Exhibition | The Power of Prints: The Legacy of Ivins and Mayor

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on January 30, 2016


Paul-César Helleu, Madame Helleu Looking at the Watteau Drawings in the Louvre, ca. 1896, drypoint, 38.8 × 51 cm (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, 59.599.19)

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Goya is the the important eighteenth-century offering here: Ivins was responsible for those acquisitions. Press release (21 January 2016) from The Met:

The Power of Prints: The Legacy of William M. Ivins and A. Hyatt Mayor
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 26 January 26 — 22 May 2016

Curated by Freyda Spira

The history of the Metropolitan Museum’s collection of works of art on paper—now one of the most important and most comprehensive in the world—began 100 years ago with the unlikely and astonishing story of its first two curators, neither of whom was trained as an art historian. Together, they challenged convention, engaged the public, and revolutionized the study of these works. Organized to commemorate the department’s centennial, the exhibition The Power of Prints: The Legacy of William M. Ivins and A. Hyatt Mayor sheds light on the fascinating careers of its founding curators and reveals how, from the very beginning, they artfully composed the print collection as a visual library: a corpus of works of art on paper—from the exceptional to the everyday. The story of this great American collection will be told through prints by Andrea Mantegna, Albrecht Dürer, Marcantonio Raimondi, Jacques Callot, Rembrandt van Rijn, Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Honoré Daumier, James McNeill Whistler, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Mary Cassatt, Edward Penfield, and Edward Hopper, among others.

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, The Garroted Man (El agarrotado), ca. 1778–80, etching, 32.7 x 21.4 cm (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1920, 20.22)

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, The Garroted Man (El agarrotado), ca. 1778–80, etching, 32.7 x 21.4 cm (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1920, 20.22)

In 1916, William Mills Ivins (1881–1961) abandoned a successful law career to accept the job of founding curator of the Met’s Department of Prints. Although he was hired specifically to acquire the works of well-known 19th-century artists and old masters, Ivins set out instead to amass examples of technical, social, and historical interest as well. Notably, he championed the works of Goya, whose challenging and sometimes gruesome imagery was not appreciated in America at that time. Ivins first encountered these works as a student in Paris; the brutal images of war affected him profoundly and, in time, changed the course of his life. Almost all of the Met’s collection of nearly 300 Goya prints—one of the largest anywhere—was acquired by Ivins.

Before joining the Museum in 1932, Alpheus Hyatt Mayor (1901–1980) had studied modern languages, literature, and poetry, and worked as an arts critic, teacher, and occasional actor. Like Ivins, he was also an avid bibliophile with wide-ranging interests, a voracity for knowledge, and passion for social history. Brought on to assist Ivins and, eventually, to continue his legacy, Mayor expanded on Ivins’s foundational work by adding a new focus on lithography and popular prints. Pushing the boundaries of what had traditionally been collected as printed matter, he acquired for the Museum some of the most renowned American collections of popular prints. To Mayor, these items had value, because of the information they contained about all aspects of culture. He also recognized their future potential for research in diverse fields, from anthropology to urban planning.

As a result of Ivins’s and Mayor’s prescient collecting, the department now houses innumerable unique masterpieces, lauded for their exceptional artistry, as well as popular prints such as posters and trade cards that were printed in large numbers and never intended to last. By employing a conversational and colloquial tone in texts they drafted to describe these works, Ivins and Mayor transformed the way information about art objects was written. Excerpts from the writings of Ivins and Mayor will be included on labels throughout the exhibition.

To a certain extent, the history of the department is also the history of a series of extraordinary gifts and purchases of works of art. The gift of some 3,500 prints by paper manufacturer Harris Brisbane Dick led to the hiring of Ivins, to oversee them. An early gift of 10 prints by the artist Mary Cassatt came from Ivins’s friend Paul J. Sachs, assistant director at the Fogg Museum at Harvard University. (Sachs’s brother—also a friend of Ivins—gave an additional seven.) Engravings, woodcuts, and two woodblocks by Dürer entered the collection through gift and purchase from Junius Spencer Morgan, a noted collector of the artist’s works. Between 1949 and 1962, Mayor purchased more than 16,000 engravings, woodcuts, and mezzotints from Franz Joseph II, prince of Liechtenstein. The American sculptor Bessie Potter Vonnoh donated her entire collection of French and American posters of the 1890s. From Jefferson R. Burdick, the Museum received 300,000 examples of printed ephemera from the late 19th to the mid-20th century.

Just as Ivins and Mayor did, the exhibition will consider printed matter as the entrée to the information age, recognizing prints as functional objects that spread information to an ever-expanding audience and reflect a changing society. In the age of digital photography and the Internet, the power of prints, or the ability to disseminate images in identical form to a mass market, has special relevance to how we see, understand, and engage with works of art.

