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

In Company with Angels

Text by Michael Rugh, Gallery Attendant, Forsyth Galleries

“The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches” (Revelation 1:20).

In 1885, Louis Comfort Tiffany created the renowned Tiffany Studios which went on to produce exquisite decorative glass that captivated connoisseurs and laymen alike. The seven stained glass windows which are now traveling under the exhibit name “In Company With Angels” were originally part of a small Swedenborgian Christian Church in Cincinnati. When the church was leveled in 1964 to make way for highway expansion, the windows were removed and eventually stored in a barn in Pennsylvania.

Ten years later, Rev. Susannah Currie discovered the windows and established an organization to maintain and restore the works of art. A generous donation of $50,000 from Ms. Helene Tripier helped begin this process. In 2007, “In Company With Angels” began traveling across the country. To witness a portion of the restoration process, continue to the YouTube link below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDtc_NMp3GA

The seven windows depict the seven angels of seven churches referenced in Revelation 2-3. Each of the seven churches must overcome tribulations to receive a gift. The gifts listed in Revelation are clearly depicted in the glass. The following are in the order in which they appear in Revelation.

“To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Rev 2:7). The first window shows the angel of the church of Ephesus. A lively branch is held delicately by an angelic hand. The first section of Revelation 2 praises the people of Ephesus for their hard work and their avoidance of evil. However, they are asked to remember the reason that man first fell and repent for forgetting. They are rewarded with the tree of life for completing this.

A bright royal crown rests on the hand of the angel of the church of Smyrna. The people of Smyrna are promised to be rewarded if they remain faithful until death.

A brilliant white stone stands out strikingly in the hand of the angel of Pergamos. In this section of Revelation, the people or Pergamos are warned to repent of their sins and to avoid following the teachings of a different doctrine which is causing them to commit sins against God.

In the fourth window, the angel of Thyatira holds a star which could be said to represent “intelligence and wisdom given by the Lord”. The people of Thyatira are asked to reject a false prophetess who is luring them into sin.

“He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before His angels” (Rev 3:5). As the passage suggests, the angel of Sardis is clothed in a garment of bright white glass. This section of Revelation warns the people of Sardis to work to triumph over spiritual death by being watchful and to remember His words.

The pillar that stands by the angel of Philadelphia represents the promise that, by keeping God’s word, one can become part of the everlasting temple. In this section of Revelation, God promises to protect the people of Philadelphia who are not strong enough to protect themselves but have kept His word.

A scepter rests in the hand of the angel of Laodicea, representing the sovereignty of God that can be shared with those who overcome sin. The people of Laodicea are urged to be diligent in keeping the Lord in their hearts and on their minds and avoid being blinded by luxury and a life of earthly goods.

When you look at the angels, notice the delicate thought that went into making each gift stand out. Some Tiffany windows were made with up to 7 layers (Tiffany also called them plates) to create a deeper color. These particular windows use up to 4 layers to create the various effects. Notice how the clothing made of glass seems to bend and fold like real fabric. Consider the coloration of the wings as they stand vibrantly against the light.

Don’t miss your chance to experience these discovered jewels of Tiffany Studios. “In Company of Angels” will be coming to the Forsyth Galleries May 30th and will close October 12th.

For more information about this exhibition, visit: http://www.incompanywithangels.org/

Come to the Table: American Pressed Glass

Text by Amanda Dyer, Assistant Director

Come to the Table showcases American pressed glass in the Forsyth Galleries permanent collection from the American Victorian period, which coincided with the height of the product’s manufacture in the United States. In their earliest designs, pressed glass pieces mimicked the opulent cut glass that was used in the homes of wealthy Victorians. But because pressed glass was much less expensive to make, it was affordable to the middle-class, and pressed glass tableware came to be very popular in middle-class and upper middle-class American homes.

Photo of a pedestal footed, 1903, toothpick holder. Holly Amber pattern.
Photo of a pedestal footed, 1903, toothpick holder. Holly Amber pattern. 988.1.0671

History of Pressed Glass Through the early 20th Century

Although ancient Romans first pressed glass into molds, mechanized pressed glass was first developed in the United States in the early 1800s. The creation of a successful machine press mold was the result of a series of patents, testing, and gradual improvements over the course of a decade, approximately 1820-1830. While the first notable patent for machine-made pressed glass was granted to Henry Whitney and Enoch Robinson of the New England Glass Co. in 1826, the development of the end product was truly an industry-wide effort.  The basic pressed glass process involves a blob of hot glass being dropped into a mold, after which a plunger enters the top of the mold, forcing the glass into the mold’s crevices.

