon’s Mansa Musa King of Mali. At the turn of the century Pyle authored and illustrated his own version of the Arthurian legends of King Arthur and his court. These books were meant for what we now consider a “young adult” audience, although the term did not exist at the time. Pyle envisioned a book that could straddle the generations, with parents reading to their children and both ages enjoying the story equally. Pyle’s King Arthur is a perfect representation of kingship as it was understood by Pyle and his contemporaries a century ago; White, male, and Eurocentric.
This understanding spoke more to 19th-century American biases than it did an accurate reflection of the medieval period. In reality, the medieval world was much more global and multicultural than previously understood. Extensive trade routes connected East Asia with the Middle East, the Middle East to Africa, and Africa to Europe. One such route crossed the Sahara Desert and brought precious materials such as ivory and gold from the Sub-Saharan Mali Empire to the Mediterranean Sea and then onward to the ports of Northern Europe. One of the most famous Mali kings was Mansa Musa. He was known for both his immense wealth and the hajj, or Islamic religious pilgrimage, he took to Mecca, crossing most of North Africa and showering gold on the city of Cairo along the way. In Leo and Diane Dillon’s illustration of Mansa Musa he is shown on this pilgrimage. The Dillons have cleverly represented Musa as a knightly figure on horseback. He sports chainmail armor and a western style crown on top of his head covering. For American audiences these features immediately identify Musa as a powerful, medieval, ruling figure, just like Pyle’s The Lady of Ye Lake. Both men are depicted gazing off into the distance as if they are contemplating complicated matters of state. By illustrating a book about the life of Mansa Musa, the Dillon’s have helped to educate young Americans on the true diversity and globalism of the medieval period.
Another visual conversation occurs between Howard Pyle’s Lady of the Lake and Tony DiTerlizzi’s The Ironwood Tree. Pyle’s Lady is depicted with all the traditional trappings of femininity. Her long hair is bound into two twists and she fingers one of the many necklaces around her neck. This gesture reveals the lady’s wrists which are encased in several jeweled bracelets. Here Pyle has created a woman who is the object of our gaze, not a participant in any action of the story. DiTerlizzi’s woman from the Ironwood Tree makes for an interesting comparison. This illustration was created for The Spiderwick Chronicles, a series of highly illustrated chapter books coauthored by DiTerlizzi and Holly Black. Although written a century later, The Spiderwick Chronicles are reminiscent of Pyle’s stories of King Arthur. They too were published as a serial in multiple volumes and contain extensive illustrations created in close conversation between the artist and the author. Unlike Pyle’s work, DiTerlizzi and Black have included in their books a strong female character whose actions are central to the story. In fact, she is the only main character in The Spiderwick Chronicles who is trained in combat and she often fights off enemy forces with her sword. In The Ironwood Tree DiTerlizzi has combined traditional elements of female medievalist representation with those demonstrating the strength and agency of this character. Her hair is bound similarly to Pyle’s Lady of the Lake and she is shown in a dress with jeweled necklaces and rings. Yet, her pose, eyes closed and a sword clutched to her chest, looks remarkably similar to medieval tomb effigies of medieval knights. This visual comparison elevates the character’s status from object of beauty to knightly protagonist. It additionally reflects a 21st century American interest in strong female characters, particularly in the young adult fantasy genre.
Regardless of the century, 20th or 21st, medieval-inspired creatures abound in fantasy illustrations. Some examples, such as dragons and unicorns seem plucked straight for a medieval bestiary, or book of beasts. Others, such as the gargoyle, were inspired by medieval architecture. Stories and Lies, illustrated by Ian Schoenherr for Kristin Chashore’s Bitterblue, shows a gargoyle with his tongue sticking out that is reminiscent of one of the famous gargoyles on the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Although medieval architecture does contain numerous examples of gargoyles, fantastic creatures, and other grotesques, this particular gargoyle was a creation of the French architect Viollet le Duc as part of his 1840s restoration of the cathedral after damage sustained during the French Revolution and subsequent political upheavals. All the same, this representation of a gargoyle has stuck in the minds of American audiences and has become a standard representation of a medieval inspired fantasy creature.
Absalom Jones was born enslaved in 1746 on “Cedar Town” plantation in Cedar Creek Hundred, Sussex County, Delaware. Abraham Wynkoop, a wealthy Anglican justice of the peace and assembly delegate, owned Cedar Town. Wynkoop’s grandfather emigrated from Holland to New Netherland (New York) in the 17th century. Abraham Wynkoop moved to the southern-most of the “Lower Counties” in the 1730s. Abraham saw Absalom’s intelligence and had him work in the house. Absalom sought instruction, saved money, and bought books including a Bible. Abraham Wynkoop died in 1753. Benjamin, his middle son, inherited Cedar Town.
Benjamin Wynkoop sold Cedar Town and Absalom’s mother and siblings. In 1761, Wynkoop brought Absalom to Philadelphia, joined St. Peter’s Anglican Church, and became a prosperous merchant. Wynkoop permitted Absalom to attend a Quaker-run night school for Black people founded by abolitionist Anthony Benezet. Absalom’s mathematics education was useful in Wynkoop’s store which sold European cloths. Benjamin Wynkoop married into a prominent Anglican mercantile family.
In 1770, with their enslavers’ permission, Absalom Jones married Mary Thomas. Mary was enslaved to St. Peter’s parishioner Sarah King. Absalom, and his father-in-law John Thomas, purchased Mary’s freedom with donations and loans primarily from Quaker abolitionists. Absalom and Mary repaid the borrowed money, saved more money, and bought property. The British briefly occupied Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War. The Wynkoop family went to Dover, Delaware staying with Mary Wynkoop Ridgely. The Wynkoops worshipped at Dover’s Christ Church. Absalom oversaw the Wynkoop store and house. Although Wynkoop refused, Absalom kept asking to buy his freedom. Absalom persisted because Wynkoop could take his money and property. In 1784 Benjamin Wynkoop manumitted Absalom and paid him for his services.
Left to right: Absalom Jones, 1810. Raphaelle Peale (1774–1825). Oil on paper mounted to board, 30 x 25 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Gift of Absalom Jones School, 1971. The Revd. Richard Allen, 1823. John Boyd from a painting by Raphaelle Peale. Stipple engraving, 16 x 11 1/2 inches. Library Company of Philadelphia.
Founding of the Free African Society with Richard Allen
Absalom Jones started attending St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church. He met Richard Allen, who had also been enslaved in Delaware. They became lifelong friends. In 1787, they founded the Free African Society (FAS), the first mutual aid society organized by Black people. W.E.B. DuBois called the FAS “the first wavering step of a people toward organized social life.” FAS members paid monthly dues to benefit those in need. Jones and Allen were class leaders and lay preachers. The membership increased. They helped raise money to build a gallery. One Sunday morning in 1792, Jones, Allen, and other Black worshippers were directed to the gallery. Absalom knelt and starting praying, but ushers told him to move. He refused, and an usher attempted to physically move him. The prayer ended. Absalom Jones and Richard Allen led most of the Black members out of St. George’s in protest.
The FAS, assisted by Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, started the African Church of Philadelphia. The devastating 1793 yellow fever epidemic interrupted their work. Initially, Dr. Rush, a prominent physician, thought Black people were immune to the virus. He appealed to Absalom Jones and Richard Allen to help stricken White Philadelphians. There had been other yellow fever epidemics in Philadelphia. It is doubtful that Jones and Allen believed Rush’s immunity theory. No one knew that the virus was spread by infected mosquitoes. Rush trained Jones and Allen to treat patients, and they trained Black nurses. Other FAS members buried the dead. Black Philadelphians proved equally susceptible to the virus. Fall’s colder weather killed the mosquitoes. The epidemic ended. Over 4,000 people perished. Matthew Carey published an account of the epidemic that accused Black nurses of stealing and extorting money. Absalom Jones and Richard Allen published a refutation.
Left to right: Title Page, A Narrative of the Proceedings of the Black People, 1794. Absalom Jones (1746–1818) and Richard Allen (1760–1831). Library Company of Philadelphia.A Sunday Morning View of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia, 1829. Kennedy & Lucas from a drawing by W. L. Breton (c. 1733–1859). Lithograph, 9 3/4 x 13 3/4 inches. Library Company of Philadelphia.
The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas
The African Church affiliated with the Episcopal Church. Richard Allen favored the Methodist tradition, and he organized the African Methodist Episcopal denomination. Absalom Jones agreed, after prayerful reflection, to provide pastoral leadership. The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas was dedicated on July 17, 1794. It applied to join the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania on conditions that guaranteed self-determination but ceded participation in diocesan governance.
