The Delaware Art Museum Blog
Category : Curator Corner

The Politics in Politics and Paint – Barbara Bodichon and Social Reform in Victorian Britain

November 28, 2018

The exhibition, Politics and Paint: Barbara Bodichon and the PRB (November 3 – February 3, 2019), examines the dual passions and pursuits of this pioneering spirit of the Victorian age. Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon’s lifetime of concurrent engagement with art and social reform is not as incompatible as it might at first seem. During the second half of the 19th century, Bodichon was engaging in an act of social reform just by choosing a professional career of any kind. Raised as one of four illegitimate children of the liberal Member of Parliament, Ben Smith, Barbara was encouraged from a young…

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The “Hello Girls”

November 12, 2018

Heroic Women Veterans of World War I This World War I switchboard worker was one of the “Hello Girls,” as the Army called them. They were American women who served as telephone operators at the French frontline in 1918 under General John J. Pershing. When he took command of American forces fighting with the French and other allies against Germany, Pershing realized that the local telephone service was unreliable. He replaced the operators with Army Signal Corps men. Their orders were to connect American officers with their French counterparts and act as simultaneous translators. Efficiency did not improve. The men—many…

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Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon: An Algerian Excursion

October 19, 2018

In April, 2017, I received an email—in French—from the resident of a small town overlooking Lake Geneva. The sender read about our recent acquisition of Ventnor: Isle of Wight by British artist and social reformer Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon, and asked if we would like to purchase more of her work. She could only send a few photographs but described a number of watercolors and several carnet (sketchbooks) in her possession that she wanted to sell quickly. For various reasons, we could only view the artworks and sketchbooks at her home in Switzerland. I was intrigued! Although Bodichon has received…

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Discovering Textiles in the Object Storage Vault

October 16, 2018

Huge quilts, tiny ceramics, two life-size statues of horses, and the sculpted heads of Frank Schoonover and Albert Einstein—these are a handful of the hundreds of items housed in the Museum’s object storage vault. Under the guidance of Margaretta Frederick and Chief Registrar Erin Robin, the curatorial department spent the past five years inventorying and photographing the Museum’s entire collection to make our records searchable online. Object storage was the final frontier in this major undertaking funded by grants from the Welfare Foundation, Crestlea Foundation, and The Institute of Museum and Library Sciences. It has been exciting for the curatorial…

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Halloween Party Traditions All Fun and Games

September 21, 2018

I rarely write about works that aren’t on view, but my research on this recent acquisition was so timely for Halloween. This delicate work on paper is by Marianna Sloan, younger sister of the realist painter and illustrator John Sloan. The drawing itself will need conservation before we can share it with our visitors. In the 1890s, Marianna was following her brother’s lead—studying art and making stylized drawings for the Philadelphia newspapers. In fact, just weeks before John Sloan officially decamped from the Philadelphia Inquirer to The Press in 1895, his sister designed a poster for the Women’s Edition of…

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Dazzling 1928 painting by Harvey Dunn is repaired and returned to original splendor

August 29, 2018

I audibly gasped as I circled the desk and caught sight of the painting. It was lushly painted with an evocative composition and energetic brushwork. The influence of Howard Pyle was palpable. I kneeled down for a better look—careful not to bump the pictures behind me—and groaned. The painting had obvious damage: a tear in the sky below the waiving handkerchief, a puncture near the railing in the lower right corner, and scratches across the surface. A clear signature, reading “Harvey Dunn 1928,” kept me interested. Dunn was an important illustrator and a Pyle student, and the date was well…

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Black Survival Guide, or How to Live Through a Police Riot

July 27, 2018

The past is always present. It is not always visible, but like the molecules that we are composed of, it is everywhere, ever-changing, and always part of us. — Hank Willis Thomas On Sunday, December 4, 2016, The News Journal published an extensive piece on the 1968 National Guard occupation of Wilmington and recently-found photographs from the period. The images were taken by staff photographers including Donaghey Brown, Fred Comegys, Ron Dubick, Frank Fahey, Tom Keene, Chuck McGowen, John Peterson, and Godfrey Pitts. The photographs are striking. Guardsmen patrol Market Street; a gun is aimed at crowd mixed in race, gender,…

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Contemporary Craft: Then and Now

July 19, 2018

In spring, 1958, during a lecture for the Delaware Art Museum’s first annual exhibition of contemporary craft, Thomas S. Tibbs, director of New York’s Museum of Contemporary Craft (now the Museum of Arts in Design) called for the breaking down of barriers between the so-called “fine arts” and the work of artist-craftsmen. Organized by the Delaware Art Museum’s Education Department and the Studio Group of Wilmington, the special display included experimentations in weaving, silver, furniture, ceramics, and enameling. A tradition was established, and the show continued every year until it was combined with the Museum’s annual painting and sculpture exhibitions…

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American Jews in the Civil Rights Movement

June 26, 2018

The three artists on display in Fusco Gallery—Danny Lyon, Burton Silverman, and Harvey Dinnerstein—are all known for their visual documentation of the civil rights movement: Danny Lyon through photographs of Freedom Summer, and Silverman and Dinnerstein through sketches of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. They also have something else in common. All three of these artists are Jewish. Their connection to the civil rights movement is part of a proud tradition of young, progressive Northern Jews who went down South to record history being made, and to participate in it. Jewish involvement in the cause of civil rights has been attributed…

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New Acquisition

April 20, 2018

In February, just before the opening of Eye on Nature: Andrew Wyeth and John Ruskin, a number of art dealers from the United Kingdom brought a selection of their holdings to the United States during Master Drawings week in New York. While examining the art, I came upon John Ruskin’s Towers of Fribourg (1856)—the drawing I’ve been looking for throughout my entire career!. I almost couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Very few really good examples of John Ruskin’s work come up for sale, and in the rare instance that it occurs, they are generally priced beyond our means. Surprisingly,…

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The Artist’s Vision: John Sloan’s Self-Portraits

