Object of the Week: Focal Point

This week’s object is from the SAM Libraries’ collections. The Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library and McCaw Foundation Library collect book arts such as photobooks, artists’ books, zines, and broadsides. A broadside is a large sheet of paper printed on only one side. Historically, they were ephemeral works plastered onto walls or folded into pamphlets and distributed. Typical broadsides include public decrees and proclamations, event posters, commentaries, or advertisements. Today, broadsides are an important artistic form created via various printmaking and hand-drawn processes which are held by libraries and museums worldwide.

Focal Point [Imogen Cunningham] is a broadside from the Bullitt Library’s collection created by Tacoma artists, Chandler O’Leary and Jessica Spring. The work is part of their limited-edition broadside series entitled Dead Feminists. Originating in 2008, they have released 31 broadsides focused on historical feminists: political figures, activists, environmentalists, scientists, artists, and more. Each broadside is letterpress-printed on a Vandercook Universal One press from hand-drawn lettering and illustrations and includes a quote as well as biographical information about the subject(s).

If you’re familiar with the series, you might notice that unlike the other works printed on white paper, Focal Point [Imogen Cunningham] is one of only two printed on black paper. This decision helped the artists “pull the focus” onto Cunningham’s quote: “The seeing eye is the important thing.” O’Leary and Spring thought it “provided a beautiful backdrop for a tribute to someone who spent her life creating black-and-white images.”1 Lettering was done with a metallic ink (a recipe that Spring developed) that includes real gold powder. This broadside was printed in an edition of 164 as a nod towards Cunningham being a founding member of Group f/64, a group of photographers devoted to exhibiting and promoting a new direction in photography. F/64 refers to the small aperture setting on the large format camera used by the group’s members.

When asked what drew the artists to Cunningham, Spring said, “The print was made in 2014, and we were definitely feeling the pull of social media, a world full of distractions, and a desire to focus back on our work as artists. As makers ourselves, we recognize the power of observation and the artist’s eye.”2 And observe, they did. Every aspect of this work was carefully considered, from the choice of metallic silver filigree that mimics the traditional silver-gelatin photographic process to the pastiche of images drawn from Cunningham’s photographic subjects. If you look closely, you might recognize several images from Cunningham’s work in SAM’s collection—Magnolia Blossom (Magnolia Blossom, Tower of Jewels) (1925, 89.67) and Frida Kahlo, Painter 3 (1931, 89.28).3 Look for these and other images when you visit Imogen Cunningham: A Retrospective, on view at SAM from November 18 through February 6, 2022.

In addition to this single broadside, the Bullitt Library also holds O’Leary and Spring’s book, Dead Feminists: Historic Heroines in Living Color (Sasquatch Books, 2016), which details the entire series in brilliant color and a set of reproduction postcards. Currently, the SAM Libraries are still closed to visitors, but we encourage you to see these items in person when we reopen. In the meantime, the book and the reproduction postcards are available in the SAM Shop during the run of Imogen Cunningham: A Retrospective. The entire Dead Feminists series is also currently on view at the University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections in an exhibition titled, And Then She Said: Voices of Feminists Past and Present.

– Traci Timmons, SAM Senior Librarian

Image: Focal Point [Imogen Cunningham], 2014, Chandler O’Leary and Jessica Spring, Broadside print, 46 x 26 cm, Image courtesy of the artists. Magnolia Blossom (Magnolia Blossom, Tower of Jewels), 1925, Imogen Cunningham, Gelatin silver print, Img/sht: 11 1/4 x 8 1/4 in., Gift of John H. Hauberg, 89.67 © Imogen Cunningham Trust.

1 O’Leary, Chandler and Jessica Spring. “Focal Point.” Dead Feminists blog, March 18, 2014. http://www.deadfeminists.com/focal-point/.

2 Email interview with Jessica Spring and Chandler O’Leary, November 2, 2021.

3 Frida Kahlo became the subject of O’Leary and Spring’s 26th Dead Feminist broadside, Estados Divididos, in 2017.

The Northwest Annual Exhibition & Seattle Art Museum

The SAM Research Libraries have just published a new digital exhibition to our Digital Collections site, providing online access to original archival materials from a significant annual art event that truly defined some of the founding principles of SAM and its founder Dr. Richard E. Fuller.

The Northwest Annual Exhibition (NWA) was a yearly exhibition of work by artists from the Pacific Northwest held first by the Seattle Fine Arts Society, then the Art Institute of Seattle, and finally the Seattle Art Museum. Its first recorded exhibition was in 1914, and it continued for over sixty years at SAM until its final show in 1977. Its intention was to exhibit high quality works in a wide variety of artistic expressions, with a focus on painting and sculpture, and to give recognition to new talent in the Pacific Northwest.

Predating the Seattle Art Museum as it is known today, the NWA spanned decades of change in the art world, particularly in the Northwest. First held in the exhibition rooms of the Washington State Arts Association, it eventually found a permanent home in the Volunteer Park museum in 1933, the same year in which Florence Harrison Nesbit (co-founder of the Northwest Watercolor Society), Peter Camfferman (one of the earliest Modernist painters in the Northwest, along with his wife Margaret Camfferman), and Morris Graves (internationally acclaimed painter) won prizes in the Nineteenth Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists. Over the decades the NWA, under the direction of Dr. Fuller, helped recognize the unique work being produced in the region, launching the careers of countless artists.

After the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962, SAM took over the United Kingdom Pavilion at Seattle Center and remodelled it to become the Seattle Art Museum Pavilion, where the majority of the final exhibitions for the NWA were held. The traditional form of NWA continued until 1975, after which it evolved into Northwest Art(ists) Today, a three-part exhibition series held from 1975-1976. It eventually had its final show as Seattle Art Museum Northwest ‘77.

To create the digital exhibition Northwest Annual Exhibition and Seattle Art Museum, 70 of the original exhibition paper checklists and 85 photographic prints and negatives were digitized and restored to provide quality online access to these rare research materials. With the help of long-time SAM staff member Tore Hoven and regional expert on Northwest art, Cascadia Art Museum head curator David Martin, a fascinating account of the history of the NWA is provided to give context and perspective into the exhibition’s impact on the local art community. These digitized materials are also a unique account of the growth and development of SAM, from its earliest days as a local community of art lovers, to becoming a forward-thinking institution drawing attention from around the world.

