All posts in “research”

Building a Digital Collection: The Photographs and Lists of William H. Lautz Antique Porcelains

Do you ever wonder how Seattle Art Museum acquired enough porcelain objects to fill an entire room? Through my Directed Fieldwork (DFW) at the University of Washington I decided to illuminate a piece of the provenance story behind some of SAM’s porcelain objects in the beloved Porcelain Room.

Not much is known about the New York dealer, William H. Lautz’s life outside of the porcelain world, however William Lautz was a key figure in the growth of eighteenth-century porcelain in the United States during the 1940s and 50s. I’ve created a digital collection of porcelain object photographs and associated descriptive lists from the New York dealer, William H. Lautz Antique Porcelains, from the physical collection held in SAM’s Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library.


As a dealer of European porcelain, Lautz helped form the Warda Stevens Stout Collection at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis1, the Martha and Henry Isaacson collection in Seattle, and the Blanche M. Harnan Ceramic Collection, also in Seattle; the latter two now located partially at the Seattle Art Museum.


Both Martha Isaacson and Blanche Harnan were founding members of the Seattle Ceramic Society, which stimulated the collection of European porcelain through study groups. Their stated goal was to collect European porcelain worthy of exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum. To that end, they connected with important dealers in the field.

In the mid-1950s, Lautz sent barrels of porcelain to the Seattle Ceramic Society, accompanied by photographs and descriptive lists of the pieces. In turn, the Ceramic Society members selected pieces and returned empty barrels to Lautz with checks for their purchases. This method became known as the “Seattle Scheme” and continued while the Seattle Ceramic Society members grew their individual collections.2

Over time, the Seattle Ceramic Society and its members held five exhibitions of their European porcelain collections at the Seattle Art Museum between 1949 and 1964. Many active members of the Ceramic Society donated pieces of their collection to the Seattle Art Museum, including the aforementioned Martha and Henry Isaacson and Blanche M. Harnan, along with Dorothy Condon Falknor, DeEtte McAuslan Stuart, and Kenneth and Priscilla Klepser.

To create this digital collection, I scanned all of Lautz’s photographs into JPEGs and all of his descriptive lists into PDFs. Using Adobe Acrobat’s OCR function, I made the lists keyword searchable. I then created a spreadsheet with the associated metadata for each file to improve online navigation and searching. The files and associated metadata are now available on Shared Shelf Commons, which allows you to browse and view them alongside contributions from many other institutions.

Once the collection was in Shared Shelf Commons, I used Omeka to create an online exhibition by linking photos of the Lautz pieces that ended up at SAM with their descriptions. By providing online access to William H. Lautz Antique Porcelains photographs and descriptive lists I hope to encourage researchers and others to investigate the porcelain objects in SAM’s collection and to visit the Porcelain Room at SAM to see some of the objects in person.

–Nicole Sonett, Intern, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

Note: We want to thank Julie Emerson, the former Ruth J. Nutt Curator of Decorative Arts at the Seattle Art Museum, for her assistance in identifying porcelain objects from William H. Lautz Antique Porcelains that are now featured in SAM’s Porcelain Room.

1 Nelson, Christina H., and Letitia Roberts. A History of Eighteenth-Century German Porcelain: The Warda Stevens Stout Collection. Memphis: Dixon Gallery and Gardens; Easthampton, MA; New York: Hudson Hills Press, 2013.
2 Sebastian Kuhn in “Collecting Culture: The Taste for Eighteenth-Century German Porcelain,” in Cassidy-Geiger, Maureen et al. The Arnhold Collection of Meissen Porcelain, 1710-50. New York, NY: Frick Collection in association with D. Giles London, 2008.
Photos: Natali Wiseman.

Something Great in Something So Small: The SAM Research Libraries’ Pamphlet File Collection

Library visitors might not expect materials like pamphlets to constitute a substantial place in the Seattle Art Museum Research Libraries’ collections. In fact, reflecting on their own use of pamphlets and the fact that they are generally small in comparison to other published materials, many might even view them as disposable items. Yet, despite their small stature, they contain a powerhouse of information!

Pamphlets are relatively small, ephemeral publications which generally focus on a specific event, artist, or piece of artwork. Many pamphlets contain biographies, lists of exhibits and artwork, as well as artist or curator statements. In addition, they often contain reproductions of artworks illustrating the design preferences and artistic styles of an era. For many artists, particularly lesser known Pacific Northwest artists, pamphlets may be the only form of written material available making them incredibly important for the overall history of art in the Pacific Northwest.

Many pamphlets of different, ages, colors, sizes, and exhibitions!

Pamphlets are generally published by the museum or gallery hosting the exhibition, and may have originally been intended as takeaway items for visitors. The Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library at SAM, in particular, houses pamphlets from institutions large and small, and has been actively building its collection with items from smaller galleries throughout the Pacific Northwest. This collection of materials enables researchers to build a more complete picture of a gallery’s history including locations, curators and directors, name changes, and more. The collection also includes pamphlets from around the world giving users a glimpse at the reach a particular artist might have at a given time. Following the progression of pamphlets through the years provides an interesting look into the changing views and portrayals of cultural issues such as race, indigenous rights, women’s rights, etc. It’s a great visual means of understanding the issues of importance to artists, museums, and the public at large.

