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Blog Category: Highlights

April 22, 2019

Artstor celebrates the earth: Flora, fauna, and natural phenomena

The Artstor Digital Library is replete with images from nature: arks of animals, a plethora of plants, and the dazzling spectacles of the earth. Meticulous renderings of animal and botanical species from classical times through the onset of photography may be studied alongside striking contemporary photographs. Illustrations of animal, plant and mineral specimens are also available as well as records of scientific fieldwork, and larger ecosystems.

Johann Georg Adam Forster. Serval
Johann Georg Adam Forster. Serval, Leptailurus (genus); serval (species), Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. 1775. Image and data provided by the Natural History Museum, London
Stanley N. Botwinik. Leopard portrait.
Stanley N. Botwinik. Leopard portrait. 1970. Tanzania, Serengeti. Image and data provided by Peabody Museum of Natural History (Yale University)
Chris de Bode. A dwarf mouse lemur
Chris de Bode. A dwarf mouse lemur. 2006. West Madagascar, Africa. Image and data provided by © Chris de Bode/Panos Pictures
Ami Vitale. Elephants in Kaziranga National Park
Ami Vitale. Elephants in Kaziranga National Park. 2003. Photograph. Image and data provided by © Ami Vitale/Panos Pictures
Asterope sapphira (nymphalid butterfly)
Asterope sapphira (nymphalid butterfly). Collected January, 1936. Image and data provided by Peabody Museum of Natural History (Yale University)
Fyodor Tolstoy. Butterfly
Fyodor Tolstoy. Butterfly. 1821. Image and data provided by SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.

The current selection provides a varied sampling of offerings from our living planet, past and present. A delicate watercolor of a serval, 1775, from the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, by the naturalist Georg Adam Forster is probably one of the first known western images of the small savannah cat; it was not until the following year that the serval was classified and named by a German taxonomist. Consider the tiny serval next to the bold, close up photograph Leopard portrait, 1970, by Stanley N. Botwinik — two members of the Felidae family, characterized in different eras by divergent media.

The scope of creatures great and small is evoked by the juxtaposition of the Dwarf Mouse Lemur, 2006, captured by the lens of Netherlander Chris de Bode and Elephants in Kaziranga National Park, 2003 by American photographer Ami Vitale. Weighing about 30 grams, the lemur is the smallest primate, while the elephant, topping out at 6.5 tons, is the world’s largest land mammal.

A brilliant blue specimen of a Brazilian butterfly aptly named Asterope sapphira puts the mimetic powers of Fyodor Tolstoy to the test in his immaculate gouache painting of 1821. In comparison to the specimen, Tolstoy’s butterfly appears almost too perfect to be true. In The Great Turf, 1503, a beloved watercolor by Albrecht Dürer, the artist dwells on the humblest grasses and weeds (note the waning dandelions) rendering a thicket of varied greens like a forest in miniature. The study presents like a manifesto of his adherence to the classical concept of mimesis — that art is the faithful representation of nature. The artist elaborates: “But life in nature manifests the truth of these things. Therefore observe it diligently, go by it and do not depart from nature arbitrarily, imagining to find the better by thyself, for thou wouldst be misled. For, verily, art is embedded in nature; he who can extract it has it.” Dürer’s study provides a verdant foil for the massive stoic trunks of The Twins. Tuolumne Grove. ca. 1878-1884, by George Fiske, one of the pioneering Yosemite photographers. The tiny men on the ground indicate the scale of the massive sequoias reaching hundreds of feet into the sky.

Albrecht Dürer. Large Piece of Turf (The Great Turf). 1503
Albrecht Dürer. Large Piece of Turf (The Great Turf). 1503. Image and data provided by Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y. Photographer Erich Lessing
George Fiske. The Twins. Tuolumne Grove. ca. 1878-1884
George Fiske. The Twins. Tuolumne Grove. ca. 1878-1884. Image and data provided by the Center for Creative Photography
Peacock feather
Peacock feather. Image and data provided by RISD Library Visual Resources: Nature Forms
Rusty parrotfish from the Red Sea
Rusty parrotfish from the Red Sea. Image and data provided by RISD Library Visual Resources: Nature Forms

Close-up views permit the photographer to record features difficult to perceive in life such as the eyespot of a peacock, designed to attract mates during courting, or the abstract pattern of a rusty parrot fish, a color field that changes through the life cycle.

