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April 13, 2021

Pleasurable and daunting: a wife’s work on her late husband’s archive

Art Historian Magda Salvesen, author of Artists’ Estates: Reputations in Trust, writes about the emotional aspect of her work as the curator of the estate of her husband, the American painter Jon Schueler.

Jon Schueler. Next Summer. 1966. Oil on canvas. Image and data from the Jon Schueler Estate.

“Art must take reality by surprise,” the writer Françoise Sagan said in a 1965 interview. With the arrival of Covid-19, however, I have frequently found myself considering the reversal of these terms.

The sudden closure of a Jon Schueler exhibition in March 2020, two postponements of other shows, the absence of studio visits by potential clients or gallery reps, and the inability of my assistants to return any time soon ironically created what I had long desired: open time, month after month, to work on the Jon Schueler Archive.

Jon Schueler. Sahara, I. May – July 1973. Oil on canvas. Image and data from the Jon Schueler Estate.

In the living space of the loft, Jon’s paintings reminded me daily of the imperative to create administrative order for the material that would provide a context for Schueler’s oils, watercolors, drawings, and prints, and which would eventually be available in the Jon Schueler Foundation. The companion of Jon Schueler since 1971 and the curator of the collection since the artist’s death in 1992, I had to find a way of bringing order to the vast amount of information held in my mind and stored in countless files and boxes, according to my own quirky methods, so that they would be accessible to the next person in charge.

Two long trestle tables took over the studio. I heaved box after dusty box of tax returns from the 1940s to 1992 into the open for sorting and archiving. Concrete evidence of what initially seemed a closed and hermetic narrative emerged: the cost of studio rentals and expenses, the orders for specific tubes of oil paints, train and airplane tickets confirming travel dates, deposit slips recording the sales of paintings, records of payments to models in the ’60s. The list could go on and on.

Jon Schueler. [Sun and Sleat Blue]. 1969. Oil on canvas. Image and data from the Jon Schueler Estate.

Jon Schueler. Blue Sky and the Sea. Nov. 1973. Oil on canvas. Image and data from the Jon Schueler Estate.

My next project was dealing with out-of-date technology. The three films made about Jon Schueler had already gone through several transformations—each one promising to be the final iteration—but now the DVD stage was hopelessly out of date. Therefore, I had to have them digitized, along with all the taped interviews with or about the artist. Receiving yet another delivery of archival boxes to hold this organized material then became the high point of the day.

These updates involved me again with Artstor. In 2010 I had spent many hours agonizing over which slides would suggest the trajectory of Jon Schueler’s paintings, from the late 1940s as a student in California through to his last years. These slides, scanned to create digital images, now looked embarrassingly inadequate. I imagined university art historians selecting Schuelers for a lecture being underwhelmed. Drawing on the library of high-resolution images, meticulously photographed during the past ten years, my assistant, Stephen Turner—returning after many months—worked with Artstor on the replacements, a time-consuming and heavy financial investment, but the best way to bring Jon Schueler’s work to art history classrooms throughout the United States.

Jon Schueler. The Island. 1956. Oil on canvas. Image and data from the Jon Schueler Estate.

Most emotionally demanding were the personal photographs. So many dead friends. I chose the best prints for albums (acid free), arranged them chronologically, placing all the negatives and left-over prints in a different set of files. Pleasurable, though daunting, was the next task: writing all the captions. No one else would know who these people were. Naming them would rescue them from anonymity and keep them in Jon’s life. Thankfully, a close friend in Mallaig, Scotland (where Schueler had his studio) was able to help with the names of the Scottish fishermen who, from their small wooden boats in the 1970s, launched Jon into the weather of his own paintings.

The archival work is ongoing. I am now tackling the tedious project of transcribing the Schueler interviews. Inexplicable to most of my friends, my greatest thrill during this period of looping backwards and inwards is now to view the rows of boxes lined up on shelves with their magnificent labels proclaiming what is inside! The next step is to welcome the scholars.

Jon Schueler. Death of the Father. June 1966. Oil on canvas. Image and data from the Jon Schueler Estate.

Explore the Jon Schueler Estate on Artstor

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April 6, 2021

A is for Animal: A is for April and the prevention of cruelty

Artstor is offering up a beastly alphabet in observance of this month, dedicated by the ASPCA to the prevention of cruelty to animals. You may be surprised at the creatures we can conjure.

A is for Anteater long in the nose

B is for Bear who wanders the globe

C is for Cat, because it must be

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March 31, 2021

New: Additional images from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD)

Victor Hugo. Vianden seen through a spider's web. 1871.

Victor Hugo. Vianden seen through a spider’s web. 1871. Pen, ink and wash over graphite and watercolor on vellum. Image and data from Allan T. Kohl, Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

Collection:
Minneapolis College of Art and Design Collection

Contributor:
Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD)

Content:
The Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) has contributed 1,350 additional images to their collection in Artstor, bringing the total to 2,800. The eclectic teaching collection includes iconic works present in art history curricula. All images were selected with the assistance of Allan Kohl, Visual Resources Librarian.