Absalom Jones and others explained the church’s founding: “[W]e arise out of the dust and shake ourselves, and throw off that servile fear, that the habit of oppression and bondage trained us up in.” In October 1794, The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas was admitted to the diocese and incorporated in 1796. Bishop William White ordained Absalom Jones a deacon in 1795 and a priest in 1802.
Absalom Jones knew Boston’s African freemasonry founder Prince Hall. Jones became Pennsylvania’s first African masonic Grand Master. In 1799, Absalom Jones and others petitioned the President and Congress to abolish the transatlantic slave trade and slavery. The petition asserted, “If the Bill of Rights or the Declaration of Congress are of any validity, we beseech that … we may be admitted to partake of the liberties and unalienable rights therein …. ” On January 1, 1808 The Rev. Absalom Jones delivered a “Thanksgiving Sermon” celebrating legislation prohibiting the transatlantic slave trade. Rev. Jones preached that “[God came] down to deliver suffering [Africans] from the hands of their oppressors … when … the constitution [mandated] that the [African] trade… should cease … [and] … when [legislation was passed] outlawing the slave trade. [T]his day [we] … offer up our united thanks.” The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas formed a school and was active in moral uplift, self-empowerment, and anti-slavery efforts.
Rev. Jones’ Legacy
Absalom Jones died February 13, 1818. He bequeathed Raphaelle Peale’s 1810 portrait to his nephew George Jones. The portrait made its way to the Absalom Jones School in Delaware and was later donated to the Delaware Art Museum.
Absalom Jones’ achievements are commemorated on three Pennsylvania state historical markers. Delaware’s state historical marker honoring Absalom Jones is in Milford. Absalom Jones was featured in the 2013 exhibition “Forging Faith, Building Freedom: African American Faith Experiences in Delaware, 1800-1980,” organized by the Delaware Historical Society. His story is prominently told in the Smithsonian’s Museum of African American History and Culture. The Episcopal Church recognizes February 13 as Absalom Jones’ feast day. The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas uses Absalom Jones’ altar on his feast day, and his ashes are enshrined in the parish chapel.
Arthur K. Sudler
William Cal Bolivar Director
Historical Society & Archives
African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas
Early this spring, I enjoyed leading two Inside Look discussions at the Delaware Art Museum on Marie Spartali Stillman’s embroidered tunic and shoes. The textile pairing is included in the museum exhibition, Collecting and Connecting, Recent Acquisitions, 2010-2020,and displayed in a section that prompts visual dialogues on dressing and clothing. Due to the pandemic, I led the talks on Zoom, and the online format led to fascinating discussions on the Pre-Raphaelites, the artist’s family history, and the Aesthetic Movement.
The British artist Marie Spartali Stillman (1844-1927) designed this matching embroidered tunic and shoes and decorated the garments with cascading floral designs. Though undated, the ensemble is likely from the late nineteenth century and perhaps created for her daughter Effie upon her marriage in 1905. Stillman created a mix of floral designs, including tulips, clovers, and morning glories. In a sense, Stillman fabricated a still life on the garment and shoes to decorate the body of the wearer. With her focus upon florals and the natural world, she references the Pre-Raphaelite aesthetic and the practice of depicting the natural world through close looking. The British art critic John Ruskin, ardent supporter of the Pre-Raphaelites, advocated truth to nature, specifically equating beauty and spirit to the natural world. Our discussion group was particularly intrigued with the Victorian language of flowers and the possible meanings Stillman attached to each floral pairing. We started to consider the morning glories and love-in-a-mist, a selection attached to symbols of love and possibly a reference to her daughter’s impending marriage. In light of Stillman’s Pre-Raphaelite ties, our group also started to parse out how the fashionable ensemble could reflect early Renaissance aesthetics studied by the artists, such as Botticelli paintings celebrating spring and Italian poetry. Moreover, we connected how the tunic reflected the Aesthetic Movement belief in improving life by surrounding oneself with beauty, reflected in the embroidery design or silk.
Participants began observing Stillman’s relationships with other Pre-Raphaelite artists, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Ford Madox Brown. Our discussion group included descendants of the artist, who offered insights into Stillman’s family and their dedication as patrons of the art. The conversation benefitted from the intimate anecdotes on the Spartalis interest in horticulture and gardening, and of the artist’s surviving collection of embroidery and silk. Stillman became closely connected to a mid-nineteenth century artistic milieu, and eventually married the painter and journalist William James Stillman to enter the transatlantic art world of the Aesthetic Movement. As a group, we considered the tunic and shoes in the larger framework of a bohemian circle in Britain in the mid-nineteenth century and the style of the dress. Compared to the structure of women’s garments in the Victorian era, the tunic is reminiscent of “artistic” dress of the period with the freeing silhouette. The group even mentioned how the tunic’s sleeves and construction appeared similar to Japanese kimonos, perhaps a reference to Stillman’s connection with the expatriate painter James McNeil Whistler and the emerging Japonisme among European artists as they grew increasingly inspired by Japanese art and design.
As we continued to examine the tunic, participants discussed female artists working in the Victorian era and their degree of access to art academies and exhibition opportunities. Most women in the nineteenth century, like Stillman, would have been taught needlework skills. The tunic and embroidery raise questions on how definitions of gender have become attached to different artistic mediums and materials during the nineteenth century, or what was traditionally deemed appropriate for women. Stillman has often been overshadowed by a Pre-Raphaelite circle narrative dominated by men, or labeled as an amateur artist due to her focus on watercolors and embroidery. Our discussion raised important questions about how to rewrite narratives in a museum, or who gets included within the galleries themselves to present an inclusive art history.
Stillman also worked alongside William Morris’s wife, Jane, and shared summers at Kelmscott Manor in the Cotswolds in southern England. We compared the wildflower designs on the ensemble to Morris’s embroidery and considered the possible collaborations between the two artists. The floral designs perhaps reference visits to Kelmscott Manor and the gardens, seen in Stillman’s own watercolors of the residence. Participants also noted the Pre-Raphaelite interest in reviving craft and return to handwork, such as the attention to decorating and furnishing interiors with artistic beauty. This artistic circle became passionate about decoration’s role in providing aesthetic pleasure and the spiritual benefits of beauty, seen with a wearable ensemble. Discussing Stillman’s embroidered tunic and shoes, we began to understand her central role in Victorian artistic circles and her vision in capturing Pre-Raphaelite beauty.
Lea C. Stephenson
PhD student in Art History at the University of Delaware
Inside Look is a collaboration between the Delaware Art Museum and the University of Delaware’s Department of Art History and Community Engagement Initiative.
Our next Inside Look discussions are scheduled for September 24 & 26, 2021. Join us!
Top to bottom: Embroidered Shoes,not dated. Marie Spartali Stillman (1844–1927). Embroidery on silk, each: 4 1/2 × 3 × 10 1/2 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Gift of Eugenia Diehl Pell, 2016. | Embroidered Tunic, not dated. Marie Spartali Stillman (1844–1927). Embroidery on silk, 53 × 19 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Gift of Eugenia Diehl Pell, 2016.
The Wilmington Writers Conference, presented by the Museum Store, is celebrating its 5th anniversary on Saturday, July 24, with a free virtual event. This year, the Keynote Speaker and workshop presenter is award-winning poet Chet’la Sebree. Some of you may know Sebree from her time at the Museum, including a role as the 2019 Conference Coordinator. Her highly anticipated second book, Field Study, is out now.
Sebree’s journey for creating Field Study included research that became an integral part of the story. “I am often surprised at how this collection ended up manifesting in this layered patchwork,” Sebree said. “I wasn’t convinced that anyone would publish this project that blurs the line between poetry and prose, fact and fiction, so I gave myself permission to put the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus in conversation with the historical Pocahontas and Disney’s fictionalized version of her. I allowed myself to let Olivia Pope from Scandal and Annalise Keating from How to Get Away with Murder to be in conversation with sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom and warrior poet and feminist Audre Lorde. I did a lot of reading and took in a lot of media while working on Field Study. And from all of these texts, I collected language and allowed them to move through the space on the page as they needed, as I saw the connections between one conversation and another.”
The resulting book in some ways evokes the spirit of Collecting and Connecting: Recent Acquisitions, 2010-2020, so it is particularly interesting that Sebree contributed wall text to the exhibition. “A museum lover to my core, I’ve always wanted to write label copy, so it was such an honor to write something in response to Collecting and Connecting,” she said. “It was nice to be able to sit with the art and see all of the ways in which the three pieces— Curlee Raven Holton’s The History Matters (1999), Aaron Douglas’s The Window Shopper (1955), and Bart Parker’s Untitled (1968)—were in conversation with each other, the ways in which they were distinctly different.”
Sebree was kind enough to offer us a sneak peek of what she has planned for conference participants, and they are in for a treat. “I am excited!” the poet said about returning to the conference as a keynote speaker. “The great part about having been able to be involved in this conference and this community in the past means that I have a good sense of what direction might be useful when it comes to the keynote (which I plan to connect to the Collecting and Connecting exhibition) and the breakout session.”
