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

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Nature Unfolded: Korean Art from the Collection

Every few months the display of Asian art works on paper in the Arts of Japan Gallery has to rotate out with new works to preserve the quality of ink, colors, and paper of such light sensitive pieces. Working together with the museum’s dedicated team of conservators, exhibition designers, and art handlers, we recently completed the new installation featuring two outstanding works of Korean art from the collection, the eighteenth-century Moon Jar and the early nineteenth-century screen ink painting, Grapevine, by Choe Sokhwan. The spontaneous virtuosity of the brush that dances across the eight panels of the screen complements the quiet simplicity of the pure white moon jar. Yet don’t forget to also look closely and notice the moon jar’s imperfections, such as its asymmetrical form and the slightly bulging seam in the middle that were created during production. Rather than trying to conceal such “imperfections,” these characteristics are highly-prized for the elegant naturalness they add to the moon jar. Enjoy these new works on view on your next visit to WAM!

Learn more about Nature Unfolded: Korean Art from the Collection

- Vivian Li, Assistant Curator, Asian Art

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Annual Faculty Exhibition

The Higgins Education Wing will exhibit artwork created by faculty members of the Studio Class Programs department from November 2015 – February 2016. Our Annual Faculty Exhibition presents 45 works of art by 28 artists who currently teach and assist at the Museum in the areas of painting, sculpture, graphic design, mixed media, printmaking, and photography. The exhibition features a wide range of visual practices, spanning many genres and media.

 As working professional artists and educators who balance their own art making with teaching at WAM, the faculty exhibition allows students, the community, and the public the opportunity to experience the diversity of approaches each artist employ. WAM’s Studio Class Programs faculty is a strong and diverse group, exploring a range of traditional and contemporary mediums and themes. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

The Higgins Education Wing is open Sunday–Saturday, 9am–5pm

For more information, about faculty and their classes visit worcesterart.org/classes

- Ashley Occhino, Manager of Studio Class Programs

Above: Ella Delyanis
Below [left to right]: Jill Pottle, Donalyn Schofield, Elaine Smollin, William Griffiths

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Copley Portrait Reunion

An affecting reunion in the American art galleries: John Singleton Copley’s portraits of Boston-based merchant, Samuel Phillips Savage (1718–1797), and his wife, Sarah Tyler (1717/18–1764), are together at the Worcester Art Museum for the first time since 1963. Though companion paintings were often commissioned to celebrate a wedding, these portraits do not mark the beginning of the couple’s marriage, but rather commemorate its sad end. Sarah died in childbirth in February 1764, and various cues—such as her mask-like expression and rigid pose—suggest that her likeness was completed posthumously.

Copley’s portraits passed through different branches of the Savage family and have been reunited only occasionally, first at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia and, later, at the 1963 exhibition at WAM. Thanks to the generous loan of Samuel’s portrait by the Wunsch Americana Foundation, the companion paintings will be together through the spring of 2016.

View more American Art in our Collection Highlights

- Justin M. Brown, Curatorial Assistant, American Art

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


As part of its 50th Anniversary, the National Endowments for the Arts (NEA) commissioned a series of videos to celebrate arts and culture activities that NEA programs support in each of the 50 united states.

Worcester Art Museum was selected by NEA’s partner Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC)  as one of three institutions in the Commonwealth to be featured in the Massachusetts edition of this video.  WAM has received funding directly from the NEA or indirectly through the MCC virtually every year for the past 25 years.

Thank you NEA and MCC!  We wish you another great 50 years of support for the arts and cultural community.

Click here to learn more at arts.gov

- Trip Anderson, Grants Officer

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Academic Collaboratives at WAM

In addition to curating the Higgins Collection of Arms and Armor, I’ve been teaching in the Humanities Department at Worcester Polytechnic Institute for the past decade and a half, so I’m especially happy to announce the launch of WAM’s new Academic Collaboratives webpage. The museum has long been a destination for both professors and students, and now their work with the WAM collection has a home on the Academic Collaboratives at the Worcester Art Museum page. Check out the multimedia tour of the galleries by Holy Cross students, what Worcester State physicists learned about our Niccolò di Bartolomeo Pisano from infrared radiation, and the Virtual Joust by a team of WPI game designers!