We hope that this collection will provide some insight into the many historical events and artistic movements that SAM has been a part of since its inception, and that it may inspire your own research into 20th century Northwest art and artists.

– Brynn Strader, Intern, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

Images: Seattle Art Museum Libraries: Digital Collections: “Forty-sixth Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists, 1960 – Jurors – Photo 2,” “Forty-second Annual Exhibit of Northwest Artists, 1956 – Gallery Installation – Photo 1,” “Northwest Artists Today, Part II, 1975-1976 – Gallery Installation – Photo 7,” “Twenty-ninth Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists,” “Thirty-first Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists,” “Thirty-fourth Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists,” “Forty-third Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists,” “Forty-seventh Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists,” “Fifty-eighth Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists.”

Fuller Travel Slides: Art & Architecture of Mexico

A new digital collection from the SAM Research Libraries has just been launched on our Digital Collections Site, born out of an extraordinarily lucky find.

Many years ago, the Seattle Art Museum’s Libraries held sizeable slide collections (commonly known as slide libraries) until digital images prevailed as the preferred medium for presentations and study. In 2017, when the Asian Art Museum closed for renovations, staff were forced to deal with a number of long-forgotten slide cabinets—and their contents—tucked away in a staff changing room in the building’s lower level. Within these cabinets, several previously-unknown glass slide collections were discovered. One of these groupings was a personal slide collection created by SAM founder and long-time director, Dr. Richard E. Fuller (1897–1976). It includes images of early 20th century views of art and architecture taken during his 1940s geological work on the Parícutin Volcano, a volcano that suddenly appeared in 1943, in the Mexican state of Michoacánin. Exceptionally well preserved, these slides were immediately transferred to the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library, where work soon began on their digitization. Now, all 150 images can be viewed in an online exhibit as the Richard E. Fuller Travel Slides: Art and Architecture of Mexico.

In addition to serving as SAM’s director from 1933-1973, Fuller was also a respected professor of geology, a subject he studied in great depth at the University of Washington, where he steadily acquired a second Bachelor’s degree (1924), a Master’s degree (1926), and ultimately a Ph.D. (1930). Between 1944 and 1948, Fuller served as Chairman of the U.S. Committee for the Study of Parícutin Volcano. As this new digital collection makes clear, alongside his academic work with this committee, Fuller made several personal trips to various cities and historic sites in Mexico over these years, on which he took numerous color photographs.

Though it is unknown how large this collection once was, or whether Fuller even took these photographs for a specific purpose, it is nevertheless clear that some effort was expended on their description and organization. The transfer of these images to glass slides, and their meticulous hand-labeling, helped to ensure that they not only survived to the present day, but did so with a surprising degree of contextual data intact. A similar effort was therefore made to guarantee that the digitized collection could stand as a reasonable facsimile of its physical counterpart, capturing not only Fuller’s images, but also the exact wording of his labels. We hope this collection will be of use to those studying Mexican art and architecture in the  early 20th century, as well as those interested in the Parícutin Volcano area.

The SAM Research Libraries invite you now to explore in its entirety this remarkable collection, which will enable you to peer back through time at a range of striking and historic objects and locations, as documented by SAM’s own founder.

– Jessica Robbins, Volunteer, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

We are humbled by the generosity of our donors during this unique time. Your financial support powers SAM Blog and also sustains us until we can come together as a community and enjoy art in the galleries again. Thanks to a generous group of SAM trustees, all membership and gifts to SAM Fund will be matched up to $500,000 through June 30!

Images: Fuller, Richard E. (Richard Eugene), 1897-1976, Seattle Art Museum Libraries: Digital Collections: “Tula, Pyramid or Temple of the Moon, front view,” “Mexico City, façade of Sagrario,” “Oaxaca, Church of Santo Domingo interior ceiling polychrome genealogical tree of the Virgin with figures,” “Cholula, view of the Catholic church built on top of the ancient pyramid,” “Guadalajara, Hospice orphanage, entrance into another patio,” “Huejotzingo, fresco, black and white on cloister wall,” “Xochicalco, wall of temple on top of the pyramid showing detail of the decoration,” “Huejotzingo, arched gateway to the atrium of Franciscan monastery,” “Xochicalco, detailed view of the base of the pyramid showing human figure, hieroglyph, and part of serpent,” “Morelia, street scene showing portales or arcaded sidewalks with shops from colonial times.”

Museum Bhavan: A Book-Object by Dayanita Singh

During SAM’s current exhibition, Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India featuring the rich artistic traditions of India, SAM’s Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library is showcasing one its own treasures of Indian artistic practice: Dayanita Singh’s artist’s book, Museum Bhavan (2017).

Museum Bhavan

This limited edition artist’s book is an extension of another compelling work created by the artist. Singh initially created a large, structural, non-book version of Museum Bhavan in 2015 as a series of large, wooden portable “museums” that incorporates hundreds of photographs from her many decades of work in an easily alterable display. It is from this original Museum Bhavan that the artist’s book, Museum Bhavan, originated.

Museum Bhavan

Here is the original Museum Bhavan on display at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in Delhi in 2013. See a walkthrough of the installation here. (Source: Google Arts & Culture.)

Museum Bhavan

In 2017, Singh published the “book-object,” Museum Bhavan, as an easily transportable “pocket museum,” working with long-time collaborator and publisher Gerhard Stiedl. This Museum Bhavan includes a series of nine accordion-fold books—which she refers to as “museums”—that contain Singh’s black-and-white photography and fold out into long strips. This aspect mimics the series of wooden accordion panels used in the original Museum Bhavan. Additionally, the 2017 version includes a booklet of conversations entitled Conversation Chambers that also reflects an aspect of the original: the structures of the original Museum Bhavan can be opened to act as a wall or they can be pulled inward to form intimate spaces. Accompanying wooden benches and tables help create “chambers” that encourage reflection or conversation. The conversations documented in the artist’s book include one with her publisher, Gerhard Steidl, and another with curator and writer, Aveek Sen. Unlike the original Museum Bhavan, the “book-object” version is enclosed in a handmade clamshell box created in India, covered by fabric designed by the artist.