She will also be letting us in on her creative process with what’s sure to be an amazing workshop. “We never write in isolation. We’re always, whether we know it or not, in conversation with history, culture, art, family, etc. I’ll give a short craft lecture where we’ll walk through work that makes this multi-layered conversation transparent and discuss how we can apply some of those strategies to our own work. We’ll then do some generative writing exercises that prompt us to write ekphrastic poetry (poems that respond to art) or braided essays that make links between popular culture and our lives. I’m still ironing out the details, but the prompts will be multi-genre and get us thinking in new ways!”
Signed copies of Field Study and Sebree’s first book, Mistress, will be available in the Museum Store.
As the Museum reinstalls the main floor galleries, we share a “behind-the-scenes” look at how we care for and display the artwork in our collection, and how some of these practices can be applied to artwork in your own home. As a museum registrar, I am responsible for ensuring that the artwork in the Museum’s collection is in good condition, so it remains accessible to museum patrons. In DelArt’s Virtual Spring Magazine, I shared a few tips on how to bring some museum collections care practices into your own home art collections. In case you missed it, you can find it here.
Delaware Art Museum Chief Preparator Jonathan Schoff and Preparator John Gibbons are an integral part of the museum’s collections care work, as well as the 2021 reinstallation project. They are responsible for preparing artwork for display, and for the care, movement, and installation of all the objects throughout the museum. I recently asked them to share their best tips for framing, hanging, and packing art.
Art Handling 101
Use nitrile gloves when handling paintings, photographs, and three-dimensional objects. These prevent oils and debris from your hands from damaging the surface of the artwork. Do
not use gloves when handling works on paper, especially delicate and fragile paper. This inhibits hand dexterity and increases the risk of mishandling and damage. Always make sure your hands are clean and dry!
Matting and Framing 101
How do you choose the right mat and frame for your artwork?
JS & JG: There is no set rule, but I would recommend at least a 2 ½ inch mat border around the object. If it is a large work of art, you may want a 3-4 inch border. Add the border measurements to the measurements of the object, and that will be the frame size you need. Sometimes if you already have a special frame in mind, you may use that and customize the mat to fit accordingly. It is very important to have a good quality non-acidic archival mat that is either 4 ply or 8 ply. The thickness of the mat may be of personal preference or cost.
How can you secure the artwork to the mat, so it stays in place when hung?
JS & JG: You can create simple paper hinges. [See video below] I recommend using Japanese paper and wheat paste for your hinges. Be careful not to oversaturate the hinge with paste. Doing so could wrinkle the paper where the hinge is in contact. The most important thing is to make sure that the adhesive you are using is reversible and not permanent. In some cases when there is a large paper margin around the image, such as when you are matting a photograph, you can use plastic photo corners to secure the object to the mat. Paper corners can also be made and used to secure works on paper to a mat.
Take a look at how we hinge, mat, and frame a photograph for exhibition at the Museum.
In this video, Jonathan Schoff is using water to activate a hinge that already has wheat paste on it.
Art Packing 101
If you are moving artwork, plan for safe transport by packing it in archival and protective materials.
Do not leave artwork in bubble wrap for long periods of time, as it may leave marks on and stick to the object. Wrap the object in polyester film, glassine (a translucent paper that is air, water, and grease resistant), or archival Tyvek (a breathable pH-neutral material made from polyethylene fibers) before applying bubble wrap. The bubble should face out to protect the art and minimize risk of the bubbles sticking the object’s surface.
Apply tape only to secure packing materials to one another; never use tape directly on an art object. To help remove tape from packed artwork, fold over one edge of the strip of tape to create a pull tab. This allows easy removal without the need for a knife or box cutter!
Foam core and cardboard can be used to create a slip-case as exterior packing outside of the archival packing materials, to provide a more rigid protective layer. Don’t use these materials directly on the surface of an artwork, because they are not archival, and they may stick to the surface of objects, can easily deteriorate, and may cause staining on the object because of their acidic properties.
What are the 3 essential tips and must-haves for packing artwork?
JS & JG:
Carboard sheets, archival plastic, bubble wrap, glassine, and packing tape are essential materials. A box cutter, tape measure, and pencil are essential tools.
Use a sturdy box or crate that is foam-lined to provide protection against vibration while traveling in a truck.
Sealing plastic around the art can create a microclimate, which will help stabilize the temperature and humidity and protect the art from minor fluctuations. Be aware of where you are storing your art and keep it away from heat or moisture.
Art Hanging 101
What is the standard height for hanging artwork?
JS & JG: We generally hang two-dimensional works of art at a 58-inch center in the Museum. This is so the center of each painting is at a general eye level, averaged at 58 inches. When hanging work at home, there are architectural elements that may force you to hang things at different heights. With groups of smaller objects and limited wall space, you could hang them stacked on top and next to one another in a “salon style.” Finding relationships with your art is important when hanging in groups. This could be through subject matter, style, or a thematic connection. At the Museum, we generally follow the exhibition design envisioned by the curator. The much-anticipated reinstallation of the Museum’s Picturing America (American Art through 1900) Gallery, opening June 19th, will include a large salon wall. Stay tuned for a behind-the-scenes look at the installation of this gallery!
Disclaimer: If you are unsure how to pack, move, or storage your artwork, or you have big plans for your own in-home art installation, contract a local fine art handler or art transport and storage company.
“April showers bring …” Well, you know the rest. But there’s no reason to wait until May to enjoy the beauty of flowers. In fact, a rainy April day is the perfect time for a visit to the Delaware Art Museum where the galleries are brimming with painted blooms. On a sunny day, you could enjoy the flowering trees of the Copeland Sculpture Garden too! Some of the downstairs galleries are closed, but upstairs the art scene is flourishing.
This spring DelArt’s galleries dedicated to modern American art host a variety of florals. On the south wall of the large gallery of Modern American Realism, Henriette Wyeth, Frank Marsden London, and N.C. Wyeth capture three seasons of plant life. Henriette Wyeth’s Still Life shows an ikebana-inspired display of winter pine and pyracantha, enlivened by the ceramic figurine that seems to be watching the arrangement come together. Less quirky minimalist and a lot more Southern Gothic in its mood, Frank Marsden London’s Spring Glory features a branch wound in morning glory and roses, with a robin’s nest tucked in among the foliage. In our area, these flowers would be markers of summer, but the artist lived in North Carolina. A prominently placed scythe adds a layer of menace to the picture, painted during the dark days of World War II. N.C. Wyeth’s The Springhouse captures Queen Anne’s Lace, among other local late-summer plants.
The floral highlight of this room this spring is Georgia O’Keeffe’s Jonquils I, a 1936 painting on loan to the Museum from a private collection. O’Keeffe gave her characteristic precise, close-up treatment to a trio of yellow daffodils. The painting has a clear center—the corona of the central flower—but the artist resisted symmetry, playing up differences in tone and allowing the petals of the central flower to obscure most of the flower on the right. The subtle asymmetries of natural forms fascinated the painter in the 1930s. The lavender background intensifies the green and yellow hues and gives the painting a modern edge. On the East Coast, daffodils are early signs of spring, harbingers of longer days and warmer weather. The composition of O’Keeffe’s painting, with blooms arranged horizontally across the canvas, recalls a landscape—perhaps even a sunrise. Jonquils I reflects the optimism and renewal of springtime, especially this year.
Two florals await you in the smaller gallery. Joseph Stella’s The Lotus, c. 1930, has much in common with O’Keeffe’s painting. Flowers are presented up close and centered, and the colors create a play of warm and cool that dances on the edge of acidic dissonance. Stella depicted nature throughout his career—he spoke of his wish to end each day painting flowers—but he often used them to create elaborate modernist fantasies. DelArt’s painting hints at that direction. Despite the precise rendering of the floral forms, The Lotus steps further from nature toward art deco design. I’m looking forward to the 2023 exhibition at the Brandywine River Museum to learn more about this aspect of Stella’s career.
Finally, let’s end our tour of modern flowers by spending some time with a large canvas by Jane Freilicher. The work was recently conserved and is on view for the first time in at least 15 years. The aptly named Fresh Air dates from around 1960, when Freilicher was active at the heart of the second generation of Abstract Expressionist artists. Her large canvas captures the riotous energy of a garden at mid-summer. The loose, energetic brushwork contrasts with the precision of O’Keeffe and Stella and reflects the turn among American artists toward active and emotionally expressive handling. Women in Abstract Expressionist circles—including Freilicher, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler—excelled at translating nature into powerful modern paintings.