Learn more about Academic Collaboratives at the Worcester Art Museum 

- Jeffrey L. Forgeng, Curator of Arms & Armor and Medieval Art

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

MCC’s UP-Innovative and Learning Network

Hard to believe, but WAM is nearing completion of the inaugural year of participation in the UP-Innovative Learning Network (ILN) program organized by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. And what an eye-opening, learning experience it has been for WAM’s UP-ILN team!

During the first 10 months of the UP-ILN program, WAM has served as host site for two UP-ILN events; participated in five all-day seminars at fellow UP-ILN institutions state-wide; been the subject of three user-expert site evaluations (two of physical facilities and one of its website); prepared a Webinar follow-up to our site evaluation; collaborated with our “partner-facility”, The Berkshire Museum, to develop Universal Accessibility protocols for our respective facilities; prepared a Logic Model of short term Universal Accessibility goals; and learned from industry experts in immersion workshops about Universal Design, ADA standards for historic buildings and landscapes, Website Accessibility and Graphic Standards for Print & Web, Inclusive Social Media and Social Stories; Technologies for Assisted Hearing and Vision; and finally Disability Etiquette.

As a result of these learning experiences, WAM’s UP-ILN team has developed a series of near-term, mid-term, and long-term objectives. Design and planning are already underway on several of these initiatives. Some will be rolled-out in the coming months. Additionally, WAM is developing a series of internal Universal Accessibility workshops for staff and volunteers. Watch for further details.

In the words of MCC Executive Director Anita Walker, “UP is not a destination, it is a direction.” One very valuable lesson learned by the UP-ILN team this year is that UP is a “state-of-mind”. It requires a new way of thinking for many “abled” people, but once achieved Universal Accessibility goals are often easily obtainable.

WAM will be conducting a visitor survey within the next two months to measure changes in perception regarding Universal Accessibility. Please help us by completing this survey.

Learn more about the UP-Innovative Learning Network (ILN) program

- Trip Anderson, Grants Officer

Friday, September 25, 2015

Hayakawa Shōkosai III

It is common for Japanese artists to master several unrelated art forms. The current exhibition in the Japanese Gallery, The Baskets of Hayakawa Shōkosai III, features an artist who was a renowned basket maker as well as an accomplished ink painter, calligrapher, tea master, and flute player. This installation includes an intricately woven bamboo basket and an ink painting of a flower basket by Shōkosai III (1864-1922).

The exacting craft of bamboo basketry was elevated to a high art by the artist’s father, Hayakawa Shōkosai I (1815-1897). An important element in Japanese tea ceremonies, bamboo flower baskets were in particularly high demand in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The bamboo artist is responsible for every step of the process of basket making. There are no shortcuts or ways to mechanize the process and artists serve long apprenticeships. Visitors to this small exhibition will appreciate the skill and artistry of these two very different works.

Image credits:

Hayakawa Shōkosai III, Japanese, 1864-1922, Painting of Basket with Fungus of Immortality and Orchids, Meiji Period (1868-1912); two-panel folding screen; ink and gold dust on paper; Alexander H. Bullock Fund, 2007.167

 Hayakawa Shōkosai III, Japanese, 1864-1922, Flower Basket with Cascading Handle, 1916; bamboo and rattan dyed with plum wood extract; Harriet B. Bancroft Fund, 2007.168

- Curatorial Department

Monday, September 21, 2015

Medieval Galleries Reinstallation

This month we closed our Medieval Galleries to prepare for a new reinstallation that will take place in 2016. I know that many visitors will miss the outstanding ivories, frescoes, and jewelry that grace our medieval collection, but I promise to deliver a great new exhibit to make it worthwhile! We’ll be integrating arms and armor from the Higgins Armory Collection into the new displays, something that has me especially excited about the project. When I was curator at the Higgins Armory (for fifteen years!), I never had access to civilian objects to round out the arms and armor story we were telling. WAM in the meantime didn’t have knightly objects to complement their artworks. So it’s a great match, and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to play matchmaker. Look for the new galleries in late 2016—and come visit our Chapter House from a medieval French monastery, which remains on view during the renovations.

