Monday Morning Muse: Farniente


This black and white etching by French artist Louis Auguste Mathieu Legrand – titled Farniente, which roughly translates to “Laziness” – joined the collection in 1951. Legrand, known especially for his often erotic aquatint engravings, was awarded the Légion d’honneur for his work in 1906. (source)

The Mead holds many works by Legrand, including:

1951-1336Réalisme (“Realism”)

1951-1326Flore Antificielle (“Artificial Flower”)


To see even more works by Legrand from the collection, click here.


Monday Morning Muse: Georgiana, The Duchess of Bedford

This oil painting, Georgiana, The Duchess of Bedford, at a Window, by British artist Edwin Henry Landseer joined the collection in 1978.

1978_112Landseer, a child prodigy, studied with Benjamin Haydon and became an Associate of the Royal Academy at 24. He was best known for his animal paintings favored by Queen Victoria. The Duke of Bedford was a personal friend and an early art patron. Landseer, a frequent guest at his home, Woburn Abbey, often drew and painted his young second wife, Georgiana. Her intimate friendship with Landseer lasted from 1823 until her death in 1853 and he is considered the father of her two younger children.

image source: Georgiana, The Duchess of Bedford, at a Window

From the Collection: Elephants

Since the stone age, when elephants were represented by ancient petroglyphs and cave art, they have been depicted in the arts in various forms, including pictures, sculptures, music, film, and even architecture. (These days, some elephants are even artists themselves!) The following images of elephants from the collection span various mediums, cultures, and historical periods.

PR-1940-1Elephant Act

2004_189Dbutsuen” (The Zoo) from the series “Kodomo fuzoku (children’s customs)

S-1940-4_view_1Elephant du Senegal (Running Elephant)

INV_1991_96Untitled jungle scene with animals

1955-160Elephant Hunt


2008-23Elephas / Abgerichter Elephant / Elephant dressé / Familia V Fünffhufige

The following works are from the collections of the Smith College Museum of Art, the Hampshire College Art Gallery, and the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum:

1982_38_324Elephant with two natives in foreground, iron bridge across river in background….

2004_20_167rCoin; Denarius of Julius Caesar

2012_52_aTobacco Pipe

Frank,-Jonathan---Elephant-#3Elephant #3

mh_1943_156_i_b_pi_v1_01Dumbo, The Circus Elephant


mh_1996_3_v1Dancing Ganesha

For even more images of elephants from the collection, visit the database.

From the Collection: No Up No Down

This colorful work by Japanese artist Ay-O joined the collection in 2010.

In this artist’s proof, Ay-O explores subject matter typical of his oeuvre: animals. Such subjects have a long tradition in Japanese printmaking, especially the genre of kacho-e (flower and bird pictures). The title of this work also references the artist’s participation in the Fluxus movement, with its emphasis on the indeterminate nature of the art object and the playful potential of language. While “No Up No Down” is the English title, the artist has added other notations in Japanese, in yellow ink. Along the bottom we read, “A conversation of two birds flying abreast,” which could also be translated as “A conversation of a happily married couple,” a recurrent theme in the artist’s work. The text on the left margin says, “This work has no subordinate side,” indicating that this work could be displayed in any orientation, with no true up and no true down.

The work is on view through June 29 in the New Arrivals exhibition.

image source: No Up No Down

Monday Morning Muse: Portrait of a Woman

The following portrait of a woman holding a King Charles Spaniel joined the collection in 2012.

2012-379The clothing presented in this engaging portrait—a variation of the glamorous style first popularized in mid-fifteenth-century Burgundy—proclaims the sitter’s aristocratic status: her fur-trimmed damask gown is closed with a jeweled golden belt, worn over an embroidered, narrow-sleeved kirtle, and with a “horned” jeweled hennin (or headdress) with red ear cauls. The dog she holds belongs to the breed later called a King Charles Spaniel, which has been linked to the English royal family at least since the early sixteenth century, when the only dogs that Henry VIII permitted at his court were such “small spanyells for the ladies.”

image source: Portrait of a Woman Holding a King Charles Spaniel

From the Collection: Prints by Katja Oxman

The following prints by German-born American artist Katja Oxman joined the collection just last year and are currently on display in the Mead’s New Arrivals exhibition (on view through June 29).

2013-108-1-3click to enlarge the image

This beautiful triptych, titled Sound of Water Over Rock, is a meticulously arranged still life. The title, taken from a passage in T. S. Eliot’s 1922 poem “The Waste Land” in which the speaker longs to hear the sound of water over a rock, subtly alludes to the diversity of forms in the print. Similar to Eliot’s complex and excursive poem, Oxman’s print is a mélange of the traditional and the modern, the soft and the sharply cut, the flat and the three-dimensional, the geometric and the impressionistic. Notice, for instance, the contrasts between the rug’s pattern, the renditions of Japanese prints, and Monet’s water lilies.

