Welcome to WAM Updates

WAM Updates are short, informal posts that put the spotlight on small, but exciting, Museum-related projects, such as the addition of a new painting or sculpture to a gallery. They also serve as updates on staff, new services or programs, and other WAM news.

We hope you like reading the Updates! If you are interested in learning about something specific, or have a suggestion for a WAM Update, please update us at wamupdates@worcesterart.org

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Flight from France: Escaping Paris (1/4)

Following the Nazi invasion of his city--Vienna, Austria--Dr. Richard Neumann, textile entrepreneur and art collector of Jewish descent, left his home and, with his wife, Alice, moved to Paris in 1938. They brought with them 38 paintings from their extensive art collection, fully expecting to return to Vienna once hostilities had ended.

Five years later, they were forced to flee Paris, as well, this time leaving behind nearly all of their possessions and money. Here is the story of their escape (part one of four), written by Dr. Neumann after his arrival in Cuba, detailing the harrowing journey, and the many dangers of occupied France. It is shared with the permission of his family.

Dr. Neumann and his art collection are the subject of WAM's ongoing exhibition, "What the Nazis Stole from Richard Neumann (and the Search to Get it Back)" on view through January 2022.

 --

Each day in Paris brought more alarming news. Arrests, deportations, confiscations of property gave no end of worry for the immigrants. Each day one or another of our many acquaintances disappeared without explanation. For a long time I refused to allow myself to think of leaving Paris, but now I had given in and begun to explore the possibilities. Very quickly, I discovered that obtaining official permission for a legal departure was impossible...

 

Richard Neumann, dressed in a formal suit. Monochrome.
Richard Neumann, photographed in Vienna
before WWII


[The Neumanns eventually made arrangements with a young man, Mr. P., from the south of France, who promised to take them safely by automobile to the unoccupied territory in Vichy, France] 

He told us that we could send our large trunk to the address of his father in the unoccupied zone, but on no account to include any kind of valuables with it. As personal baggage he allowed us only small hand luggage.

We left on Friday evening from the Gare d’Austerlitz in Paris. The compartment was full, but we had numbered seats and the trip went quite normally. We had as much cash as possible with us, —which we obtained, unfortunately, partly through the below-market sale of some our valuable art objects—since we saw little opportunity to obtain any kind of funds in the foreseeable future. This amounted to 40,000 French francs and 200 US dollars.


An apartment block in the typical Hausmann style, five storeys with tan stone facade and black wrought iron railings.
Rue Marguerite, where Richard and Alice Neumann
lived, modern day


At quarter to four in the morning we arrived in A. We descended from the train, went to take a seat in the overfull waiting room and looked around to find Mr. P. (our young guide), who was nowhere to be seen. We became quite concerned, and I began to regret the entire undertaking. Nevertheless, after about 20 minutes Mr. P. arrived, accompanied by an elderly peasant woman. He called on us to follow him quickly, and led us over five sets of train tracks into the darkness of the railroad station, and then into a dark freight car into which he then dragged  […] a basket of chickens, a box containing rabbits, another basket with geese, vegetables, and other farm products.

To our question as to where, in fact, the automobile was, he gave the answer that it had been promised for “later.” The freight car was shifted, and a half hour later it began to move again, only to stop in about 20 minutes at a small station, where we descended. Now we had to wait in the darkness. The automobile was nowhere to be seen. Mr. P. left on his bicycle, and after a while he returned in the company of an old peasant driving a high, two-wheeled cart, pulled by a heavy horse. It was raining buckets, and was totally dark. The geese, ducks, chicken etc. were loaded on the wagon. My wife put on a headscarf; I put on a blue beret; the peasant woman went ahead on the bicycle and we must have given the impression of a farm family. The cart began to move, with Mr. P. at the rear of the procession. In terrible weather and deep in the night we now went, on awful cart paths into a large forest and were badly shaken up on the spring-less cart.


A dense formation of Nazi soldiers march past an organized crowd standing in rows. Everyone is uniformed and the street is lined with swastika flags. Black and white.
Nazi troops marching through Paris after the fall of the city
(AP Images)


After about an hour, during which it gradually became light, we saw in the distance a French gendarme. We stopped, and our friend P. rode over to him and became involved in a long conversation. It appeared that the Frenchman was sympathetic, but warned us not to go further on the road, since this would undoubtedly cause us to fall into the hands of the Germans. He himself closed his eyes, and we left the road and drove, in the slowest speed, directly through the forest and up an incline, stopping frequently to await the signal from the peasant woman who had gone ahead, to see if the coast was clear.

Finally we came, after a two and half-hour trip, to a high corner of the forest where there was a farmyard, into which we drove and descended. We were led into a large farm kitchen, where a fire burned and where a number of children were lying in beds, or stood around, and which was filled quite to capacity by us and our party.

We tried, totally soaked as we were, to dry out a little and then learned, as we again asked about the promised automobile, that it would not become available due to the shortage of gasoline. So it now seems that we would have to make the voyage on foot, quite contrary to plan. The conversations around us dealt mainly with successful or failed border crossings, and especially the latter were described in fulsome detail, with shootings, chases by police dogs, etc. recounted at length to lift everyone’s spirits.