- Jeffrey L. Forgeng, Curator of Arms & Armor and Medieval Art

Browse Arms and Armor in the Worcester Art Museum Collections Search

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Ask A Curator Day: WAM Answers

Did you miss Ask a Curator Day on Wednesday, September 16?
Here are a few of our favorite questions and answers!

Q: Who is curating the contemporary collection at WAM? (@jfatimamartins1)
Jon L. Seydl, Director of Curatorial Affairs and Curator of European Art: The search is about to launch in a few weeks -- we can't wait! Keep your eyes on our website!

Q: What incredible objects in your collection do you wish you had time to research and know more about? (@mkenner2)
Jeffrey L. Forgeng, Curator of Arms & Armor and Medieval Art: This one still mystifies me, lmk if you have any leads!

Probably Balkan or Caucasian, Ceremonial Saber, possible 18th century, pattern-welded steel, bronze, and gold, The John Woodman Higgens Armory Collection, 2014.25

Q: Do you feel that seascapes or landscapes played a bigger role in early American art? (@Chris_AB16)
Justin M. Brown, Curatorial Assistant in American Art: The American landscape has long held greater appeal as a source of national pride and identity.

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? What makes you excited to go to work? (@DurhamCurator)
Katrina Stacy, Associate Curator of Education: The "aha moments" of all shapes + sizes remind us why we do what we do. Our work is full of joy.

Q: Where do you find ideas for the next exhibition? What is your inspiration? (@dora_post)
Nancy K. Burns, Assistant Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs: Opening boxes in storage. The art is always the primary source.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Ask a Curator Day

Have you ever wondered how exhibitions at the Worcester Art Museum are put together? 
Would you like to know what the museum acquired as its first object? 
Are you curious about the day-to-day life of a curator?

Hear directly from WAM curators themselves on Ask a Curator Day! You ask, we answer. To participate, tweet your questions to @WorcesterArt on Wednesday, September 16, from 11am-5pm EST with the hashtag


Standing by to answer your questions are…

Jon L. Seydl, Director of Curatorial Affairs and Curator of European Art
Tweet sign-off: jls
Expertise: Medieval to 20th century European art; Ancient Greek and Roman art.

Jeffrey Forgeng, Curator of Arms & Armor and Medieval Art
Tweet sign-off: jlf
Expertise: Hand-to-hand esthetics.

Nancy Burns, Assistant Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs
Tweet sign-off: nkb
Expertise: Prints and drawings after 1850; the history of photography.

Katrina Stacy, Assistant Curator of Education
Tweet sign-off: ks
Expertise: Interpreting WAM’s outstanding encyclopedic collection of art; engaging audiences from birth to old age.

Justin M. Brown, Curatorial Assistant in American Art
Tweet sign-off: jmb
Expertise: Pre-20th century American painting; race and American visual culture.

Karysa K. Norris, Curatorial Assistant
Tweet sign-off: kkn
Expertise: Wrangling curators.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Have art, will travel!

Have you visited the lively colored Art Carts that have popped up around the museum lately? An Art Cart is a mobile, educational tool that allows families and children an opportunity to interact with art in a fun and educational way. Inside the Art Carts are a variety of activities, ranging from coloring sheets of Helmutt the dog, a mosaic activity, try on reproduction armor, origami cats, and medieval board games. Just to name a few!

Come for a visit and see what we have out! Art Carts are located in the Renaissance Court, Salisbury Hall, and Helmutt’s House in Knights! Ask at our Information Desks for more on times and locations or see our website by clicking the link below:.

2015 Art Cart Hours

Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays 11:00-12:30, 12:30-2:00 & 2:00-3:30
Saturday & Sunday 11:00-12:30 & 12:30-2:00

September - December
Wednesdays 1:30-3:00
Saturday & Sunday 1:00-2:30 & 2:30-4:00

Learn more about Art Carts

- Neal Bourbeau, Knights! Education Programming Assistant

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

World Photo Day: From Hawaii to Worcester

Having moved to New England from Hawaii, I am always curious to see what artifacts have made it across land and sea before me. Here at WAM I was delighted to find a 19th century travel album featuring photographs taken on the island of Oahu. Many travelers from Europe and America stopped in Hawaii on their way to East Asia, purchasing images of places they visited from commercial photographers. The album in our collection is one of two that record an 1899 trip made to China and Japan by Frances Clary Morse, the founder and first president of the Worcester Garden Club.