Flowers and gardens, which inspired so much Impressionist innovation, have a place at the center of American modernism. They provide artists with particular challenges. As Delaware painter Mary Page Evans has noted: “You’re making order out of chaos. There’s a lot out there . . . and it’s just as important what you exclude as what you include. What you do is to leave out the extraneous details and concentrate on what builds and sustains a mood.”
I hope you can join us in the Copeland Sculpture Garden on May 16 for Brunch, Brushes, and Blooms. Be sure to have a look around the galleries while you’re here.
Heather Campbell Coyle
Chief Curator and Curator of American Art
African poet and scholar Amadou Hampâté Bâ (1900–1991) brilliantly stated, “Every time an old man dies in Africa, it is as if a library has burnt down.” His observation was closely tied to his dedication to preserving oral traditions but perhaps such a poignant reflection could be made about any one person in the world. When an artist dies, especially when young in their career, does a museum die with them?
When David Wojnarowicz died from AIDS-related complications in 1992, he was just 37.
Countless works of art have been created in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and perhaps one of the most powerful is this photograph taken for a collaboration between Wojnarowicz and the German documentary and portrait photographer, Andreas Sterzing, who lived in New York for 20 years. This work of art is so impactful that in 2020 it was named one of the 25 most influential works of American protest art since World War II by The New York Times Magazine.
During the mid 1980s, Sterzing documented art installations and activities throughout the East Village and “Pier 34” artist communities. Sterzing knew both Wojnarowicz and the German gay rights activist and filmmaker, Rosa von Praunheim, who collaborated with fellow filmmaker Phil Zwickler to create the 1990 documentary Silence = Death. The title of the film references the slogan made famous by the mid-1980sposter campaign by the AIDS activist group, ACT UP.
In the film Silence = Death, artists and writers such as Keith Haring, Allen Ginsberg, and Wojnarowicz respond to the AIDS epidemic. The representation by Wojnarowicz of inflicting pain upon his body by apparently sewing his lips together serves as a protest to the silencing of the devastating impact of AIDS by both politicians and society at large beginning in the mid-1980s.
Wojnarowicz was an active member of the East Village art scene in New York City in the 1980s, and his former partner Peter Hujar’s AIDS diagnosis and death in 1987 led him to more direct political activism with an emphasis on the epidemic. 1987 was also the year that AIDS activist Cleve Jones created the first panel for what has become a 1.2-million-square-foot AIDS Memorial Quilt and the year President Ronald Reagan made his first public speech about the epidemic, more than six years after the first cases were reported in the United States. Two years later, Wojnarowicz’s activism led him to create this work with Andreas Sterzing.
David Wojnarowicz was criticized and censored during and after his lifetime for the visceral works of art he created. A creation such as this one, embodied in stark black and white by Sterzing, triggers our kinesthetic understanding. We can imagine the physical discomfort of a needle piercing skin, and we know the color of the lines trailing down the artist’s chin. Today, this image may also be seen through the lens of censorship and the artist’s early death. Wojnarowicz stated, “I think what I really fear about death is the silencing of my voice. I feel this incredible pressure to leave something of myself behind.”
Prior to the Museum’s 2020 purchase of Andreas Sterzing’s photograph, David Wojnarowiz (Silence = Death); New York, artistic response to the AIDS epidemic was not visibly represented in the Delaware Art Museum’s collection. This acquisition supports the Museum’s ability to share works of art that translate the expanse of human experience into visual form.
Join me for Art Chat on April 15 when I speak with Andreas Sterzing about art in New York City in the 1980s with a special focus on creative activities at Pier 34 and the work of Robert Jones and David Wojnarowicz.
Right now, I really wish we were preparing a big members’ preview for Collecting and Connecting: Recent Acquisitions, 2010–2020, which opens Saturday, March 12. I’m ready for an evening in Fusco Gallery, listening to visitors admire the installation and delight in making discoveries about art. I want to hear my colleague Margaretta Frederick give a tour and share the inside scoop on how the works of art were selected and arranged. (She and Caroline Giddis, our 2020 Alfred Appel Jr. Curatorial Fellow, had over 1000 works to choose from!) And I want to see the Museum filled with enthusiastic art lovers, looking at the art, catching up with each other, and enjoying wine and music in the East Court. For me, in most years, spring exhibition openings mark the end of a few months of hibernation. They’re a chance to dress up and catch up with DelArt members and friends. I think we could all use this, but unfortunately we can’t gather this way this spring—not yet.
So, I’m inviting you to join me at an opening from over 80 years ago, by looking at Helen Farr Sloan’s Gallery Scene, which captures a crowded opening party. The walls are hung tightly with large canvasses. In small groups, visitors stroll about looking at the paintings and their catalogues. Some stop to greet each other and others settle into the couches to gossip. A tall man with a reddish beard—an artist, perhaps?—gestures and declaims. It might be early spring, based on the men’s overcoats and the women’s colorful ensembles. Like the characters in it, the occasion feels lively and familiar.
Helen Farr Sloan’s Gallery Scene entered the DelArt collection in 2014, when the William Glackens retrospective was on view at the Barnes Foundation. I had written for the catalogue and was teaching and giving lectures related to the show, so I must have seen the exhibition ten times. After one of those visits, I walked by Gallery Scene and recognized the painting within this painting. The large canvas on the rear wall is Glackens’ Family Group, a 1910/11 painting in the collection of the National Gallery of Art. With a little research, I was able to determine that Family Group was exhibited twice at the Whitney Museum of American Art around the time that Helen Farr Sloan painted Gallery Scene. In February and March, 1937, Family Group was in New York Realists, 1910–1914, a key exhibition for reviving interest in the early work of the Ashcan School, and in 1938–39, the painting was included in Glackens’ memorial exhibition. Helen Farr Sloan, who had studied with and befriended Glackens’ associate John Sloan in the 1920s, would almost certainly have visited these shows. In the late 1930s, she was living in New York and working with Sloan (they would marry in 1944) on Gist of Art, a book of his teachings.
Of course, this isn’t a documentary photograph, and the paintings on either side of Family Group aren’t easy to discern, so I can’t say for sure which exhibition this might be recording. Avis Berman, Glackens expert and author of Rebels on Eighth Street: Juliana Force and the Whitney Museum of American Art, suggested that, while the scale of the room makes sense for the Whitney Museum when it was on Eighth Street, Farr Sloan probably took some artistic license in the décor. (Personally, I hope the walls weren’t that shade of green!)
Southern Souvenir No. II presents an unsettling dreamscape: beneath a dark moon that emanates a halo of greyish light, nude female torsos are strewn among gnarled branches and remnants of domestic life. The painting, by African American artist Eldzier Cortor, evokes scenes of racist violence, the dilapidation of poverty, and the destruction of a natural disaster. The artist’s vision is manifested through meticulous rendering: tiny brushstrokes define shining flesh and worn brick, newspaper mastheads from Birmingham and Charleston are legible, and black tree bark is painted three dimensionally, jutting out nearly half an inch from the picture’s surface. The reality and psychological toll of racial violence is clear, though the artist hasn’t attempted to compose a scene or tell a specific story.
On loan from the Art Bridges collection, Southern Souvenir No. II is on view in Gallery 15, a gallery devoted to the range of realisms practiced by American artists between the 1920s and the 1960s. The heirs of the Ashcan School’s urban realism—Reginald Marsh, Isabel Bishop—hang across from detailed, regionalist paintings by the Wyeth family. Recent acquisitions by Edward Loper, Malvin Gray Johnson, and Robert Neal mark the significant contributions of African American artists in the early 20th century. And psychological tension builds in works by Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth, and Hughie Lee-Smith.
Cortor’s approach to realism is different. His meticulous handling and dreamlike juxtaposition of elements align the painting to surrealism and magic realism—artistic movements often associated more with European and Latin American art of this period. This is not to say that these movements didn’t have traction in the United States. In 1943, the Museum of Modern Art opened an exhibition called American Realists and Magic Realists, which featured works by Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper among others. In the introduction to that catalogue, Lincoln Kirstein explained the operation of magic realism: “Magic realists try to convince us that extraordinary things are possible simply by painting them as if they existed.” This tradition is not well represented in the Museum’s collection, which is one of the reasons I was excited to borrow Southern Souvenir No. II from Art Bridges.
The other reason, of course, is the consideration of race and American history that Cortor’s painting prompts. Incredibly detailed and gorgeously painted, Southern Souvenir No. II forces us to consider what Cortor experienced on his travels through the American South in the 1940s.
This haunting painting is on view at the Delaware Art Museum through July 2021, and I find myself visiting it often. I’m looking forward to learning more about Southern Souvenir No. II when I host an Art Chat with Tiffany Barber and Dara Stevens Meredith on February 18, 2021. I hope you will join me to learn more about Cortor, modern painting, and American history.