--

Still to come: the Neumanns must next make their way to the border between Nazi-occupied France and the unoccupied territory of Vichy France.

Friday, May 7, 2021

A Beautiful Friendship

We have asked our Docents to share some of their favorite stories from their time at WAM, in honor of the Docent program's 50th anniversary! Today, Shelley Rodman tells the story of a friendship that began with a conversation in the WAM Galleries.

Sometimes, our most important contributions and memorable experiences as docents isn't about the art.

 

Four women and a toddler smiling at a cafe table; the toddler (far left, held by her mother) and young woman (right, standing between her mother and godmother) both have Down Syndrome.
From left to right: Baby Abby, Caroline, Shelley, Tessa, and Tina

I was managing the Arms and Armor Art Cart. Caroline (to my left in this photo) came into the room and she had her baby in a front carrier. I couldn't see the baby's face, she was nuzzled into her mom. Caroline said she loved bringing her baby into the museum. She said that it is an inviting and quiet place where she can walk around, enjoy the art and her baby can rest or also enjoy being carried through the galleries.

Baby Abby woke up while we were talking and I recognized that she has Down syndrome. Before I could say anything, Caroline said, "This is my daughter Abby. She has Down syndrome."

I responded that my goddaughter, Tessa, (to my right in this photo), has Down syndrome and she is a well-rounded, independently-living and working young adult.

Caroline's eyes watered and she said, "You're the first person who has shared any good news for Abby's future." She so appreciated hearing more about my relationship with Tessa and about Tessa's education, travels, can-do attitude and great sense of humor. I said I would touch base with Tessa's mom, my dear friend Tina, and maybe we could arrange a meeting.

And here we all are, months later at the WAM cafe, celebrating Tina's birthday and the friendship that developed between Tina and Caroline, Tessa and Abby.

-- Shelley Rodman, WAM Docent
May 7, 2021

Friday, April 30, 2021

Battle Ready: Weapons and Tactics of the European Soldier

In the previous section of this two-part WAM Update, we learned how, beginning in the 14th century, European armies began to shift their focus from knights and heavy cavalry towards infantry and common-born soldiers. This led to changes in tactics, in the shape of fortifications, and in the organization of the army itself. In this section, we will look at the rapid rise of firearms, and the further changes they brought to both armor and fighting style, ultimately making cavalry obsolete.

By the mid-16th century, the man-at-arms was rapidly adding pistols to his arsenal, often without the lance and in some cases adding an additional firearm, the carbine. These shorter barreled firearms were less accurate and thus needed to be used at close ranges. It was discovered that by increasing the thickness of the cuirass (breast and backplate) of the armor, it could be made proof against pistols and other light firearms. Thus it was that the heavily armored cavalry of the mid-16th century onwards became known as cuirassiers, in reference to their reinforced armor. 17th century cavalry continued to make shock attacks, with drawn swords followed up by pistols after the enemy line had been broken through.


A gun with a wooden stock, in a shape somewhat similar to a modern rifle, but only a single short barrel. It is front-loading, with an elaborate wheeled mechanism controlled by the trigger (a clamp that would hold a piece of flint and a spring-loaded steel wheel that can be wound), and the rear ends in a sphere with ivory inlay.
Master "NEH", Puffer (wheel-lock pistol) for the Mounted Guards of Elector Christian I of Saxony (r. 1586-91),
German, Saxony, dated 1588. Steel with blueing, walnut, and horn. 5 lb, 2 oz (weight).
The John Woodman Higgins Armory Collection. 2014.47


A suit of silver-colored armor with brass studs, some arranged in rosettes; the overlapping plates do not extend past the knees, and the face is uncovered apart from a brim above the eyes. Armor is accessorized with a red sash and a basket-hilt rapier.
Three-Quarter Armor for a Cuirassier, Southern German, Augsburg, 1620–1625.
Steel and brass with modern leather. 47lb. 1oz. (weight).
The John Woodman Higgins Armory Collection. 2014.1135


Not all cavalry were heavy types. Lighter cavalry had long existed, using light lances and less armor. By the late 15th century they came to be known as demi-lancers. As firearms were introduced, new types of light cavalry evolved creating a variety of new types whose roles would often overlap, blur and change definition as time passed. An example is the dragoon, whose role was originally as a mounted harquebusier, essentially a mounted infantryman who dismounted to fight, using the horse as rapid transport. However, dragoons quickly adapted to the role of using their firearms from the saddle and by the 18th century were essentially an unarmored form of cavalry using pistols, sabers, and carbines.

 

A gun with wooden stock, again reminiscent of a modern rifle, with a single long and thin barrel. Again it is front-loading and has a complex mechanism controlled by the trigger. The wood is decorated with brass and ivory inlay.
Wheel-Lock Carbine for the Personal Guard (Trabanten) of Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau,
Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg (r. 1587-1611), 
German/Suhl, about 1590.
Steel, brass, bone, iron, and wood. 4 lb, 3 oz (weight).
 The John Woodman Higgins Armory Collection. 2014.51


In the mid-16th century the army infantries typically had 2 soldiers with firearms (or shot) to every 5 pikemen. The shot, like archers previously, were primarily for ranged combat, supporting the pikes in their melee combat, which was seen as the primary role of infantry. Pikemen also defended the shot from assault by enemy pikemen and cavalry. This ratio gradually shifted as the lighter arquebus was replaced with the powerful musket. By 1600 the ratio had become 3 shot to every 1 pike. This was partially due to the large amount of siege warfare in the second half of the 16th century, where a man with a firearm was far more effective than one with a pike.
 