Glossy pamphlets!

Over the past few months, we’ve created a more bona fide pamphlet collection, adding incoming pamphlets there, rather than into our general book collection (where we had been putting such things in the past). We’ve also begun the process of relocating pamphlets currently in our book collection to the pamphlet collection. Collocating all of the pamphlets provides better access to the materials overall and allows researchers to get a clearer picture of the type of information they might find. For example, if you were looking for critical theory on Picasso, you may not find the pamphlets particularly helpful given the amount of other materials pertaining to Picasso within our collection. However, if you were looking to put together a timeline of a lesser known artist, you would likely find pamphlets very useful.

We’ve made the pamphlet collection as easy to find as possible. When searching the library catalogue, just look for the term “pamphlet” either at the end of the title or in the call number to determine whether or not the record you are accessing is a pamphlet. To see a full list of the pamphlets we’ve acquired thus far, see the Pamphlet Collection title list.

–Terri Ball, Volunteer, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

Photos: Terri Ball.

Learn More about Indigo through Resources at the McCaw Foundation Library

Textile artists have been using indigo, a type of dye, for thousands of years, mastering methods of creating beautiful patterns with this deep blue color. A visit to the Asian Art Museum’s exhibition, Mood Indigo: Textiles from Around the World features striking hues and the multitude of ways in which indigo manifests in various materials. If your visit leaves you yearning to learn more about the indigo-dying process, we’ve got what you need!

The McCaw Library at the Seattle Asian Art Museum provides resources to visitors about works in our collection and in special exhibitions. During the run of Mood Indigo, the library features a number of titles about indigo, its processes, and methods of application. Because the McCaw Foundation Library is one of the few libraries in the region to focus specifically on Asian art, many of our resources are not available anywhere else in the Pacific Northwest.

Check out this selection of resources related to indigo and its uses in Asian textiles

Shibori and Chinese Indigo Batik

Arimatsu shibori: a Japanese tradition of Indigo Dyeing by Bonnie F. Abiko
(Rochester, MI: Meadow Brook Art Gallery, Oakland University, 1995).
In the early 17th century, Shokuru Takeda settled in Arimatsu, a small town on the road to the capital city, Kyoto. There he created Arimmatxu shibori, the now-famous stunning indigo designs expressed on fabric using shibori dye-resist techniques. This book, written in English with many color pictures of this special fabric, tells engaging stories of how and where it came into being and influenced the development of Japanese textile design.

Designs of Chinese Indigo Batik by Pu Lu
(New York: Lee Publishers Group; Beijing, China: New World Press, 1981).
Indigo batik has a long history among the common people of China, particularly in the remote southwestern provinces of Guizhou and Yunnan. It has been an integral part of the social customs and folk art of the area. This book, written in English, details the methods, materials, and history of making Chinese indigo batik. It includes many images of designs used in creating these beautiful and socially significant pieces.

Genshi tennen no nuno = 原始・天然の布 by Okamura Kichiemon
(Osaka, Japan: Sansai, 1981).
This elegant two-volume set includes a wide variety of fabric samples, many of them using indigo dye. The captions are written in Japanese. This book will fascinate both artists and scholars.

Kasuri no michi: fujimoto hitoshi korekushon by Hitoshi Fujimoto
(Tokyo : Mainichi Shinbunsha, 1984).
Kasuri is the Japanese term for ikat weaving. Yarn threads are tied before they are dyed. Tying “masks” the part of the thread that is knotted, and so it will resist the dye. The pattern used when tying the knots creates the finished patterns which will be woven into the cloth. Sometimes only the weft yarn is tied; when both the weft and warp yarns are tied, it is called double kasuri–a technique which can yield designs that range from simplistic to marvelously complex and pictorial. This book, written in Japanese, contains descriptions and images detailing the creation of these textiles, and color images of finished pieces.

indigo-books4

Jidai Resshu Kasuri = 時代裂集 絣
Peruse a wide selection of ikat textile samples, most of them using indigo dye. The stunning variety of designs is captivating: some are intricate and representational, while others are simple yet graceful. Japanese captions often are paired with English translations. This is a must-see!

The McCaw Foundation Library is open to the public, Thursdays and Fridays, 2–5 pm and Saturdays, 10 am–2 pm (through September 3). Beginning September 10, our Saturday hours are extended from 10 am–5 pm.

Kate Nack, Library Volunteer, McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art

Masks in the Bullitt Library’s Collection

The Seattle Art Museum’s current exhibition, Disguise, examines 21st-century evolutions of the African mask and explores contemporary forms of disguise. For this latest book installation from the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library, we drew upon unique works in our Special Collections related to masks. They run the gamut between the restraint of an early 20th-century collection catalogue and the intensity of an early 21st-century work that delights the senses.

Masks Alone

les_arts_sauvages1

Portier, André and François Poncetton. Les Arts Sauvages: Afrique. Paris: Editions Albert Morancé, 1956. SPCOL OSZ NB 1080 P6.

