For the next several days, the blog will focus on the “Les Enfants Terribles” section of our current exhibition The Human Comedy: Chronicles of 19th-Century France. The forty-nine prints in Gavarni’s seriesLes enfants terribles are among his most popular and well-known works, legendary for their witty and memorable captions.Gavarni’s enfants terribles are social landmines, “holy terrors” who wittingly or unwittingly reveal the pettiness and duplicity of their parents. An illustrator of children’s books, Gavarni was the father of two children of his own, to whom he was very attached.Gavarni loved the spontaneous poses and gestures of children and admired them for their disarming honesty.
The termenfants terribles, originally reserved for terrifyingly candid children who embarrass their parents, came to be used to describe unconven-tional or unorthodox artists and writers—like Baudelaire and Flaubert—whose works reveal harsh truths about society that are embarrassing to guardians of the status quo.
The Human Comedy was curated by Libby Murphy, associate professor of French at Oberlin College, with assistance from AMAM Curatorial Assistant Sara Green (OC ’12) and Curator of European and American Art Andaleeb Badiee Banta.
Image: Paul Gavarni (French, 1804–1866) La paternité ça gâte la taille ! (Fatherhood, it ruins the waistline!), 1853 Lithograph Gift of Eugene L. Garbaty, 1951.79.183
Check out this great video from the Smithsonian’s website (there is a commercial embedded, alas): “Jade bi (discs), from China, that resemble modern-day CD’s or donuts, and date to the late Neolithic Period, Liangzhu culture (ca. 3300-2250 BC) remain a mystery. Researchers at the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler galleries in Washington, D.C., are among those who have studied the bi.”
The AMAM’s own bi disc is on display in the South Ambulatory gallery:
Bi discs were an important form of early ritual jade object. It is not known exactly how the discs functioned, although it is thought that they may have been used in ceremonies honoring the heavens. Bi discs were also placed on top of bodies in graves. Later Chinese believed that jade helped preserve corpses from decay, and it is possible this belief prevailed in ancient times as well. The bi form persisted in Chinese culture for thousands of years. By the Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), the form no longer had any ritual function but still possessed great power as a symbol of wealth and high culture.
Image: Chinese Bi disc, 1046–256 BC Jade Overall: 1/4 x 8 3/4 in. (0.6 x 22.2 cm) Gift of Mrs. Donald W. Evans in memory of her husband, 1947.89
Now on view in the exhibition “The Human Comedy: Chronicles of 19th Century France.” In this print, the popular proto-realist lithographer Honoré Daumier imagines a battle between the two rival aesthetic schools of mid-century France: neoclassical idealism and contemporary realism. Realism is portrayed as a working-class underdog—his rustic clogs, disheveled, ill-fitting clothes, and short, stocky physique contrast sharply with the athletic nakedness of his rival Idealism. Realism’s small, square palette and clumsy paintbrush seem to be no match for Idealism’s long, uplifted maulstick (used to steady a paintbrush) and great, oval-shaped palette-shield. And yet, Realism’s low center of gravity and determined expression suggest that these forces are not as mis-matched as they may at first appear. The fact that Idealism might be losing his touch (and his relevance) is suggested by his old man’s face and the round spectacles he wears—so at odds with his classically well-proportioned body.
The Human Comedy is on view through December 22, 2013.
Image: Honoré Daumier(French, 1808–1879) Combat des écoles—L’Idéalisme et le Réalisme (Battle of the Schools—Idealism and Realism), 1855 Lithograph Mrs. F.F. Prentiss Fund, 1953.2
If you are in the area, we hope you can make it to the next AMAM First Thursday evening hours!
“Proper Women, Necessary Women” - Libby Murphy, Associate Professor of French, and Greggor Mattson, Assistant Professor of Sociology, will discuss the gender and sexuality roles evident in the prints in the exhibition “The Human Comedy.” Female dandies, laundresses, housewives and courtesans populated the 19th century imagination, animating realist portrayals in art, literature, journalism and social science. Lecture begins at 5:30pm, with a reception to follow.
Attention Obies! This Saturday, September 21 is Art Rental day! The event will begin at 8am, and will continue until 2pm (or until all works have been rented).
Here’s the scoop: Art Rental line forms outside back courtyard doors (north side of the building, off Lorain Street); students may line up at the bottom of the entrance ramp. Please don’t block door. Art Rental takes place on a first-come, first-served basis.Students must hold their own place in line. Beginning at 8:00 am, students will be admitted to Art Rental in groups of five. A maximum of 2 works only can be rented. Students may select 1 or 2 artworks and take them to the checkout desk, havea valid Oberlin College I.D. and cash or check ready. Sorry, no credit cards. Cost: $5.00 per work per semester.
Some background: The art rental program was the brainchild of Ellen Johnson, who worked at Oberlin College as an art librarian and later as professor of modern art. Her support for the arts was surpassed only by her love and support of her students and her commitment to enhancing their quality of life. To this end, Ellen Johnson began the art rental program: “Early on in my library days, in 1940, I believe, it occurred to me that if students could have works of art in their dormitory rooms it would not only develop their aesthetic sensibilities but might encourage ordered thinking and discrimination even in other areas of their lives.