Peter Marlow. A Rainbow over the City of London

Peter Marlow. A Rainbow over the City of London. 2003. Image and data provided by © Peter Marlow, Magnum Photos

The Rainbow over the City of London, 2003, by the late photographer Peter Marlow, seizes the most fleeting of phenomena: a rainbow is the miraculous outcome of the interplay of water droplets and the sun’s rays. Here Marlow eternalized the ephemeral revealing nature’s resplendence above the great metropolis.

Nancy Minty
Collections Editor

More nature-related collections in Artstor:

Artstor Digital Library:

American Museum of Natural History
Cook’s Voyages to the South Seas (Natural History Museum, London)
First Fleet Collection (Natural History Museum, London)
Foundation for Landscape Studies
Hill Ornithology Collection (Cornell University Library)
Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology (Harvard University)
Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History

Public Collections (free access to everyone):

Cornell: Historic Glacial Images of Alaska and Greenland
Cornell: Laboratory of Ornithology Gallery of Bird and Wildlife Art
Field Guide of Biodiversity Images
Hamilton College: Geosciences Rock Collection
Martin Methodist College Marine Biology Collection: Red Sea/Trinidad/Key Largo
RISD Library Visual Resources: Nature Forms
Roanoke College Freshwater Fish Collection
Trinity College Watkinson Library: Enders Ornithology Lantern Slides
Wheaton College (MA): Shell Collection

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November 26, 2018

Every dog has its 15 minutes: Andy Warhol’s dog photographs

Andy Warhol, Dog, 1982. Artwork and Image © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.
Andy Warhol, Dog, undated. Artwork and Image © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.
Andy Warhol, Dog, undated. Artwork and Image © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.
Andy Warhol, Dog, undated. Artwork and Image © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.
Andy Warhol, Dog, undated. Artwork and Image © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.
Andy Warhol, Dog, undated. Artwork and Image © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

When you see Andy Warhol’s name, his Pop Art paintings of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Campbell’s soup cans probably spring to mind. But Warhol’s interests extended beyond fame and commerce, as evidenced in the photos he took to record his daily life. “A picture means I know where I was every minute,” the artist said. “That’s why I take pictures. It’s a visual Diary.”

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October 18, 2018

A guide to Medieval creepy crawlers

…and how to protect yourself from them

While there were a lot of delightful beliefs about animals in the Middle Ages (our favorite: hedgehogs roll on grapes to spear them on their spines so they can take them home to their young), this Halloween season we’re focusing on the creepiest creatures of all: reptiles! Not to worry, we’ll also tell you what to do to stay safe from them.

Our source for this guide is Richard Barber’s translation of the Bodleian Library’s MS Bodley 764, a mid-thirteenth century bestiary, so don’t be too surprised if the descriptions deviate just a tad from contemporary herpetology.

BODLEIAN_10310802178

Bestiary. Folio #: fol. 160r, 12th century. Image and original data provided by the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

Let’s start with plain old snakes. We bet you didn’t know that snakes are frightened by naked men, but attack clothed ones. Unfortunately our source doesn’t specify how snakes respond to women (the thirteenth century not being the most progressive of centuries), so your best bet is to keep a stag nearby, as they can handily deal with bothersome serpents.

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September 27, 2018

On this day: the book that led to the creation of the EPA

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Chatham University, Rachel Carson in the Pennsylvania College for Women Yearbook, The Pennsylvanian, 1928. Image and data courtesy the Collection on Rachel Carson, Chatham University Archives & Special Collections.

On this day in 1962, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published, bringing widespread attention to environmental issues caused by the use of synthetic pesticides in the United States. The book sparked controversy, particularly from chemical companies that dismissed Silent Spring’s assertions about the connection between pesticides and ecological health. However, Carson’s claims were borne out and the book is widely credited with sparking the modern environmental movement that eventually spawned the Environmental Protection Agency.

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September 12, 2018

Fake news: the drowning of Hippolyte Bayard

Hippolyte Bayard, Self Portrait as a Drowned Man, 1840. Data from University of California, San Diego.
Hippolyte Bayard, Self Portrait as a Drowned Man (verso), 1840. Data from University of California, San Diego.