The last decade of the 1800s was a contentious time in the islands, as the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown and Hawaii was annexed to the United States. Morse brought documentation of these events back to Worcester in two images, both by Frank Davey, a British photographer who had a commercial studio in Honolulu from 1897 to 1902. The first photo was taken at the Annexation ceremony on August 12, 1898, when Hawaii formally became a territory of the United States.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Olmec "Incised Standing Figure" may be a Star God

Together with Professor Karl Taube at the University of California, Riverside, I have been researching a WAM Olmec object formerly titled Figure of a Man, but now more accurately labeled Incised Standing Figure. The object was once owned by the famous Mexican caricaturist, Miguel Covarrubias, who was also an important archaeologist. He was a friend of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. All three artists shared a passion for Mexico’s history. When the object entered WAM’s collection in 1958, the marks around its mouth remained a mystery. Dr. Taube has now plausibly suggested the pattern of incisions relate to other Olmec glyphs of a star sign, probably the morning star more commonly identified as the planet Venus. Venus appears in the sky for roughly three hours after sunset and three hours before sunrise. Later Mexican cultures envisioned a great battle between the morning star and the rising sun, and the morning star seems to have held symbolic importance for warriors. The Maya, who succeeded the Olmec in coastal Veracruz and Tabasco, established the long count of their calendar system with the aid of Venus. So Worcester’s object may be one of the earliest depictions of this Mesoamerican star deity in human form – created around 2,800 years ago. To learn more about this object, watch for it in the Jeppson Idea Lab on the third floor opening November 14th.

Learn more about Incised Standing Figure

-John Garton, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Clark University

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Medieval Priest Teaches Swordfighting

Today I received my author copies of The Art of Swordsmanship by Hans Lecküchner. This gorgeously illustrated manuscript was composed 1482 by a parish priest, and it’s the single most substantial medieval source on how to fight with a one-handed sword. You might not expect a priest to know much about swordfighting, but Lecküchner had studied at the University of Nuremberg—Nuremberg students were already notorious for swordfighting in the Middle Ages. I first sent my completed translation of Lecküchner’s manuscript to a publisher in 2004, so you can imagine how glad I am that the book is now available!

The weapon used by the swordfighters is called a langes Messer (literally “long knife”). You can see a beautiful example, made for the Austrian court at about the time of Lecküchner’s manuscript, in WAM’s Knights! exhibition. Incidentally, you can also learn how to use swords like this from WAM’s swordplay instructor Krista Baker. But you’d better sign up soon—I hear next week’s class is already sold out!

- Jeffrey L. Forgeng, Curator of Arms & Armor and Medieval Art

Monday, June 15, 2015

Worcester’s Salisbury Cultural District

Click to enlarge.

On May 19, 2015, the Massachusetts Cultural Council Board unanimously approved State designation of the Salisbury Cultural District, the city’s first official cultural district.  For Application Team Co-Chairs Erin Williams, Worcester’s Cultural Development Officer and I, this was the culmination of a year long process which required multiple public hearings, approval of a resolution by Worcester City Council in support of the designation, a Memorandum of Understanding between The City of Worcester and Worcester Art Museum as the District’s “lead stakeholder”, an inventory of the district’s cultural assets and annual public events, and well as an extensive application outlining the proposed district’s mission, goals and management structure.  All this while simultaneously wrangling nine Founding Stakeholder institutions and three dozen participating district stakeholders to share a common, collaborative vision.  It was a process!

