The Delaware Art Museum Blog
Category : Blog Roll

Elizabeth Siddal’s Sketch for “La Belle Dame sans merci”

June 17, 2020

Sometimes, despite the best efforts of art historians and even with the help of 21st-century technology and archival resources, as much as we dislike admitting it, there are questions that just can’t be answered definitively. The study of the work of Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (1829-1862), Pre-Raphaelite model, muse, artist, and poet, poses more unanswered questions than most, and that applies specifically to the drawing (one of three works by the artist in the Museum’s collection) under review here. Best known as the face of avant-garde feminine beauty in the work of many of the early Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood paintings, Siddal’s own…

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Edward Burne-Jones’s Windows for the Chapel of the Cheadle Royal Hospital

May 1, 2020

In January of this year the Museum was fortunate to acquire a stained-glass window designed by Edward Burne-Jones for Morris & Co. The window, featuring the Old Testament patriarch Noah, was offered through a dealer, one of several windows featuring patriarchs and saints, originally installed in the Chapel of Cheadle Royal Hospital, near Manchester. Between 1906 and 1915 Morris & Co was engaged in creating the windows for the newly built Chapel of the Cheadle Hospital. Stained glass windows made up a significant portion of the products sold by the decorative arts firm from its beginnings in 1861 as Morris, Marshall,…

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Inside Look: Angela Fraleigh’s Sound the Deep Waters

April 3, 2020

Angela Fraleigh’s triptych, Sound the Deep Waters, connects women young and old, creating an imagined community in a dreamlike realm. Shared experience and a collective consciousness are important themes for the artist. The paintings build upon Fraleigh’s previous work bringing attention and recognition to undervalued female historical actors including site specific pieces at the Edward Hopper House Museum and Study Center and the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site that acknowledge women who inhabited the spaces. Similarly Sound the Deep Waters, a commissioned work by the Delaware Art Museum, celebrates the women who reside in the museum’s permanent collection, including female…

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Two Recent Acquisitions by Edward Burne-Jones

February 11, 2020

The Museum was recently able to purchase two drawings [ILL. #1], which served as preparatory sketches for our painting of Hymenaeus [ILL. #2] (1869, oil over gold leaf on panel) by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898). In the painting, Hymen, goddess of marriage, is shown at left, blessing the nuptials of the couple on the right. In the drawings, the three figures are split between the two sheets of paper, allowing the artist to work out the individual poses. Certain details which appear in the final painting are not included in the drawings. For instance, the harp held by…

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Arabesque Cover Designs for Washington Irving’s The Alhambra and The Conquest of Granada

January 22, 2020

Most Americans are familiar with the writer and historian Washington Irving and his well-known legends of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle. Irving (b.1783-d.1859) was one of the first writers from the newly formed United States to be recognized across Europe and he set the standard for a uniquely American form of fiction writing. Less well known are some of Irving’s works of history or his time spent in Europe as part of the diplomatic corps. Two works that came out of Irving’s foreign adventures were histories of medieval Spain during the period when modern day Andalucia was controlled by…

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Botanical Notes for Angela Fraleigh: Sound the Deep Waters

November 18, 2019

In addition to the four large paintings Angela Fraleigh created for Sound the Deep Waters, the artist assembled five bouquets to complement the Victorian-era imagery on view. Floriography, or the language of flowers, is the use of a flower as a means of coded communication. By the middle of the 1800s, guides were published to denote the meanings, and the many—and sometimes varied—connotations were generally understood. A specific type of flower may reference an individual’s trait, intention, sentiment, social concern, or condition. Aside from symbolic associations, many flowers have practical uses—aromatic, medicinal, or toxic—and their use has been explored and…

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Experience Renée Cox’s Baby Back at the Delaware Art Museum

October 24, 2019

The below depicts the artist, Renée Cox, reclining on a sunny yellow chaise longue. Her naked backside faces the viewer as she gazes over her shoulder. Her bright red heels and the whip in her hand nod to sexual submission and control. At first glance Renée Cox’s Baby Back may seem erotic or even pornographic, until you consider the long history of male artists using female nudes as their subjects. In this self-portrait Cox is directly referencing famous paintings such as Titian’s Venus of Urbino, Édouard Manet’s Olympia, and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s La Grande Odalisque, all depicting unabashedly naked women. In…