Museum Bhavan

Through this book form, Singh has pushed the original Museum Bhavan’s concept of the evolving presentation further. This Museum Bhavan is an artist’s book, a photo book, and something that can be displayed as a tabletop exhibition while simultaneously being the catalog of that exhibition. By offering an exhibition in a box, Singh encourages viewers to install and curate the work as they like and where they like. Singh desires “the mass-produced quality of publishing and the uniqueness of the art gallery…,” but she wants to make it accessible. She believes that this kind of work is the museum of the future.

Similar to the original version, the title of each “museum” or book is ambiguous and interchangeable: Museum of Men, Godrej Museum, Little Ladies Museum, Museum of Furniture, Museum of Vitrines, etc. Her photos appear without titles or captions. The ambiguity, she says, is intentional.

Museum Bhavan

“I don’t want to spoon-feed you with photographs, and I don’t need to because photography is such a magical medium…. If you allow it, it will present all sorts of meanings.”

—Dayanita Singh

To get a closer look at these works, another artist’s book by Singh (Sent a Letter, 2008), or other works in our Book Arts Collection, make an appointment to visit the Bullitt Library. Appointments can typically be scheduled Wednesday–Friday, 10 am–4 pm.

– Traci Timmons, Librarian

In consideration of Singh’s intent, the display of Museum Bhavan will change in the case throughout the run of Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India.

Photos: Natali Wiseman

Translation, Identity, and Native Language in Book Arts

Recently, the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library acquired two works by book artist, designer, and member of the Oneida Nation Erin Mickelson. Mickelson’s work is often about language, particularly translation. Sometimes her work is as straightforward as a translation from one language to another, but often she attempts to translate an idea between seemingly disparate forms—language, image, code, and movement. You can see Mickelson’s works in person in the reception area just outside of the Bullitt Library on SAM’s 5th floor until Double Exposure: Edward S. Curtis, Marianne Nicholson, Tracey Rector, Will Wilson closes on September 9, 2018.

Mutterfarbe

Mutterfarbe, published in 2017 by Broken Cloud Press (Santa Fe, NM), the imprint of Mickelson, is a limited-edition artist-book collaboration between poet, translator, and visual artist Brandi Katherine Herrera and Mickelson. The work, which uses Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s seminal work Zur Farbenlehre (Theory of Colors, 1810) as its primary source, features experimental text, visual translations, and poems.

The work includes three sections, plus front matter and back matter. In the first section, Natürlicher, sixteen color swatches sourced from photographs of Herrera’s environment are accompanied by poems whose words are drawn from translations of Goethe’s text. The second section, Ursprünglicher, includes erasure poems by Herrera with “visual translations” of Goethe’s illustrations by Mickelson. The third section, Farbe Gespräch, is an imagined text conversation between Herrera and Goethe regarding the surrealist film, The Holy Mountain (directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1973) using contemporary language, texting, and the Google Translate app. Mickelson sources the illustrations in this section directly from screenshots of the film, rendering them in the sixteen colors used throughout the work. This particular section utilizes a leporello structure, creating an accordion-like fold, and can extend to thirteen feet wide. The front matter includes a unique lenticular print, a technology that creates a three-dimensional effect. The three pamphlet-stitched books (Anhang I–III) that make up the back matter feature a translator’s note, color source photographs, scans of the original text erasures, and the translation of Zur Farbenlehre.

 

Mickelson and Herrera worked with Zachary Schomburg to create this informative video which helps us understand the many parts of this fascinating work.

He Wears a Feather

He Wears a Feather (2015) demonstrates a move for Mickelson toward more socially and politically informed work. It is also a work inspired by a deep and personal topic: controversial blood quantum laws dictate that the artist’s son be excluded from the Oneida Nation’s tribal rolls—the first generation of Mickelson’s family.

He Wears a Feather is very much about a disappearing cultural identity. I’ve had a lot of conversations about this idea with my mother, who, as an Oneida artist, has dedicated her career to telling the stories and history of the Oneida people through her paintings. She’s talked at length about the changing attitude toward identifying as Native. Her grandmother (my great-grandmother) was at the Carlisle Indian boarding school, where students were forced to assimilate to Euro/American culture. It created a huge rift between those students and their families who remained on the reservation. Subsequent generations have dealt with racism and colonialism as well as the effects of the previous generation’s forced assimilation, and connections to history, language, and identity have become frayed. Particularly for those living off the reservation. I am mixed-race and the last generation of my family to be a tribal member (due to blood quantum laws). It feels imperative to me to do what I can to stay connected to my family history. I can do this by trying to learn and preserve the language, history, and stories of the Oneida people.”

—Erin Mickelson, book artist

The work takes the form of a drop-spine box and includes an electronic sound module that, when the soapstone turtle is removed and the module is exposed to light, allows the reader to hear the book’s text being read aloud. Mickelson utilized text and an audio recording from the Oneida Language Revitalization Program, originally a Works Progress Administration project started in 1939, whose goal is to preserve and continue the Oneida language.

Learn more about this initiative by visiting: The Oneida Language Revitalization Program’s Website and The Oneida Language Revitalization Program: A History Website.

To get a closer look at these works, or other works in our Book Arts Collection, make an appointment to visit the Bullitt Library. Appointments can typically be scheduled Wednesday–Friday, 10 am–4 pm.

– Traci Timmons, Librarian

Photos: Natali Wiseman

Before SAM: Publications from the Seattle Fine Arts Society and the Art Institute of Seattle

The SAM Research Libraries’ latest digital collection is a set of publications from two arts societies that preceded the Seattle Art Museum. The Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library holds a collection of bulletins, calendars, announcements, and annual reports that were published by the Seattle Fine Arts Society between 1920 and 1929, and annual reports from the Art Institute of Seattle from 1929-1932 (1932 is the year the Art Institute transitioned to the Seattle Art Museum). Now, this collection of publications has been digitized and is accessible via the Libraries’ Omeka.net site. Though incomplete, this is the first time this collection of publications will be accessible outside of the physical library at SAM.