Arranged thematically and by technique, the exhibition has four parts. In the first section, the idea of taste is addressed in terms of Harris Brisbane Dick’s foundational gift of French, British, and American etchings and how it affected the collecting of etchings by the likes of Rembrandt and Goya. The second section considers engravings, amassed from the beginning with a focus on Renaissance artists such as Mantegna and Dürer. The third section shows the use of printed images in the spread of knowledge. Several rare early books, illustrated by woodcuts will be displayed. The books represent firsts of their kind on topics as diverse as costume, anatomy, and architecture. The final section features examples by Daumier, Toulouse-Lautrec, and other 19th-century artists whose works entered a truly mass market in the form of lithographs. Also in this section will be selected popular prints and ephemera from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Power of Prints: The Legacy of William M. Ivins and A. Hyatt Mayor is organized by Freyda Spira, Associate Curator in the Metropolitan Museum’s Department of Drawings and Prints. Exhibition design is by Zoe Alexandra Florence, Exhibition Designer; graphics are by Ria Roberts, Graphic Designer; and lighting is by Clint Ross Coller and Richard Lichte, Lighting Design Managers, all of the Museum’s Design Department.

An illustrated checklist is available here»

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The catalogue is distributed by Yale UP:

Freyda Spira and Peter Parshall, The Power of Prints: The Legacy of William M. Ivins and A. Hyatt Mayor (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016), 192 pages, ISBN: 978-1588395856, $35 / £25.

9781588395856Metropolitan Museum curators William M. Ivins and his protégé A. Hyatt Mayor not only assembled a vast collection of prints, from Renaissance masterworks to ephemeral works, but also expanded the appreciation of prints as aesthetic objects, socio-historical documents, and tools of communication. More radically, by discussing these prints in accessible language, they changed our notions of how art reaches the wider public. Drawing on previously unpublished material, including personal letters and departmental records, this is the first comprehensive exploration of the lives, careers, theories, and influence of Ivins and Mayor. Also included are 120 exceptional prints that represent the breadth and depth of their acquisitions, including works by Dürer, Rembrandt, Callot, Goya, Whistler, Cassatt, and Toulouse-Lautrec.

Freyda Spira is associate curator in the Department of Drawings and Prints, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Peter Parshall was formerly the Jane Neuberger Goodsell Professor of Art History and the Humanities at Reed College and curator and head of the Department of Old Master Prints at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Call for Papers | Art History for Artists

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on January 30, 2016


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Conference organizers stress that they welcome papers addressing the latter half of the eighteenth century, too! Details are available from the conference website. From the CFP:

Art History for Artists: Interactions between Scholarly
Discourse and Artistic Practice in the 19th Century
Berlin, 8–9 July 2016

Proposals due by 1 March 2016

The conference seeks to examine the shaping of art history as a discipline during the 19th century in relation to artistic training and exchanges between artists and scholars. The development of art history has been associated with an array of socio-political and economic factors such as the formation of a bourgeois public, the politics of national identity and state legitimacy or the needs of an expanding art market. This conference aspires to explore yet another, less studied dimension: the extent to which the historical study of art was also rooted in an intention to inform contemporary artistic production.

The scholarship produced by the first generations of art historians in this period was intertwined with their interest in the art of their time, its quality and future development. Throughout the century many art historians made studies entirely dedicated to contemporary art and sought to provide artists with new ideals. The connection between scholarly discourse and artistic practice was also validated at an institutional level. Since the late 18th century courses in art history, along with courses in history, archaeology, art theory and aesthetics, had been systematically incorporated into the curricula of art academies, schools of design, academies of architecture and polytechnics. These spaces of art education were among the first institutional homes of art history, and played an important role in the shaping of the discipline well before the establishment of autonomous university chairs—a development largely overlooked in the history of art history, but also in the history of art education.

The historical study of art questioned academic normativity and multiplied the aesthetic models available for artists. Reacting against the growing commodification of art, many artists claimed a new role as creators for art history and for the museum, as an alternative to the market. At the same time, the influx of empirical knowledge on past art was often seen as a burden for artistic creativity. The overall reflective turn upon art and its past, tainted by the Hegelian announcement of the end of art, influenced the work of artists in multifarious ways that remain to be explored.

Three main axes of inquiry will be privileged:

1. Scholarly courses in art education: institutional frameworks
Based on concrete cases, papers may address the training in art history, archaeology, art theory and aesthetics offered in institutions of art education and consider the artistic, political or economic considerations linked to its introduction to the curriculum. Topics of interest may include teaching approaches and goals, the media and technologies of illustration (prints, casts, museum collections, photography), or the profile of professors.
What was the impact of a systematised art historical and theoretical knowledge on academic doctrines, practical training and the overall objectives of art education? How did the particular institutional framework of art education and exposure to the problems of artistic practice affect the scholarly discourses produced in this context? Did teaching artists, architects or craftsmen generate different objects of study, focuses, methods and ultimately a different kind of scholarship to that produced at universities or in museums?