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Mitch Lyons: The Hand Translated

September 18, 2019

Mitch Lyons worked as a traditional potter until 1980, the pivotal point in his career when he refined his method of printing directly from clay. Experimental forms of printmaking have been pervasive throughout the history of art; however, never before has such an inventive matrix, medium, and process been utilized for image transfer. Lyons began by wetting the stoneware clay slab he used for nearly 40 years. He created imagery using fairly conventional ceramic decoration techniques. Lyons poured clay slips of various colors directly onto the surface and drew, painted, or cut directly into the clay with a variety of…

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Making Mystery Approachable: Po Shun Leong’s Landscape Box

August 29, 2019

A box is a practical device, but artists have long seen greatness in its form. Some artists, like Donald Judd, celebrate the box for its simplicity. Joseph Cornell adopted the box given the practical role it served: its walls were boundaries that divided outside realities from the world he constructed within. Judd, Cornell, and the many other artists achieved their artistic success with boxes by playing upon their audience’s expectation of discovering mystery, mysticism, and magic within the unknown interior space. Similarly, Po Shun Leong has mastered the dramatic potential of the box. A contemporary wood artist working in California,…

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Winnifred Eaton and Genjiro Yeto: The Asian-American Artists Behind A Japanese Nightingale

August 1, 2019

The second half of the nineteenth century saw the peak of an artistic movement known as Japonisme, or the use of Japanese inspired design elements in European and American art. In 1854 with the Treaty of Kanagawa, trade opened between Japan and the United States for the first time in 200 years. American artists were drawn to the “purity” and “originality” that they saw in Japanese art. James McNeill Whistler, a well-known American artist based in the United Kingdom who often painted in the Japonisme style, is quoted to have said of this newfound interest in Japanese design, “grafted on…

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Q&A with Tara Contractor, the 2019 Amy P. Goldman Pre-Raphaelite Fellow

July 24, 2019

Each summer, the Delaware Art Museum and the University of Delaware Library, Museums and Press offer a joint fellowship in Pre-Raphaelite studies, which is generously funded by the Amy P. Goldman Foundation. This one-month Fellowship is intended for scholars conducting significant research on the lives and works of the Pre-Raphaelites and their friends, associates, and followers. The 2019 Amy P. Goldman Fellow was Tara Contractor, a PhD candidate at Yale University in the History of Art Department and a co-curator of an upcoming exhibition at the Yale Center for British Art, Unto this Last: Two-Hundred Years of John Ruskin. Her dissertation topic, “British Gilt:…

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Julio daCunha

July 23, 2019

I’ve spent the last month immersed in the paintings of Julio daCunha, which will go on view in a retrospective at the Delaware Art Museum in early 2020. daCunha produced a body of work that is both diverse and recognizable as his own—brilliant and startling juxtapositions of color, flattened compositions with bold lines and inventive geometric forms, subjects that include perennially-challenging myths and pure abstraction. The exhibition is part of the Museum’s ongoing Distinguished Artist Series, which recognizes artists who have made a significant impact on the local art community. While daCunha was born in Colombia, attended the world-renowned Cranbrook…

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William James Aylward’s Three Views of American Clipper Ships in 19th-century New York

June 25, 2019

“Let us imagine ourselves back among the handsome ships”: William James Aylward’s Three Views of American Clipper Ships in 19th-century New York New York at that time was the clipper capital and her home was in South Street, the most fascinating place in the world. Never, since sea-borne commerce began was it so enthroned as here… The proud ships…once poked their bowsprits inquisitively across the street, almost into these very windows…[in] that decade between eighteen fifty and sixty. —W. J. Aylward, “The Clipper-Ship and her Seamen,” 1917[1] Why would an artist paint three versions of a scene? This question arose…

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Library Digitizes Maxfield Parrish Letters

May 20, 2019

In the summer of 1884, fourteen-year-old Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966) arrived in London. The young illustrator would spend two years abroad with his parents traveling to various cities and recording his experiences in a series of letters to his friend and cousin, Henry Bancroft. Parrish’s letters reveal unique details of continental travel, popular culture, and societal values at the end of the 19th century from a distinctly American perspective. In 1951 the Delaware Art Museum was given 34 letters and postcards written and illustrated by Parrish to his cousin between 1883 and 1909, including 18 from his travels in Europe. These…