From 1920–1929, the Seattle Fine Arts Society was the premier group of art enthusiasts in Seattle. From their publications, we learn about the exhibitions, social events, classes, and “field trips” organized by this small-but-growing group of individuals who wanted nothing more than to foster a dedicated arts presence in the city. Without permanent headquarters, and a reliance on society membership, the Fine Arts Society was informal, inexperienced, but passionate and driven by a love of art and a belief in the power of art to transform a city and its residents. The calendars list events full of Northwest artists and collaboration with art students at the University of Washington, and educational events with the goal of sharing a love of art with citizens who, if only educated properly, might care more about art in the city. The Society wished to be an accessible part of the community, and worked tirelessly to bring art and art-centered events to the public for free or at low cost.

By the end of the decade, the Fine Arts Society announced a name change to the Art Institute of Seattle, but a mere three years later would bring a much more drastic change: that of the transformation from Art Institute to established museum and civic institution. The annual reports during the end of the 1920s and early 1930s reveal the kind of funding, planning, and labor that went into making the museum a reality.

With this collection, you are invited to trace the prehistory of SAM, and see the seeds of the very same values that drive SAM today take root. The members of Seattle Fine Arts Society and the subsequent Art Institute of Seattle sought to nurture and spread their passion for art with one another and with the public, even as Seattle Art Museum today brings art to life.

– Kate Hanske, Intern, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

Photos: Natali Wiseman

Japanese Photobooks from the Collection of Chris Harris, Part 4

This is the fourth in a series of posts about an extraordinary photobook collection donated to the McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art by collector, Chris Harris. Photobooks are photography-illustrated books which may or may not include additional text. The photography drives the content, rather than being supplemental to the written word. Often handmade, self-printed, or published in limited editions, these books are considered works of art themselves.

Rough Edges, Hard Life
Photographer Daisuke Yokota shares his distinctive interpretation of people and places in two photobooks which were donated by Chris Harris to the McCaw Foundation Library. Urban life can be a hard place with sharp edges, yet people navigating them can retain some softness. Yokota shows us his haunting perspective of this paradox in his photobooks Immerse (Akina, 2015) and Linger (Akina, 2014).

Texture and Composition
In Immerse, Yokota explores the interplay of unexpected textures and startling vulnerability.

Cover of Immerse by Daisuke Yokota

Cover of Immerse by Daisuke Yokota

Images like these take on an abstract quality, creating the evocative tone of Yakota’s work. Color and composition enhance a coincidence of defenselessness with a suggestive boldness.

Immerse by Daisuke Yokota

Immerse by Daisuke Yokota

Immerse by Daisuke Yokota

Immerse by Daisuke Yokota

Form without Fabrication
Daisuke Yokota’s hand-bound photobook, Linger, contains images as unpretentious and stark as the cover itself.

Cover of Linger by Daisuke Yokota

Cover of Linger by Daisuke Yokota

In Linger, Yokata continues to explore the interplay of texture and form. Images of intimate poses and private spaces convey a sense of softness within a hardened world. Grainy and startling, these images hint at a complicated way of life, asking more questions than they answer. Simple and fascinatingly disturbing, the photographs in Linger are a rich, sometimes perplexing, observation of humanity’s adaptation to life in modern settings.

Linger by Daisuke Yokota

Linger by Daisuke Yokota

Linger by Daisuke Yokota

Linger by Daisuke Yokota

Linger by Daisuke Yokota

Linger by Daisuke Yokota

These photobooks are available for consultation at the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library at the Seattle Art Museum downtown by appointment while the Asian Art Museum at Volunteer Park is undergoing renovation. When the Asian Art Museum and the McCaw Foundation Library reopen, the photobooks will be available there as an ongoing resource.

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

Photos: Natali Wiseman.

Japanese Photobooks from the Collection of Chris Harris, Part 3

This is the third in a series of posts about an extraordinary photobook collection donated to the McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art by collector, Chris Harris. Photobooks are photography-illustrated books which may or may not include additional text. The photography drives the content, rather than being supplemental to the written word. Often handmade, self-printed, or published in limited editions, these books are often considered works of art themselves.

People and Places in Dissonance
Continuing our exploration of the Harris collection of photobooks in the McCaw Foundation Library’s holdings, two photobooks in the collection bear witness to the lasting effects of human technological constructs on forest and farmland in rural Japan.

Ruin and Regeneration
Places can change in an instant, and for all time.

Mushrooms from the Forest 2011 by Takashi Homma

Mushrooms from the Forest 2011 by Takashi Homma (Blind Gallery, 2014), present a serene yet evocative pictorial commentary on life in Fukushima prefecture after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear disaster.

Page from <em>Mushrooms from the Forest 2011</em> by Takashi Homma

Page from Mushrooms from the Forest 2011 by Takashi Homma

 

Page from <em>Mushrooms from the Forest 2011</em> by Takashi Homma

Page from Mushrooms from the Forest 2011 by Takashi Homma

 

Page from <em>Mushrooms from the Forest 2011</em> by Takashi Homma

Page from Mushrooms from the Forest 2011 by Takashi Homma

 

Page from <em>Mushrooms from the Forest 2011</em> by Takashi Homma

Page from Mushrooms from the Forest 2011 by Takashi Homma

Foraging for wild mushrooms in the forests of Fukushima was once a common pastime for many people in the region. Many species grow robustly throughout the microclimates within the forests. Due to dangerous levels of radiation, foraging and ingestion of these plentiful fungi has been banned indefinitely. Still, the mushrooms themselves appear to flourish, even in the face of invisible, widespread, pervasive, sometimes invisible devastation.

Preservation vs. Progress
In the early 1960s, the Haneda Airport, or Tokyo International Airport, was struggling to support an ever-increasing volume of jet traffic. The growing number of flights—and the noise that accompanied the new jet engines that powered them—caused the Japanese transport ministry to seek an alternative location for a new high-capacity international airport.

A large farming area near the village of Sanrizuka, in Chiba Prefecture, was selected for the development plan. Construction of the Narita International Airport began in the late 1960s. This endeavor forever altered the abundant pastoral quality of life that had thrived there for generations.

<em> Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu)</em> by Kazuo Kitai

Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu) by Kazuo Kitai

Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu) by Kazuo Kitai (Waizu Shuppan, 2000), is a beautiful photobook that honors Sanrizuka’s traditional rich rural lifestyle, the bountiful agricultural landscape, and documents the protest to save it.