December 7, 2017

At a recent gallery program organized by the Delaware Art Museum, I had the wonderful opportunity to witness the power of close looking and dialogue brought together in an art gallery. On November 2nd and 5th, I led the inaugural Inside Look Series, consisting of informal participatory dialogues about a work of art for an extended period of time. The focus of my talk was John Sloan’s self-portraits in the DAM exhibition An American Journey: The Art of John Sloan. Thanks to the insightful questions and comments from the talk’s enthusiastic audience, I developed some thoughts about Sloan’s self-portraits, especially…

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Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, 1909

November 13, 2017

The more things change, the more they stay the same. — Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr (1808–1890) In 1909, Gayle Hoskins created the frontispiece for Elizabeth Dejeans’ novel The Winning Chance. The story centers on 19-year-old Janet Carew (left), who must work to support her impoverished family. She becomes a typist for older, prosperous, married stockbroker Leo Varek (left). Before long, he makes his predatory advance, telling her that if she succumbs he will ensure her family’s welfare. Janet has already resigned other positions after resisting similar abuse. She had hoped that this job would be different. Hoskins captures Janet’s fear after she…

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From the Vault ~ Funny but serious

October 19, 2017

If you’re reading this post, you probably already know that the Delaware Art Museum is famous for an illustration collection that focuses on the period 1875 to about 1940. But our holdings also include a smaller number of seminal works from 1950 forward. We acquire works from the 1940s forward if they have a distinct visual link to historical examples or if the artist is particularly distinguished for his or her contribution to the art of illustration. The two works here are by such an artist. Cartoonist Morrie Turner (1923-2014) was the first African-American cartoonist whose comic strip had a…

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Rossetti’s La Bella Mano Meets Virtual Reality

October 3, 2017

Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s La Bella Mano (1874–75) offers a multisensory experience, combining painting and poetry into a single work of art. Representing a major change in Rossetti’s approach, it reflects his assimilation of the tenets of the Aesthetic Movement. Breaking with convention, the composition offers no narrative, instead proposing a series of thoughts and ideas for the viewer’s contemplation. The addition to the Museum’s Pre-Raphaelite galleries of the seeing glass, a virtual reality piece created by Troy Richards and Knut Hybinette (November 18, 2017 – January 14, 2018) inspired by La Bella Mano, adds yet another layer to Rossetti’s intention….

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Tales from the Vault: Mystery solved and connections made

July 28, 2017

In reviewing works on paper by Howard Pyle artist during the inventory supported by our IMLS grant, I examined a small drawing that he inscribed and gave to C. L. Ward in 1907. It depicts an old man gazing out a window at an equally ancient horse-drawn carriage. Pyle created the illustration in 1892 for Oliver Wendell Holmes’ book of light verse The One Hoss Shay with its Companion Poems, How the Old Horse Won the Bet & The Broomstick Train of 1892. To the lower left of the illustration, the artist drew the profile of a mustachioed man in…

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John Sloan’s Long Shadows

June 28, 2017

Call it a conservation revelation. Sometimes you don’t know how dirty a painting is until it’s clean, or at least until you start cleaning it. John Sloan’s 1918 oil painting Long Shadows is just such a work. As paintings conservator Mark Bockrath observed, “As soon as I cleaned the house, I could see that there was a wonderful painting under that dense grime.” Cleaning revealed the artist’s dazzling color and lively brushwork. The shadows incorporate rich blue and plum tones that contrast beautifully with the impressive range of greens employed for the grass, shrubs, and trees. The foliage, in particular,…

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New to the Copeland Sculpture Garden

May 19, 2017

In early May, the Museum preparators installed two sculptures in the Copeland Sculpture Garden—Robert Murray’s geometric Sioux (1990) and Charles Parks’ playful Watersprite of the Brandywine (1963). Robert Murray has been investigating the possibilities of large-scale abstract sculpture since the early 1960s. The resulting works often consist of large sheets of metal that are curved, folded or wrinkled into dynamic shapes that call to the mind the natural landscape that inspires the artist. Charles Parks is best known for his figurative sculptures that adorn private gardens and public spaces throughout the United States. Parks’ elfin creature is a personification of…

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No Jury, No Prizes, No Plumbing Fixtures

April 3, 2017

Between 1917 and 1944 the Society of Independent Artists (SIA) hosted annual exhibitions for its members. By joining the SIA and paying a nominal fee, thousands of artists—from famous painters to Sunday painters—were able to exhibit their work in enormous shows in New York City. The brainchild of a diverse group of idealistic modern artists, including William Glackens, Walter Pach, and Marcel Duchamp, the SIA was one of many attempts to revolutionize how art was exhibited in the United States in the early 20th century. The SIA shows were proudly open exhibitions, with no jury and no prizes, a policy…

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Letters between Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Fanny Cornforth Available Online Through New Digital Collections Portal

March 17, 2017

The Samuel Bancroft, Jr. collection of Rossetti manuscripts provides a unique window into the relationship between Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his model and mistress, Fanny Cornforth. Cornforth was a chameleon-like figure who passed went under a myriad of names and roles in her lifetime. Indeed, the name under which we know her was a complete fabrication, with her stepson, Fred Schott, informing Samuel Bancroft, Jr. that it was assumed in a spirit “of girlish caprice,” as the surname was taken from the mother-in-law of her short-lived first marriage. Cornforth’s real name remains a matter of dispute among biographers, some of…

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“Silk Paintings” and “Girl Artists”: Women at the Society of Independent Artists, 1940

March 13, 2017

From 1917 through 1944, the Society of Independent Artists (SIA) hosted annual open exhibitions for their members. For a $5 membership fee, artists were able to exhibit their works in huge shows in New York City. The SIA proudly featured no jury and no prizes, so all members could exhibit, and the works were hung alphabetically to further democratize the process. The SIA attracted a wide range of artists—from famous painters to Sunday painters—and became an important venue for emerging artists, women, and others underrepresented in the mainstream New York art world. Women and younger artists were also deeply involved…

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Recent Research in American Illustration

February 5, 2017

Since its founding in 1912 with 132 works by Howard Pyle purchased from his widow Anne Poole Pyle, the Delaware Art Museum has become a primary repository for works of American illustration from the late 19th to mid-20th centuries. So, members of the public might assume that we acquired our current collection of approximately 4,000 illustrations continuously throughout our 114-year history. However, while the Museum did continue to collect Pyle’s work during its first half-century, amassing close to 90% of its current Pyle holdings by 1956, most works by other illustrators did not enter the collection in quantity until the…

