The Glass of Stevens and Williams

Stevens and Williams was an English glass company that was named as such from 1847 to 1967(it is now known as Royal Brierley). Since this rather long period of time, the company has seen enumerable changes in creative direction as well as the name of the company itself.

The Stevens and Williams Glass Company initially made plain, cut crystal glass and colored glass for stained glass windows.  In the 1870s, the company saw a significant change in creation when they started making cameo glass. During this time Stevens and Williams were widely known as pioneers and leaders in the industry. Two of the foremost artistic leaders at Stevens and Williams were John Northwood and Frederick Carder.

John Northwood was a technical innovator who is arguably one of the forefathers of British cameo glass.  He worked to recreate ancient Greco-Roman aesthetics and frequently used ancient motifs in his pieces. Occasionally, he produced precise replicas of original pieces of Greco-Roman cameo glass.

During his tenure at Stevens and Williams, Frederick Carder—who was mentored by Northwood—often cited the influence of Japanese art and the Art Nouveau movement in his glass masterpieces. He experimented with formulas to create new types of glass, and travelled the world to learn new techniques from other masters and find inspiration for his later designs. Eventually, Carter left the company in 1903 for America, where he founded Steuben Glass Works, thus marking another significant shift in the time of Stevens and Williams.

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Stevens and Williams, Osiris Vases c. 1890

At the turn of the century, consumer demands changed as tastes shifted from Victorian to more Art Deco styles. There was a need for attractive—yet functional—mass-produced glassware and local glassworks found tough competition with the influx of foreign produced glass. As a result, Stevens and Williams returned to producing less ornate glassware. The decorative arts experienced a decline in productivity during the World War One, but in 1919 Stevens and Williams were awarded a Royal Warrant for their efforts, which meant they supplied glass to the royal family. With the onset of the Second World War, the company started making glass for the military. After the war, the factory was rebuilt and the furnaces updated.

 

In light of all the triumphs, struggles, changes, and constants, the Stevens and Williams Glass Company shows the strength and longevity in the decorative arts.

Written by Laura Short

Berenice Abbott and the Federal Art Project

Perhaps one of the most inspiring aspects of the New Deal for lovers of the arts was the Federal Art Project. The Federal Art Project was created as a relief measure and allowed more than 10,000 artists and artisans to be commissioned to express themselves with their art via photography, sculptures, paintings, and many other magnificent forms of art. Their art helped inspire all of the people so greatly affected by the Great Depression. One of the many incredibly inspiring artists involved with the Federal Art Project was Berenice Abbott, who used a large format camera in order to capture the essence of New York City.

Berenice Abbott started her journey of photographing New York City in early 1929 and continued with pursuing its photographic potential for six years independently because she was unable to get financial support from any organizations. However, in 1935 Abbott was hired by the Federal Art Program and was able to fully pursue and delve into her “Changing New York” project. By the time she resigned in 1939, she had produced 305 prints that are in the Museum of the City of New York. Her work was intended to show people that their environment is the result of the collective behavior of the environment’s inhabitants. Abbott was also a passionate supporter of the Straight Photography Movement. The Straight Photography Movement stressed the importance of photographs maintaining their original form and remaining unmanipulated in the process of their development and their subject matter. Berenice Abbott’s photographs inspired many people, including fellow artists, and continue to spark passion in those who see her works.

Berenice Abbot is a great example of an empowered photographer who has used her passion for format photography to bring relief and hope to the people who were devastated by the Great Depression. The Federal Art Project of the New Deal allowed for female artists such as Berenice Abbot and Dorothea Lange to come to the forefront of the arts and pave the way for other female artists.ba18-web

Written by Julia Rauschuber

Escaping Reality with Arthur B. Davies

Arthur B. Davies  c. 1895 oil on canvas

Arthur B. Davies (1862-1928) Rites of Spring, c. 1895 oil on canvas

The Forsyth Galleries is home to paintings by each member of The Eight, a group of artists that gained national attention after a successful exhibition at Macbeth Galleries, New York in 1908.  These artists, which included Arthur B. Davies, Robert Henri, Everett Shinn, William Glackens, Ernest Lawson, George Luks, Maurice Prendergast, and John Sloan, were a part of a movement that is now referred to as Americanism.  Most of the artists painted in different styles, however their subject matter all revolved around that of a common world.  They depicted a non-idealized urban life, the poor, immigrants, leisure, entertainment, and landscapes.  Arthur B. Davies focused mainly on landscapes and his piece Rites of Spring, showcases a Symbolist approach to landscape paintings.

Davies trained at several schools, but it was at the Art Students League in New York where he began his journey in painting landscapes.  Initially, he painted in the conventional style of the American Hudson River School.  However, it wasn’t long until he found his own path into the Symbolist world.  The Symbolist movement began by rejecting the ideas of Naturalism.  Instead of portraying the world in a scientific manner, Symbolist painters focus on the emotion of the piece and their aim was to evoke a feeling.  Davies combined influences from the European Symbolist movement with Greek and Roman iconography to create a modernist style with ethereal qualities.

In Rites of Spring, Davies uses soft brushstrokes and pastel colors that together create a fragile feeling.  It almost seems as if a gust of wind would make the image disappear.  The woman depicted in the center has a very delicate pose and appears to be floating in the foreground.  She seems to have wings and could easily be interpreted as an angel, in which case the fragility of the piece creates the feeling that you are viewing a special moment that could easily dissipate.  This differs from the previous movement of American landscape artists, who were more focused on a realistic portrayal of natural elements.