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Inside Look: Washington Bridge, New York City

May 1, 2019

In April 2019, I took part in the Inside Look series as a mediator between a work of art and an audience. The exercise was new to me, but I wanted to highlight what I consider to be a masterpiece in the museum’s paintings collection: Ernest Lawson’s Washington Bridge, New York City (1915-25). I was not the only one intrigued by this view of northern Manhattan. During the fruitful discussions made possible by the series’ format, several opinions were expressed about the curious choices made by the painter in his depiction of this landscape. Though named after the bridge, the…

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Broken Borders, Billowing Smoke: Orientalism in Errol Le Cain’s Illustration for Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp

April 16, 2019

An exciting assortment of children’s book illustration is currently on view at the Museum as part of our latest exhibition Fairy Tales to Nursery Rhymes: The Droller Collection of Picture Book Art. Amongst the Pied Piper, Alice in Wonderland, and other depictions of fantasy worlds is an illustration of Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (1981) by Errol Le Cain (1941-1989). The image portrays Aladdin seated in front of a fire while a magician throws enchanted powder upon the flames—causing a billowing smoke. A heavily stylized natural landscape containing plant and animal life surrounds both figures. This scene illustrates the moment…

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Inside Look: Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon’s Ventnor, Isle of Wight (1856) and “the Garden of England”

March 29, 2019

In early February, I was invited to facilitate a discussion in the galleries focused on a work of art in the Delaware Art Museum’s collection: Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon’s Ventnor, Isle of Wight (1856). As a light-sensitive work on paper, this exquisite landscape is only on view for a few months each year. Museum visitors were lucky enough to see this recently acquired, large-scale watercolor when it was installed in the Pre-Raphaelite galleries accompanying the temporary exhibition Politics and Paint: Barbara Bodichon and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. I appreciated the opportunity to spend time with museumgoers looking closely at this work….

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Walter Crane

March 19, 2019

“The story of man is fossilized for us … in art and books.” Walter Crane, Of the Decorative Illustration of Books Old and New, 1896 Walter Crane (1845-1915), son of portrait painter and lithographer Thomas Crane, was born in Liverpool in 1845. As a child, he exhibited signs of artistic talent. He spent his days in his father’s studio sketching the hands and faces of Thomas’s portrait commissions and studying illustrations in books and periodicals. Under his father’s tutelage, Walter learned to paint in oils and designed illustrations for stories and poetry. In 1858, his amateur work caught the eye…

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Inside Look: Myth and Legacy in Howard Pyle’s The Flying Dutchman (1900)

February 18, 2019

Early last December, I had the opportunity to lead a focused gallery program highlighting a work of art in the Delaware Art Museum’s collection, Howard Pyle’s The Flying Dutchman (1900). A favorite of museum visitors, The Flying Dutchman represents the popular folk tale of a sea captain who is cursed to roam the seas forever. Located in the permanent collection galleries, the monumental painting commands the room as the haunting stare of the doomed captain draws our attention away from the equally beloved Marooned and The Mermaid on view nearby. As a graduate student in Art History at the University…

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John Ruskin Letters Gift

January 4, 2019

Who could have guessed there were five unrecorded letters written by the great Victorian polymath, John Ruskin, just down the road from my home? This is the kind of wonderful serendipity that seems to happen in the world of Victorian art. After all, the fact that the largest collection of Pre-Raphaelite art in the United States was assembled right here in Wilmington, Delaware is in itself pretty extraordinary! About a month ago I received an email from a Delaware Art Museum Member, whose grandfather, William Cassels [ILL no. 1], was the recipient of the aforementioned letters penned by Ruskin. He…

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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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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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On View: An Artistic Journey with Edward Loper

May 17, 2018

On museum walls, artists are often represented by a single work of art. Curators seek out the ideal painting or sculpture to characterize the artist—a mature work, but not a really late one, in the style most frequently associated with that artist. Occasionally, we have the opportunity to explore the arc of an artist’s career by acquiring and displaying multiple works. Three paintings currently on view at the Museum demonstrate the stylistic evolution of Wilmington painter Edward Loper Sr. The canvasses date from 1937 through the 1970s and range from realistic rendering to prismatic abstraction, highlighting the development of Loper’s…

