Enid Yandell’s The Gibson Girl

May 13, 2012

The concept of the figurine, a miniature full-figure sculpture, was new to America when Enid Yandell created The Gibson Girl in 1895. Yandell, a Louisville native who studied and often worked in
France, was credited with popularizing the form in the States by American newspapers. An 1896 Courier-Journal article describing excavations near Thebes of
small-scale terra-cotta figures dating to 600-200 B.C.E. compares Yandell’s similarly small-scale portraits to them. The Gibson Girl was exhibited in 1896 at the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts.

This three-dimensional version of The Gibson Girl was named after the sketches of Charles Dana Gibson,

whose pen and ink drawings appeared weekly on the pages of Life magazine. The first of his “Gibson Girls” (as they came to be known) made her debut in 1890.  Dressed in a stiff shirtwaist and flowing skirt showing just a hint of bustle, her soft hair piled up into a loose chignon, she always appeared poised and well-bred. She was proficient in a variety of activities, ranging from domestic scenes and social events to outdoor sports, equally as comfortable riding bicycles as riding horses, even donning short skirts to take up golf when it was introduced to the United States at the turn of the century. The “Gibson Girl” embodied America’s modern ideal woman, with her new (often daring!) feminist values of self-reliance and self-assurance, all the while maintaining her sense of femininity.

Enid Yandell was actually portraying her younger sister, Elsie, quietly reading a book. As well as depicting her sister’s character, this figurine also displays symbols of Elsie’s interests and accomplishments in the finely detailed accessories beneath her chair. Among these, the Muses are represented by musical instruments, a stylus, more books, and a laurel wreath.

Who knew that a “Gibson Girl” lived right here in Kentucky, too?

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KOAR 1941.1.14.13


Kentucky Historical Society: Paul Sawyier

February 26, 2012

Paul Sawyier remains one of the most popular artists in the Commonwealth, although his work is relatively unknown outside of the region.

Big Eddy

Perhaps this might change a bit with the recent addition to KOAR of more than 120 images from the Kentucky Historical Society’s collection of his works, including many of the impressionistic landscapes of Franklin County and nearby surroundings which have long been local favorites. Painting these mainly in watercolors, Sawyier sensitively captured ephemeral lighting effects and subtle color contrasts in his idyllic Kentucky scenes.

Winter in Kentucky

During his final years, however, Sawyier lived and worked in New York City and the Catskill Mountains. It is here that he began painting primarily in oils and produced what many consider his most mature work. While living with his sister in Brooklyn, he painted views of the many parks and waterways in the area. After moving to the Catskills, he concentrated on the mountains and neighboring villages. But he also worked from photographs of the old familiar settings in his home state, sending these paintings back to the faithful Kentucky patrons who had commissioned them.

Railroad in the Catskills

The Sawyier family home in Frankfort was located where the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History on the KHS campus now stands, with a historical marker honoring Paul Sawyier near its main entrance. Several of his paintings are being rotated through the KHS Great Revivals exhibition at the Old State Capitol if you would like to see them in person. (Images from Great Revivals are also in KOAR.)

And you can read more about Paul Sawyier in two exhibition catalogues on the KOAR Publications page, which has been expanded by the addition of more than sixty-five items.  First, click on this link: http://www.koar.org/publications.htm
Then select Individual Artists and Makers at the top of the page. Works are chronologically arranged by publication date. Scrolling down, you can find the catalogue for a 1940 exhibition at The Speed Art Museum, Paintings by Paul Sawyier, and Willard Rouse Jillson’s Paul Sawyier and His Paintings, which contains a more detailed account of the artist’s life and works written to accompany the 1965 centenary exhibition commemorating Sawyier’s birth.


About Mary Daniel

October 2, 2011

Mary Daniel has graced the KOAR webpage image header since we first went online in April 2006. She was interviewed by Nancy Crane in the Lexington Herald-Leader in 1992 on the occasion of a posthumous one-person show of the work of Edward Fisk, professor in the University of Kentucky Art Department from 1926 to 1942. “Mary D. Lilly learned more than 50 years ago that sitting still doesn’t agree with her,” the article opened. “It was 1938 and she was posing for a portrait by artist Edward Fisk at his Hampton Court apartment. ‘It was the hardest thing I ever did to keep still that long.'” Mary Daniel (Lilly, after marriage) worked as Edward and Lucy Fisk’s housekeeper, not your typical artist’s model. “Lilly is not sure what about her caught the artist’s eye. ‘As an artist, I guess he saw something — the expression on my face or something — that he wanted to paint.'”