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A Little Bit of Boston in Gallery 3

December 13, 2016

For lovers of American art, Gallery 3—the large yellow gallery filled with American art produced between the 1870s through the early 1900s—has two spectacular new additions that give us a glimpse into the changing art world of the United States in the 1890s. Impossible to miss at the center of the room stands a nearly life-size bronze figure by the American sculptor Frederick MacMonnies. Entitled Bacchante and Infant Faun and originally modeled in Paris in 1893, this work was at the heart of one of the culture wars of the 1890s. The work came to prominence when an early cast…

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Conserving John Sloan

November 28, 2016

Eleven months and counting! On October 21, 2017, the Delaware Art Museum will open An American Journey: The Art of John Sloan, the first career retrospective of Sloan’s work since 1988. This exhibition is pulled entirely from the Museum’s unparalleled collection of work by John Sloan, much of which was donated by the artist’s widow, Helen Farr Sloan (1911–2005). The show will include over 100 items—paintings, prints, illustrations, sketches, archival photographs, illustrated letters—from every stage of the artist’s career. There will be newspaper illustrations from the Philadelphia Inquirer, paintings and etchings of New York City, protest cartoons from The Masses,…

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Interview with artist Robert C. Jackson

November 17, 2016

Delaware Art Museum: You worked as an electrical engineer prior to committing yourself to painting in 1996. How did you shift from what you have described as a hobby to a full-time profession, and how did your life change once the transition was made? Robert C. Jackson:  I graduated college in 1986 and went straight to work as an engineer. It was the kind of job that is exactly what I thought you did with life. You didn’t have to like it, you just had to make a living and do it. For some, I’m sure it would be a…

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New Pre-Raphaelite Acquisition

October 12, 2016

In 1856 the artist, then Barbara Leigh-Smith (later Barbara Bodichon), embarked on a painting expedition with her friend Anna Mary Howitt, also an artist, on the Isle of Wight. Barbara Leigh-Smith was the illegitimate daughter of the radical Whig politician Ben Leigh Smith and first cousin to nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale. Well educated, intelligent, and forceful, Bodichon became with Howitt one of “The Ladies of Langham Place,” a group who met regularly in London to discuss women’s rights. In 1854, she published her Brief Summary of the Laws of England Concerning Women, which was used to promote the passage of…

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New Howard Pyle Illustrations Added to the Collection

September 29, 2016

The Museum recently purchased five of the 14 watercolors that Howard Pyle painted as costume designs for the 1909 Broadway play Springtime. A musical romance set in Louisiana in 1815, Springtime ran for 79 performances at New York’s Liberty Theater from October to December, 1909. The short run was explained by one commentator: “The play ended happily; the tragedy was at the box office. Critics loathed it.” That wasn’t universally true, as some critics did praise the production, while recognizing it for what it was, using descriptions such as sentimental, charming, pretty, and winsome. Out of town audiences were more…

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Storage Stories: Condition Report this!

August 9, 2016

Museum storage evokes a sense of mystery, aura, and unknown treasures but what really happens there? One of the most common museum storage practices is Condition Reporting, assessing the conservation state of a work. These documents help staff determine what can be on view in the Galleries or what needs to be fixed before it goes on loan to another institution. Condition Reports are traditionally a physical checklist with a photograph of the work attached. The noted condition issues include scratches, flaking of paint, and dents on frames. After a thorough review of the painting, an overall condition is determined…

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Rarely seen Howard Pyle and fantasy artwork on display for IX Preview Weekend

June 29, 2016

Imaginative Realism combines classical painting techniques with narrative subjects, focusing on the unreal, the unseen, and the impossible. The Delaware Art Museum is partnering with IX Arts organizers to host the first IX Preview Weekend September 23 – 25, 2016 at the Museum, celebrating Imaginative Realism and to kick off IX9—the annual groundbreaking art show, symposium, and celebration dedicated solely to the genre. Imaginative Realism is the cutting edge of contemporary painting and illustration and often includes themes related to science fiction and fantasy movies, games, and books. A pop-up exhibition and the weekend of events will feature over 16…

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Now on View in the Howard Pyle Galleries Through November 27

June 28, 2016

The stories of childhood leave an indelible impression, and their author always has a niche in the temple of memory from which the image is never cast out… – Howard Pyle In this tale, a fox infiltrates a poultry-yard. In the first illustration, he smiles innocently as a gosling delivers a tirade against his mentor, the imposing and annoyed-looking cock, who has made the mistake of smugly encouraging his protégé to offer some useful criticism of his character. In the second drawing, the fox makes a theatrical gesture of horror as the cock—feathers flying—attacks the disloyal gosling. The story goes…

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New Scuptures coming to the Copeland Sculpture Garden

April 18, 2016

Summer will bring exciting, new installations to the Copeland Sculpture Garden. The first is the conservation and reinstallation of David Stromeyer’s Electroglide (1983). Through a purchase made possible by grants from Crystal Trust and the Longwood Foundation, the Delaware Art Museum acquired Electroglide directly from the artist in 1983. The piece is an excellent example of Stromeyer’s work from the early 1980s and represents the ongoing interest in large-scale abstract, geometric sculptures that developed in the early 1960s. The renovation of the Museum’s building and campus from 2002 through 2005 necessitated the removal and storage of all of the outdoor…

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Poetry in Beauty: The Pre-Raphaelite Art of Marie Spartali Stillman travels to the UK

February 8, 2016

On view February 29 – June 5, 2016 The groundbreaking exhibition Poetry in Beauty received national and international recognition, including an intimate interview with its curators on BBC News, while it was on view at the Museum (November 7, 2015 – January 31, 2016). The exhibition will be on view March 1 – June 5, 2016 across the pond at the Watts Gallery in Compton, in the Guildford district of Surrey in England. The exhibition will be smaller in size, but will be shown in the gallery and studio of the Victorian painter George Frederic Watts (1817–1904), a contemporary and…

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Speakeasies, the Silver Fizz, and Sidewheeling: Artists and Alcohol in Prohibition-Era New York