2. The art historian and the present
Based on case studies, papers may explore the changing attitudes of art historians, archaeologists and art theorists towards their engagement in contemporary artistic production. From the 1870s onwards, primarily in Germany, such an engagement was downplayed in the name of objective and unbiased scholarship detached from practical considerations, alongside the growing academic recognition of art history and other art-related disciplines and their presence in the university. Nonetheless, the complex entanglement of scholarly discourse and contemporary art never really abated even well after this date.
A main focus of the conference is also on the extent to which contemporary artistic experimentations provided art scholars with new perspectives for evaluating past artistic achievements or for studying aesthetic experience. Papers exploring cases of fertile interactions or conflicts between artists and art scholars are particularly welcome.

3. The artist as producer of art discourse
This section seeks to explore the reactions of artists to the emergence of a community of professional specialists claiming control over art discourse and the formation of parallel or counter discourses by art practitioners. In focus here are the reformulations of art-historical canons by artists in their works, writings or teachings, as well as their contributions to art theory, aesthetics and criticism. Especially welcome are papers that look at artists’ attempts to visualise art history and explore the concerns shared by artists and historians about the various ways of representing history.

The conference will cover the period from the mid-18th century to the first two decades of the 20th century. Cases of peripheral, extra-European or colonial contexts, as well as contributions focusing on the circulation of teaching models, discourses and actors across institutions or national boundaries are particularly welcome. The conference languages will be English and German. Accommodation, and travel costs up to 100€ will be covered for all speakers. Full coverage of travel expenses may also be available, subject to grant approval.

The deadline for proposals is March 1st, 2016. Candidates will be informed within two weeks from this date on the outcome of their application. 25 minutes will be allowed for each paper. Please send proposals (max. 500 word abstract and short cv) to Eleonora Vratskidou: evratskidou@gmail.com.

Eleonora Vratskidou, Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellow-TU Berlin

Scientific Committee
Heinrich Dilly, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg Pascal Griener, Université de Neuchâtel
Hubert Locher, Philipps-Universität Marburg
Olga Medvedkova, CNRS-ENS (Centre Jean Pépin) Michela Passini, CNRS-ENS (IHMC)
Matthew Rampley, University of Birmingham Bénédicte Savoy, TU Berlin
Eleonora Vratskidou, TU Berlin

Exhibition and Blog | Mended Ways: The Art of Inventive Repair

Posted in exhibitions, resources by Editor on January 30, 2016

The exhibition closed last weekend, but anyone interested in the topic should have a look at Andrew Baseman’s blog Past Imperfect: The Art of Inventive Repair.

Mended Ways: The Art of Inventive Repair from the Collection of Andrew Baseman
The New York Ceramics and Glass Fair, 21–24 January 2016

36Before the invention of Krazy Glue, broken household items were brought back to life with flair and ingenuity. Mended Ways: The Art of Inventive Repair takes you back to a time when necessity was truly the mother of invention, as seen in Andrew Baseman’s collection of over 500 examples of 17th- to mid 20th-century mended ceramics and glassware.

A variety of early repair techniques shown will include metal staple/rivets, perfected in China by itinerant ‘china menders’; tinkers’ replaced handles, lids, and spouts on mugs, teapots and jugs; intricate and detailed silversmiths’ repairs, which only the wealthy could afford.

Extraordinary pieces include a 17th-century Dutch delft ewer with a replaced jeweled metal spout and handle; an American blown and cut crystal candlestick from the early 1900s incongruously stuck into a block of wood; a c. 1850 English lustreware creamer with tin straps and handle; and a set of six delicately painted early 18th-century Chinese export plates held together with enough hand forged metal staples to keep Frankenstein’s monster intact.

Other fascinating repairs include a Chinese Yixing teapot, c. 1700, with a magnificently carved replacement handle and engraved silver mounts; an 1830s transfer-printed jug from England with woven wicker handle; and an 18th-century Chinese export teapot with a record number of repairs including a sterling silver spout, metal rivets supporting the handle, and a replaced hand-painted lid with chain attached to handle. To illustrate what some of the pieces looked like before they took a tumble, intact examples will be shown for a side-by-side comparison.

Andrew Baseman writes the blog, Past Imperfect: The Art of Inventive Repair, which chronicles Baseman’s world-renowned collection of antique ceramics with inventive repairs, also known as ‘make-do’s’. His collection was featured in a cover story for the Home & Garden section of The New York Times. He is an expert on the subject and has lectured in the US and abroad. His lifelong passion for collecting and selling antiques began at an early age and continues to inspire his design work today.

For over 20 years, Baseman worked as a designer, decorator and stylist on diverse film and television projects including The Nanny Diaries, Eat, Pray, Love, The Americans, Gotham and The Normal Heart, working with notable directors Ryan Murphy, Bill Condon, Jane Campion, and others. In 2003, he founded Andrew Baseman Design, Inc., an interior design firm specializing in upscale residential interiors, creating luxurious homes for clients in the visual arts, including film and theatrical producers, fashion designers, and others. He is the author of The Scarf (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1989), the classic illustrated art book chronicling the history of the printed scarf that reflects both his expertise and love of textiles.