Pressed glass proved to be a very lucrative product for many glass factories, because much less expensive unskilled labor could be used to run the mold presses, and because producing thousands of copies of identical pieces made intricate molds more economical. Like factories of other types, glass factories were traditionally situated near fuel, raw materials, and transportation (at first rivers, and later, railroads). The earliest center of pressed glass production was the glassmaking hub of eastern Massachusetts. But the area where eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania  and northern West Virginia meet later became the nexus of the pressed glass industry upon improvements in transportation and the development of the area’s coal industry.

Photo of a Bowl, pedestal footed, 1898-1910, Argonaut (Nautilus) pattern, 988.1.0797
Photo of a Bowl, pedestal footed, 1898-1910, Argonaut (Nautilus) pattern, 988.1.0797

During the earliest years of mass-production, pressed glass was designed to replicate the styling and design of intricate cut-glass pieces, enabling middle-class citizens to afford pieces similar to their wealthier counterparts.  While pieces were first mostly sold on an individual bases, by the 1840s factories were creating entire sets of patterned tableware, appealing to the middle-class desire to mimic the conspicuous consumption (the spending of money to acquire goods to display accumulated wealth) of the well-to-do. Manufacturers encouraged this practice by producing enormous tableware sets that included such absurdly specific items as honey dishes, mustard jars and marmalade jars, as well as toddy glasses, claret glasses, cordial glasses, wine glasses and champagne glasses, just to name a few. This trend continued through the earliest part of the twentieth century, coinciding with the American Victorian period.

Forsyth Collections Highlights

Photo of a butter dish, covered, c. 1898, Amberette pattern, 988.1.0700
Photo of a butter dish, covered, c. 1898, Amberette pattern, 988.1.0700

Bellflower

After the early convention of copying cut glass patterns in pressed glass, the aesthetic turned to more charming, slightly understated patterns. One of the most popular of these patterns was Bellflower (aka Ribbed Leaf), which included a finely ribbed body overlaid with simple bell-shaped flowers, leaves and berries. Similar patterns were also produced, including Ribbed Acorn, Ribbed Grape, and Ribbed Ivy.  Scholars consider Bellflower to be the first pattern produced in enough separate pieces to be considered a tableware “set.” This pattern was produced in both a single-vine and double-vine design, and dozens of design variants can be found in existing pieces. Because of these many variants, and because of pattern fragments found at the glass factory sites, it is believed that Bellflower was made by many different factories from approximately 1850 to 1870. However, the only documented evidence of a specific factory manufacturing Bellflower is contained in catalogs distributed by McKee & Brothers of Pittsburgh ca. 1864. The Runyon Collection contains over 170 pieces of this particular pattern, which can be seen both on the luncheon table and in a vitrine in the exhibition.

Amberette

Photo of a castor set with stand, revolving, 1850-1870, Bellflower pattern, 988.1.0318
Photo of a castor set with stand, revolving, 1850-1870, Bellflower pattern, 988.1.0318

The Amberette pattern, produced c. 1898 by the Dalzell, Gilmore and Leighton Glass Co., in Findlay, Ohio, was also known during its

production as English Hobnail Cross, Alaska, and 75 or 75D. The pattern includes a frosted glass ground, with a faceted cross pattern. In some cases, as in the examples in the Runyon Collection, the cross pattern is tinted an amber color. The pattern was also offered in versions with clear glass and with ruby-tinting instead of amber. A report in a January 1898 issue of China, Glass and Lamps called the ware “probably the most original and unique in design of any shown this season.” Later collectors have called the pattern Klondike, perhaps because of the earlier Alaska designation.

On the Terrace by Thomas and George Woodall

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Text by Taylor Wilson, Gallery Attendant at the Forsyth Galleries

When someone mentions cameo, the first thing that comes to mind for most is the brooch.  However, cameo actually refers to a technique of engraving.  Usually, the engraving is done on gemstone so that the outer figure is of one color and the background is of another; however, this process is not limited to two layers.  Often times, cameo glass is very colorful.