February 5, 2016

Less than three months after the start of the Prohibition era in the United States (January 17, 1920–December 5, 1933), John Sloan made his first picture of a speakeasy. Many speakeasies—establishments where liquor was served clandestinely—were above, below, or in the back rooms of restaurants. Others were in unassuming houses. Some restaurants just served liquor to customers who knew how to ask, sometimes in tea cups. According to Sloan, the etching Bandits Cave depicts “uptown thrill seekers” venturing into a basement “tea room”—as such establishments would become known—in Greenwich Village. By 1920 the Village was already popular with uptowners and…

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The Museum receives new acquisition for Illustration collection

February 1, 2016

In March 1933, a headline in the Wilmington Morning News announced: “Give Priceless Art and Museum Site to Local Society.” The article detailed the offer, made on behalf of the estate of collector Samuel Bancroft by his widow, son, and daughter, of “an unrivaled collection” of British Pre-Raphaelite art and related books and manuscripts to the Wilmington Society of the Fine Arts. Allied with this gift was the offer of several acres of land on Park Drive (now Kentmere Parkway) on which to build a museum. The gift of the Bancroft Collection was conditional upon the erection of a museum…

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Now on view in the Pre-Raphaelite galleries!

December 15, 2015

It is human nature to categorize, and this method of learning is often applied to our understanding of art. The placement of one or more works of art of different style, time period or locale can stimulate new observations, breaking down previously held assumptions and adding to our understanding of the referential nature of the history of art. Now on view in the Pre-Raphaelite  galleries, Edward Burne-Jones’ (1833-1898) The Council Chamber is paired with Passengers, a painting by the American artist Steven Assael (born 1957). Burne-Jones’ interpretation of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale is an escapist vision—a response to the overwhelming changes…

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Of Cats and Cafés

October 29, 2015

One of the most famous cats in popular visual culture is the sinuous yet fierce feline from Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen’s 1896 poster advertising a tour of cabaret entertainers from the Chat Noir in Paris. Easily available today on posters, magnets, and t-shirts, Steinlen’s cat has a colorful history and legacy. The Chat Noir was a café in Montmartre, founded in 1881 by Rodolphe Salis and closed in 1897 when the proprietor died. It was the hangout of radical modern artists and writers, including Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Adolphe Willette, Caran d’Ache, André Gill, Paul Verlaine, and Aristide Bruant. Many of the most…

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Now on view in the Brock J. Vinton Galleries

October 28, 2015

Six works of art on the west wall of the Brock J. Vinton Galleries, including a new acquisition, all illustrate different subjects but each one shows the importance of women’s hats at the turn of the 20th century. Women were rarely without a hat – not just out of doors but during social calls and solitary nature excursions – one of the works is actually a satire on women’s foibles in the hat-buying realm! Includes New Acquisition: This cover for St. Nicholas, the most popular American children’s magazine of the early 20th century, features a young man and woman in…

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The Ghost Print

October 15, 2015

Deep in a box in the works-on-paper vault, lies a ghost print, and it may not be the only one. There could be other ghost prints here. Many museums have them in storage. Our ghost print isn’t terrifying, but it is kind of strange. And it’s a perfect entrée into one of my favorite print processes, the monotype. A monotype is a one-of-a-kind image that is painted (often with printer’s ink) onto a smooth flat surface, usually a metal printing plate, and then transferred by pressure onto paper, leaving a reversed image of the original picture. Although the monotype process…

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Conservation of Rafael Ferrer’s Neon Corner

October 13, 2015

In 1971, the Philadelphia-based Makler Gallery commissioned artist Rafael Ferrer to create Neon Corner in an edition of 50, and one was given to the Delaware Art Museum that same year by Dr. and Mrs. Paul Makler. Ferrer had settled in Philadelphia in 1966 and began teaching at the Philadelphia College of Art (now University of the Arts) in 1967. Ferrer’s activities between 1970 and 1971 were extensive. In January 1970, a solo exhibition was held at Leo Castelli Warehouse in New York; Ferrer’s Deflected Fountain for Marcel Duchamp was on view in May at the Philadelphia Museum of Art;…

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Miriam Beerman: Expressing the Chaos

September 10, 2015

A film by Jonathan Gruber Miriam Beerman: Expressing the Chaos is the 2015 retrospective of the artist’s career by filmmaker Jonathan Gruber. Beerman was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1923 and received her degree from Rhode Island School of Design in 1945. She studied with Morris Kantor at the Arts Students League in New York and with Stanley William Hayter in Paris. Beerman’s neo-expressionist prints and paintings explore the human condition, war, death, and disaster and have been compared to the work of Leonard Baskin. In 2014, the Delaware Art Museum was given its first painting by the artist…

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Spartali Stillman’s Kelmscott Manor: From the Field

August 5, 2015

This fall, the Museum will host the first retrospective of the work of Pre-Raphaelite painter Marie Spartali Stillman, a project that has been eight years in the making. The focus of the exhibition is integral to our own permanent collection, as Samuel Bancroft was a patron of Spartali Stillman’s work. Bancroft’s relationship with her included paying a visit to her home in Surrey and her reciprocal call at Rockford, Bancroft’s home in Delaware. The Bancroft Archives, located in our Helen Farr Sloan Library, include numerous letters exchanged between the two—as well as correspondence with two of her children, Effie and…

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John Sloan’s Newspaper Illustrations

July 21, 2015

This summer The Puzzling World of John Sloan features the artist’s inventive and challenging puzzles for the Philadelphia Press. Produced between 1900 and 1910, these puzzles represent the second half of Sloan’s extraordinary career as a newspaper illustrator—a career that encompassed portraiture, sketches of newsworthy events, story illustrations, full-color designs for the Sunday supplement, and even cartoons. Newspaper work was Sloan’s primary means of support from 1892 to 1904, and the artist rapidly distinguished himself in the field. Like most newspaper illustrators, when he joined the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1892, Sloan was tasked with producing portraits of famous people and…