I was given seven hundred dollars to purchase and frame reproductions of art masterpieces. So began one of the earliest, if not first, college art rental collections in the country. Gradually over the next decades, the reproductions were replaced completely by originals… For many years at twenty-five cents, and even now only five dollars, a student can hang in his or her room for a whole semester Toulouse-Lautrec’s Jane Avril Dancing, a watercolor by Diebenkorn, a drawing by Eva Hesse, or a print by Matisse, Johns, Dine, or one of five by Picasso.”
The legacy of the art rental program continues to this day because of the integrity and respect of Oberlin College students. Commitment to the maintenance of the ideals Ellen Johnson set forth has ensured the success of the art rental program for more than sixty years, and guarantees that the program will continue in the future.
Welcome back to campus, Obies! The new school year starts on Tuesday, and the AMAM has a range of new exhibitions that we hope you will visit during class or your free time. This year all of our special exhibitions focus on the theme of Realism.
You can come check out the new shows and hear from exhibition curators at our special First Thursday evening hours this week. The galleries will be open until 8pm, and gallery talks will be offered by AMAM Director Andria Derstine, Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Denise Birkhofer, and Curator of Academic Programs Liliana Milkova.
Snacks and refreshments will also be served - so we hope to see you come out to revisit old favorites, explore the new installations, discover new works, listen to our audio tours, or browse through our collection catalog!
The Allen Memorial Art Museum (AMAM) at Oberlin College is seeking applicants for a curatorial position in Asian Art at the assistant, associate, or full curatorial level. The Curator will oversee all aspects of the museum’s research, interpretation, and presentation of its important Asian art collections and will collaborate with the Curator of Academic Programs and Curator of Education to engage students and faculty in curatorial and research projects and plan a broad range of public programs. The Curator should have particular strength in the art of East Asia and be conversant with multiple areas and periods of Asian art.
Applications are due by Friday, August 16. Click the link for the full job description.
AMAM Masterpiece Spotlight: Thomas Cole, Lake with Dead Trees (Catskill)
”Lake with Dead Trees (Catskill) is based on sketches Cole made in late summer 1825 with support from his patron, New York merchant George Washington Bruen. The twenty-four-year-old artist traveled by steamboat up the Hudson River, disembarking at West Point and Catskill, New York. The drawings Cole made on this trip served as the basis for a powerful group of new landscape paintings. A pencil drawing (now at the Detroit Institute of Arts) made at this time is inscribed “Lake of Dead Trees” and depicts the general composition of the AMAM painting with light and color notations. In this work, Cole amplifies the story and enhances the wilderness aspect of the Catskill landscape-dead trees appear in the left foreground along with two fleeing deer and the setting sun in the right distance. These details support many varied literary, religious, or other symbolic readings of the picture and anticipate Cole’s later allegorical landscapes.
The Oberlin painting is one of three by Cole that were shown in the window of William Coleman’s New York shop in late October or early November 1825. The landscapes captured the attention of artist and president of the American Academy of Fine Arts Colonel John Trumbull (1756- 1843), who purchased one of the paintings. Trumbull was so impressed with Cole’s work that he called them to the attention of writer and artist William Dunlap (1766-1839), who bought the AMAM painting, and to artist Asher B. Durand, who purchased View of Fort Putnam.
Marking a significant moment in American art history, these early sales launched Cole’s career as a landscape painter and led the way to important future commissions. Lake with Dead Trees was donated to Oberlin College in 1904 by Cleveland educator Charles F. Olney and was first exhibited in the town’s Carnegie library, more than ten years before a museum was built for the College.”
From our Teacher Resource Packet on the Gilbert building: “The lunette above the Neoclassical door frame features a Madonna and Child, flanked by two angels bearing vases and emphasized by a richly blue backdrop.The blue of the lunette is taken up by the blue and gold mosaic of the quadripartite vaults in the arcade of the entranceway.The mosaic shows symbols, such as the peacock, traditionally associated with Christian symbolism on the Italian villas and buildings from which the Allen takes many of its cues.The mosaic also features the names of famous artists from the past, some of which are not included in the collection inside.”
More resource materials on our collection can be found online here!
The AMAM’s beautiful Asian art collection will finally have its own curator thanks to a grant from the NEH and a gift from Joan L. Danforth.
The curator will strengthen and expand teaching and research with the Asian collections across a broad range of humanities disciplines in the college and conservatory. The curator will spearhead acquisitions for the college, ensure that the collection is researched and properly cared for, teach, and collaborate with faculty and students to organize exhibitions and museum-based courses.
Visit the Allen to see the collection in person. It is well worth it!
Welcome to Coffee With Clarence, an Oberlin art community blog run by the Clarence Ward Art Library. Check back to find out about art events, new books at the library, work by Oberlin College students and just anything that's interesting and art-related.