 
Another gun with a wooden stock somewhat shaped like a modern rifle, but with only a single barrel. The barrel is wider than the previous gun, and the wood largely undecorated. The mechanism controlled by the trigger is a simple clamp that could hold a burning piece of rope.
Matchlock Musket, Austrian, Wiener-Neustadt, about 1675. Steel, iron and wood. 15 lb 4 oz (weight).
The John Woodman Higgins Armory Collection. 2014.616


The 17th century would see the armor of the cuirassier gradually reduced to just a cuirass and helmet, with all other plate defenses removed to increase speed as the more powerful musket could more readily pierce even reinforced armors. Other forms of cavalry would abandon armor altogether. As the century progressed cavalry came to be used in more of a supporting role to the infantry, though still used to deliver the fatal blow to an enemy after they had been broken.
 
 
A black ink print on yellowed paper, showing a section of an army from an overhead view. Footsoldiers and horse-mounted fighters are arranged in large organized blocks, with the largest at the center and the rest surrounding. The labeling is in Italian.
Italian Army on the March, European, early 17th century. Ink engraving on paper. Prints.
The John Woodman Higgins Armory Collection. 2014.594


As the ratio of shot to pike continued to shift in the former’s favor, so too changed the tactics. Instead of using large blocks of slow moving pikemen supported by shot, the new ratio required spreading out the shot in longer thinner lines to maximize firepower, as well as offering a smaller target. The formation was also more maneuverable, as the tactical units shifted from larger regiments of 2,000 men to smaller companies of 120. The pikemen adopted the same formation to spread the limited number of pikes facing the enemy and to continue to support the shot from melee attack. Additionally, the use of larger numbers of field artillery enhanced the overall firepower of the linear formation, giving it an emphatic punch. Cavalry were used to scout and sweep the flanks. The Battle of Breitenfeld, September 17, 1631 saw the Swedes use linear tactics to beat bulky Imperial pike squares; this would become a model for linear tactics that was used up to the First World War.

 
A black ink print on cream paper showing examples of troop movement. Each starts with a column of soldiers depicted as eight bars (representing companies of soldiers) arranged into a rectangle. Dotted lines indicate how each company would move from this column into a straight line in an organized manner, with different movements depending on where the ending line falls relative to the original column.
Engraved by Amos Doolittle (American, 1754–1832), Plan of Military Evolutions,
American, early 1800s. Engraving on cream wove paper. Prints.
Charles E. Goodspeed Collection. 1910.48.837
 

Colored print on cream paper of a soldier on a horse; the soldier wears a solid breastplate and a helmet with a large crest, but no other armor.
Philibert Louis Debucourt (French, 1755–1832), Cuirassier Prussien, about 1800.
Aquatint and watercolor on cream wove paper. Prints.
Mrs. Kingsmill Marrs Collection. 1926.1122


A colorful print on cream paper depicting a soldier in a red coat uniform resting a musket on the ground beside him; the wood stock gun is nearly as long as he is tall, reaching his shoulder. The soldier shakes the hand of a crying woman with two children beside her; a third child stands behind her, dressed in a perfect soldier's uniform including a gun with bayonet held at his side.
Isaac Cruikshank (Scottish, 1764–1811) after Woodward, The Soldier's Farewell, 1803.
Etching with watercolor on cream wove paper. Prints.
 Gift of Dr. Samuel B. Woodward. 1934.872 (Detail)


By the 18th century the musketeer had become the main fighting force of the armies of Europe, supported by artillery and cavalry; cuirassiers were now few in number. The flintlock musket would replace the matchlock while the socket bayonet, developed by the French, allowed musketeers to convert their weapons into spears. This enabled musketeers to shoot and effectively engage in melee, making the pikemen obsolete. However, Napoleon made great use of cuirassiers and brought them back into vogue in the 19th century, though cavalry would never again dominate the battlefield as it had in the Middle Ages. The 19th century saw the musket supplanted by the rifled musket and then cartridge fed rifles. Cuirassiers continued to serve on the battlefields of Europe through the First World War. In the 1930s, French cuirassier units would have their horses and armor replaced by tanks, effectively ending the age of armored horsemen.


A painting of two men in 19th century military uniform conversing on a muddy road. One rides a white horse and carries a spear with two small banners, the other stands huddled with a wooden stock gun tucked under one arm. There is a strong wind, and the brushstrokes in the grey sky suggest rain.
Christian Sell (German, 1831–1883), Two Patriots, 1870s. Oil on panel. Paintings.
Gift of Mrs. Roger N. Heald. 1972.50


—By Neal Bourbeau, Programming Coordinator

April 30, 2021


Recent WAM Updates