Page from <em> Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu)</em> by Kazuo Kitai

Page from Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu) by Kazuo Kitai

 

Page from <em> Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu)</em> by Kazuo Kitai

Page from Sanrizuka Plegaria A Un Labrador (Sanrizuka: Kitai Kazuo shashinshu) by Kazuo Kitai

The decision to build the airport on top of the agricultural land was opposed for years by a group of residents and ideological activists. However, construction went forward and what was once farmland eventually became an airport. This photobook poignantly honors the struggle of the people of Sanrizuka and the beauty of the agricultural lifestyle and land they hoped to preserve.

These photobooks are available for consultation at the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library at the Seattle Art Museum downtown by appointment while the Asian Art Museum at Volunteer Park is undergoing renovation. When the Asian Art Museum and the McCaw Foundation Library reopen, the photobooks will be available there as an ongoing resource.

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

Photos: Natali Wiseman.

Japanese Photobooks from the Collection of Chris Harris, Part 2

This is the second in a series of posts about an extraordinary photobook collection donated to the McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art by collector, Chris Harris. Photobooks are photography-illustrated books which may or may not include additional text. The photography drives the content, rather than being supplemental to the written word. Often handmade, self-printed, or published in limited editions, these books are often considered works of art themselves.

People and Places in Harmony
Part of the Aomori Prefecture, Tsugaru is found at the far north of Japan’s main island of Honshu. The Sea of Japan meets its western shore, while the Pacific Ocean is to the east. Surrounded by water, this mountainous area is beautiful, remote, and endurably peaceful.

Map showing the Tsugaru Strait (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_of_Japan, access 8/9/17)

Two of the photobooks from the Harris collection give us glimpses of captivating people and places in Tsugaru.

Rugged, Deep, Delicate
Tsugaru: Shi, Bun, Shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka and Kojima Ichiro (Izu Photo Museum, 2014) opens a window that allows us to view everyday life in Tsugaru. The images that reach out from these pages convey the at-home attitude and the quiet sense of belonging expressed by the people who live in this vast, remote landscape.

Tsugaru Shi Bun shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

Tsugaru: Shi, Bun, Shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

These stunning images capture the sense of eternal clarity that suffuses the landscape and the people of Tsugaru. This masterful work depicts people living in harmony within the natural world, using images that are artistically compelling and evocative.

Tsugaru Shi Bun shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

Tsugaru: Shi, Bun, Shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

Tsugaru Shi Bun shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

Tsugaru: Shi, Bun, Shashinshu by Yojiro Ishizaka

Integrity and Integration
Masako Tomiya’s Tsugaru (self-published, 2013) is a study of individualists adapting to a beautiful, rugged world. The unique character of the landscape and people of Tsugaru is captured beautifully in this collection of black and white photographs.

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

It celebrates the majesty of the rugged rural terrain, whipped by fierce wind and snow in the winter, then bathed in summer’s balmy breezes. The people who live there are portrayed as the resourceful individuals they are, living life in tune with the call of the natural world.

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

Tsugaru by Masako Tomiya

These photobooks are available for consultation at the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library at the Seattle Art Museum downtown by appointment while the Asian Art Museum at Volunteer Park is undergoing renovation. When the Asian Art Museum and the McCaw Foundation Library reopen, the photobooks will be available there as an ongoing resource.

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

Photos: Natali Wiseman.

Focus on an Artist’s Book: La Cité des Animaux by Lynn Skordal

Real Places That Don’t Exist: La Cité des Animaux

In Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect, we see how Wyeth masterfully conveys a sense of place, constructing a certain reality or vision of landscapes, domestic spaces, and people of rural Pennsylvania and the coastal villages of Maine. For the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library‘s current book installation, we examine an artist’s book that also conveys a sense of place, one that is carefully constructed yet imagined.

La Cite de Animaux

Washington artist Lynn Skordal considers herself a “paperworker.” After retiring from a career as an attorney nearly ten years ago, she returned to an early love—art. She now focuses on collage, artists’ books, and small works on paper that she creates from her collection of books rescued from local thrift stores, old magazines, used paper scraps picked up off the sidewalk, stamps and images torn from envelopes, cuttings from formidable reference works, and old engravings removed from disintegrating books. Her work has been described as “an exploration of real places that don’t exist.”1 One could certainly apply that idea to her thought-provoking artist’s book, La Cité des Animaux (Mercer Island, WA, 2011).

La Cite de Animaux

This unique, collaged, accordion-style artist’s book depicts “a parade of strange, whimsical animals creeping through a deserted white city under a chocolate sky.”2 Mammals, reptiles, birds, eggs, and stylized and extinct creatures are set against deserted architectural backgrounds, enclosed on both ends by maps. The artist asks, who built the city? What is it for? Is this what will happen after humankind is gone?3

La Cite de Animaux

From Natural History to a New Reality

Skordal’s source material for La Cité des Animaux included several antique works. One was Locupletissimi rerum naturalium thesauri accurata descriptio et iconibus artificiosissimis expressio, per universam physices historiam (Accurate description of the very rich thesaurus of the principal and rarest natural objects . . . ). This elaborately engraved thesaurus of animal specimens was the creation of scientist and collector Albertus Seba (Dutch, 1665–1736). The initial volume of the work was published in 1734, with several volumes issued posthumously through 1765.

La Cite de Animaux

Seba’s work was derived from his own “cabinet of curiosities,” a notion Skordal seems to reclaim by pulling the animals from the format of the scientific natural history book and inserting them into a smaller, precious book form. Whereas Seba’s intent was to record and illustrate the natural world truthfully, Skordal uses Seba’s images to construct a new reality.

I was charmed by the idea of animals taking over spaces built by man, but with man long gone. That thought comforts and amuses me. [My work conveys] both a sense of place and a story. I like to create new little worlds where the usual rules may not apply, and where there is a little bit of magic or mystery at work–an alternate reality. The goal is always to startle, amuse, or provoke.4

To get a closer look at these works, or other works in our Book Arts Collection, make an appointment to visit the Bullitt Library. Appointments typically take place Monday–Friday, 10 am–4 pm.

– Traci Timmons, Librarian

Boxall, Scout. “Cut & Paste: Lynn Skordal.” The Daily Spread (July 5, 2013). https://dailyspreaddotcom.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/cut-paste-lynn-skordal/, accessed September 20, 2017.
Email interview with artist, September 29, 2017.
Ibid.
Ibid.