A few years ago, Mary Holahan, Curator of Illustration Art, drew attention to this painting with a timely and well-researched blog post. She elucidated the moment Hoskins depicted, when the “19-year-old stenographer shrinks from her sinister boss’s demand that she succumb to his advances.” Her post describes the plot and reception of Dejeans’ novel about sexual abuse in the workplace. And the gallery label Mary wrote for the work highlighted the tiger-skin rug with the animal’s bared fangs, which echoes the character of the brutish, predatory employer.
When we began testing ideas with focus groups for the reinstallation of the illustration collection, this painting and Mary’s analysis of it engaged our visitors, who linked it to the #metoo movement. They wanted to know even more, asking in particular about the statuette on the mantelpiece behind the young woman. Taking over responsibility for the illustration collection after Mary’s retirement, I wanted to know more, too, so I started looking closely.
Facing each other at last, the girl white, shaking, her eyes aflame (detail), 1909.
The painting is dark and the details of the statuette are difficult to make out, but it’s carefully delineated and beautifully composed. I thought it likely that the painted sculpture was a miniature version of a real sculpture. Like the rug, I hoped it would add to the illustration’s power.
Like many works of art that will be featured in the reinstalled galleries, this Hoskins painting was slotted for conservation. When it went to our conservator, Mark Bockrath, I asked him to let me know if he could see more as he examined and cleaned it under bright light. In a series of emails this summer, we exchanged photographs of the painting and scans of the published version and talked about what that statuette might depict. With one figure held and draped across another, at first glance (from an art history major) the sculpture looks like a Pietà or lamentation of Jesus, but that doesn’t add anything to the story. I thought it might be the abduction of Persephone by Hades, but I couldn’t find an example of that mythological theme resembling this composition.
And what about that hat on the standing figure? I mused on conquistadors’ helmets, and Mark half-joked that his attire looked more like a fisherman’s gear. After that, I saw echoes of Winslow’s Homer’s heroic lifesaving scenes. So, I started a Google image search using words like fisherman, sculpture, saved, and drowning. Then, I found it really fast. The statuette seems to be a small version of Saved, an 1887 sculpture by Adolf Brütt. The modern, heroic subject, which the artist claimed to have witnessed, resonates thematically with Winslow Homer’s 1884 masterpiece The Life Line, as does and the combination of strong man and supine, drenched woman.
Saved, 1887. Adolf Brütt.
A large bronze cast of Saved (familiarly called The Fisherman)—Gerettet (Der Fischer) in German—stands outside the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin today. It was famous in its day, winning Brütt a prize and being selected for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. Living in Chicago in 1904, the 17-year-old Hoskins might have traveled to the world’s fair in St. Louis—over 19 million people did—but there was a lot to see there. Hoskins probably encountered a tabletop version similar to the one he placed on the mantel. Like many popular sculptures, Saved was reproduced at a domestic scale. A 17-inch version sold at auction for €2,000 in 2018, and vintage postcards featuring the sculpture still can be bought online.
Now that we have identified Saved, how might it help us understand the painting? I think the bronze, which is displayed in the predatory boss’s office, speaks to that character’s understanding of himself. The author of the novel makes it clear that the man thinks that what he’s doing helps the young woman. He sees himself as a savior, lifting her and her family out of poverty.
Hoskins’ choice of sculpture is pointed, though more subtle than the tiger-skin rug. Neither is mentioned in the story, and I don’t think these are purely decorative choices. The inclusion of the Brütt is more like an art-historical Easter egg—something that adds to the story for the viewers that recognize it. I imagine more viewers recognized Saved in 1909, and I hope they appreciated Hoskins’ evocative details as much as I do now!
Heather Campbell Coyle
Chief Curator and Curator of American Art
Top image: Facing each other at last, the girl white, shaking, her eyes aflame, 1909. Cover and frontispiece for The Winning Chance by Elizabeth Dejeans (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1909). Gayle Porter Hoskins (1887–1962). Oil on canvas, 36 x 24 1/2 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Acquired by exchange, 1971.
This November, I had the wonderful opportunity to lead two “Inside Look” gallery talks at the Delaware Art Museum on Loïs Mailou Jones’s 1961 painting Parade de Paysans (Peasants on Parade). The painting is a recent acquisition by the museum and is representative of the institution’s commitment to acquiring works of art by women artists and artists of color. Because the pandemic prevented in-person programming this fall, the discussions took place over Zoom. Although I was initially skeptical about facilitating these talks virtually, I was pleasantly surprised at the nuanced observations and the depth of conversation that developed by closely looking at the painting. As the participants and I studied the work together, we noticed the sense of joy and movement emanating from the scene, which led to questions about Jones herself, her distinctive painting style, and her choice of subject.
Parade de Paysans depicts a Haitian market scene on a bright, sunny day. Over twenty figures populate the scene, coming to and from the market with products to sell. Most of the peasants carry their baskets, crates, and sacs on their heads, revealing an array of goods like lettuce, flowers, and bread. Two structures—likely storehouses—stand near the top of the painting. Also pictured to the right is a covered stand where peasants could set up their displays of goods. The painting probably depicts the market on Saturday, the largest and busiest market day of the week. Peasants would travel long distances from various villages to the nearest town to sell fish, grain, produce, and baked goods. Jones likely witnessed a scene like this in person, having travelled to Haiti regularly since 1954.
Museumgoers were quick to point out the painting’s vibrant colors and geometric style. For instance, they noted that the work could be read as a series of shapes, outlined by bold black lines. The work’s high horizon line and vertical format further flattens and abstracts the painting, tightly framing and pushing the scene towards the picture plane. These compositional choices allowed Jones to effectively capture the hustle and bustle of the market. One participant observed that the way in which Jones placed the figures produced a kind of rhythmic choreography, suggesting movement despite the static nature of the painting. We discussed how the figures functioned to lead the eye through the scene, beginning in the lower left corner and meandering up through the crowded market to the sea above. In general, we noted how the painting’s movement, color, and composition captured the energetic and festive nature of Haiti’s market and its peasants; we felt as if we were immersed in the scene, witnessing and listening to the sounds of the busy market.
In part, Jones’s distinctive style in Parade de Paysans is a testament to her early career as a designer. In 1927, she was the first African American student to graduate from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, specializing in textile design. Parade de Paysans draws on Jones’s background as a designer through its abstracted shapes, bright colors, and compositional rhythm. One participant additionally identified a relationship between Jones’s style and Cubism, which she would have encountered during a nine-month visit to Paris in 1937.
Having discussed Jones’s training, we shifted to talk about the painting’s subject. After returning from Paris in 1938, Jones was encouraged to reevaluate her subject matter and to find inspiration in her African heritage. Spurred by her marriage to Haitian graphic designer Louis Pierre-Noel, Jones’s travels to Haiti played a transformative role in this decision. For Jones, Haiti served as a bridge to Africa. While there, she began painting works that more closely focused on the Black experience, drawing upon African themes, subjects, and objects. She explained that visiting the Caribbean island completely altered her style, shifting her palette to brighter and lighter colors in an attempt to capture the tropicality of the landscape and the spirit of the people. Parade de Paysans is a perfect representation of this shift.
The more we examined the painting, it became clear that Parade de Paysans was a celebration of Haiti, its people, and Jones herself. We also wondered if the work spoke more personally to the racial and gender biases she faced throughout her career. While Jones depicted a variety of peasants in Parade de Paysans, the majority of the figures are women. Perhaps Jones connected more closely with the women peasants, similarly selling her own “goods” (paintings) to make a living. Indeed, she was the breadwinner of her family, paying off Pierre-Noel’s debts and making a steady income. Jones was a true trailblazer, exhibiting her work, receiving awards, teaching, and making a name for herself as an artist despite the constant challenges she encountered as an African American woman. As we took the time to carefully look at the painting, we began to uncover the vibrancy of Jones as an artist and human.
Ph.D. Candidate, Art History, University of Delaware
Every so often I stumble across a book in our library collection that is so beautiful it inspires me to try to find every other book by that designer that I can get my hands on. Burma, by Robert Talbot Kelly (1905), is one such book. The regal Art Nouveau peacocks with their swirling tail feathers had me entranced, and I immediately searched the cover for any sign of the binding designer’s signature. After carefully scanning every inch of the cover I finally found it: there, at the bottom of the spine and nearly impossible to see, was the distinctive scarab-like signature of artist Albert Angus Turbayne. Once I spotted it, I was hooked.
Turbayne’s distinctive scarab monogram.
It turns out we already had a few other books in the collection designed by Turbayne, I just didn’t know it. He didn’t always sign his designs, which makes identifying them difficult and, despite being one of the most distinguished binding designers of the late-nineteenth century (an art director asserted that “the designs of A. A. Turbayne come nearest to perfection”), little is known about him today. Born in Boston in 1866, he moved to Canada in 1881, then to England in 1890, where he would spend the rest of his life. In 1898 he was appointed as a teacher of graphic design at the London County Council School of Photoengraving and Lithography, a position he held until 1920. During this time he also helped set up the Carlton Studio, which became one of the largest commercial art studios of its time in London, where he specialized in decorative lettering, initials, and motifs.