Worcester’s Salisbury Cultural District is conveniently located near Interstates I-190 and I-290 adjacent to the city’s historic Lincoln Square.  Within a two block radius of this Lincoln Square keystone a dozen historically significant cultural and civic buildings stand. Click to see a map of the Salisbury Cultural District.  The district includes cultural institutions such as: the Worcester Art Museum; the American Antiquarian Society; Tuckerman Hall (home to the Massachusetts Symphony Orchestra); the historic Salisbury Mansion; and the main campus of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI).  It includes Institute Park (with its Levenson Concert Stage and Gazebo) and Salisbury Pond (a historic mill pond fed by Mill Brook, one of the water sources for the Blackstone Canal which once connected Worcester to Providence, RI).  The district is home to six Houses of Worship (including the Armenian Church of our Saviour, the oldest Armenian congregation in America); 17 restaurants; 6 specialty galleries/gift shops; over 50 adaptively re-used properties; and 10 National Historic Register buildings.  These entities collectively host over 1000 community events annually.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Free Wi-Fi at WAM

The Member’s Council at the Worcester Art Museum knows how important it is to stay connected while on the go, which is why they sponsor WAM’s free, high speed Wi-Fi connection throughout the entire museum. Stop by and grab a coffee from the Sip Cart and catch up on your favorite blogs, or share your favorite piece in the museum on social media without tapping into your data!

Connecting to our Wi-Fi is easy and doesn’t require a password – just chose the WAM_PUBLIC connection on your device and you’re in.

- Casey Beaupre, Acting Visitor Services Manager

Monday, June 1, 2015

Come to the Japanese Gallery

Come to the Japanese Gallery to contemplate this serene grove of bamboo painted by Nagasawa Rosetsu (1754-1799).  Compared to trees in the forest, bamboo is relatively slight and unimposing, but bamboo is remarkably strong and flexible. Its robust root system and ability to bend with the wind allow bamboo to survive storms that topple trees. These features and bamboo’s simple but upright form have made it an enduring Asian symbol of endurance, resilience and integrity.

Read more about Nagasawa Rosetsu's Bamboo

Thursday, May 28, 2015

WAM Collections Staff on Twitter

Above: Untitled (Flower Plant), William Henry Hunt (British, 1790-1864), after Simon Watts (British, 1716-possibly 1775), 1827, hand-colored etching on cream wove paper, sheet: 20 x 24.5 cm (7 7/8 x 9 5/8 in.), Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Hall James Peterson, 1982.154.

Hello everyone! I’ve introduced myself in past posts, but I must now do so in a more formal method as I’ll be your official collection representative on our Twitter account @WorcesterArt! I’m Sarah Gillis, our Assistant Registrar for Image Management. I catalogue the art, assist with photographing it, and work hard to ensure that our objects and their information get to you via our online collections search.

What will I be tweeting? I’ll share neat objects that I come across while working in our collection stores, what’s going on at other Museums, and other such collection-related events/facts.

I’m thrilled to be joining our Twitter team because I can give you the behind-the-scenes access that visitors only dream of. The fact that I’m surrounded by history every day still boggles my mind, and it’s only fair to share this dream job with you all!

How will you know that I’m posting? Just look for my unique signature handle of –WAMCollections at the end of the tweet.

Visit Worcester Art Museum on Twitter
View our online collections search

- Sarah Gillis, Assistant Registrar for Image Management

Friday, May 22, 2015

Samurai! Murals Live in Lancaster Lobby

When WAM began working with Samurai! guest curator Eric Nakamura, we knew that having a visible public component was a must. Our Lancaster Street Lobby has large, white walls that have been crying out for ART. We decided to take this amazing opportunity to invite contemporary artists involved with the Samurai project to explore the topic in this well-trafficked lobby.

The three artists selected were Andrew Hem, Mari Inukai, and Audrey Kawasaki.

Andrew Hem is a Los Angeles painter who is well-versed in large-scale murals on buildings. Originally a graffiti artist, Hem moved away from this towards street art, studying at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. His final image of the Samurai figure is inspired by Raphael’s The Cowper Madonna, now on display in our galleries.

Mari Inukai is originally from Japan, and also now resides in Los Angeles. She studied at the California Institute of the Arts. She is known for her smaller scale paintings and strong use of figures in her work. Mari demonstrated her deep connection with her daughter by including her in armor on the right side of the mural.

Audrey Kawasaki is originally from Japan, studied art at Pratt in New York, and now resides in Los Angeles. Although she is traditionally known as a gallery artist who creates painstakingly detailed portrait illustrations, this was her first mural.

