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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Text by Brooke Follette, J Wayne Stark Gallery Attendant
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.
Nathan, Emily. “Sonia Delaunay: Reaping What She Sews.” ArtnetMagazine. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.