Turbayne began his career as a book designer in the late-1880s, a time when trained, professional artists were just beginning to turn their talents towards book design. The previous decades had witnessed sweeping changes in the publishing industry, inspired by technological advances and a significant growth in literacy. As the century progressed and the middle class grew, more people were reading for pleasure and were able to spend their income on books. Beautiful books became a status symbol for the middle class, and publishers were eager to capitalize on the increasing demand for affordable, attractive books.
In the 1890s Turbayne designed several covers for the “Peacock” edition of illustrated novels published by Macmillan, including those for the novels by Thomas Love Peacock. Here again Turbayne used an elaborate Art Nouveau peacock (a play on the author’s name) that was carried through to the series’ endpapers. With their artistic design, heavy use of gold stamping, and affordable price of 5 shillings (roughly equivalent to £20 today) these books were meant to be seen as well as read.
Headlong Hall and Nightmare Abbey, by Thomas Love Peacock (London: Macmillan and Company, 1896). Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum.
In 1901 British publishing firm A. & C. Black became the first to use the three-color printing process for color illustrations in its 20 shillings (£1) series of “Colour Books.” Black used watercolor artists to create the illustrations, and most of the volumes featured 70 or more color plates. Turbayne and his colleagues at the Carlton Studio were responsible for the majority of the covers as well as the overall design of the entire series. These books sold very well, boosted by their relatively affordable price (roughly equivalent to £78 today), colorful illustrations, and handsome bindings.
Birds of Britain, by J. Lewis Bonhote (London: A. & C. Black, 1907) and Egypt, painted and described by R. Talbot Kelly (London: A. & C. Black, 1907). Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum.
In all, the Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives holds 27 books with bindings designed by Albert Angus Turbayne, though I am still adding more to the collection as I find them. A virtual exhibition, “Nearest to Perfection”: The Binding Designs of Albert Angus Turbayne, may be found on the DelArt website: https://delartlibrary.omeka.net/exhibits/show/turbayne/introduction, and several of his books are on view in the cases outside the Library on the lower level of the Museum. And if you’d like to own a Turbayne design of your very own, the DelArt Store is selling journals featuring the covers of Headlong Hall and Birds of Britain.
Top image: Burma, painted and described by Robert Talbot Kelly (London: A. & C. Black, 1912). Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives, Delaware Art Museum.
One of the Delaware Art Museum’s most striking works in the British Pre-Raphaelite galleries was actually designed and produced by Americans: our Tiffany stained-glass Spring and Autumn window set. The Spring and Autumn windows were commissioned by Samuel Bancroft, whose collection forms the core of the Museum’s Pre-Raphaelite holdings. In the early 1890s, Bancroft expanded his home in order to better hold and display his growing collection of Pre-Raphaelite art. The Philadelphia architect Frank Miles Day was employed to design the structure, and a significant portion of the decorative scheme was carried out by the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company. While Tiffany Studios glasswork has been associated with the vision of Louis Comfort Tiffany, the owner and main artistic designer of the company, the Spring and Autumn windows were actually designed by one of the many women he employed over the course of his career: Lydia Field Emmet (1866-1952).
Behind every great man is a woman, as the saying goes, and behind the success of Tiffany are numerous women whose artistic skills and business acumen helped his company in all its iterations earn great acclaim and popularity. Early in his career, Tiffany launched a business with textile designer Candace Wheeler, before becoming head of design at his father’s firm, Tiffany and Co. The history of women artists at the turn of the 20th century was also connected to the popularity of the Arts and Crafts Movement, with which Tiffany Studios was associated both artistically and politically, and to the American decorative arts industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In turn, women artists entering the workforce and the Arts and Crafts movement were also influenced by developments in organized labor in the United States, meaning these three concepts are all intertwined.
At the company’s height in the late 1890s, Tiffany employed some 40-50 women in a special glass-cutting division. Tiffany’s desire to hire so many women may have been a testament to what one writer called his “progressive spirit.” The popularly-held view that women had a better sense for decoration and took direction better than their male counterparts was also a factor, as were their status as non-unionized workers. The Women’s Glass Cutting Department was established in 1892 and was responsible for the production of some of Tiffany’s most successful and delightful lamps and window patterns. Led by the indomitable Clara Driscoll and her strong sense of design, the department originated the “Dragonfly,” “Wisteria,” and “Butterfly” lampshades, among other notable Tiffany glass products. It’s not known for certain whether Lydia Field Emmet was considered one of Driscoll’s so-called “Tiffany Girls,” but she became known as an artist and art worker in her own right, as well as a part of the Tiffany legacy.
Aside from designing stained glass windows like Spring and Autumn, Emmet exhibited oil paintings, designed wallpaper, illustrated articles for Harper’s Weekly, taught painting at the Shinnecock Summer School of Art, and even created murals for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Many of Tiffany’s female workers, including Emmet, arguably exemplified the promise of the critic and progressive reformer John Ruskin’s conception of the “Unity of Art,” excelling in multiple disciplines and blurring the lines between creating fine art and craft.
During Ruskin’s era, the Industrial Revolution changed the nature of work and employment in major cities, replacing manual labor with rapid machine production of all sorts of goods. In response, the Arts and Crafts movement (led by William Morris in Britain) sought to reinvigorate the role of the artist and artisan in everyday life, and in so doing, improve the conditions of workers and of society as a whole. In the pursuit of pure profit, these theorists argued, creative labor was discouraged and devalued, its dignity lessened; mass-produced objects honored neither the skills of the worker nor the pursuit of beauty.
John Ruskin (who starred in DAM’s Wyeth/Ruskin show a few years ago), “felt that society should work toward promoting the happiness and well-being of every one of its members, by creating a union of art and labour in the service of society.” In other words: instead of working repetitive, menial, even dangerous manufacturing jobs and being paid a pittance for them, workers should be given the opportunity to manufacture items with the full force of their creativity and skill behind them, and should be fairly and justly compensated for doing so. Ruskin’s Unity of Art model disregarded hierarchies among what we consider today “fine art”—painting, sculpture, architecture—and “decorative arts” or “crafts”—embroidery, illustration, glasswork, pottery, textiles, and other media. Artists and artisans were both equal in Ruskin’s mind as creators of beauty and meaning.
The Arts and Crafts movement in Britain and the United States thus combined issues important to artists, craftsmen, and organized labor in opposition to industrial capitalism. Progressives of all social classes therefore had a stake in the game: the Unity of Art espoused respect for labor as significant and creative, and touted art work as a form of labor that should be properly compensated. Women artists and art workers in cities like New York thrived under the Unity of Art ideal, and worked in numerous industries and media, creating everything from magazine illustrations to paintings for exhibition halls.
The “Tiffany Girls,” therefore, represent a partial success of the Unity of Art, and of women’s growing recognition as artists and art workers at the turn of the century. However, while the proliferation of women artists in professional employment represented a victory for these women, it came at a cost for other members of society, and for the labor movement as a whole. Labor unions, responsible for the establishment of such now-commonplace workplace concepts as the weekend and the eight-hour day, did not generally accept women among their ranks. Therefore, women were often hired at firms like Tiffany as strike-breakers, and they were paid less than their unionized male counterparts. So while Tiffany hiring women in his glass department may have been influenced by the changing view of women’s capabilities and value outside the domestic sphere, it also allowed Tiffany to use them as a cudgel against labor unions demanding fairer wages and working hours. (To this day, women are still less likely to be unionized than their male counterparts.)
The Unity of Art ideal allowed Lydia Field Emmet to make a career as an artist and an art worker, but its popularity as a scheme for incorporating art into larger societal ideals did not last. Replaced in esteem by the concept of “Art for Art’s Sake,” which placed a premium on art “[capable] of producing pleasurable impressions in the viewer” (Masten 245), the mindset that had allowed Emmet to both paint murals and design wallpaper fell out of vogue, with commercial arts industries knocked down a peg on the ladder of prestige. Indeed, ideas about how labor should be compensated, how the creation of art should be compensated, and indeed, whether art work is a form of labor, continue to be furiously debated and negotiated to this day.
Curatorial Assistant, 2017–2019
MA in Public Humanities at Brown University, Class of 2021
Image: Spring and Autumn, c. 1892. Lydia Field Emmet (designer, 1866-1952) for Tiffany Studios Leaded glass, 37 × 51 1/2 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Memorial, 1935.
What happens when you place two unrelated works of art from different continents, centuries, movements, and artistic backgrounds next to one another on a gallery wall? Something magical it seems. Even when works of art have a 150-year gap in their creation and stylistically come from different eras, relationships can form between them if they connect visually or tell similar stories that strengthen their bond.