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Searching for a Moose

July 7, 2015

Among the strangest things I encountered during a works on paper inventory in 2005 was a very elegant, poster-style drawing of a moose, by John Sloan. It looked like a newspaper illustration, but it is a far cry from the clever puzzles and elegant ladies at the seaside that Sloan usually illustrated for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Press in this style. I have wondered for years about what kind of article this accompanied, but the drawing didn’t have a date or inscription to give me a clue. As part of our current inventory and collections database update, I have…

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William Andrew Loomis 1892-1959

May 4, 2015

Visitors to the Museum’s illustration galleries may notice two paintings that seem more “modern” than their companions on the wall. Both were painted in the 1940s, the last years of the Golden Age of American illustration. Created for stories in The Ladies’ Home Journal, they are the work of Andrew Loomis, whose approach to art was distilled in the title of one of his many popular instruction manuals for illustrators: Telling the Story. Besides capturing emotional moments in fiction, each painting also tells the story of how an illustrator’s work was sometimes transformed for its final publication. Here, Loomis captures…

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Howard Pyle Murals

April 15, 2015

Over the last two and a half years, conservator Mark Bockrath of Barbara A. Buckley Associates has painstakingly cleaned and conserved the first mural paintings completed by Howard Pyle between 1903 and 1907. This summer the complete set of nine mural panels painted by Howard Pyle for the drawing room of his home at 907 Delaware Avenue in Wilmintgon will be semi-permanently installed in one of the Vinton illustration galleries on the second floor of the Museum. The complete set of murals has not been on public view since the 1930s. Pyle began work on the murals in 1903. His…

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John Sloan: Cats and Dogs

March 31, 2015

John Sloan was a cat person. One of his earliest paintings, Green’s Cats, 1900—a stunning art nouveau composition in black and white—features  the cats-in-residence at Green’s Hotel and Bar, a popular gathering place for the staff of the Philadelphia Press, where he was employed as an illustrator. Black cats stalk through snow in Backyards, Greenwich Village, 1914 (Whitney Museum of American Art), one of his most famous paintings. A grey cat finds a likely mark in Chinese Restaurant, 1907 (Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester), and still more cats surround the bartender in McSorley’s Cats, 1929. Cats were and are a familiar…

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Generous grant allows the Museum to preserve collection and reduce energy costs

February 9, 2015

This winter, the Delaware Art Museum received a Crystal Trust grant to assist with the costs of installing new LED light bulbs in the Museum’s galleries. This grant allows us to significantly enhance the Museum’s ability to sustain and preserve its art collection for future generations. The major goals of this project are to reduce the environmental impact of the Museum’s facilities, implement cost-saving measures, improve the preservation of the collection, and create an optimal aesthetic experience of the collection. Lighting a painting or object is an important part of the installation and can become very time consuming. LED lighting…

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Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations for Oscar Wilde’s Salomé

January 28, 2015

On February 7 the Museum opens Oscar Wilde’s Salomé: Illustrating Death and Desire (February 7-May 10, 2015). The genesis for this exhibition was two-fold. Late in 2013 I learned that in February 2015 Opera Philadelphia was presenting Oscar, an opera in two acts written by composer Theodore Morrison from a libretto co-authored with English opera director John Cox which presents the life of Oscar Wilde as he reflects on his time of imprisonment in Reading Goal. The opera was jointly commissioned by Opera Philadelphia and Santa Fe Opera and premiered in Santa Fe in July of 2013. It seemed like…

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Bror Thure de Thulstrup

December 9, 2014

In 2006, the Museum received the donation of this illustration signed and dated 1891 by Bror Thule de Thulstrup from a collector who knew a good thing when he saw one. He acquired it even though it lacked any reference to its place and date of publication, a critical bit of information in the history of illustration. Some illustrations have that information inscribed, usually on the reverse, often in a fine, 19th century script. But lacking that, and to complicate matters further, illustrators often created works that were not used immediately, so the date on the work does not necessarily…

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Christmas Card to John and Dolly Sloan

December 9, 2014

Happy Holidays from the Helen Farr Sloan Library and Archives at the Delaware Art Museum! The archives house many delightful holiday greetings from artists, including this charming, hand-painted card that commemorates the friendship between John Sloan and several Native American artists from San Ildefonso Pueblo near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Sloan began spending summers in Santa Fe in 1919 and purchased a home there the following year. He was fascinated by the rich cultural heritage of New Mexico, and his encounters with its Native American communities invigorated Sloan’s painting and etching in the 1920s and 1930s. Like a growing group…

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19th-Century American Art galleries reopen to the public November 28

November 25, 2014

The Delaware Art Museum is pleased to unveil its renovated and re-installed 18th- and 19th-century American Art galleries–Galleries 1, 2, and 3–to the public on Friday, November 28 from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Just in time for the holiday season, the beautifully redesigned space will display over 50 works of art, including many permanent collection objects that have not been on view for over 10 years. As part of this re-installation, the galleries will highlight 150 years of portraiture, sculpture, landscape painting, still life, and history painting. “I am excited to be able to present our local Wilmington history within the context…

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The Museum’s American Art Portraits

October 23, 2014

This fall, the Museum refreshed the galleries dedicated to 18th- and 19th-century American Art. As part of this reinstallation, the first gallery highlights 100 years of portraiture in this region. The contents span 1757 through 1856, and all the portraits were produced within a 50-mile radius of the Delaware Art Museum. Familiar favorites by Benjamin West, Thomas Sully, and the Peales are joined by images of two Delaware women. Five-year-old Anna Walraven (1846–1927) holds a daguerreotype of her family, who had recently relocated from Pennsylvania to open a variety store in Wilmington. The first child of John Harding Walraven and…

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To Amuse and Interest: Moral and Cautionary Tales for Children from the Collection of the Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives

August 25, 2014

“When children can read fluently, the difficulty is not to supply them with entertaining books, but to prevent them from reading too much and indiscriminately.  To give them only such as cultivate the moral feelings, and create a taste for knowledge, while they, at the same time, amuse and interest.” ~Richard Lovell Edgeworth, “Address to Mothers,” 1815 Before the middle of the 18th century nearly all children’s books were either purely instructional (spelling books, conduct books) or extremely religious.  Children seeking light and enjoyable reading matter had few choices beyond adult books they adopted as their own. London bookseller John…