At the time this article was published, Mary Daniel Lilly at 77 was only semi-retired. One day a week “‘I still look after Allie,'” the Fisk’s daughter, “‘which I promised her mother when she was sick that I would do.'” However, most of Lilly’s time went to numerous volunteer activities, which she had begun fifteen years earlier as a way to “help cope with the death of her husband of 40 years, Marcellus.” Her remarkable energy and “dedication to the community has not gone unnoticed. In 1989 she was named Lexington’s Outstanding Volunteer by the Volunteer Center of the Bluegrass.” Fisk painted another portrait of the young Mary Daniel, too, seen at:  http://www.edwardfisk.com/portrait/pages/port05.htm

I guess we will never know exactly what caught Fisk’s eye on that day in 1938, yet the indomitable spirit he clearly captured still illuminated Mary Daniel Lilly’s life fifty years later, just as it does ours now.


Great Kentucky Antiques Given to Speed Art Museum

September 6, 2011

Even as the Speed Art Museum’s exhibition, Quilts from Kentucky and Beyond: The Bingham-Miller Family Collection was opening back in June (it closes on September 18), I was already working on the next big thing to hit the Speed:

Silhouette of Cassius Clay by William Henry Brown, 1845

The arrival of almost 120 pieces of nineteenth-century Kentucky furniture, silver, ceramics, textiles, paintings, and works on paper. This extraordinary trove of great Kentucky art was given to the Speed by Bob and Norma Noe. The Noes, both Kentucky natives, assembled the collection over the course of thirty years. Their generous gift makes the Speed’s Kentucky collection the best in the country.

Mason-Fleming-Lewis County, Kentucky, chest of drawers, 1795-1810

Over sixty highlights from the collection are now on view in the exhibition, Kentucky Antiques from the Noe Collection: A Gift to the Commonwealth. If you want to hear Bob Noe talk about his experiences as a collector, check out this and this.

To learn more about the Noes’ gift, read the whole press release.


Little Fine Arts Library: Harlan Hubbard Images

February 25, 2011

It is a bit unusual for someone to approach us about including an artist in KOAR. (And we would like to change that!) So I was delighted last year when Meg Shaw, Art & Theater Librarian at the University of Kentucky’s Lucille Caudill Little Fine Arts Library, initiated contact with me about introducing the paintings of Harlan Hubbard to our online audience. Since we want to encourage more folks to share Kentucky’s rich artistic heritage through KOAR, I was curious about what motivated her inquiry.

Summer Landscape: The House on the Ridge

“The project is important to me because Harlan Hubbard was a very prolific, but underappreciated artist,” Meg explained. “He had a remarkable career as an artist and writer, living most of his life near the Ohio River. The life and landscape of the river is explored deeply in his art. His paintings are a revealing counterpart to the two books he authored, Shantyboat and Payne Hollow, and the four volumes of his journals that were published afterwards. Wendell Berry celebrated his life in a lecture series and a book, Harlan Hubbard: Life and Work. Yet his art never achieved the exposure that his writings did. He documented the scenes of Campbell County and Trimble County in a way that is more true to nature than a photograph, and produced paintings that express his love of the landscape there. The paintings that are now in the KOAR database were shown at the Hopewell Museum in 2008, in the exhibit, “Harlan Hubbard: A Life in the Landscape, 1900-1988”. They are from private collections. The Lucille Little Fine Arts Library has a digital image database of paintings by Harlan Hubbard from regional collections. For more information, go to http://libguides.uky.edu/HarlanHubbard

Steep Road

You can see a few examples of Harlan Hubbard’s paintings on our Recent Additions webpage, or you can search the database directly for a look at more of his pre-1950 work by entering “Harlan Hubbard” in the Quick Search text box. We warmly welcome the Lucille Caudill Little Fine Arts Library as a new KOAR Partner and look forward to adding more of their images in future. We hope that you enjoy discovering the art of Harlan Hubbard, too.


Treasures from the Kentucky Historical Society

February 3, 2011

The Kentucky Online Arts Resource, a project of the Speed Art Museum, is pleased to add the Kentucky Historical Society to the site’s growing list of museum partners!

KOAR now features several highlights from Kentucky Historical Society’s exhibition, Great Revivals: Kentucky Decorative Arts Treasures. Curated by Estill Curtis Pennington, the exhibition brings many of KHS’s best pieces together in a single installation at the Old State Capitol in Frankfort.

Among my favorites: a terrific example of “art-carved” furniture with carved decoration by Kate Perry Mosher of Covington, Kentucky (located just across the river from Cincinnati). I first saw this cabinet several years ago in one of KHS’s storage areas and was blown away the quality of Mosher’s work. Her carvings of herons, Kentucky cane plants, and other plant forms reflect great skill and a great eye for design.

