December 4, 2015 | The once famous career of the musical prodigy Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins, born a slave and raised to entertain audiences here and abroad with uncanny feats of musical mastery, tainted virtually everyone who touched it. Wiggins’s owners exploited him and profited hugely from his earnings (his concerts and sheet music yielded an astonishing $20,000 in 1879); critics and reporters wrote about him in gaudily racist language; African-American intellectuals kept him at arm’s length dismayed by his stage antics. Yet Wiggins’s gifts were indeed awesome: he was composing music at age five and went on to master the works of Bach, Beethoven, and other composers, often in a single afternoon. He also leaped about the stage, clapped for himself, and used the racial slurs his managers had taught him though he could not have understood their import. Today he would be classified as autistic.
“Blind Tom” Wiggins (1849–1908) in a photograph of 1865 by W.L. Germon’s Temple of Art, Philadelphia.…» More
November 13, 2015 | Julia Margaret Cameron’s “photography has been a touchstone for generations of photographers. The pictorialists adored her,” writes Phillip Prodger in our article about the British photographer in this issue. And he couldn’t be more right, says Barbara Tannenbaum, curator of photography at the Cleveland Museum of Art and co-curator of the museum’s stunning exhibition Shadows and Dreams: Pictorialist Photography in America. “While the images of the pictorialists were related in part to the impressionist painters,” she says, “the aesthetic did indeed stem from Cameron, who was an important source of inspiration not just in terms of technique, but also content. Her emphasis on imagination over fact, subjectivity over objectivity, and poetry over description became core values of pictorialism.” As examples from the exhibition, Tannenbaum cites the work of Clarence H. White of Newark, Ohio, who would probably have learned of Cameron’s work through Alfred Stieglitz’s journal Camera W…» More
November 13, 2015 | Often cited as an early influence on the humor of the New Yorker magazine, Puck ran in this country from 1877 to 1918 (it began with a German-language edition). The choice of Shakespeare’s mischievous fairy as the magazine’s namesake and mascot pretty much set the tone for its lighthearted mockery, and judging by the drawings and published cartoons on exhibit at the Flagler Museum, the humor remained gentler than you would have expected from satirists in the Gilded Age. The artists’ subjects are familiar ones: country bumpkins, uppity women, fads, fancies, and, of course, plutocrats and politicians.
The Haunted Auto by Alfred Zantziger Baker (1870–1933) for the cover of Puck, 1910. Collection of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf, courtesy of the Flagler Museum,Palm Beach, Florida.
One particular drawing will certainly strike a chord with contemporary viewers: The Theatre Conversationalist (1890) suggests an ornate remedy for those who would rather listen to each other than let …» More
November 13, 2014 | By Katharine Morrison McClinton; originally published in September 1950.
From time to time Mrs. McClinton contributes a note to ANTIQUES on some intriguing bypath of collecting interest. This one, which offers an appealing approach to nineteenth-century ceramics, will be incorporated in expanded form, in her forthcoming book on antiques, to be published next year by McGraw-Hill.
Nineteenth-century children's mugs have long attracted collectors, but few are perhaps aware of the wide variety of patterns in which these mugs may be found. The collection of pottery mugs formed by Margaret H. Jewell, now on display at the Harrison Gray Otis House in Boston, includes no less than 1200 examples, with hardly a duplicate.
Among the earliest, made before 1840, are mugs decorated simply with a name and inscription, sometimes adding a wreath of leaves. Today these mugs are rare. They were made in canary as well as cream color, with transfer decoration most commonly in black, though other…» More
October 31, 2014 | By Amy a. Weinstein; originally published in January 2005.
Appealing to the imagination of children of all ages, the toy collection of the New-York Historical Society offers a miniature window into nineteenth-century American family life. The approximately three thousand objects that constitute the collection are made of wood, metal, paper, ceramic, and cloth and trace the social, economic, political, and military history of the nation. The collection documents how new toys were created in response to great events and as new materials and technologies were adapted by the European and American toy industries.1 Although the collection most clearly illuminates the leisure pursuits of wealthy and middle-class children, simpler versions of expensive toys made it possible for children living in less privileged circumstances to own toys of their own.
The growing presence of toys in the United States was in part an outgrowth of the emerging recognition of childhood as a special phase…» More
[Compiled by Bill Stern, Executive Director at the Museum of California Design, Los Angeles. Originally published in "Curator's Eye" in Modern Magazi» View All