Jean Delville. Portrait of Mrs. Stuart Merrill. 1892.
Jean Delville. Portrait of Mrs. Stuart Merrill.1892. Colored chalk on paper. Image and data from Allan T. Kohl, Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
Caspar David Friedrich. Owl in a Gothic Window. 1836.
Caspar David Friedrich. Owl in a Gothic Window. 1836. Pencil and sepia, black ink. Image and data from Allan T. Kohl, Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
Odilon Redon. Spirit of the Forest. 1880.
Odilon Redon. Spirit of the Forest. 1880. Charcoal and chalk on paper. Image and data from Allan T. Kohl, Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
Caspar David Friedrich. Owl on a Grave. 1836-1837.
Caspar David Friedrich. Owl on a Grave. 1836-1837. Pencil and sepia, black ink. Image and data from Allan T. Kohl, Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

The current launch provides an opportunity to highlight some esoteric selections in an intimate digital exhibition of 19th-century Symbolist and related works. From Victor Hugo, better known for his writings than his many renderings, Vianden seen through a spider’s web offers a veiled perspective of the Luxembourg town that sheltered him during his exile from France. The electrifying Portrait of Mrs. Stuart Merrill by Belgian artist Jean Delville, aptly titled La Mysteriosa, is the personification of the occult. Caspar David Friedrich’s majestic owls portend death, and between the two looms A Spirit of the forest, one of Odilon Redon’s beloved hybrid “monsters.” Finally, the lighter spirit of the American luminist movement animates an oil sketch by the Hudson River school painter Frederic Edwin Church.

Frederic Edwin Church. Hudson River Valley in Winter Looking Southwest from Olana. c. 1870-1880.

Frederic Edwin Church. Hudson River Valley in Winter Looking Southwest from Olana. c. 1870-1880. Oil and pencil on board. Image and data from Allan T. Kohl, Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

Relevance:
European, British, and American art and culture.

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March 9, 2021

New: Barbara Anello: Photographs of Khmer Sites and Monuments

Khmer. Bayon, Angkor Thom.

Khmer. Bayon, Angkor Thom. Late 12th-late 13th century. Sandstone, laterite. Image and data from Barbara J. Anello-Adnani.

Artist and art historian Barbara J. Anello has contributed more than 2,700 photographs of Khmer monuments and heritage, including current archaeological practice, to the Artstor Digital Library. While the content is both culturally and historically significant, and the images arresting and revelatory, the collection is amplified by detailed descriptions.

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March 3, 2021

Witnessing Women’s History

Young women with sign 'Self Supporting Women.'

Unknown. Young women with sign ‘Self Supporting Women.’ May, 1914. Gelatin silver print. Image and data from The Schlesinger History of Women in America Collection.

In 1909, we honored the first International Women’s Day. That day has extended from a week to a month in many countries – the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia. In celebration of this hopeful rite of March, we have identified some of the resources, both licensed and public, that Artstor provides on the inspiring topic of women.

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February 17, 2021

The secret lives of cats

Throughout the months of lockdown our beloved felines have enhanced the quality of our diminished lives, and we, in turn, have come to know them a little better. A tribute to our cats is overdue (recently, we acknowledged our canine companions). My colleagues have generously shared portraits of their best feline friends and we have taken the liberty of juxtaposing them to works represented in Artstor.

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January 29, 2021

Celebrate Black History Month with these 9 open collections

Black History Month is observed every February in the United States and Canada, and we’re celebrating by gathering a number of Artstor’s Public Collections about the history and culture of African Americans. These collections are freely available to everyone everywhere, no log-in required!

Photograph of Shirley Chisholm greeting a group of people

Shirley Chisholm. Not dated. Copyright: Tuskegee University Archives, 2016.

Tuskegee University’s Civil Rights audio collections
Recordings and photographs of speeches from prominent leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. We also interviewed archivist Dana Chandler, who digitized the original reel-to-reel tapes.

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December 10, 2020

Looking back at 2020

Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse. Father Time on a Globe; design for a clock. 19th century

Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse. Father Time on a Globe; design for a clock. 19th century. Image and data provided by The Metropolitan Museum of Art. CC0 1.0

Needless to say, 2020 has been a year like no other, and it’s marked everything we did at Artstor. We tried to help institutions and students meet the challenges of remote teaching, released new content — with a strong emphasis on freely accessible Open Artstor collections — and tried to brighten things up on our blog. Here are some of our highlights from a very difficult year and one thing we look forward to next year.

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December 1, 2020

Hilary Mantel and the court of Henry VIII: putting pictures to words

Painting of Henry VIII of England

Hans Holbein the Younger. Henry VIII of England. 1536. Oil on oak. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Image and data from Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.

Painting of Thomas Cromwell

Hans Holbein the Younger. Thomas Cromwell. c. 1532-1533. Oil on oak. Image and data from The Frick Collection.

 

The Wolf Hall trilogy by Hilary Mantel presents the Tudor court in arresting, vivid prose1. Nonetheless, the temptation to illustrate Mantel’s account is irresistible given her invocation of the painter “Hans” (the actual historical figure of Hans Holbein the Younger, 1497/8-1543). He appears frequently in her narrative and is her acknowledged muse: Simply put, in the author’s own words: “He [Holbein] peoples the early Tudor court for us.”2 Since Holbein the Younger was so prolific and precise as a portraitist,3 his likenesses provide a visual Who’s Who to Mantel’s narrative. Below, we have coupled some of Holbein’s most penetrating portrayals of the key players with the descriptions of the author.

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