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.

Job, Alphonse Mucha


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Job, Alphonse MuchaText by Taylor Cone, Gallery Attendant

Alphonse Mucha, one of the greatest artists of the Nouveau period, created a piece in 1898 titled Job, as an advertisement for a brand of cigarette paper. The name of the brand, Job, can be found at the top of the painting, slightly obscured by the figure in front. Job is also repeated in the background as a creative type of logo. The main feature of the piece is a lovely woman with flowing, golden hair enjoying a cigarette. The radiant hair coils of the woman form spirals and whiplash lines create a backdrop for the cigarette smoke to intertwine with. One theme of the painting is found in the repeated use of mosaic-like tiles that compose the border and title of the piece. This type of built in frame was new for its time and is part of what made the piece stand out.

This very modern piece of advertising reflects today’s use of subconscious advertising, as the painting focuses more on the beautiful pleasure of the woman and less on the cigarette she is enjoying. The popularity of this advertisement eventually led to the coining of the term “Mucha Woman”.

Alphonse Mucha’s “JOB” is currently on display in the J. Wayne Stark Galleries as part of the Inspired by Nature, Art Nouveau exhibition.  This pieces, as well as the larger show, are on display thanks to a generous loan from the collection of John and Cindy Delulio, who acquired “Job” in 1968 from Sotheby’s in New York City.

Mr. Delulio also noted that the painting’s frame is also original, as it also displays a Nouveau style of the era.

Mucha would later go on to paint another advertisement for Job, entitled “Great Job”.

Art and Science: How Archaeological Finds Influenced Victorian Art Glass


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Text by Laura Short, Gallery Attendant
Cypriote Vase, c. 1918 Blown Favrile glass body with 5 pulled feather

Tiffany Furnaces
Cypriote Vase, c. 1918
Blown Favrile glass body with 5 pulled feather
Bill and Irma Runyon Art Collection 988.001.1153

Fueled by explorations and archaeological excavations in Africa, Asia and the Mediterranean, art during the Victorian period was influenced by ancient forms and motifs. A perfect example is cameo glass – an ancient technique revived during the Victorian period – with figures from Grecian mythology. Additionally, it seems that antiquities collectors of the time were attracted to the iridescence of ancient glasses, which was then mimicked by Victorian art glass artists. You can see an example of this in Tiffany’s Cypriote vase, which mimics the pitting found in archaeological glass as well as the iridescence.

As an archaeologist, I’m as interested in the ancient glass that influenced the Victorians as I am by the art glass itself. Now, I use Raman spectroscopy to study chemical residue on stones that were used to cook food. Spectroscopy analyzes the chemical components of an object by looking at how molecules vibrate when they are hit with light. While I look for organic residue, it can also be used to examine inorganic minerals. It is just one method that scientists use when trying to figure out what an unknown substance is.

Now, obviously we don’t have a lot of information about how ancient Romans, for example, made their glass. It’s been a long time and if there are records of how it was done, they have been lost. But we also don’t have a lot of information about how Tiffany or Steuben made their glass – while the basic recipes were recorded, detailed notes on the processes were not. It’s like if someone noted that bread was made with flour, yeast, and water, and neglected to mention the importance of kneading and letting dough rise. So what I think is cool is that a lot of the methods archaeologists use to study ancient glass are the same methods used by art historians to study these Victorian pieces.

Vase with peacock feather design, 1904-1932

Steuben Glass Works
Vase with peacock feather design, 1904-1932
Green and Gold Aurene
Bill and Irma Runyon Art Collection, 988.001.0957

So let’s look at the iridescent quality that Victorians seem to have liked so much. The iridescence in ancient glass was accidental. When the people had used their glasswares, they had been ‘regular’ glass. But left buried over time in the right environment, the glass reacted with the minerals in the ground to form a sheen on the surface of the glass. The weathering process can have a lot of different effects, and has been studied extensively by scientists, usually so they can figure out the best way to preserve ancient glasses from further deterioration.

The exact process that the glass goes through in weathering is unknown, but it seems water is the main requirement, and different minerals in the soil and/or water produce different effects. It seems that the outer portion absorbs water and this somehow produces layers. Different chemical processes can go on these layers – minerals can be leached out or they may recrystallize. This in turn changes the way light passes through the glass, and iridescence is one of visual effects it may create. On the other hand, the iridescence found on Victorian period glass was a purposeful creation to mimic ancient glasses. This was done by applying a film on the glass while it was still very hot.

In 1913 Tiffany filed a lawsuit against Steuben for infringing on his trademarked “Favrile” style of iridescent glasswares, which he had patented in 1890. Steuben had patented his Aurene iridescent glass technique in 1904. The lawsuit was dropped – a) iridescent techniques had been created before, b) the surface decorations were different and c) the forms of the glassware were distinctive. This peacock vase is an example of Steuben’s iridescent work.

This is borne out in the scientific analyses. Stueben’s art glass reflects a standardized production regime using less expensive additives to get similar effects in his glasswork. Tiffany’s art glass, on the other hand, reflect the experimental nature of his program – there is a greater range of variation in his glass formulations and he used more exotic materials.

For more information on Tiffany’s secretive nature of his glass compositions

For more information on weathering in glass

For more information on the scientific methods art historians and archaeologists use to study glass

Sonia Delaunay (November 1885- December 5, 1979)

Text by Brooke Follette, J Wayne Stark Gallery Attendant

Photo of a painting by Sonia Delaunay called Color Rhythms

Sonia Delaunay (b. 1885-d. 1979)
Color Rhythms
c. 1970
Stone Lithograph on paper
Currently on display in the Global Vistas exhibition at the J. Wayne Stark Galleries

Although pioneers of the art world may not have to battle through foreign lands, their discoveries for the sake of art are no less monumental. Sonia Delaunay is certainly no exception to this.