The creation of cameo glass is just as much an art as the finished product.  A blank is first created through a delicate process and then given to a designer.  The designer will then draw on the blank with acid resistant material, covering the area that is to remain white.  The blank is dipped in hydrofluoric acid which removes the area that was not covered by the designer.  Finally, a carver will complete it by refining the design through the use of engraving wheels, acids, and small steel chisels.  The refining portion of the process is where true talent becomes visible.  Before refining, there is only a rough idea of the intended result.  The artist must turn a caterpillar into a butterfly by taking the draft done by acid and use their tools to add the detail.

On the Terrace is a cameo plate done by Thomas and George Woodall in 1895.  It is opaque white on a flashed blue layer on plum glass.  It is a stunning piece, but the amazing part is the amount of detail that was managed on such a small scale.  The piece itself is not very large, measuring only about a foot tall and six inches wide.  Yet in that small space, an entire scene was crafted.  A woman sits alone painting in what appears to be Greece.  Upon first glance, that is all a viewer might notice.  However, with a more careful inspection, you begin to see that the background behind the woman is immaculately detailed.  The tiniest of buildings are easily recognizable.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the detail is the canvas on which the woman is painting.  The engraver managed to create an entire painting on the tiny canvas that isn’t visible at first, or even second, glance.  You may even have to adjust your positioning, but when the light hits it just right, the canvas comes to life.

If you would like more information on the process of making cameo glass, you can watch this video from the Corning Museum of Glass: www.cmog.org/video/cameo-glass

 

Monthly Artist Highlight – Richard R. Dick” Davison

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Text by Krista Osborne

Richard R. Davison Jr, a Professor of the College of Architecture faculty at Texas A&M University, was born in Marlin, Texas in 1953. He received a Bachelor of Environmental Design degree from Texas A&M in 1975. After graduation he pursued his career in art, obtained a BFA and MFA from the University of California at Irvine in 1976 and Washington University in 1979, respectively.

Davison has established himself as one of the major artists in the state and distinguished himself nationally by having been featured in several national exhibitions, including “Superficial: An Exhibition About the Surface of a Painting” at the Art museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi; “Oil Patch Dreams: Images of the Petroleum Industry in American Art”, a five museum touring exhibition curated by Francine Carraro; “Texas Art for Russia”, Invitational Group Exhibition, organized by Art League of Houston, curated by internationally known artist, Frank Williams.

Davison has also been a recipient of several awards, both as an artist and as a teacher. Most notably, he received the Texas A&M association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement award in Teaching and honorary induction into Tau Sigma Delta Honor Society, Alpha Alpha Chapter, Texas A&M University. Furthermore, his work has been featured in solo exhibitions, including, recently, an exhibition titled “Heavenly Architecture” at The Museum of Biblical Art, Dallas.

Commenting on his work, Davison says, “My recent work has taken two unrelated directions. One is about monuments or memorials–how they stand against time (i.e., as compared with our own lives or the ephemeral nature of a reflection in water) as well as how we create them to assuage our own longings, regrets, etc. The other direction falls into the category of landscape, with homage to artists whose work is at once regional and visionary in character, such as that of Charles Burchfield and Samuel Palmer, and to the purpose of reiterating the argument of “natural religion”, that nature herself is the clearest evidence of God.”

Davison’s scholarly interests include design communication, drawing, painting, and color theory.
Five of Davison’s newer works are now on display at the College of Architecture Art Faculty Biennial Exhibition at the J. Wayne Stark Galleries. Moreover, the Stark Galleries hold, both in the permanent collection and as long term loans, nearly twenty original works from Davison.

Bluebonnets with Cemetery #2

One of the most unique paintings in the Forsyth Gallery’s collection was a gift by the Texas A&M Class of 1985 endowment.  Bluebonnets with Cemetery #2, was painted by Austin-based artist Nina Beall in 1991.  Ms. Beall has been exhibiting her artwork since 1980 and has participated in solo and group shows around the country. 

