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.

Kristen Nassif
Ph.D. Candidate, Art History, University of Delaware

Ruth Gleaning, c. 1850. Randolph Rogers (1825–1892). Marble, 47 × 26 × 26 inches, base: 20 × 28 × 28 inches. Private Collection, Delaware, Courtesy of Art Finance Partners, LLC. Installation image of Picturing America (American Art through 1900), 2021. Photograph by Carson Zullinger. © Delaware Art Museum.

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.

image 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).

imageAdvertisement 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.

imageA 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!

imageTicket 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.

imagePhotograph 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.

imageLeft: 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.

image Left to right: Mansa Musa King of Mali, 2001. Cover illustration for Mansa Musa: The Lion of Mali, by Khephra Burns, (Gulliver Books, 2001). Diane Dillon (born 1933) and Leo Dillon (1933–2012). Gouache on Bristol board, composition: 6 x 8 1/2 inches, sheet: 10 x 12 1/8 inches. Courtesy of the artist. © Diane and Leo Dillon. | King Arthur of Britain and decorated initial K with title and design, 1903. Illustration for “The Story of King Arthur and His Knights,” by Howard Pyle, in St. Nicholas, January 1903. Howard Pyle (1853–1911). Ink and graphite on illustration board, composition: 9 1/8 × 6 3/16 inches, sheet: 11 11/16 × 9 1/16 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Gift of Anne Poole Pyle, 1920.

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.

image Left to right: The Ironwood Tree, 2004. Cover illustration for The Ironwood Tree, The Spiderwick Chronicles Book 4, by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, (Simon & Schuster, 2004). Tony DiTerlizzi (born 1969). Acryla gouache on plate-finish Bristol board, 14 3/4 x 10 3/8 inches, frame: 23 7/8 x 19 inches. Courtesy of the artist. Spiderwick Chronicles © Tony DiTerlizzi & Holly Black. | The Lady of Ye Lake and decorated initial T with title and design, 1903 from The Story of King Arthur and His Knights, by Howard Pyle (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1903). Howard Pyle (American illustrator, 1853–1911). Ink and graphite on illustration board, composition: 9 1/16 × 6 1/4 inches, sheet: 14 5/8 × 11 1/8 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Museum Purchase, 1912.

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.

Fantasy and the Medieval Past runs from September 25, 2021 to January 31, 2022 in the Ammon galleries on the upper level.

Emily Shartrand

Join Emily for gallery talks in the special exhibition on October 16, and browse the novels illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi, Leo and Diane Dillon, and Ian Schoenherr in the Museum Store.

Stories and Lies, 2012. Illustration for Bitterblue, Graceling Realm Book 3, by Kristin Cashore, (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012). Ian Schoenherr (born 1966). Ink on paper, composition: 8 3/4 x 11 1/2 inches, sheet: 9 3/4 x 12 inches. Courtesy of the artist. © Ian Schoenherr.

Enslavement, Education, and Freedom

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.

imageLeft 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.

Yellow Fever

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.

imageLeft 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.

Learn more about the Wilmington Writers Conference and register.

Jessa Mendez
Lead Museum Associate

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.

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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!

Elizabeth Denholm
Associate Registrar

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.


Fresh Air, c.1958-1962. Jane Freilicher (1924-2014). Oil on canvas, 58 1/2 x 35 1/8 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Gift of Adalar Marberger, 1981. © Estate of Jane Freilicher.

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

Top image: Jonquils I, 1936. Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986). Oil on canvas, 16 x 22 inches. Private Collection, Delaware, courtesy of Art Finance Partners LLC © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York.

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-1980s poster 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.”

Recently, historians and curators have explored the rich artistic history of New York in the 1980s, a time of vibrancy despite the ravaging of the art community by AIDS. As an important figure in this story, Andreas Sterzing has been included in several museum exhibitions and associated publications. The artist has also made his numerous photographs available for online viewing, including slideshows Something Possible Everywhere: Pier 34 NYC 1983–84 and Alphabet City & the East Village Art Scene NYC 1980s.

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.

Margaret Winslow
Curator of Contemporary Art

Image: David Wojnarowicz (Silence=Death); New York, 1989/2014. Andreas Sterzing (born 1956). Pigment print, 24 × 18 1/2 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Acquisition Fund, 2020. © Andreas Sterzing.

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!)

I love that the one painting we can recognize is called Family Group, a title that perfectly fits the mood of this gathering of friends and art lovers. I look forward to seeing this work hanging in Collecting and Connecting: Recent Acquisitions, 2010–2020.

Heather Campbell Coyle
Chief Curator and Curator of American Art

Image: Gallery Scene, c. 1938. Helen Farr Sloan (1911-2005). Oil on board, 22 × 24 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Bequest of Helen Farr Sloan, 2014. © Delaware Art Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

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.

Heather Campbell Coyle
Curator of American Art

Above: Eldzier Cortor. Southern Souvenir No. II, c. 1948. Oil on board mounted on Masonite ™ on wood strainer, 35 1/2 x 64 1/2 inches. Art Bridges. © Estate of Eldzier Cortor / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York.