Sonia Delaunay was born as Sarah Ilinitchna Stern on November 1885 to poor  Ukrainian factory workers. Unable to provide her with proper care, at a young age her parents sent her to St. Petersburg where she was raised, and in 1890 adopted, by her maternal uncle; Henri Terk. Under the parenting of Henri and Anna Terk, Sarah Ilinitchna Stern changed her name to Sonia Terk and lived a privileged childhood that included many trips to museums and galleries around the world. In 1905, at the age of 18, Sonia travelled to Paris where she studied art at an accredited academy. However, Sonia’s true inspiration emanated from the work of the post-impressionist and fauvist artists exhibited in and around Paris. In 1910, Sonia met and married Robert Delaunay. Through this union, they helped to shape the Orphism movement that took hold of the early 20th century art community. The Orphism movement was a form of Cubism that focused on bold colors and abstraction. With the inspiration Orphism brought forth, Delaunay decided to take up different mediums of expression.

Sonia Delaunay is known for her bold colors and geometric designs that she incorporated in all forms in her creations; including her fashion designs, paintings, textiles, theatre, and lithography. Orphism for Delaunay represented the use of bold colors and geometric designs that would work to evoke a certain emotional resonance in the viewer. Delaunay’s “Color Rhythms” does just that. Her daring use of juxtaposing colors and mediums with conflicting geometric shapes and patterns in this piece of work to create a sense of harmony and, as the title of the piece states, rhythm.

Sonia Delaunay truly carved a path through uncharted territory in the art world with her creation of the Orphism movement. By the end of her career, Sonia Delaunay managed to have a significant presence in every form of art that she created. Because of her dedication to her arts, in 1964 Delaunay became the first living female artist to have her work in a retrospective exhibition at the Louvre in Paris, and in 1975 she was named an officer of the French Legion of Honor.

Works Cited

Nathan, Emily. “Sonia Delaunay: Reaping What She Sews.” Artnet Magazine. Accessed September 17, 2014.

De, Maryann Julio. “Sonia Delaunay.” Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. March 1, 2009. Jewish Women’s Archive. Accessed September 16, 2014.

Seidner, David. “Sonia Delaunay.” BOMB Magazine. January 1, 1982. Accessed September 17, 2014.

Everett Shinn: American Realist Painter



Text by Taylor Wilson, Gallery Attendant

Dance is an art in and of itself, but the ability to catch the beauty of it in a piece of art is even more special. Dance has been a common theme for centuries with artists like Degas attempting to capture moments on stage. In our collection at the Forsyth Galleries, we have a pastel drawing from the American realist painter Everett Shinn, who is often described as an American Degas. Shinn is able to portray the power, grace, and beauty of ballet through fluid strokes of the wrist.

Everett Shin was born in Woodstown, New Jersey to rural farmers. He attended the Spring Garden Institute in Philadelphia to study mechanical drawing and eventually moved on to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. By his late teens he was a staff artist for the Philadelphia Press, which he considered the beginning of his art career. Shinn traveled to Europe during his young adulthood to study other painters and was extremely influenced by the Impressionist movement and, it is believed, specifically depictions of the stage by Degas, Manet, and Forain. While in Philadelphia, Shinn was a member of the Charcoal Club, established by fellow artists Robert Henri, John Sloan, and Joseph Laub, which eventually became the origin of the Ashcan School. Shinn was also later a member of The Eight, a group of artists named from a 1908 exhibition. Although others focused on a more idealistic outlook on upper class leisure, Shinn chose to paint realistic depictions of urban life, which often included gritty scenes of tenement life, social and economic diversity, and forms of urban entertainment.

Infatuated with the theatre, Shinn’s depictions were generally of unusual angles, often with the audience as the backdrop. He also liked to take up an aerial perspective or one from the orchestra pit. No matter the angle, Shinn would capture the excitement from the movement on stage. In the pastel drawing On Stage, from our collection at the Forsyth, the viewer is given an aerial perspective with the orchestra conductor in view in front of the stage. The dancer is mid-jump which is evident, not only from the obvious position, but the way Shinn imagines the skirt in movement. By including the conductor, the viewer is left with a sense of anticipation. If the dancer were by herself in the shot, it would seem as if she were frozen in time, but by including the conductor there is the expectation that the music is continuing and you are waiting for her to land. The position Shinn chose for the dancer exhibits not only her grace, but her strength as visible in the delicate placement of her arms juxtaposed with the musculature of her legs.

Though influenced by the Impressionist movement, which strove to capture snapshots of everyday activities, Shinn was not afraid to make a bolder statement with his subject matter. While it is easy to capture moments in the theatre as fantastical, idealistic split seconds of true beauty, Shinn did not shy away from reproducing the scene in a way that allowed the viewer to connect with society at the time, which was riding the rollercoaster of the Great Depression. This set Shinn apart from his peers and allowed him to become a truly wonderful artist.

Everett Shinn, N.A.  On Stage, c. 1918 pastel on paper, Bill & Irma Runyon Art Collection, 988.001.0203

Everett Shinn, N.A. On Stage, c. 1918 pastel on paper Bill & Irma Runyon Art Collection 988.001.0203


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