Here are some Don’t Miss Events
75th Anniversary: 1936, part one
Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute celebrates its diamond anniversary this year,
meaning that we opened to the public in 1936.
Which got me wondering, what else was happening that year?
Globally, it was a volatile time. China declared war on Japan. Fascism was on the rise across Europe, with Hitler gaining strength, Italy declaring war on Ethiopia, and Generalissimo Franco’s forces taking up arms against the Spanish Republic, thereby initiating the Spanish Civil War.
In the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was re-elected for a second term as President in a landslide against Alf Landon.
A first-class postage stamp cost 3 cents.
The forty-hour work week was approved for the American labor force.
Margaret Mitchell’s epic novel, Gone with the Wind, was published. Life Magazine began publication, too. Eugene O’Neill received the Nobel Prize for Literature.
The Boulder Dam (now called the Hoover Dam) was completed in 1936.
Stay tuned, more 1936 fun facts to know and tell are on their way.
The Museum of Art’s 1946-47 exhibition schedule included drawings by cartoonist William Steig (later famous for creating the character Shrek) from his series “All Embarrassed,” “About People,” “Small Fry,” and “Lonely Ones.”
Speaking of cartoons and what-not, in February 1948 the Institute hosted an exhibition of Milton Caniff’s “Steve Canyon” comics. In the Bulletin that month, Canyon was described as lean and squinty and “a fellow with an easy, insolent, Gary–Cooperish kind of grace that marked a breed of plainsmen and airplanesmen” (today perhaps he would be described as Clint-Eastwoodish). There was also a February 6 lecture by George Rickey, then head of the Muhlenberg College Art Department, titled “Aren’t the Funny Papers Art?” In March and April 2012, the Museum of Art revisits the theme of comics-as-art with the exhibition LitGraphic: The World of the Graphic Novel, a show organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
And . . .
Later this year, in September 2011, the Museum of Art opens the exhibition Ansel Adams: Masterworks. More than 60 years ago, in October 1947, the Museum hosted Photographs by Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter, a show on loan from the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
What goes around, as they say.
This past weekend I was in New York City looking at art at some of the several fairs that dotted the urban landscape for several days. Galleries from all over the world, no exaggeration – from Mexico, South America, Asia, and many cities in Europe – were in town to show paintings, sculptures, photographs, you name it.
Moving in and out of booth after booth could be exhausting but every now and then I came upon something that made the tour exhilarating. There was the Parisian streetscape by Stuart Davis being shown by a Detroit-area dealer, and I coveted a Matissean Milton Avery painting of a window with delicate curtains that opened to a scene of a sailboat on the water outside. It’s very like the Museum of Art’s Marsden Hartley painting, and nothing like it, either. Completely different palette and touch.
At the Donald Young Gallery, I was interested in James Welling’s dazzling photographs of Philip Johnson’s Glass House because, of course, that’s a subject that has been on my mind lately.
One of the very best installations I saw the entire weekend was created for the Ronald Feldman Gallery by artist Sam Van Aken, who teaches at Syracuse University. Congratulations, Sam!
And here are some things I overheard (these were all spoken in English, sometimes accented English; I am certain there were equally provocative things said in Japanese, Swedish, Russian and the several other languages that were being spoken):
• She: The famous for 15 minutes? He: Oh, the Andy Warhol.
• I thought we were going to run into that lady. She paints and puts glass over it.
• Yea, I’m like, ‘ya know?’
• Let’s go someplace for sex.
• These are cool.
• “Little shop, little shop of horrors!” (Being sung, no less, by a child in a stroller, I am NOT making this up).
Of course, for a museum person, art-fair-going is nervous-making because people are constantly bumping into paintings with the sharp corners of their large shoulder bags or more blatantly poking at sculptures. It’s all a princess curator can do to keep from slapping wayward hands and scolding, “Don’t touch!”
Meg’s Mused and Confused: Students at an Exhibition
Asking adult visitors if they have any questions during or after a tour can sometimes result in complete silence but not so with younger students, they always have questions and the following are some I recently received from a fifth grade class at Clinton Elementary after they attended one of our American History Tours, Through Their Eyes:
“If you were a boy under seven years of age woul
d you have to go everywhere in a dress?” This question was in reference to our portrait of Thomas Aston Coffin by John Singleton Copley painted in 1758. It’s always fun to discuss this painting by referring to the ‘child’ in the portrait, never using the word boy. The discovery comes when the students are introduced to the ‘child’ by name, and the boy in the blue dress becomes one of those paintings that students never forget.
“Does a focal point always have to be brighter than the rest of the painting?” Now there’s a student who was really listening! By teaching the students how the composition of an artwork communicates the artist’s idea, the students develop observational skills that will help them for the rest of their lives.
“Are those all of the historical paintings you have at the museum?” This student was most likely referring to the fact that during a museum/school tour they only see a very small portion of the permanent collection at MWPAI. In this case we feel “less is more” spending about 10 to 15 minutes with each artwork for a thorough viewing experience as opposed to rushing them through all of the galleries attempting to see as much as possible.
“Why was the picture of the American Revolution done 10 years after the American Revolution was really going on?” This is a great question because it gives the docents a chance to explain that oil paintings could take weeks and sometimes years to complete; this can be a difficult concept for students to understand with all of today’s instant technology.
And finally after an explanation of how and why some engravings are made of famous artworks so that prints could be distributed to the public, one elementary student responded to our docent, Anne Redfern “Isn’t that plagiarism?”
I have to admit that I’m partial to the kid’s comments because they always speak straight from the heart and I hope when they grow up they don’t lose their inquisitive minds. Speaking of which, I love questions and I would love to hear any comments you may have about our collections. I may not have all the answers but I can assure you that I can draw from an abundance of resources from our highly informed museum staff and our extensive MWPAI art library.