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 by Gayle Porter HoskinsFacing 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.

Image of SavedSaved, 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.

Kristen Nassif
Ph.D. Candidate, Art History, University of Delaware

Image: Parade de Paysans (Peasants on Parade), 1961. Loïs Mailou Jones. Oil on canvas, 39 1/4 x 19 inches. Delaware Art Museum. Acquisition Fund, 2018. © Estate of Loïs Mailou Jones.

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.

Rachael DiEleuterio

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.

Deborah Krieger
Curatorial Assistant, 2017–2019
MA in Public Humanities at Brown University, Class of 2021

Sources and further reading:

April F. Masten, Art Work: Women Artists and Democracy in Mid-19th Century New York(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008)
Martin Eidelberg, Nina Gray, and Margaret K. Hofer, A New Light on Tiffany: Clara Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls (New-York Historical Society, 2007)
Joseph G. Rayback, A History of American Labor (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1964)
Eileen Boris, Art and Labor: Ruskin, Morris, and the Craftsman Ideal in America (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986)
Philip S. Foner, Women and the American Labor Movement: From Colonial Times to the Eve of World War I (Free Press, 1979)
Meredith Tax, The Rising of Women: Feminist Solidarity and Class Conflict, 1880-1917 (University of Illinois Press, 2001) Mark Bassett, “Breaking Tiffany’s Glass Ceiling: Clara Wolcott Driscoll (1861-1944),” Cleveland Institute of Art news site, January 1, 2012: https://www.cia.edu/news/stories/breaking-tiffanys-glass-ceiling-clara-wolcott-driscoll-1861-1944/
Amelia Peck and Carol Irish, with Elena Phipps, Candace Wheeler: The Art and Enterprise of American Design, 1875–1900 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2001). Downloadable here: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/Candace_Wheeler_The_Art_and_Enterprise_of_American_Design_1875_1900
Jeffrey Helgeson, “American Labor and Working-Class History, 1900–1945,” Oxford Research Encyclopedias: American History, August 2016: http://americanhistory.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780199329175.001.0001/acrefore-9780199329175-e-330?rskey=5l9Ed5&result=2
Alex Hass, “Design History,” in Graphic Design and Print Production Fundamentals, B.C. Communications Open Textbook Collective, 2015: https://opentextbc.ca/graphicdesign/chapter/chapter-2/
“Lydia Field Emmet,” National Gallery of Art, https://www.nga.gov/collection/artist-info.1267.html
“The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap,” American Association of University Women, http://www.morsemuseum.org/louis-comfort-tiffany/tiffany-studios-designers)
“Women in Unions,” Status of Women in the States, https://statusofwomendata.org/women-in-unions/

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.[1] 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.”[2]

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.[3] 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.[4]

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.

Caroline Giddis
2020 Alfred Appel, Jr. Curatorial Fellow
MA in Art History, Savannah College of Art and Design

Above, left to right: Variant of or study for the cover of “The Old African”, 2005, for The Old African by Julius Lester (New York, Dial Press, 2005). Jerry Pinkney (born 1939). Watercolor and graphite on paper, 12 1/4 × 10 3/16 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Acquisition Fund, 2018. © Jerry Pinkney. | The Bridge of Sighs, 1857. John Everett Millais (1829-1896). Etching, plate: 4 ½ x 3 ½ inches, sheet: 16 ¾ x 11 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Acquisition Fund, 2015.


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.

Image 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.

Image 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.

imageThe Bouquet, 1949. Hughie Lee-Smith (1915–1999). Oil on Masonite, 23 3/4 × 17 3/4 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Acquisition Fund, 2018 © Estate of Hughie Lee-Smith / VAGA for ARS, New York, NY.

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

About Copyright: Through the protection of Fair Use (Section 107, title 17, U.S. Code), the Delaware Art Museum is able to place low-resolution images of works of art in our collection for which we do not hold the rights on this blog. We assert that these images are for educational research only, and follow guidelines for digital thumbnail images outlined by the Association of Art Museum Directors . The Delaware Art Museum respects the intellectual property rights of others, and is committed to researching which works in the collection are protected under copyright and to clearly providing that information where necessary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I met a lady in the meads,

Full beautiful—a faery’s child,

Her hair was long, her foot was light,

And her eyes were wild.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Olivia Armandroff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Margaretta Frederick
Annette Woolard-Provine Curator of the Bancroft Collection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flowers and Their Sentiments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Botanical Reading List

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

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

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

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

Infinite Avenues of Artistic Expression

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

Distinguished Artist

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

Senior Artists Initiative

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

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

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Mitch Lyons: The Hand Translated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”[1]

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.[2]

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.”[3] 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.

[1] “Book Reviews and Notes,” The Oriental Economic Review, vol. III (July–August 1913), 629.
[2] The American Journal of Nursing. vol. 10 (November 1909), 138–139.
[3] Advertising section in The Far Triumph by Elizabeth Dejeans (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1909), 377.