The Eight, and similarly the Symbolist movement, did not necessarily share aesthetic characteristics as most of them painted in varying styles.  However, they all shared a similar distaste for society.  While other members of The Eight chose to try to present the reality of modern urban life, Davies and the Symbolists tried to escape reality by creating their own dream worlds within each piece. Rites of Spring is on display at the Forsyth Galleries in the Memorial Student Center at Texas A&M University through December 13, 2015.

Written by Taylor Wilson

The Beauty of Realism

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Upon looking at the works of “The Eight”, one may find that there is often a kind of garish beauty in revolutions. Upheavals of tradition can be as poetic as a sonnet or as Robert Henri aptly put it, “The beauty of a work of art is in the work itself.” This group of Realist painters set forth to unveil the art world to the everyday man and reality to the art world. Gilded things flake, foundations break, and the center—as The Eight found—cannot hold.

The turn of the 20th century saw an age unlike any the world had ever known. On the domestic front: America was industrialized, “manifest destiny” was realized at the expense of native peoples, and the immigrant population grew tremendously—all of these factors leading to rampant poverty, disease and highly concentrated wealth. The hope that people held—whether it was the stability of the market or the relative peace in the country—all but vanished. The world was in flux and nothing was certain except the omnipresence of uncertainty. This is the context from which The Eight’s 1908 exhibition and eventually, the Ashcan School arose.

While there are distinct differences between The Eight and Progressive Era “muckrackers”—investigative journalists seeking social, political, and economic change—it is important to note that the subject matter of The Eight’s works were conducive to progressivism in that they revealed some of the struggles and experiences of the 19th and 20th century proletariat. To wit, the occupational backgrounds of many of The Eight lie in journalism. William Glackens, George Luks, Everett Shinn, and John Sloan all worked for the Philadelphia Press prior to joining Henri in his artistic quest to depict reality. Borrowing heavily from the palettes and techniques of Hals, Velazquez, and Rembrandt, members of the The Eight refuted and defied academic traditions with their works, but in the process found truth. Traditionally, academic and salon exhibitions were restrictive in the sense that all works displayed were chosen by a jury or selection committee that determined whether or not the art presented was sufficient or insufficient. Art that varied significantly from the academic predilection towards Neoclassism and Romanticism was typically viewed as rebellious and defiant. The content of academy approved works consisted of idealized tropes and clichés, myths, and other subject matter that aligned with the hierarchy of genres. Generally speaking, academic works were considered aesthetically and morally agreeable.

The revealing paintings were abhorrent to the academics, but consisted of the “true grit” of American society, the underside of the golden gilding as it were. In their investigative artistry, The Eight came to know and depict life as it was outside of opulence and luxury in a way that is universally relatable and transcendent.

Written by Sadie Spalding, a senior English major and Art minor. 

The Art of the Printing Press

Text by Gallery Attendant, Rachael C Bible

Print by Winslow Homer

The first printing press with moveable type was invented between 1041 and 1048 in China by printer Bi Sheng. Sheng experimented with both wood and ceramic, but ceramic types very quickly became the preferred medium as wood block printing often showed the woodgrain in the final printed product. The first metal movable type presses showed up during the 1100s in Eastern Asia, and it was not until 1450 that Johannes Gutenberg invented the mechanical moving type printing press in Germany. For the first time in Europe, books could be mass produced in the language of the people. The use of printing presses became so strongly associated with the quick distribution of information to the masses that the new branch of media still retains “the press” as its moniker.

The mechanical printing press easily fed into this charged social climate and began what scholars call the “democratization of knowledge.” This new ideal meant that knowledge of current events, science, religion, and even literacy itself, was no longer restricted to members of the upper classes. Books and pamphlets containing radical ideas that sometimes went against those in political or religious power could be distributed to the public with ease. For example, in Western Europe the printing press was at the heart of the schism between the Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformation in October of 1517. Martin Luther’s “Ninety-Five Theses” were printed and spread throughout Germany within two weeks of their release. They then reached an even wider audience and spread throughout Europe by December, 1517. Without the printing press, it is highly unlikely that the debate would have spread past the clergy to the public.

During the Industrial Revolution, the printing press was further mechanized, and printing moved away from an industry passed down from master to apprentice over many years of training. The use of printing presses has now moved away from aiding in the rapid dissemination of current events or radical ideas. However, there has been a resurgence in seeing pre-industrial printing presses (letterpress printing) as an art form. This revival has prompted colleges, museums, and art institutes to offer workshops and courses in the art of using Victorian (and sometimes older) printing technology.

In the mid-1800s, electrotyping was incorporated into newspaper publishing. This process allowed artists to make multiple exact copies of their illustrations that could then be incorporated directly into the printing press with the typeset. Our current traveling exhibition from the Syracuse University Art Galleries includes illustrations by Winslow Homer, published in newspapers such as Harper’s Weekly between 1857 to 1875.  Homer left publishing to focus solely on his painting shortly after this time. Newspaper illustrations were vital to help transmitting information to the American public about the western frontier. The vast majority of Americans could not afford to travel west, but they were much more likely to have access to newspapers. The illustrations brought current events to life in a way that nothing else could accomplish at that time.

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