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The Montgomery Bus Boycott

April 17, 2018

For the British artist and writer John Ruskin, drawing was a path to understanding. In his desire to comprehend the natural world, he depicted cross-sections of plants, geological formations, and Alpine roses in their natural habitat. Drawing, and the close investigation it requires, allowed Ruskin to better interpret his surroundings and society in his writings. As we turn our attention from Ruskin and Andrew Wyeth who both looked long and hard at nature, we lift our gaze to take in the happenings around us. This summer we turn our attention from Ruskin and Andrew Wyeth, who both looked long and…

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African American Art: Migration and Modernism

February 7, 2018

In 1940 and 1941, Jacob Lawrence produced a series of 60 paintings called the Migration Series. These paintings documented the Great Migration, an influx of African Americans from the rural South into northern cities during the first half of the 20th century. Lawrence completed the series when he was only 23 years old and the importance of his project was appreciated immediately. Within months, the works were purchased by leading museums and Lawrence soon became the nation’s most successful Black artist. The Migration panels enumerate the reasons that African Americans fled the South including poverty, lack of education, and widespread…

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Themes of Social Justice in the 2018 Performance Series

January 30, 2018

The 2018 Performance Series provides a clear picture of the Delaware Art Museum’s commitment to becoming an anchor cultural institution in an urban setting. As a part of our exciting and inclusive new strategic vision, we are dedicated to community and the arts by offering engaging programming in all art forms. The Performance Series represents a concerted effort to bring community members from all walks of life into contact with works that push artistic boundaries and encourage discussion around challenging topics within the social and political context of the present day. In this blog post we’ll explore the social justice…

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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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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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Firework Coasters

June 29, 2017

Bring the fireworks indoors for the 4th of July with this explosive tutorial from our #DAMCreative Educators. Here’s what it takes: Glazed tiles Permanent markers A spray bottle filled with rubbing alcohol A pipette A lighter   Directions: Create a colorful pattern on your tile with markers. Don’t worry about being too neat! Using a pipette, cover the surface of the tile with alcohol. Use the lighter to set fire to the alcohol. Once all of the alcohol is burned off, the flame will extinguish. To add a little extra flare, spray tile with alcohol from the bottle to create…

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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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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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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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Dr. Heather Campbell Coyle appointed Chief Curator

November 16, 2016

Dr. Heather Campbell Coyle, the Delaware Art Museum’s Curator of American Art since 2009, has been promoted to Chief Curator of the Museum, effective January 1, 2017. Dr. Coyle is an expert on Ashcan School artist John Sloan and The Eight, an influential group of 20th-century American painters. Thanks to the generosity of Helen Farr Sloan (1911-2005), the artist’s second wife and devoted widow, the Delaware Art Museum is home to the largest collection of art by Sloan, as well as the John Sloan Manuscript Collection, a treasure trove of archival materials. In her new role, Dr. Coyle will be…

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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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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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Kids’ Corner gets a new look in 2016

December 4, 2015

We are excited to announce our plans to renovate Kids’ Corner in 2016! As a part of the Museum’s 2015-16 Key Initiatives plan, the Education Department is using funds from the Pollyanna Foundation to renovate and upgrade Kids’ Corner—the family-friendly education space located on the Museum’s lower level. This week we closed Kids’ Corner to begin some minor construction in the space. Over the spring and summer of 2015, we developed an interpretive plan for redesigning the interactive experiences in Kids’ Corner. The new vision aims to bridge art appreciation and art creation through new interpretive experiences focused on storytelling,…

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Storyteller-in-Residence Program Introduces Pre-K – Kindergarten Audiences to the Museum

July 24, 2015

In April 2015, the Museum presented a new tour program for regional Pre-K and Kindergarten audiences, Storyteller-in-Residence. Focusing on essential early learning skills and literacy, this free program provided students with a unique opportunity to engage with the Museum by including an interactive storytelling performance inspired by the Museum’s collection, an engaging tour of related works of art in the collection, and creative art-making experiences. Each week, professional storyteller Jeff Hopkins amused students with his one-of-a-kind story featuring a cast of characters from the Museum’s collection such as Crying Giant by Tom Otterness and Hans Brinker by Frank Schoonover. As…

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