Japanese Photobooks from the Collection of Chris Harris, Part 1

This is the first in a series of posts about an extraordinary photobook collection donated to the McCaw Foundation Library for Asian Art by collector, Chris Harris. Photobooks are photography-illustrated books which may or may not include additional text. The photography drives the content, rather than being supplemental to the written word. Often handmade, self-printed, or published in limited editions, these books are often considered works of art in themselves.

People, Places, and the Passing of Time
A recent donation of photobooks to the McCaw Foundation Library reminds us that all things are transitory. Chris Harris shares images with this generous and poignant gift from his personal collection of photobooks by important Japanese artists. These photobooks speak to us of family ties, of the natural world, and of ephemeral glimpses of urban life and landscapes. Focused mostly in Asian countries, these images are often haunting, sometimes playful, and entirely captivating.

Personal and Provocative
Love, time, and ties that bind.

The Red String by Yoshikatsu Fujii

The Red String by Yoshikatsu Fujii

People are the focus of The Red String by Yoshikatsu Fujii (Fujii, 2014). This rare, handmade, and self-published photobook tells the story of a family’s transitions and partial dissolution. Fujii shares his achingly personal and bittersweet family history in the form of a family album. The images in the album include the family posed in rural landscapes, cities, casual snapshots, and formal portraits; there are also drawings and handwritten notes in Kanji (transcribed to English) that also carry the voice of intimate moments—moments that are mundane, yet precious. The author reflects:

“. . . legend has it that a man and a woman who have a predestined encounter have had each other’s little fingers tied together by an invisible red string since the time they were born. Unfortunately, the red string tying my parents together either came untied, broke, or perhaps it was never even tied to begin with. But if the two had never met, I would never have been born into this world. If anything, you might say it is between parent and child that there is an unbreakable red string of fate.”
– The Red String by Yoshikatsu Fujii

Progression: Person and Place Over Time
A return to the old home town . . . or is it?

Night Crawler by Takehiko Nakafuji

Night Crawler by Takehiko Nakafuji

Tokyo is the place that we visit next with Night Crawler by Takehiko Nakafuji (Zen Foto Gallery, 2011). This is a collection of black and white photos of that city, captured during two significant periods of the artist’s life. The first series is comprised of gritty, sometimes eerie images taken in 1995. The street scenes and askew glances of the people in them share with us a youthful insider’s view of 1990s Tokyo.

Nakafuji returned over a decade later, in 2010, and generated a second series of photos. Even with the continuity provided by using black and white, gritty-grainy images for both time periods, it is evident that both the city and the artist have matured. It is the same city, the same artist . . . yet both are intrinsically, irrevocably transformed.

Night Crawler by Takehiko Nakafuji

Night Crawler by Takehiko Nakafuji

Night Crawler by Takehiko Nakafuji

Night Crawler by Takehiko Nakafuji

These photobooks are available for consultation at the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library, downtown at the Seattle Art Museum downtown by appointment while the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park is undergoing renovation. When the Asian Art Museum and the McCaw Foundation Library reopen, the photobooks will be available there as an ongoing resource.

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

Photos: Natali Wiseman.

Preserving SAM’S Historic Media Collection: Part Two

This blog post is a follow-up to our first post, Preserving SAM’S Historic Media Collection: Part One, where we introduced you to SAM’s Historic Media Collection and discussed the initial work being done to inventory, assess, and ultimately, preserve, and provide access to its contents. As a quick recap, the collection contains valuable SAM-related audio and video content from the 1930s to the present, held on media in various time-based formats, such as: reel film, cassette tape, and DVD. Due to the importance of the content and the fragility of the media, it was determined that this collection had urgent preservation needs. The Historic Media Collection includes rich content associated with the museum, but also includes content on important community members, architecture, and more. Recognizing the community impact and institutional value of the collection, a donation from an anonymous donor and a 4Culture Heritage Collections Care grant have assisted in creating a stewardship project to develop and preserve this notable collection.

Broadcast Tape

One dimension of the project was to reach out to local community experts for advice and recommendations. At least 400 items in the collection are on formats not readily viewable on available equipment at the museum’s Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library, including ¾” U-matic, Betacam (SP and Digital), Hi8, and 1-inch Type C tape. In order to evaluate these items, we reached out to MIPoPS (Moving Image Preservation of Puget Sound), another recipient of funding from 4Culture. MIPoPS is a nonprofit corporation formed to help preserve the cultural heritage of Puget Sound by assisting archives, libraries, and other organizations with the conversion of analog video recordings to digital formats according to archival best practices.

Michael & Libby

The team at MIPoPS (Rachel Price and Libby Hopfauf) graciously offered to assist with the evaluation of these materials and to provide budget recommendations for the digitization process. I have been viewing media at MIPoPS bi-weekly, stuffing a large black bag full of videotapes and hauling the media to their location in Seattle City Hall. Along with evaluating media items, Libby has been training me on the digitization process and on the usage of a variety of media players. Due to a lack of documentation formatted to instruct archivists or individuals without a production background on maintenance of equipment and image quality control, Libby has created a manual to aid in the instruction of collaborating institutions. Libby believes that it is essential to share this knowledge with other archives due to the impending magnetic media crisis.

Months of viewing materials have unearthed some fascinating content, including the silent footage of the 1933 opening of the Volunteer Park building (the original location of the museum and current location of the Seattle Asian Art Museum). The film features such Seattle luminaries as Mayor John F. Dore and museum founders Dr. Richard E. Fuller and Margaret MacTavish Fuller. Other found footage is the inspection and construction of the downtown  location prior to its opening in 1991. This footage presents an entirely different downtown environment than we see today, highlighting SAM’s involvement with neighborhood development.

We have digitized several tapes in order to promote the collection and raise awareness of the types of content available. This ongoing and time-consuming process emphasizes the urgent necessity of preserving these materials. The footage has been useful not only in the context of the museum, but also in shedding light on the magnetic media crisis. In February, MIPoPS hosted their second Moving History screening night, Moving History Returns: Saving Our Magnetic Media, at the Northwest Film Forum to highlight material digitized recently by partnering institutions. View the digitized version of that black and white silent film of Volunteer Park and the building and opening of the Seattle Art Museum in 1933 below:

If you have any questions about this project, please post them in the comments section below.