The most exciting part of this project took place during installation, when school groups, fans of the artists, staff, and general members of the public dropped in to watch the artists work. Going forward, we plan to make the Lancaster Lobby a more welcoming center for visitors that includes art at its core.

 The Samurai murals will stay on view until May 2016.

Learn more about Samurai!
See work-in-progress photos on Flickr

The mural to the story - Worcester Magazine
Majestic murals at Worcester Art Museum - Worcester Telegram & Gazette

- Katrina Stacy, Associate Curator of Education

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Videos of WAM Lectures Available Online

The Worcester Art Museum's Master Series lectures, held on the Third Thursday of the month on select dates throughout the year, have been a joy to share with our public. These talks have highlighted objects on loan or within our permanent collection, giving insights into some of the most celebrated artists and works of art throughout history.

I am pleased to share with you the video of our February Master Series lecture, led by Linda Wolk-Simon. Her talk, entitled "God is In the Details: Backgrounds (and Foregrounds) in Raphael's Madonnas," sheds light on The Cowper Madonna, on loan to us from the National Gallery of Art through September. This event was filmed by our new partner, the WGBH Forum Network. Forum is a public media service of WGBH that collects thousands of video and audio lectures from the world's foremost scholars, authors, artists, scientists, policymakers, and community leaders, and makes them available to the public for free. Our March and April lectures were also filmed for distribution by Forum, which is a thrilling new addition to our educational offerings, and of great benefit to our public. We will share these videos with you as soon as they are made public.

Learn more about The Cowper Madonna on WGBH Forum Network
Learn more about The Cowper Madonna on worcesterart.org

- Katrina Stacy, Associate Curator of Education

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Recent Installation: Arrangement in Pink and Gray

Arrangement in Pink and Gray (Afternoon Tea), 1894 Edmund Charles Tarbell (American, 1862–1938) Gift of Howard Freeman, in honor of Esther Freeman, 1995.73
Right: Arrangement in Pink and Gray (Afternoon Tea), 1894 Edmund Charles Tarbell (American, 1862–1938) Gift of Howard Freeman, in honor of Esther Freeman, 1995.73

The Museum recently installed an important painting by Edmund Charles Tarbell in its American decorative arts gallery. Arrangement in Pink and Gray (Afternoon Tea) was one of the artist’s most celebrated works, winning the Hallgarten Prize from the National Academy of Design in 1894, and the Temple Gold Medal from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1895.

Arrangement in Pink and Gray illustrates Tarbell’s preference for a limited palette of soft, muted colors. He greatly admired the paintings of James McNeill Whistler, who often titled his works as though they were musical compositions—calling them arrangements, nocturnes, symphonies—to draw attention to their harmonies of color and tone. (His Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket, also in this gallery, is one such example.) Tarbell quite pointedly adopted these color concerns in his Arrangement in Pink and Gray, even borrowing Whistler’s titling strategy to highlight his aesthetic influence.

Browse the Worcester Art Museum collections online

- Elizabeth Athens, Assistant Curator of American Art

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Wonder Woman in Knights!

Knights! explores the mythic dimension of the knight as a superhero, leading to our exciting inclusion of Batman in the exhibition. Batman, the Dark Knight, uses power for good, but we are still left with the dilemma that arms and armor—weapons—empower a patriarchal, often violent, culture, a fact that we have explored in the photojournalism displays within Knights!

This year we decided to present a female superhero by adding a Wonder Woman comic. We soon discovered in the recent bestseller by Jill Lepore, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, that Wonder Woman’s development was fascinating, including roots in the early 20th-century women’s movement. In the comic currently on view, Wonder Woman epitomizes the mythological struggle between Venus and Mars, the gods of love and war, and between women and men.

 Created by William Moulton Marston in 1941, Wonder Woman is the most popular woman superhero of all time, a feminist icon inspired by the women in Marston’s life. Marston collaborated with his wife Sadie Holloway in developing the lie detector test. Marston and Holloway lived in an extended relationship with Olive Byrne, collectively raising the children of both couples. Byrne was the niece of another influential woman in Marston’s world, Margaret Sanger, an early 20th-century proponent of free love and voluntary motherhood, and the founder of the modern birth control movement.