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Madonnas of the Prairie: Depictions of Women in the American West

July 29, 2014

LOANS FROM THE ILLUSTRATION COLLECTION to Madonnas of the Prairie: Depictions of Women in the American West at the Panhandle-Plains Historical, Museum, Canyon, Texas (April 12-August 30, 2014) and National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (February 6-May 10, 2015) Now on view at the Panhandle-Plains Historical, Museum, Canyon, Texas, Madonnas of the Prairie encompasses depictions of women in the American West from the late 19thcentury to the present. The Museum’s illustrations by Percy Ivory and Frank Schoonover are focal points of the exhibition’s wide-ranging scope and diverse imagery. Percy Ivory’s demure cowgirl and her apparent suitor, and…

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Larry Holmes: High Watermark on the Teepees

July 2, 2014

Larry Holmes (born 1942) has been an active member of the regional art community since settling in Delaware in the early 1970s. Holmes received his Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Science degrees from Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and he earned his Master of Fine Arts degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan in 1973. Later that year, Holmes joined the faculty of the University of Delaware where he served as the Chair of the Department of Art from 1982 to 1992 and taught painting until retiring in 2004. Throughout his career, Holmes participated in…

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New Acquisitions

June 5, 2014

New Acquisitions Each year, the Delaware Art Museum adds new works of art to the collection through gifts and purchases. The 2013 fiscal year included 61 additions to nearly all areas of the permanent collection—American Illustration, Pre-Raphaelite art, and American art. Katharine Richardson Wireman’s Cover for Collier’s Weekly was generously donated by Robert Lynn Ellis and Melinda Lou Ellis and was featured in the survey exhibition of the artist’s work, “So Beautifully Illustrated” – Katharine Richardson Wireman and the Art of Illustration (October 6, 2012–January 6, 2013). Several works of art entered the Pre-Raphaelite collection, including Henry Wallis’ Timon and…

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Edward Steichen

March 24, 2014

In 1923 famed portrait photographer Edward Steichen became chief photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair, a position he would keep until 1937. In doing so he entered one of the most prestigious and lucrative photography jobs in the world, bringing a distinctive artistic vision to Condé Nast’s magazines. Trained as a painter, Steichen had turned to photography in the 1890s, initially producing artistically composed, softly focused images that resembled paintings. He became a favorite of publisher, photographer, and gallerist Alfred Stieglitz, who featured Steichen’s sensitive portraits of artists and Whistlerian landscapes like The Pond—Moonrise, 1904, in his influential publication Camera…

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New Acquisition by Alice Barber Stephens

March 19, 2014

This illustration is one of eight that Alice Barber Stephens made for a 1905 edition of Louisa May Alcott’s popular children’s novel Under the Lilacs. The illustration is an example of both the artist’s accomplished use of charcoal and her ability to capture the lively essence of a story. The plot centers on the exploits of four children and a neighborhood woman as they encounter various adventures and mysteries one summer. In the drawing, three of the characters are searching for lost dollar bills that they find shredded by mice in a drawer. The illustration captures the just-before-the-discovery moment. The…

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The Museum’s Pre-Raphaelites…

March 7, 2014

The Museum’s Pre-Raphaelites included in National Gallery Exhibition! In August of last year I traveled to London to escort three of our paintings from the Samuel and Mary R. Bancroft Collection of Pre-Raphaelite art for display at an exhibition at Tate Britain entitled Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde. Because I arrived well before the exhibition opening I was only able to view a few of the pieces which would make up the final display, placed around the exhibition galleries waiting to be installed along with ours. Last week I was able to view the show in its full glory at the National Gallery…

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Ph.D. student Katrina Greene researches 500 prints from the Dr. Charles Lee Reese Collection

February 26, 2014

Mysteries solved. Discoveries made. Inquiries opened. Ph.D. student Katrina Greene has just completed her second internship at the Delaware Art Museum, where she has tackled a variety of projects related to the museum’s collection of American Art.At the Delaware Art Museum, Greene researched many works of art. She compiled a complete conservation record for Raphaelle Peale’s Absalom Jones (1810), allowing museum staff to better understand the history, condition, and conservation requirements of one of the Museum’s most important 19th-century paintings, and she sorted out the complicated story behind the production of Robert Weir’s Indian Captives, Massachusetts 1650 (1840), an earlier version of which is…

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Donated Landseer sketch came from unusual source

January 13, 2014

This engaging fragment of a sketch by the great British animal painter, Edwin Landseer (1802 – 1873), was acquired by the Museum not long after it was made. Surprisingly, it was a gift of the Brandywine School painter John McCoy (1910 – 1989). McCoy’s early life sets him apart from many artists of this period. He was born in California, but moved to Wilmington with his family in 1915 when he was just five years old. Although his interest in art was encouraged by a Wilmington Friends School teacher, his father insisted he obtain a college degree first. Toward the…

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Promised gift of 25 copper and brass objects by William Arthur Smith Benson

January 13, 2014

About two years ago, I received an unexpected phone call from a Washington D.C. architect who was looking to place a collection of metalwork by the Arts and Crafts designer William Arthur Smith Benson (1854 – 1924). He explained that it would be a “promised gift,” meaning it would come to the Museum after his death. He knew of our collection of Pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts art from his Delaware relatives, and felt the Delaware Art Museum would provide the right context for his collection. In honor of our centenary celebrations, the donor has allowed us to show these…

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Acquired black and white work by Howard Pyle and engraved woodblock created by J. P. Davis

January 13, 2014

The Museum recently acquired this black and white work by Howard Pyle and the engraved woodblock created by J. P. Davis for its reproduction in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. The gouache is one of three that Pyle created for this article about the coffee houses of New York City, places of political discourse in the late 18th century. Author John Austin Stevens belonged to a class of writer that was diminishing in the 1880s as historians turned increasingly to research rather than to literary models for the writing of history. Primarily a businessman, Stevens developed a deep knowledge of American history,…

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On view in the Sue Ann and John L. Weinberg Galleries