If you have questions about MIPoPS, you can contact Libby Hopfauf at libby@mipops.org.

– Michael Besozzi, former Project Coordinator: Historic Media Collection, Seattle Art Museum and Libby Hopfauf, Program Manager/Audiovisual Archivist, MIPoPS

Photos: Micheal Besozzi

Creating the Unseen Land of the Olympic Sculpture Park

The Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library‘s latest book installation, to coincide with the exhibition, Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection, introduces a work that recently came into the library’s artists’ books collection. This illustrated book, with original pen-and-ink drawings and watercolors, was created by Seattle author, illustrator, zine creator, and book artist Jessixa Bagley. Bagley is best known for her award-winning children’s picture books: Boats for Papa (2015) and Before I Leave (2016). Her latest book, Laundry Day, was just published by Roaring Book Press in February 2017.

The work is the first in our collection to be born out of a Seattle Art Museum program. The Land of Unseen is a culminating storybook inspired by a collaborative process with visitors to SAM’s Olympic Sculpture Park. The “Summer at SAM” program was entitled “Build a World with Jessixa Bagley” and took place over several weekends in August 2016. Jessixa invited participants to help her “create the unseen imaginative world of the Olympic Sculpture Park and give voice to all the creatures and animals that live within it.” Each week, visitors participated in interactive, open studio sessions that explored a different aspect of Bagley’s creative process. These sessions included plot development on vintage typewriters supplied by Carriage Return, character advancement through collage, and landscape mapping with watercolor and mixed media.

To construct this unseen land, the first group of park visitors were given prompts and encouraged to use typewriters to create stories about characters that live in the Olympic Sculpture Park. Next, Bagley had a different group of visitors develop those characters by creating collages based on the writings of the first group or from free-form ideas. One participant imagined an otter wearing a hat participating in plein-air painting, creating a colorful landscape. Another imagined a crow strumming a banjo surrounded by hats reminiscent of National Park Service ranger hats, in a background of rich organic textures of yellow, green, and blue. The final group of visitors was asked to create Mad Libs–style stories based on the collages, and ultimately a map of this hidden world began to take shape. From there, the book was born.

Bagley’s normal practice is to create her work alone indoors, but for this experience she really enjoyed creating work on-site at the Olympic Sculpture Park, being outdoors and working with so many visitors. This was the first time she did this type of collaboration with a group of strangers, and she found that the experience offered a very different type of inspiration.

The Seattle Art Museum is celebrating the Olympic Sculpture Park’s 10th anniversary this year. In addition to considering how the park has changed since its opening, it’s also rewarding to reflect on the many thoughtful, creative projects like this that have been inspired by it.

–Traci Timmons, Librarian, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

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.

Manson F. Backus: Print Collector, Book Collector

Did you know that the Bullitt Library is accessible to the public and often highlights books and resources related to our exhibitions for visitors to view? Visit the latest book installation related to Graphic Masters: Dürer, Rembrandt, Hogarth, Goya, Picasso, R. Crumb, 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. Graphic Masters closes August 28, so hurry up and see it soon!

A Collector’s Collection

Several of the etchings by Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669) in the exhibition, Graphic Masters, are part of the Seattle Art Museum’s Manson F. Backus Memorial Collection. Manson Franklin Backus (American, 1853–1935) was a well-known, successful Seattle banker and philanthropist that, toward the later part of his life, became a learned collector of art objects. He traveled extensively to Europe and beyond amassing a large collection, over twenty-five years, of fine prints, other types of art, and a substantial library to support his learning.

Self Portrait with Saskia by Rembrandt

His engraving and etching collection was regarded with much esteem in the region. He regularly loaned prints to exhibitions at the Seattle Fine Art Society—an organization that would ultimately become the Seattle Art Museum—and then to the museum itself. In 1935, upon his death, his collection of more than 300 etchings and engravings was bequeathed to the Seattle Art Museum. Selected works from this collection have been exhibited over the years, notably in Manson F. Backus Memorial Exhibition: Etchings and Engravings in 1935; a three-part exhibition—Manson F. Backus Memorial Collection of Etchings by Masters—shown in 1937; and more recently, European Masters: The Treasures of Seattle, the companion exhibition to Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London in 2013.

“. . . a collector of etchings must be something of an artist in appreciation. . . . and judging by the prints on the walls of the entrance hall and the library of Mr. Backus’ Highlands home, his appreciation has been wide and sure.”
—“Second Hobby, Done Well, Is Found In M.F. Backus’ Etching Collection,” Seattle Sunday Times (February 1, 1931)

A Collector’s Library
In 1935, upon Backus’ passing, in addition to the print collection bequeathed, his extensive library on artists, technical aspects, and the collecting of prints was received by the Seattle Art Museum Library. The collection ranges from important titles of the 18th and 19th century, to titles that were likely purchased not long before his death. Each contains his distinctive bookplate that states: “Ex Libris, Confido in Deo [Trust in God], Manson Franklin Backus” and depicts a coat of arms with three doves and a chevron. We are pleased to be able to present a small sampling from the approximately 160 volumes that were willed to the library.

mb3

Among his library are a number of fine editions, but none is more unique and interesting than Etchings: A Collection of 50 Invitation Cards Sent by Eminent Artists and Etchers to Art Patrons, a bound volume of collected invitation cards and etchings. Included within is an etching by William Hogarth (English, 1697–1764) and original sepia drawings by Clarkson Frederick Stanfield, R.A. (English, 1793–1867) after Rembrandt and Meindert Hobbema (Dutch, 1638–1709). Not a lot of information is known about this work. An advertisement tucked into the volume confirms that the firm of George Bayntun in Bath, Somerset, England, bound the work, and that this was done sometime around 1900, but the person who compiled the collection is unknown. Additionally, no other edition of this work is known.

Hogarth print

—Traci Timmons, Librarian, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

The Late Caprichos of Goya: A Gift to the SAM Libraries

During the exhibition, Graphic Masters: Dürer, Rembrandt, Hogarth, Goya, Picasso, R. Crumb, the SAM Libraries is showcasing an exceptional work in the Lockwood Foundation Living Room near the exhibition entrance.

