Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Research: Worcester Art Museum "Then and Now" by Travis Simpkins. Update #51

     -The first photo, from 1900, shows the old Trustee's meeting area and casts a backward glance of 114 years. The Worcester Art Museum had only been open two years at that point. The sturdy table and chairs, at center of the meeting room, have endured a century of activity and are still in use today on the upper level of the Library. The light fixtures, and age of the photo, suggest the space had a hybrid gas-and-electric lighting capability (an interesting subject, reflecting antique building technology in a brief period of hesitant transition from 1890 - 1905). Today, as part of the lower level of the Library, the room retains little resemblance to it's original appearance and has a strictly utilitarian office aesthetic. The only visual signs that assure me the two photos depict the same place, are the shape and dimensions of the room, and the placement of certain windows and door openings. This space will see drastic change once again, however, in the forthcoming years... as this area is slated to become part of the new home for the Higgins Armory collection.
     -The second photo, taken nearly 100 years ago, shows a group of children and their teachers enjoying the works on display in the third floor's East Gallery. John Singer Sargent's portrait of "Mrs. Edward L. Davis and Her Son", hung at center, was commissioned and painted in Worcester during the summer of 1890. The most ambitious work created during Sargent's productive Worcester sojourn, the painting has sadly left Worcester and resides at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Today, in the Donnelly Gallery, the same location features vibrantly-hued Modern Art and is still a favorite spot amongst youth classes and groups.
     -The third photo, from 1950, shows a west-to-east view of the fourth floor galleries about a decade after the new level was added on top of the original 1897 building of the Worcester Art Museum. For the first five decades after it's construction in 1940, the fourth floor was used as Special Exhibition space. Today, a viewer in the same spot would find themselves in the center of the Pre-Columbian Gallery (which contains many of my favorite objects in the WAM collection).
     -The last photo, from 1970, shows a group of dancers that are clearly enjoying themselves, caught in mid cavort, on the Antioch Hunt Mosaic. While the sight of people boogieing or performing on the 1,500 year old tesserae might seem cringe-inducing to current sensibilities, photos show that various events took place right on top of the artwork up through the 1980's. The photographs, when viewed in timeline sequence, are interesting because they illustrate a gradual shift in conservation awareness. Here, in 1970, folks are allowed free reign on the tiles. By the late 1970's, dancing was still allowed, but the mosaic was covered. By the 1990's, the railing was up and access was restricted.

     -The sketches depict a Tang Dynasty terracotta "Horse" and Paul Gauguin's 1884 pastel portrait of "Mademoiselle Manthey"

     -The world lost a talented artist and wonderful person when Terri Priest passed away on September 12, 2014 at the age of 86. Here my portrait of Terri is paired with one of her paintings in the WAM collection.

1st Floor. Worcester Art Museum. by Travis Simpkins

3rd Floor. Worcester Art Museum. by Travis Simpkins

4th Floor. Worcester Art Museum. by Travis Simpkins

1st Floor. Worcester Art Museum. by Travis Simpkins

Tang Dynasty Horse. Worcester Art Museum. by Travis Simpins

Mademoiselle Manthey. Paul Gauguin. by Travis Simpkins

Terri Priest, by Travis Simpkins