In a grainy 1840 photograph, a partially-covered corpse is propped against a wall, its decay evident in the darkening skin of the face and hands. The body is that of Hippolyte Bayard, an early inventor of photographic processes and supposed drowning victim, and written on the image verso is a strange note:

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November 27, 2017

The party of the century: Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball

Elliott Erwitt. USA; NYC; Candice Bergen dancing at the Truman Capote B&W Ball at the Plaza Hotel. 1966. ©Elliott Erwitt / Magnum Photos

Truman Capote’s fame transcended his literary status; he was famous for being, well, famous half a century before reality television and social media stars even existed. Also a uniquely gifted writer, Capote sought fame through publicity stunts, television appearances, and his friendships with both the social and Hollywood elite of the mid-twentieth century. Capote nurtured a persona based on being entertaining, rapier-witted, and eager to spread a rumor–attributes that would later haunt him.

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September 26, 2017

Highlight: photography in Artstor

Abdullah Frères. Cimitiere Turca, Sculari, Istanbul. 19th century. Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Did you know that nearly 20% of Artstor’s more than 2 million images are photographs? This summer we released a new collection of over 36,000 images from The Center for Creative Photography and we added 47,000 new images to existing collections from Magnum Photos, Panos Pictures, and Condé Nast, bringing our photography holdings to more than 350,000. These additions join major collections such as George Eastman House (the world’s oldest photography museum), Eyes of the Nation: a Visual History of the United States (Library of Congress), the Museum of the City of New York, and fine art photography from the Larry Qualls collection of contemporary art, among others. Photography collections in Artstor span many types, including photojournalism, art photography, social documentary works, carte de visites, stereographs, fashion photography, and even vernacular photography. In aggregate, these diverse collections can provide visual histories of people, events, cultures, and countries between the advent of photography in 1839 and the present day.

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June 6, 2017

The many questions surrounding Jan Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait

Jan van Eyck. Portrait of Giovanni(?) Arnolfini and his Wife. 1434. The National Gallery, London

June is the most popular month to marry, an excellent reason to take a look at one of the world’s most famous wedding paintings–although we ended up wondering if that, indeed, was what we were seeing.

At first glance, Jan Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait (1434) appears to be an exquisitely rendered but otherwise straightforward depiction of a wealthy merchant and his wife. But take a second look (or third or fourth), and a more intriguing image emerges. The room in which the Arnolfinis pose is laden with images that signal wealth, have religious implications, or are just plain… odd.

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June 2, 2017

Being there: Robert Capa’s photographs of Omaha Beach on D-Day

Robert Capa. Normandy; Operation Overlord; German soldiers captured by American forces. 1944. ©ROBERT CAPA © 2001 By Cornell Capa / Magnum Photos

Robert Capa. Normandy; Operation Overlord; German soldiers captured by American forces. 1944. ©ROBERT CAPA © 2001 By Cornell Capa / Magnum Photos

The more than 350,000 photographs in the Artstor Digital Library are not only there for the study of art—they also tell stories of our past. One of the best examples is that of Robert Capa’s breathtaking photographs of Omaha Beach on D-day in German-occupied France on June 6, 1944.

That day Western Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy in France and began the effort to liberate Europe from Nazi Germany. The invasion was originally planned for May 1stbut was delayed due to bad weather. Finally, on June 6th, 156,000 Allied troops stormed the beaches – losing between 2,400 and 4,000 lives – and Robert Capa was there to capture it on camera.

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March 9, 2017

New ways of seeing Warhol – new collections in the Artstor Digital Library

Michael Hermann, Director of Licensing at The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, explains how the Foundation’s collections in the Artstor Digital Library provide a comprehensive view of Warhol’s cultural impact–as well as insight into his personal life.

Thirty years after his death, Andy Warhol (1928-1987) remains one of the most influential figures in contemporary art and culture. Warhol’s life and work continue to inspire creative thinkers worldwide thanks to his enduring imagery, his artfully cultivated celebrity, and the ongoing research of dedicated scholars. His impact as an artist is far deeper and greater than soup cans and his prescient observation that “everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes.” His omnivorous curiosity resulted in an enormous body of work that spanned every available medium and most importantly contributed to the collapse of boundaries between high and low culture. The extensive Andy Warhol Foundation collections available on Artstor provide a thorough presentation of the prolific artist’s works in one place for the first time through more than 35,000* images inclusive of paintings, drawings, sculptures, prints, and photography spanning four decades.

The turbulent 1960s ignited an impressive and wildly prolific time in Warhol’s life which saw the production of many of Warhol’s most iconic works, including Campbell Soup Cans, Marilyn Monroes, Dollar Signs, Disasters, Brillo Boxes and Coca Cola Bottles. These familiar works are supplemented by a wide-ranging presentation of the provocative and ground-breaking works Warhol continued to create until his untimely death in 1987.

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