Cabinet

Cabinet with carving by Kate Mosher, 1892

Mosher learned from a master: Cincinnati’s Benn Pitman, the godfather of Cincinnati’s late nineteenth-century art-carved furniture movement. Pitman established a wood carving program at the Art Academy of Cincinnati in 1873. Like Mosher, many students of art carving were women. She ranked among the best, exhibiting her work at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia and at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.


The Art of Collecting Kentucky Antiques

December 10, 2010

I’ve gotten great feedback from my earlier post featuring video of Bob Noe. Bob, along with his wife Norma, have helped lead the way towards an expanded interest in great Kentucky antiques and art. Through Bob and Norma’s wonderful generosity, over 100 pieces from their collection are gradually making their way to the Speed Art Museum.

In response to popular demand, here’s another segment featuring Bob in which he shares his opinions on what makes for a successful collector.


USA Today Plugs Kentucky Collection

November 29, 2010

USA Today loves the Speed Art Museum and its Kentucky Collection. They said so in the November 26, 2010 issue. Check it out here.


New Installations of Kentucky Art and Antiques

October 19, 2010

I’ve recently completed two installations at The Speed Art Museum that feature great Kentucky art.

For the exhibition Pursuing the Masterpiece, I’ve installed the fantastic Kentucky sugar desk I discussed previously. Using maps, texts, and images, the desk is placed in both its historic and antiquarian contexts. I also produced a video featuring the husband-and-wife collectors who gave the desk to the Speed. They are a remarkable pair, having spent 40 years building one of the state’s finest collections of early Kentucky antiques and art. Here’s a short clip of the husband, Bob Noe, describing the desk:

I also recently installed Modern in the Making: Design 1900-2000, which features over 50 pieces from the Speed’s collection.

Hadley Pottery bowl, 1956

Kentucky is represented by several objects, including three pieces designed by Mary Alice Hadley (1911-1965) for Louisville’s Hadley Pottery.

I’ve also included a beautiful set of turned rosewood bowls made by Kentucky’s Rude Osolnik (1915-2001), one of the United States’ great craft artisans.

Salad set, about 1950 by Rude Osolnik

Finally, Kentucky’s rich ceramic tradition is respresented by a wonderful Bybee Pottery face pitcher made in Bybee, Kentucky.

Bybee Pottery pitcher and mugs, about 1940


Sweet Desk

July 9, 2010

There’s nothing sweeter in Kentucky furniture than sugar furniture–that is, pieces like sugar chests, sugar boxes, and, yes, even sugar desks. Made in the state between the 1790s and the early 1850s, sugar furniture has enticed collectors for decades. Long-time collectors Bob and Norma Noe recently gave The Speed Art Museum a magnificent sugar desk made between 1810 and 1840, surely in the north-central part of the state (more on its geographic origins below).

Mason-Fleming-Nicholas County sugar desk, The Speed Art Museum, photo by Bill Roughen

Though small in size (it measures 31-5/8 h. x 29-1/4 w. x 13-7/8 in. d.), the desk’s visual presence is huge. A grid of figured veneers decorates its facade, an unusual feature among surviving Kentucky pieces. An inlaid star on the skirt below adds to its elegance.

The bulbous profile of the skirt along with the desk’s spidery, curved legs associate it with a group of furniture made in the Mason-Fleming-Nicholas County area. Mason County sits along the Ohio River and served as a major entry point for goods and migrants headed into the central Bluegrass region and its capital, Lexington.

Sugar desk showing interior, photo by Bill Roughen

Marianne Ramsey and Diane Wachs, in their landmark study, The Tuttle Muddle (2000), associate the furniture group with the cabinetmakers Gerrard Calvert, Peter Tuttle, and John Foxworthy. The three men, ultimately related through marriage, came to Kentucky from Prince William County, Virginia. Like so many others, they probably arrived via the Ohio.

Sugar also came to Kentucky off of the Ohio, arriving from the Caribbean and Louisiana via New Orleans. It was a costly commodity in early nineteenth-century Kentucky. Specialized, equally expensive pieces of furniture like this desk provided secure storage for the sugar.

The desk also reinforced sugar’s value as a status symbol. By itself, refined sugar was visually mundane–it usually was sold in cones wrapped in blue paper. Placing the sugar in a fine piece of furniture, though, proclaimed its importance. It also added a ritual dimension when the sugar was used: it had to be removed from its princely storage; bits were cut off and used to sweeten the social consumption of tea, coffee, and other drinks; and then the sugar disappeared again into the desk.

To see more Kentucky sugar furniture and related objects, visit the Kentucky Online Arts Resource and use the search term, “sugar.”