Like most superheroes, Wonder Woman has weapons, but they are mostly non-lethal, like her bracelets and her lasso (which compels truth telling, like Marston’s lie detector test!). Her Amazon bracelets bring to mind early suffragettes who shackled themselves to the railings of government buildings. In the comic currently on view in Knights!, Wonder Woman warns that “violence is a boomerang turning against you.”

Wonder Woman ties together various threads in our approach to arms and armor, encapsulating questions of gender and violence explored in the comic book and in the historic armor on display in Knights! She introduces a female point of view, opposing the militarism and violence of traditional patriarchy in ways that emphasize love and nonviolence. Additionally, Wonder Woman, like Batman, makes clear the connection to today’s pop culture, bridging centuries-old arms and armor to the contemporary imagination.

Learn more about the exhibition Knights!

- Marcia Lagerwey, Curator of Education

Monday, April 13, 2015

2015 Studio Classes Faculty Exhibition

The Higgins Education Wing will exhibit artwork created by faculty members of the Studio Class Programs department from April 8 – May 18, 2015. The 2015 Faculty Exhibition presents the work of 22 artists who currently teach at the Museum in the areas of painting, sculpture, graphic design, mixed media, printmaking, and photography. The exhibition features a wide range of visual practices, spanning many genres and media.

As working professional artists and educators who balance their own art making with teaching at WAM, the faculty exhibition allows students, the community, and the public the opportunity to experience the diversity of approaches each artist employ. WAM’s Class Programs faculty is a strong and diverse group, exploring a range of traditional and contemporary mediums and themes.

The exhibition is free and open to the public.
The Higgins Education Wing is open Sunday–Saturday, 9am–5pm.

Click here for more information about WAM faculty and classes

- Ashley Occhino, Manager of Studio Class Programs

Friday, April 3, 2015

On View: Abraham Lincoln Photograph

To mark the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War on April 9, 1865, the Museum has placed on display its only photograph of Abraham Lincoln, which shows the president posed with Union troops at Antietam.

The photographer of the plate, Alexander Gardner, was known for taking some of the most affecting images of the war. The realities of camp life and the carnage of the battlefield were among his many subjects, but he was perhaps most recognized for his portraits of Lincoln. The Museum’s plate was one of a hundred photographs included in Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War (1865–66), an illustrated, two-volume work intended as a history of the conflict and its aftermath. Curiously, Gardner made no mention in the book of the president’s assassination on April 14, 1865—less than a week after the war’s end—and instead portrayed him towering over his soldiers, still very much alive.

View the photograph on the second floor outside the Knights! gallery.

Browse the Worcester Art Museum collections online

- Elizabeth Athens, Assistant Curator of American Art

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Samurai Helmutt’s House!

Helmutt’s House is an exciting stop for the exhibition, Samurai! Families can explore samurai armor side by side with western armor, and even learn a little Japanese! On the way to Helmutt’s House, take a look at the amazing Japanese conch shell included in the Knights of the Round Table. In Helmutt’s House, check out how Helmutt looks in a samurai helmet; discover the incredible prints of the rabbit samurai, Usagi Yojimbo by contemporary artist Stan Sakai; try on armor; and read books on your own or during Art Cart Activities. Find the exciting Usagi Yojimbo comic books in Helmutt’s House and in the Museum shop!

Art Carts are scheduled on the following days and times:

1:30 - 3:00pm

11:00am - 12:30pm
12:30 - 2:00pm
2:00 - 3:30pm

11:30am - 1:00pm
1:30 - 3:00pm

Learn more about Samurai!
Learn more about Helmutt

- Marcia Lagerwey, Curator of Education

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Sleuthing in Storage – Solving a 75-year-old Mystery

Abandoned property continues to be a focus of attention behind the scenes at the Worcester Art Museum. We are actively pursuing courses of action to claim every square inch of space in storage for the museum’s collection, and research for heirs to abandoned art is part of that process. In many cases, mysteries have been solved by locating direct descendants of the owners of furniture, paintings, silver, sculptures and other decorative objects not owned by WAM. One recent success story was finding the “children” of a man from Southbridge who deposited paintings at the museum 75 years ago.