The Class of 1985 purchased Bluebonnets with Cemetery #2 for its Texas-centric subject of a field of bluebonnets in Spring.  Hills full of royal blue, pale blue, and the extremely rare red bluebonnets rise to the middle ground, where an old, fenced cemetery appears on the viewer’s left.  Skeletal trees line the ridge of hills in the background and the setting sun reflects on the clouds in shades of yellow, peach, and pink.  The painting is currently on display on the first floor of the Memorial Student Center.

beall_ninaThe large painting is an example of the use of the impasto technique to create artworks where the paint appears to be rising from the canvas itself.  The characteristic look of impasto is typically created by applying the paint to the canvas very heavily with the aid of a pallet-knife or brush, though some artists may also choose to use rags, pastry bags, or even their hands.  The word “impasto,” originally derives from the Italian word for dough, and some speculate that the Italian verb “impastare,” meaning “to knead” (as in kneading dough for bread), influenced the modern use of the word. 

Both oil and acrylic paint can be used in the impasto technique. Bluebonnets with Cemetery #2 consists of acrylic paint, as this medium dries faster than oils.  Artists typically use the technique to add an expressive quality to the painting, create more surfaces upon which light can reflect, and give a 3-dimensional sculptural quality to the work.  Impasto was first used by the Dutch and Italian masters of the 16th and 17th Centuries, where it was contrasted with smoother work to give greater interest to folds of cloth and the surfaces of jewels.  Later, during the Impressionist era of the 19th Century, painters like Van Gogh created entire canvases using the technique, as seen in The Starry Night, 1889.  The impasto technique was also extremely popular with the American post-World War II Abstract Expressionists, including Hans Hofmann and Willem de Kooning.  

Ms. Beall states that, “…I am obsessed with the pure physicality of the paint and the process.  Therein lies the mystery for me; and I suppose a rather Taoist philosophy in regards to art, nature, and life.”  A selection of Ms. Beall’s current past works may be viewed on her website: http://www.ninabeall.com/

 

 

Mount Washington Glass Company Sicilian ware

Text by Laura Short, Gallery Attendant

988.1.0714 Black Lava VaseThough this vase may look like it’s from the 1980’s, it was really manufactured during the Victorian era.  It is called Sicilian ware, and was probably the first art glass produced by the Mount Washington Glass Company.  Frederick Shirley, manager of the company, was known for his innovative glass designs, and applied for 3 patents between 1878 and 1879 for his new Sicilian Glass.  The recipe supplied in the patent lists “lava or volcanic slag” as part of the ingredients that give the glass its coloring, which is why many collectors also call it “Lava glass”.  The chemical components of lava and glass are very similar, so it is relatively easy to add lava to a glass mixture.  In fact, obsidian is a natural glass formed by slowly cooling lava.  The lava used for Sicilian ware was supposedly from Mount Etna on the eastern coast of Sicily, Italy – thus the source of its name.

During the Victorian period archaeology blossomed as a major academic pursuit.  Excavations going on throughout the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Egypt brought many fine examples of ancient art to museums throughout Europe and the United States.  These included discoveries of ancient glass and pottery from places such as Troy and Mycenae.  Public interest in the ancient world was further fueled by the 1876 World Fair—the Centennial Exhibition held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which included modern and antique works from all over the world.  Despite the psychedelic appearance, Shirley designed it “especially for the imitation of antique ceramics, mosaic, and lava pottery-ware, and […] reproductions of the works of ancient maters”.  Interestingly, articles written on the subject of Sicilian ware prior to the 80’s describe it as being reminiscent of art deco, probably due to the shape.  Somehow, Shirley managed to create a glassware that was both in vogue and yet avant garde.

Our piece is representative of the Sicilian ware style– most works were squat with a narrow opening, and were mostly vases, though lamps were also produced.  While the grand majority of Sicilian ware is black, there are some pink or raspberry examples.  Though the name relates to components of the glass and not the decoration, most have the large brightly colored pieces of glass (backed in white so they could be seen more clearly) and gilding, like ours.  Rarely there are some with decorations over this.  Interestingly, illustrations in some of Mr. Shirley’s patents include ‘oriental’ figures, which was a popular motif at the time, though there are no known examples of this design in existence.

To view this piece, and other fine examples of Mount Washington glass from our collections, please come visit our current exhibition, Gilded Age Grandeur, on display until June 23, 2013.