November 26, 2013

ON VIEW IN THE SUE ANN AND JOHN L. WEINBERG GALLERIES December 11, 2013 through c. mid-March 2014 Edward Penfield’s advertising posters for Harper’s New Monthly Magazine have become his most recognized works. Their popularity flourished during the so-called Poster Craze of the 1890s, when boldly-designed colorful posters that advertised publications, merchandise, and public events were considered collectible works of art. To meet the demand, publishers often sold them—sometimes without their advertising lines—both directly and through print dealers. The press of the period printed lively discussions of poster art; books about posters proliferated; museums began to form poster collections; galleries exhibited European…

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Gallery 17 Reinstallation

October 30, 2013

This fall, the contemporary gallery is undergoing a major renovation and reinstallation. Dedicated to the Museum’s holdings of contemporary American art, the gallery offers a representative overview from 1960 to the present. Nearly 400 works of art have been added to the contemporary holdings since the Museum reopened in 2005, necessitating a reorientation of the gallery and the addition of temporary walls to accommodate the expanding collection.Reconfiguring the gallery afforded the chance to delve into the Museum’s holdings, identifying works of art not regularly on view. A focus wall will be dedicated to the display of these works, including the…

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Halloween Puzzle by John Sloan

September 25, 2013

Although best known as a painter of incidents on the streets of New York, John Sloan began his career as a newspaper illustrator in Philadelphia. Starting in 1892 at the Inquirer, Sloan traveled the city and suburbs on assignment from the paper. He was not particularly fast at drawing—his friend Robert Henri joked that Sloan was the past tense of “slow”—but he developed a decorative style that served well for headings, advertisements, and illustrations for fiction and the society pages. His elegant newspaper style drew elements from Japanese prints, French posters, and art nouveau decorations. The stylish illustrations attracted attention, and…

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Now Mr. Dunkus? that wasn’t the right thing to say by Barbara Shermund

August 29, 2013

After her art education in California, 26-year-old Barbara Shermund moved to New York City in 1925, where she began working as a cartoonist and story illustrator. She quickly became one of the first female cartoonists at the newly-founded The New Yorker. Over the next twenty years, she contributed nine covers and hundreds of cartoons to the magazine, usually writing her own captions. Her drawings also appeared in Esquire and LIFE, as well as in books of humor. She regularly exhibited her work in New York galleries, in the company of contemporaries such as James Thurber and historic artists such as Honoré Daumier. In fact,…

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Sarah Wyman Whitman

July 30, 2013

Sarah Wyman Whitman (1842-1904) was a Boston socialite, painter, designer of stained glass, and pioneer in the field of book cover design.  She began her formal art training in 1868, studying first with William Morris Hunt in Boston then with Thomas Couture, Hunt’s former teacher, in France. Though her professional training was brief Hunt considered Whitman to be one of his more gifted students and encouraged her to pursue her dream of becoming a serious artist. Whitman was inspired by the Pre-Raphaelites, particularly Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and became a leading figure in Boston’s Arts and Crafts movement. By the early…

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Mitch Lyons: Clay Monoprints

June 26, 2013

Untitled, c. 1990s Mitch Lyons (born 1938) Clay monoprint, 17 x 37 inches Delaware Art Museum, Gift of the artist, 2012 © Mitch Lyons Untitled, c. 2000s Mitch Lyons (born 1938) Clay monoprint, 40 x 30 inches Delaware Art Museum, Gift of the artist, 2012 © Mitch Lyons Untitled, c. 1980s Mitch Lyons (born 1938) Clay monoprint, 27 x 25 inches Delaware Art Museum, Gift of the artist, 2012 © Mitch Lyons MITCH LYONS: CLAY MONOPRINTS Mitch Lyons (born 1938) is a well-known and important part of the local art community, who over the past three decades has developed a…

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Red Grooms: Paul Bocuse’s World

May 28, 2013

Paul Bocuse’s World, 1977 Red Grooms (born 1937) Acrylic on canvas with wood frame construction, 106 x 181 x 1 5/8 inches Delaware Art Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Marvin H. Balistocky, 2012 (2012-14) RED GROOMS: PAUL BOCUSE’S WORLD In 2012, Dr. and Mrs. Marvin H. Balistocky generously donated Paul Bocuse’s World, a significant painting by the American artist Red Grooms (born 1937). One of the most important artists of the second half of the 20th century, Grooms was born in Nashville, Tennessee and began studies at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1955. He settled in New York City…

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A New Look for the American Illustration Gallery

April 30, 2013

Sailor’s Fantasy, 1915 N. C. Wyeth (1882-1945) Oil on canvas, 39 1/2 x 31 3/4 inches Special Purchase Fund, 1920 “You can’t leave her here to suffer. Whether you want to or not, you’ll have to do it.”, 1925 Gayle Porter Hoskins (1887-1962) Oil on canvas, 26 x 36 inches Gayle and Alene Hoskins Endowment Fund, 1979 Old Man and Boy with Toy Steam Engine, cover for The Country Gentleman, December 16, 1916 Katharine Richardson Wireman (1878-1966) Oil on illustration board, 24 1/2 x 20 3/8 inches Delaware Art Museum, Gift of Sharon S. Galm, 2011 The Delaware Art Museum’s rich and unique…

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Savoyard Hospitality by Thomas Matthews Rooke

March 7, 2013

This charming image of two female travelers entitled Savoyard Hospitality, by the Pre-Raphaelite artist, Thomas Matthews Rooke (1842-1942), is a recent gift to the Museum. Rooke, who worked primarily in watercolor, received his early training at the Royal College of Art and the Royal Academy Schools. At age 29 he applied for a job at William Morris and Company and was shortly thereafter assigned to assist the painter, Edward Burne-Jones in his studio. Rooke acted as the older artist’s studio assistant until his death. The two developed a close working relationship with Burne-Jones endearingly referring to his assistant as “Little Rooke” or…

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Gertrude Kasebier

February 20, 2013

In 1907, Everett Shinn sent John Sloan a postcard that reads: “Was up to be photographed today, great fun, being an artist, with temperament.” This quick note, illustrated with a spontaneous sketch, is one of my favorite items at the Museum. Yet it is just the sort of treasure—small, light-sensitive, and requiring curatorial explication—that usually remains in storage. The tale behind this off-hand sketch provided the inspiration for the exhibition Gertrude Käsebier’s Photographs of the Eight: Portraits for Promotion, which is on view through July 7, 2013. The postcard to Sloan memorialized a photo-session, endured by Shinn, with the New York…