The way that a museum is able to share these stories with the community is through the practice of collecting. This idea has become the basic premise of the upcoming show Collecting and Connecting: Recent Acquisitions, 2010-2020. Over the past ten years, the Museum’s curators have worked hard to expand each of the collections (American Illustration, British Pre-Raphaelites, American Art to 1960, Contemporary Art, and the Helen Farr Sloan Library and Archives), which has resulted in the acquisition of more than 1,500 new works. Always keeping the existing artwork in mind, the curators have actively shaped the collections to emphasize stories of women, artists of color, LGBTQ+ communities, local artists, and works which express innovative creativity.
Viewing artwork is an interpretive and subjective experience because everyone brings a different perspective to the table. This is the main reason why the works that will be shown in Collecting and Connecting are organized into groups based on visual, contextual, and emotional connections instead of by collection or chronological order. This way, we hope to create juxtapositions with artwork which extend past the barriers of time, movement, collection, country, style, or medium, and focus on what viewers physically see in the moment.
When beginning to plan the exhibition, it was difficult not to organize by collection, chronological order, or overarching theme, which is how most shows that feature recent acquisitions are laid out. The organization by theme was appealing, but felt forced, and we wanted to give the audience as much freedom for interpretation as possible. This quickly evolved into what the basis of the show will be: creating strong relationships between unrelated works through interesting juxtapositions. After looking through all 1,500+ works, a few significant relationships began to appear, one of which was that between Jerry Pinkney’s Cover Study for The Old African,” 2005, and John Everett Millais’s The Bridge of Sighs, 1857.
Take a moment to view these two works. With no background or context, what are you seeing? What stories do you think they are telling independently? What story do you think they tell together?
Pinkney, a successful illustration artist, created this watercolor as a study for the cover of Julius Lester’s children’s book, The Old African, published in 2005, which tells the reimagined legend of the Old African, a slave who uses mystical powers to free and lead a group of his fellow slaves on a journey back to their homeland of Africa. Pinkney illustrated the entire book, creating stunning visuals that revealed both the horrors of slavery and the magic of hope in a way that still engages and educates readers of all ages. Expressing his desire to tell stories through images, Pinkney states on his website, “I’ve made a concerted effort to use my art making to examine as well as express my interest in Black history and culture—the tragedy, resilience, courage, and grit of African American people in their contributions to this country’s development. This deep dive into my own roots also bridged my interest in other cultures and histories of people who have been marginalized.”
Both this study and the final version feature the main character, the Old African, gazing out into the ocean horizon where ships are sailing by, presumably on their way to deliver or pick up slaves. The ships are deceptively colorful albeit their ominous nature. Pinkney chose to depict a scene that sits in the interim of the story’s action—between fleeing the plantation and arriving in Africa. The energy and emotion of a scene that shows the Old African in contemplation is palpable. Pinkney filled this moment with vibrant colors to possibly represent the spiritual nature and magical abilities of the Old African, but also to express an optimistic attitude that good will conquer evil. The Museum acquired this piece in 2018 for a number of reasons, one of which was its visual relationship to Howard Pyle’s colorful pirate works, such as An Attack on a Galleon (1905), a work already in the Museum’s collection.
In 1857, John Everett Millais etched the scene in The Bridge of Sighs based on the poem of the same name by Thomas Hood, which was originally published in 1844. The poem tells the story of a woman driven to suicide because of her status as an impoverished, homeless, vagrant living on the streets of Victorian London. In this print, Millais depicts the woman contemplating her decision. The common archetype that developed in Victorian England of the “fallen woman” was a woman who was cast out by her family because of a sexual transgression and/or who lacked opportunities provided to men, such as a proper job or housing. This woman, according to social myth, would then go to the city where she became a prostitute, eventually throwing herself off of a bridge out of guilt, and then literally falling to her death.
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and related artists chose to depict confrontational scenes of modern life, contrary to the Royal Academy’s preference for sentimental genre scenes. The fallen woman was depicted by many Victorian artists in various stages of their plight, with many artists seeking to arouse empathy in the viewer for the difficulties a modern woman faces. Many artists also sought to warn their audience about what can happen if a woman is led astray from the social norm. In Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s unfinished Found (1854), the woman has already fallen but is being rescued, whereas in George Frederic Watts’s Found Drowned (1848-50) the woman has already completed suicide by jumping from a bridge. Millais’s work, however, shows a woman between these two possible endings, not yet rescued but not yet having lost all hope. It is a moment of anticipation in which the viewer can imagine the woman turning her life around and recovering or suffering the same fate as many others.
While planning and selecting works for the exhibition, there were a few visual relationships that we identified right from the start and used as the basis for creating other connections between work of art. Even when we did not have a clear idea of how this show would be presented, we knew that the relationships we were seeing were important and shared the story of the Museum’s collections in a different way. It has been a fascinating exercise to look at the museum’s 1,500+ recent acquisitions and see how much a work from 1857 and one from 2005 can tell the same story or have a very similar composition.
Like Pinkney’s study, Millais’s print also shows a moment of contemplation and anticipation. Both the Old African and the fallen woman have been horribly abused and mistreated by society at large, abandoned and left to their own devices. Whereas the Old African chooses to see hope and fight for freedom, the fallen woman sees endless despair and will ultimately choose to accept her tragic fate.
Compositionally, the figures in Pinkney’s study for The Old African and Millais’s The Bridge of Sighs sit on opposite sides of their framed scenes and face opposite directions. The woman in Millais’s work is in standing on the right and gazing out on the environment to the left with her face open to the audience, most likely because she has nothing to hide anymore. Alternately, Pinkney’s Old African stands waist deep in the water on the left, while looking out on the ships and expanse of ocean to the right and is turned away from the audience, adding to the mystery of the character. Pinkney’s work is a bright, colorful day scene, whereas Millais’s is a black and white, shadowed nocturne. Although the two artists lived more than 100 years apart and in different continents, they each used their artistic talents to meaningfully share a story that would educate, create empathy and understanding, and potentially have an impact on their community. Cover Study for The Old African and The Bridge of Sighs make for an unlikely pairing, but have a deeper visual and contextual relationship that instantly made them a vital part of Collecting and Connecting: Recent Acquisitions, 2010-2020.
Collecting and Connecting: Recent Acquisitions, 2010-2020 will run from March 13 to September 12, 2021, in the Anthony N. and Catherine A. Fusco Gallery, with additional recent acquisitions installed and highlighted throughout the Museum and Copeland Sculpture Garden.
2020 Alfred Appel, Jr. Curatorial Fellow
MA in Art History, Savannah College of Art and Design
1. Publisher’s Weekly, “The Old African, Julius Lester, Author, Jerry Pinkney, Illustrator,” book review, Publisher’s Weekly, October 24, 2005, https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-8037-2564-5.
2. Jerry Pinkney, What’s New?, JerryPinkneyStudio.com, 2019, accessed September 21, 2020, https://www.jerrypinkneystudio.com/frameset.html.
3. Linda Nochlin, “Lost and Found: Once More the Fallen Woman,” in Feminism and Art History: Questioning the Litany, ed. Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard, 1st ed., (New York: Harper and Row, 1982), 226-229.
4. Lynn Nead, “The Magdalen in Modern Times: The Mythology of the Fallen Woman in Pre-Raphaelite Painting,” Oxford Art Journal 7, no. 1 (1984): 30-32.
The 1920s were a heady time in fashion illustration. Magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar featured illustrated covers and pages of articles highlighting the latest styles. National ready-to-wear clothing companies hired top illustrators to promote their brands with eye-catching, full-color layouts. The Museum has a fascinating collection of fashion illustrations from the 1920s. I’ve been exploring them lately as work toward an upcoming exhibition on Jazz Age Illustration.
Vogue commissioned top-notch illustrators like Sarah Stilwell Weber and Helen Dryden to design creative, playful covers in the teens and twenties. These covers didn’t always showcase current styles—Dryden’s 1922 Cover for Vogue (see below) seems to evoke an earlier era—but they convey a stylish sensibility and enthusiasm for fashion. Interior images, like Manuel de Lambarri’s straightforward graphics, generally related more directly to current questions of what to wear.
Above:Cover for Vogue, December 15, 1922. Helen Dryden (1882–1981). Gouache, ink, and watercolor on paper, 19 × 15 1/2 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Acquisition Fund, 1992.