We are honored to present an important recent gift to the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library: Late Caprichos of Goya: Fragments from a Series (New York: Walker & Co., in association with the Department of Print and Graphic Arts, Harvard College Library, 1971). This limited edition illustrated book, with photomechanical lithograph reproductions and six original etchings, was donated in 2015 by Stuart and Beverly Denenberg.

Why is this work on Francisco José Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746-1828), published in the 1970s, so special? In short: exceptional scholarship in a beautifully-produced volume, containing extremely rare prints. Written and compiled by Eleanor A. Sayre (American, 1916-2001), one of the first female curators at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, this work has been described as “a book of exceptional quality . . . and importance.” The Late Caprichos of Goya: Fragments from a Series was published in an edition of 150 copies, with the Bullitt Library’s copy being number 79. It is the only known publicly-accessible copy in the Pacific Northwest.

The rare prints that are included in this work were created from three double-sided copper plates Goya made in the 1820s. Thirty years after Goya’s death, the plates were purchased in Spain by an English diplomat, John Savile Lumley (British, 1818-1896), from Goya’s grandson. They eventually made their way to the London firm of P. & D. Colnaghi where they lay in a drawer for over a decade, until they were bought by Harvard librarian and print scholar, Philip Hofer (American, 1898-1984), in the 1930s—notice the PH embossed in each print at lower right.

Witch on a Swing

In the 18th century, according to the Royal Spanish Academy Diccionario de la lengua castellana (Madrid 1791), the word, “capricho” meant “In works of poetry, music, and painting, it is that which is done by the power of invention rather than by adherence to rules of art. It is also called fantasy.”

Goya completed these caprichos in 1825, a quarter century after the original series of 1799. Those earlier prints can be read as political and clerical critiques, and made Goya an important moralist to those contemporaries who truly understood their meaning. Goya published the original series during the reign of Carlos IV, hoping that enlightened men and women would see and heed his criticisms, and that some public good might result from the work. For this later series, which is believed to be only the fragmentary beginning, there are—unlike the original series—no titles or details which may have caused trouble. In her commentary, Sayre wonders: “We shall probably never know how great a risk the old artist intended to take.” He was then 80 years old and died three years later.

Maja, after Goya

goya-installation-3

To see the book and these late caprichos in person, visit the Lockwood Foundation Living Room, just inside the exhibition. While there, take time to peruse some of the great resources selected by the SAM Librarians in the pop-up library.

– Traci Timmons, Librarian, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

Photos: Natali Wiseman.

19th-Century European Depictions of Africans: A Book Installation

During the run of Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic, whose work addresses ideas about identity and representation, the Bullitt Library is featuring a book installation that considers ways in which people of Africa were depicted in 19th-century book illustrations. The works in this installation, considered “costume books,” depict African subjects with an emphasis on clothing, published with the intent of educating an otherwise unacquainted audience. This tradition, derived from European 16th-century illustrated costume books, was created to satisfy a demand for information on dress and manners of both homeland and foreign lands. The depictions of non-European subjects, though beautiful in their presentation, are problematic in that they project a distinctly Western perspective and a lack of drawing from firsthand observation.

19th-Century European Depictions of Africans

Le Costume Historique: Cinq Cents Planches, Trois Cents en Couleurs, or et Argent, Deux Cents en Camaïeu…

19th-Century European Depictions of Africans

Published in Paris by the firm of Firmin-Didot et Frères between 1876 and 1888, Le Costume Historique: Cinq Cents Planches, Trois Cents en Couleurs, or et Argent, Deux Cents en Camaïeu… by Auguste Racinet (French, 1825–1893) was considered the most wide-ranging study of clothing of its time. Here, Racinet depicts “Senegalese tribesmen and women, from the lands by the River Senegal in Western Sudan” who “are a handsome people who take great care of their appearance.” And although Racinet’s work is an exceptional example of chromolithography, images like the ones shown are derived from a long illustrative tradition whereby images of “exotic” peoples were based on written accounts or secondhand drawings.

19th-Century European Depictions of Africans

Another work published by Firmin-Didot et Frères is Costumes Anciens et Modernes, a 19th-century reproduction of Cesare Vecellio’s (Italian, 1521–1601) Habiti Antichi et Moderni di Tutto il Mondo, an early costume book published in Venice in an expanded edition in 1598. Firmin-Didot’s version is written in Italian and French and covers the same geographic regions covered by Vecellio’s work.

In this example, we see an ordinary African woman: “Africana di Mediocre Conditione/Africaine de Condition Inférieure.” Referring to Vecellio’s original depictions, one scholar has noted that the images of African costumes, in particular,

“…were participating in ‘translations’ of African dress into costumes for European paintings and theatre. During this process, they accumulated new meanings. The dressed figures were copied from art objects with varying degrees of removal from immediate African encounters and combined with texts from published travel narratives to create mythic bricolages of Africans.”

19th-Century European Depictions of Africans

The Clothing of the Renaissance World: Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas: Cesare Vecellio’s Habiti Antichi et Moderni

19th-Century European Depictions of Africans

Costumes Anciens et Modernes

Additionally, when a comparison is made between Vecellio’s original image and Firmin-Didot’s replication of this particular subject, we see the result is a distinctly more Europeanized version.

This book installation 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.

—Traci Timmons, Librarian, Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library

Images: Le Costume Historique: Cinq Cents Planches, Trois Cents en Couleurs, or et Argent, Deux Cents en Camaïeu… 1876-1888, Paris: Firmin-Didot, Auguste Racinet, French, 1825–1893, SPCOL GT 513 R23 v. 2. The Clothing of the Renaissance World: Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas: Cesare Vecellio’s Habiti Antichi et Moderni, 2008 London; New York: Thames and Hudson, Margaret F. Rosenthal, American (birth date unknown), Ann Rosalind Rosenthal, American (birth date unknown), GT 509 V42 C57 2008. Costumes Anciens et Modernes = Habiti antichi et moderni di tutto il mondo, 1859-60, Paris: Firmin-Didot, Cesare Vecellio, Italian, 1521-1601, Ambroise Firmin-Didot, French, 1790-1876, From a private collection. Photos: Natali Wiseman.
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