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David C. Driskell: Scholar, Curator, Artist

February 6, 2013

As we began celebrating Black History Month, I had the opportunity to research some fascinating works of art in the Museum’s collection by leading African American artists. One notable artist is David C. Driskell (born 1931), who devoted his career to the study and presentation of African American art. Driskell was raised in North Carolina and enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1950. His studies continued at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, and he obtained a Master of Fine Arts degree from Catholic University. Driskell found his initial impact on the field was in…

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Christ leads the Blind Man out of Bethsaida by Frederic James Shields

January 17, 2013

Late in 2011, the Museum had the opportunity to purchase this watercolor of the Blind Man of Bethsaida by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Frederic Shields (1833–1911).  Shields was born in Hartlepool, in northeastern England, but spent most of his working life in Manchester and London.  The premature death of his father left him responsible for the support of his mother and siblings at a young age. His autobiography describes acute poverty and periods of semi-starvation—circumstances that deeply influenced his life-long religious piety.  His artistic training was limited to apprenticeships in the commercial engraving industry and evening art classes in Manchester and London. Shields’…

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The Dreamer by Elizabeth Sparhawk-Jones

December 17, 2012

Visiting the stellar drawings show, Mantegna to Matisse: Master Drawings from the Courtauld Gallery at the Frick Collection recently, I was struck, as most visitors are, by Michelangelo’s The Dream (c.1533)—one of the most significant drawings by the Renaissance master. The central figure is a glorious male nude, his muscles articulated in confident strokes of black chalk. He is visited by a winged figure that descends to wake the man from a vivid dream, represented by vignettes of the seven deadly sins that encircle the central pair. Though freighted with complex iconography, Michelangelo’s drawing perfectly conveys the experience of dreaming and the half-remembered visions…

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“Wreck in the Offing!” – Scene in a Life-saving Station by Howard Pyle

December 4, 2012

“Wreck in the Offing!” – Scene in a Life-saving Station,” 1878, forHarper’s Weekly, March 9, 1878 Howard Pyle (1853-1911) Gouache on paper, 14 3/4 x 21 1/8 inches Gayle and Alene Hoskins Endowment Fund, 1984 This illustration is on loan to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the exhibition Shipwreck! Winslow Homer and The Life Linethrough January 1, 2013. It is one of 78 works of art and artifacts that provided a context for Winslow Homer’s painting The Life Line(1884; Philadelphia Museum of Art), a scene of a rescue at sea.  It also provided a turning point in Howard Pyle’s career. The scene is…

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Delaware Remembers Sculptor Charles Parks

November 8, 2012

Beloved local sculptor Charles Parks received numerous national awards and commissions, and his work is in public and private collections around the country. Locally his work can be seen outdoors at the University of Delaware and at Brandywine Park. In 2011 the State of Delaware received his collection of approximately 290 lifetime works. The artist is also well represented in the collection of the Delaware Art Museum. The earliest of seven works spanning the artist’s long and productive career, Standing Figure is on view in Gallery 16 to honor the passing of Parks. This carved walnut statue is a very early example…

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Thomas Eakins Seated Cross Legged with His Palette by Samuel Murray

October 25, 2012

Thomas Eakins Seated Cross Legged with His Palette, 1907, cast 1909 Samuel Murray (1869–1941) Plaster, metal and wood, 9 1/2 x 9 5/8 x 8 3/4 inches Gift of Dr. Christine I. Oaklander in memory of Dr. William Innes Homer, a superb teacher and scholar of American art, 2012 In 1886, 17-year-old Samuel Murray began to study art with the painter Thomas Eakins (1844–1916) at the newly founded Art Students League of Philadelphia. The League had been started by a group of Eakins’ pupils who followed him from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, from which he had been fired…

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Edward Hopper’s Summertime

October 11, 2012

Summertime, 1943 Edward Hopper (1882–1967) Oil on canvas 29 1/8 x 44 inches Gift of Dora Sexton Brown, 1962 Marking the end of the season, Edward Hopper’s Summertime has gone off view at the Delaware Art Museum. The painting is in Paris for a major retrospective exhibition that opens October 10 at the Grand Palais. Summertime joins Hopper’s most famous painting Nighthawks (1942, Art Institute of Chicago) and many others, as well as early illustrations, watercolors, and etchings. In the first section of the exhibition, devoted to Hopper’s development and early years, Hopper’s own works are joined by those that influenced him, including works by American artists…

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William Zorach: Moonlight

September 27, 2012

Modern Art to my generation was a spiritual awaking, a freeing of Art from the idea of copying Nature. We entered into a whole new world of form and color that opened up before us. —William Zorach, 1931 In the early 20th century, William Zorach was in the vanguard of American art. His paintings, prints, and sculptures reflected his interest in European modernist art. With its vivid color and stylized, angular forms, Moonlight is a perfect example—a fusion of Fauvism and Cubism, inflected with the artist’s own decorative sensibility. Zorach discovered modern art with the help of his wife, the artist Marguerite Zorach…

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Toshiko Takaezu: Closed Forms

September 13, 2012

Pink Lady #1, 1989 Toshiko Takaezu (1922?2011) Stoneware, 16 x 9 x 9 inches Delaware Art Museum, Gift of Toshiko Takaezu, 2009 Untitled (Moon Pot), 2006 Toshiko Takaezu (1922?2011) Stoneware, 22 x 22 x 22 inches Delaware Art Museum, Gift of Toshiko Takaezu, 2009 Untitled, c. 1997 Toshiko Takaezu (1922?2011) Stoneware, 28 ? x 11 x 11 inches Delaware Art Museum, Gift of Toshiko Takaezu, 2009 TOSHIKO TAKAEZU: CLOSED FORMS An innovator in the field of contemporary ceramics, Toshiko Takaezu (1922–2011) was born in Hawaii in 1922. She left the island in 1951 to study ceramics and weaving at Cranbrook Academy of Art…

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