By the twenties, fashion illustration permeated American culture, appearing well beyond the publications dedicated to fashion. Even the most ordinary products—men’s shirts and suits, hosiery for women—were promoted with striking visual campaigns that appeared in widely circulated general-interest magazines like The Saturday Evening Post. J.C. Leyendecker’s Arrow Collar Man was one of the most iconic images of the period. Strikingly handsome and impeccably turned out, the Arrow Collar Man supposedly received bags full of mail from admiring women. Ads often pictured him encased in an oval—his chiseled features perfectly framed by a white collar and necktie. A recently accessioned sketch in the Museum’s collection may be a study for an Arrow Collar ad. The model for the Arrow Collar Man was Charles Beach, Leyendecker’s partner in business and life for 50 years.
Above, left to right:Portrait Head (Possible Study for Arrow Collar Advertisement), c. 1925. J.C. Leyendecker (1874–1951). Graphite on coated canvas, 10 3/8 x 7 5/8 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Gift of Helen Farr Sloan, 1984; Accessioned, 2020. | Figure Study for a Kuppenheimer Advertisement, 1929. J.C. Leyendecker (1874–1951), Oil on (linen) canvas, 22 x 9 1/4 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Acquisition Fund, 2016.
Beach modeled for many of Leyendecker’s advertisements, likely including this over-the-top Kuppenheimer Suits promotion. The Museum owns a Figure Study for this luxurious spread. A famous illustrator whose signature style dominated the covers of The Saturday Evening Post in the pre-Rockwell era, Leyendecker himself brought a gloss of glamour to the ad campaigns he created. According to one critic, he crystallized “the refined American male look of the first 30 years of the 20th century.”
C. Coles Phillips brought his ideal of the fashionable modern woman to advertisements and magazine covers. Phillips designed many ads for Holeproof Hosiery, featuring women displaying their flawless stockings. In his cover for The Saturday Evening Post (top) a stylish woman must cope instead with impromptu repairs to her hosiery. Everything about her—the dropped-waist dress, bobbed hair, and chic shoes—made her an aspirational image for contemporary women.
Even as these beautiful images were appearing in American magazines every week, change was brewing. In 1923, Edward Steichen became chief photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair. Steichen became one of the pioneers of fashion photography, pushing the field in new artistic directions. By the early 1920s, photography was making inroads within magazine layouts, and in 1932, Vogue printed its first photographic cover. Issues with photographic covers soon outsold ones with illustrated covers. A period known as a “golden age” of fashion illustration was coming to an end.
Heather Campbell Coyle
Curator of American Art
Top: Cover for The Saturday Evening Post, October 2, 1920. C. Coles Phillips (1880–1927). Watercolor, gouache, and graphite on illustration board, 20 × 16 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Acquisition Fund, 1988.
Along the Harlem River, 1925. Malvin Gray Johnson (1896–1934). Oil on canvas board, 12 × 16 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Acquisition Fund, 2017.
Art history has a bias toward “mature work” and signature styles. Within our public galleries, most artists are represented by a single work, so museums tend to seek out and exhibit the most characteristic examples of an artist’s career. But I have to confess my affection for many artists’ early works. I love it when you can see an artist discovering their interests and talents. One of the things I admire most about the living artists I work with is how they constantly solve problems. I love a work that still has traces of that problem-solving labor and experimentation.
Upstairs in the gallery dedicated to modern American art, early works by Malvin Gray Johnson and Hughie Lee-Smith hang side by side. The Johnson is an impressionist glimpse across the Harlem River, and it was painted in 1925 when he was still a student. Johnson died of heart failure at age 38 and may never have settled on a mature style. Active at the heart of the Harlem Renaissance, he was a relentless experimenter who quickly moved on to incorporate elements of cubism and African art into his work in the late 1920s. In 1934, he headed south, recording the daily life of rural African Americans in watercolors. His experiments with modern styles may have started with impressionism in works like Harlem River.
Hughie Lee-Smith lived a long life and gained fame for his psychologically charged depictions of isolated figures in urban settings. Holland Cotter described Lee-Smith’s work in the artist’s obituary in the New York Times:
Mr. Lee-Smith’s paintings usually have spare settings suggestive of theater stages or bleak urban or seaside landscapes. Walls stretch out under gray skies. Men and women, as lithe as dancers, seem frozen in place. Most are dressed in street clothes; some wear exotic masks. Children frequently appear, as do props reminiscent of circuses. The work has an air of mystery associated with the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico and Edward Hopper.
DelArt’s painting by Lee-Smith, The Bouquet, has the artist’s characteristic bleak landscape and air of mystery, but it has a stronger implied narrative than many of his best known later works. There is urgency and energy in the figures’ interaction that is echoed in the rough, textured paint of her dress. It seems like a picture of young love gone wrong. The artist was about 34 when he made it. Four years later, Lee-Smith would launch his career, finishing his bachelor’s degree at Wayne State and winning a top prize for painting at the Detroit Institute of Art.
Heather Campbell Coyle
Chief Curator and Curator of American Art
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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.” And Burne-Jones commented, “figures must be simply read at a great distance…the leads are part of the beauty of the work…”
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), 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.” 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.” 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, 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).
Chambers Encyclopedia, 1890.  [Cited in Haslam and Whiteway (2008): 3] Miriam was taken from a figure of Deborah drawn in 1896 for the Albion Congregational Church, Ashton-under-Lyne. Memorials II: 26.  Georgiana Burne-Jones, Memorials, II:109. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
ILL. #2Hymenaeus, 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. #3Study 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
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.
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
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
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
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
2019 Alfred Appel, Jr. Curatorial Fellow, Delaware Art Museum
Lois F. McNeil Fellow, Class of 2020, Winterthur Program in American Material Culture
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr (1808–1890)
In 1909, Gayle Hoskins created the frontispiece for Elizabeth Dejeans’ novel The Winning Chance. The story centers on 19-year-old Janet Carew (left), who must work to support her impoverished family. She becomes a typist for older, prosperous, married stockbroker Leo Varek (left). Before long, he makes his predatory advance, telling her that if she succumbs he will ensure her family’s welfare. Janet has already resigned other positions after resisting similar abuse. She had hoped that this job would be different.
Hoskins captures Janet’s fear after she has rebuffed Leo’s demand. She shrinks back as her enraged employer thrusts out his chest in a threat just short of a physical attack. The tiger rug with the animal’s bared fangs is a perfect symbol for the sinister boss. The center point of the composition is two clenched fists, hers in fear and his in anger, almost meeting at the juncture of her white sleeve and his white shirt in the darkened room.
Eventually, to save her family from ruin, the worn-down Janet enters into a loveless relationship as Leo’s mistress, until she leaves to marry a man of her choosing. In a moralistic ending typical of early 20th-century popular novels, her departure causes Leo a crisis of conscience and he commits suicide. The now happy and secure Janet forgives him on his deathbed.
Dejeans (born Elizabeth Janes) considered the subject of The Winning Chance, her first novel, sufficiently controversial that she published it under a pen name. At a time when sexual matters were rarely alluded to, much less discussed, one reviewer explained her choice: “the radical character of [the book made it] probable that staid relatives might be discomforted to find themselves allied to the author.”
When Lippincott, the book’s publisher, advertised the novel with the phrase “the big problem of the American girl,” a writer in the American Journal of Nursing, published primarily by and for women professionals, noted that the subject was more properly “the problem of the American man.” Leo believes “in his monumental selfishness…in his right to sacrifice the girl because she is defenseless and in his power.” Janet’s final escape gives her “the privilege which has universally been accorded to men but thitherto denied to women.” The review closes with regret that the book “will not be read by business men” who might be pressed to examine and explain their own behavior in such situations.
Other reviewers ranged from forceful to pleasant. Edwin Markham, the poet and voice for labor justice, noted that the plot “involves one of the deepest and darkest tragedies of civilization—a tragedy that should arouse a nation to action.” Some commentators praised the human interest aspects of the book. Unsympathetic authors believed that Janet should have resisted Leo at all costs. Others regarded her with compassion. Some felt that Leo’s ultimate suffering redeemed him somewhat.
Hoskins chose to illustrate a pivotal scene, one that exemplifies the turning point of the novel. A casual viewer—even one just glancing at the cover in a bookstore—would apprehend the plot. Intense emotions, telling poses, and dramatic lighting crystallize the fateful confrontation. It’s no wonder that Lippincott promoted Hoskins’ “colored frontispiece” in its advertising for the book. The image also appeared on the cover of some editions.
Mary F. Holahan
Curator of Illustration
Top image: Facing each other at last, the girl white, shaking, her eyes aflame, 1909. Cover and frontispiece for The Winning Chance by Elizabeth Dejeans (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1909). Gayle Porter Hoskins (1887–1962). Oil on canvas, 36 x 24 1/2 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Acquired by exchange, 1971.
 “Book Reviews and Notes,” The Oriental Economic Review, vol. III (July–August 1913), 629.
 The American Journal of Nursing. vol. 10 (November 1909), 138–139.
 Advertising section in The Far Triumph by Elizabeth Dejeans (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1909), 377.