Monday Morning Muse: Unknown Courtesan

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This beautiful woodblock print of an ‘unknown courtesan’ joined the collection in 2005. The title of the series to which this print belongs is printed at upper-left in the multicolored cartouche: “A Comparison of Flowers at Night in the Cherry Blossom District.” The “Cherry Blossom District” is a reference to the Yoshiwara, Edo’s famed pleasure district and epicenter of the “Floating World,” the entrance to which was flanked by rows of cherry trees. At lower-right in the red toshidama cartouche is the artist’s signature, which reads “Toyokuni ga” (‘drawn by Toyokuni’). Immediately to the left of the signature is the mark of the woodblock carver, which reads “hori Fuji” (‘carved by Fuji’), followed in the lighter cartouche by the mark of the publisher Moriya Jihei of the firm Kinshindō. The small circular seal to the right of the toshidama cartouche at lower-right is the censor’s date seal, indicating that the print was inspected and approved in the eighth month of 1858.

image source: Unknown Courtesan, from the series “A Comparison of Flowers at Night in the Cherry Blossom District” (‘Hana kurabe kuruwa yo sakura’)

From the Collection: “Raining Cats, Dogs, & Pitchforks”

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This whimsical print by British caricaturist and illustrator George Cruikshank feels apropos today, since it’s currently raining cats and dogs (and pitchforks) here in Amherst.

This print is aptly titled Very Unpleasant Weather, or the Old Saying Verified “Raining Cats, Dogs, & Pitchforks”!!! The description of this print from 1835 reads as follows: A heavy slanting downpour composed of cats, dogs, and pitchforks descends on a road filled with pedestrians. An old applewoman and a porter with a chest inscribed “Glass keep this side upward” have been thrown to the ground. Pitchforks transfix a kneeling dustman; another pierces the umbrella of a person on which a dog is also seated. A man is pinned to the ground; his wooden leg impales a cat. A barrow-woman shouting “Cats meat, dogs meat!” is beset by dogs and cats. A coach numbered “2072,” with a burlesque coat of arms (a cat and dog for supporters, a cat for a crest) contains two dandies; the roof is covered with animals and pierced by pitchforks. There is a background of houses and landscape; a placard on which a coach and four is depicted is inscribed “Cheap Safe & Expeditious Travelling – Pig & Whistle to the Cow & Snuffers – Winchester Hants.”

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Monday Morning Muse: ‘Bastienne’ from ‘Infanta’

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This black and white photograph by American artist Ralph Gibson joined the collection just last year, in 2013. From the series ‘Infanta,‘ this photo is one of many in a series that depicts intimate portions of the female form. You can see the complete series here on the artist’s website.

image source: ‘Bastienne’ from ‘Infanta’

Monday Morning Muse: Costume Designs

2001_27This colorful collage joined the collection in 2001. It’s a costume design for the Russian ballet ‘La Bayadère’ (The Temple Dancer).

The Mead holds a handful of costume design sketches, including this beautiful design for a waltz:

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This watercolor drawing of a fairy doll costume by Russian artist Leon Bakst:

2001_284And this colorful watercolor drawing of a man’s costume, also by Leon Bakst:

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Monday Morning Muse: Nudes by Charles Despiau

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This elegant drawing by French artist Charles Despiau joined the collection in 1953. Despiau produced a total of 150 sculptures and 1,000 drawings over a fifty year career. His works, mostly portraits and nudes exemplifying a calm classicism, are in the collections of over thirty museums in France and over 100 museums around the world. (source)

The Smith College Museum of Art holds two similar drawings by Despiau. The first is also titled Seated Nude:

Workflow: Sinar HR 43 digital camera back (single and 4 shot modes) connected to a Horseman Digiflex SLR camera using Nikon lenses.  Lighting: Quadx (Bowens) strobes and heads

The second is titled Female Nude, Seated:

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Exhibitions: Timelines by Sandra Matthews

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Photographer Sandra Matthews started her ongoing portrait project – Timelines – in 1989. She writes, “I began a portrait project in which I photographed individual women – family, friends and acquaintances – against a backdrop of collaged newspaper.  Eighteen years later I returned to this project, making new backdrops, re-photographing some of the original subjects and adding new ones. The focus of the work shifted to the passage of time itself. I photographed not only individuals over time, but also generations alongside each other.”

The Mead currently has two of Matthews’ portraits on view (through June 29). The first is Amira and Nancy 1989 / Amira and Samari 2008 (above), which depicts a mother, Nancy, and her daughter, Amira, on the left, and grown-up Amira and her own daughter, Samari, on the right. The second is Ibi 1989/ Ibi 2007 (below), two portraits of one woman taken eighteen years apart.

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Matthews continues: “While the individuals I have photographed are drawn from my own circle of personal relationships, their lives are shaped by global factors. Collectively, they have experienced illness, violence, disability and loss, and also have grown, survived, met challenges and thrived. Taken together, the ‘Timelines’ allow me to engage more fully with my own historical moment.”

To see more of Matthews Timelines, visit her website.

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