Les Arts Sauvages: Afrique is a large folio edition that focuses its attention on the form of each mask, leaving context to our imagination. It was first published in Paris in 1927, and is authored by the French academics, André Portier (French, 1886–1969) and François Poncetton (French, 1875 or 1877–1950). It includes fifty loose-leaf collotype photographic plates printed in sepia, some overprinted with color. An elaborate, beautifully produced collection catalogue, this work displays the collections of important artists, critics, and writers of the French Surrealist and Dada movements.

Two examples of the overprinted color plates are on currently on view: Masque Pongwé (Gabon), from the collection of Stéphen-Charles Chauvet, (French, 1885-1950), known for his authorship of the first illustrated compendium on Easter Island; and Masque Man (Côte d’Ivoire), from the collection of Paul Éluard, (French, 1895-1952), the French surrealist poet.

Soundsuits in a Box

nick_cave1

From Cave, Nick. Soundsuits Boxfolio. Chicago: Soundsuit Shop, 2006. SPCOL N 6537 C447 S68 2009.

“The wearers and their masks participate in a consuming spectacle: sounds, smells, the audience and the setting all play essential roles.” —Herman Burssens, African Faces: An Homage to the African Mask

Unlike the quiet, reflective nature of Les Arts Sauvages: Afrique, this artist’s book by Nick Cave (American, 1961–) has movement, makes noise, and shows us masks represented in a totally different way from that of more traditional books.

From Cave, Nick. Soundsuits Boxfolio. Chicago: Soundsuit Shop, 2006. SPCOL N 6537 C447 S68 2009.

From Cave, Nick. Soundsuits Boxfolio. Chicago: Soundsuit Shop, 2006. SPCOL N 6537 C447 S68 2009.

This Boxfolio is a rare, wonderful, instance of an artist leaving a remnant behind after a show. In 2011, artist Nick Cave held a solo exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum and this work ultimately ended up in the Bullitt Library. Best described as an artist’s book, this work contains a diverse and fascinating assortment: an iron-on patch, lenticular image, magnet, pin, blow-up punching bag, set of playing cards, set of postcards, hanging ornament, booklet, fiber optic wand, and a Viewmaster. Cave’s Soundsuit Shop tells us that “Nick’s 2006 exhibitions were accompanied by this Boxfolio which, like the Soundsuit, is a collection of unexpected items that make sound when shaken.”

Two of Nick Cave’s Soundsuits are on view in the exhibition, Disguise: Masks and Global African Art, which runs through September 7, 2015.

– Traci Timmons, Librarian, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

The book installation, Masks in the Bullitt Library’s Collection, is on view just outside the Bullitt Library on the fifth floor of the Seattle Art Museum, during the library’s public hours: Wednesday-Friday, 10 am-4 pm. (Please note the library will be closed July 1-3, 2015.)

SAM’s American Art Library: A Collection of Collectors: Professor David Tatham

An art museum is often fittingly described as “a collection of collectors,” for each is founded on the gifts of magnanimous individuals who loved art and built personal collections that became an invaluable public resource.

The same can be said about library book collections, too—they represent the personal interests of individual readers. This is especially the case with the American art book collection found within the other collections of the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library at SAM downtown. The museum’s founding director, Dr. Richard Fuller, took a special interest in building a reference library to enhance public knowledge of the city’s art collection, and his tenure was marked by yearly growth of the book collection in all areas, through purchases, gifts, and exchanges with other libraries. Over the years, the library grew in relationship to the growth of individual curatorial departments, with American art thus little represented, since American art was not actively collected or exhibited at SAM.

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SAM Libraries: Book(s) of the Month Club: May and June

I didn’t get an entry in for May, so you’re getting a double-whammy of book highlights this month!

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. Many artists acknowledge, raise awareness of or define their own sexuality through their artistic practice. We have a number of books in our libraries that address the art, intersections, relationships and crossroads of the LGBT community.

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Buddhism and Human Rights–Is This a Conflict?

We have heard more details recently about the ongoing war in isolated Burma [Myanmar]–especially this week in Seattle. Human rights reporter Mac McClelland was here, talking about her experiences living in Thailand by the Burmese border, an area swollen with refugee camps. She lived with Burmese dissidents, members of one of the ethnic groups targeted by Burmese government genocide, who risk their lives regularly by secretly crossing into Burma to document atrocities of the government’s ethnic-cleansing campaign.

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SAM Libraries: Book(s) of the Month Club: March

When I first heard about the blog, I was excited to have another avenue to connect our libraries with the public. I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard visitors say, “Wow, I have been to the museum so many times, but never knew there was a library downstairs. It’s amazing! Look at all these books!” when they visit the McCaw Foundation Library at the Seattle Asian Art Museum for the first time. The library has been here as long as they museum has – more than seventy-seven years. I am excited to have this opportunity to showcase some of the marvelous books we have in this library.

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SAM Libraries: Book(s) of the Month Club: February

Black History Month
This month’s Book(s) of the Month Club entry highlights some of the more recent library acquisitions related to African American art production and African Americans as the subject in art. February is Black History Month and I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to highlight some our great resources in these areas.

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