2013-109This print – In Yellow Hewn takes its title from nineteenth-century Amherst-born poet Emily Dickinson, who wrote, “Of Yellow was the outer Sky / In Yellower Yellow hewn / Till Saffron in Vermilion slid / Whose seam could not be shewn.” Within the print, one finds the connotation of “hewn” in the way two thin streaks of blue and yellow mirror each other over the mountains, as if indicating that the yellow sky is raggedly dissolving into the approaching night clouds. The window faces west; the table is already sunk in the hues of “Saffron” and “Vermillion.” Colorful postcards depicting well-known artworks on the tabletop and the flowering orchid curving over the scene aesthetically complement the distant sky. Although indicative of Oxman’s customary fondness for strictly structured shapes and her lack of shadows, this mountainous vista nevertheless betrays a pensive depth and hints at a great expanse beyond the confines of the room and the frame of the window.

image and text sources: 1 / 2

Monday Morning Muse: Sarah Hickman Amherst

This stunning portrait of Sarah Hickman Amherst by British artist Thomas Lawrence joined the collection in 1967.

2008_EX02_01 006Scholars of British art acclaim this accomplished portrait for its breathtaking skill, in which rapid strokes of creamy oil paint capture a seemingly living likeness of Sarah, Countess of Amherst (1762–1838), during her marriage to her second husband, William Pitt Amherst, the nephew and heir of Lord Jeffery Amherst, for whom the town of Amherst, Massachusetts, and (indirectly) Amherst College are named.

An avid naturalist, Lady Amherst would identify certain flowering trees and a variety of pheasant (Chrysolophus amherstiae) that bear her name.

image source: Sarah Hickman Amherst, 1st Countess Amherst

Monday Morning Muse: Bunraku Doll O-shichi

The following woodblock print of a bunraku doll by Japanese artist Hiratsuka Un’ichi joined the collection in 2010.


One of the most important artists of the sōsaku hanga movement, Hiratsuka Un’ichi was a successful teacher, author, and artist whose individual style and methods influenced many printmakers of the period. This work in particular is emblematic of his techniques and training, as it features traditional Japanese art forms—the bunraku doll and several ukiyo-e prints, including a kacho-ga by Andō Hiroshige, visible at left—rendered in large-scale with jagged, “sawtooth” lines. This style, typical of his output after 1935, was a result of his highly individual technique, which involved a flat knife and V-shaped chisel, in distinction to the curved scraper employed by traditional woodblock craftsmen, like Igami Bonkotsu, under whom he studied around 1915.

image source: Bunraku Doll O-shichi

From the Collection: Photographs by Wright Morris

Wright Morris was an American novelist, photographer, and essayist known for his portrayals of people and artifacts of the Great Plains, and for experimenting with narrative forms. (source)

The following photographs, donated to the Mead in 2013, appeared in Morris’s published “photo-texts” – pairings of his photographs with passages of his writing. The photographs aren’t meant to illustrate the text, and the text isn’t intended as a description for the photographs. Instead, the pairings are meant to enhance and expand the viewer’s own interpretation of each.

Dresser Drawer, near Norfolk, Nebraska2013-01-6“I looked at the odds and ends on the bureau, the pincushion lid on the cigar box, the faded Legion poppies, assorted pills, patent medicines. There was not a thing of beauty, a manmade loveliness, anywhere. A strange thing, for whatever it was I was feeling, at that moment, was what I expect a thing of beauty to make me feel. To take me out of my self, into the selves of other things. I’ve been in the habit, recently, of saying that if we could feel anything, very long, it would kill us, and that we get on by not even feeling ourselves. To keep that from happening we have this thing called embarrassment. That snaps it off, like an antisepsis, or we rely on our wives, or one of our friends, to take the pressure out of the room with a crack of some kind. That’s what I was about to do. For once in my life I didn’t, but as I had to do something I went into Ed’s room and opened the bureau drawer, and called, ‘Oh, Peg!’ When she came in I said–’Ed used to hunt. He used to go off for a day at a time, with a dog and a gun, up the river. When I was a kid there was still a wolf or two around here.’ I said that, then I closed the drawer, making it clear that we could mind his public business, but leave his private business alone.”

 Gano Grain Elevator, Western Kansas2013-01-1“Donaldson’s hitch bar would have to go. So would the split elm and the horse trough full of marbles, the old chain swing. Mr. Cole said the horses would soon go too. Cement paving would wear their hooves to the bone, he said. Willie said, for what did horses have shoes? Mr. Cole spit and said some day the paving would go right out of town. It would go to the east first, and then it would go to the west. He said when Willie had kids he’d bet their kids would ride it for miles. And when their kids had kids they’d ride it clear to Omaha. Willie rolled up his sleeve and felt in the horse trough for marbles. What makes you think, Willie said, that I’m goin’ in for kids?”

House in Winter, Eastern Nebraska2013-01-3“But they never get big enough to hold all the men that left them–the roads lead back, but the travel is still the other way.

I have here, said the man–some beautiful handmade flowers.
He picked one up from the top of the suit box, sniffed at it.
I have just forty-two cents, I said.
It’s a quarter, he said.
It’s worth forty-two, I said.
The lilies, he said, are worth a dollar.
I put my hand out for the quarter one but the man gave me the lily.
I want the other one, I said.
I’m giving you this one, he said.
I’ve only forty-two cents, I said.
I’m giving you this one, he said.
Now listen–I said.
I can give it too, he said.
Now listen here–I said.
I’m not a beggar, he said.
Of course not, I said, you’re in business.
It’s slow, he said, but it’s a business.
But business, I said is business–
I’m giving you this one, he said.
Well, thank you very much–I said.
I can give it too–he said, and walked away.”

To see more of Morris’s photographs and paired writings from the collection, click here.