Last summer, four paintings were identified in storage as being abandoned property from the same owner. The search for the heirs to this property began with the name William P. “Curbey.” Very limited information had been entered into the museum’s database, however, typed blue index cards for each painting were found in the Registrar’s office card files. These cards were formerly used to track acquisitions and loans by object locations and by their donors or lenders-- long before a computerized database was in full operation. The cards for the four paintings listed the depositor as William P. “Curbey”—with no address or contact information. There was also a curious note that they were at the museum “for expertization.” The owner never returned to retrieve the paintings, and although some research had been done in previous decades to locate the heirs, imprecise information on the index cards may have set the stage for a 75-year old head-scratching mystery.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Not Your Average Joan

Above: Antonin Mercié (French, 1845-1916), Jeanne d'Arc, 1875-1900, The Art Institute of Chicago, George F. Harding Collection, 2014.653

One of the commonest questions I get about armor is whether women ever wore it. In general, the answer is no, but there was one very famous exception. When Joan of Arc set out with the French army to rescue the country from the English invaders, she was given a suit of armor that must have saved her life many times over—she was always in the thick of battle, and was seriously injured several times.

Many artists over the centuries have been drawn to the image of the armored Joan. This month, Antonin Mercié’s gilt bronze bust of the warrior saint joined our Knights! exhibition to remind us that even in the Middle Ages, a woman might become a hero.

Joan is on loan to us from The Art Institute of Chicago for a year. As it happens, this almost exactly how long her meteoric military career lasted before she was captured and sold to her English enemies—but not before she had turned the tide of the Hundred Years’ War.

Learn more about KNIGHTS!

- Jeffrey L. Forgeng, Curator of Arms & Armor and Medieval Art

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Real Helmutt is here!!!

Pictured above: Armor for a boar hound, 1942, in the style of the 1500s, 2014.84.2

Like most good things, it was worth the wait. Helmutt, the dog is once again wagging his tail and showing off his armor at the Worcester Art Museum. Based on an original in the Spanish Royal Armory, this armor for a hunting dog was crafted by Leonard Heinrich, armorer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Heinrich gave it to John Woodman Higgins in 1943, and for seven decades, Helmutt welcomed visitors to the Higgins Armory Museum.

Helmutt, the armor-wearing dog inspired WAM’s comic version of Helmutt and Helmutt’s House in Knights! Families can enjoy visiting the “real” Helmutt in the Lancaster Lobby, explore Helmutt’s House in Knights!, and then see how many more Helmutts they can find throughout the galleries.

Learn more about Helmutt!

- Marcia Lagerwey, Curator of Education

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Screen for the New Year

Above: Kano̅ School, Edo period (1615-1868), early to mid-17th century; Six-panel folding screen; mineral pigments, ink, and gold leaf on paper; Stoddard Acquisition Fund, 2012.97

Come celebrate the New Year at the Worcester Art Museum by taking in the beautiful 17th c. Japanese screen, entitled A Screen for the New Year: Pines and Plum Blossoms, now on view in the Japanese Gallery through May 3rd. The screen combines gold leaf with layers of delicately applied paint to create this sumptuous forest scene in subtle relief. If you look closely, you can even see individually painted pine needles!

In preparation for its display, I closely examined the surface of the screen to stabilize pinpoint areas of flaking or insecure paint. The screen is now in stable condition, and a delight to enjoy!

Read more about A Screen for the New Year: Pines and Plum Blossoms

 - Eliza Spaulding, Paper Conservator

Friday, February 6, 2015

"Bacchus" travels to Washington, DC and Florence, Italy

Above: The Discovery of Honey by Bacchus, c. 1490, Piero Di Cosimo, Italian, oil on panel, Museum purchase, 1937.76

As news spreads of Raphael’s Renaissance masterpiece, The Small Cowper Madonna, arriving at the Worcester Art Museum on loan from the National Gallery of Art, some may be interested to know that there is a related story of a Renaissance masterpiece temporarily departing from Worcester’s collection. The Discovery of Honey by Bacchus, the much loved and highly imaginative painting by Piero di Cosimo (1462-1522), will be featured in the upcoming exhibition Piero di Cosimo: The Poetry of Painting in Renaissance Florence, scheduled to run from February 1 – May 3 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The exhibition will then travel to the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence, Italy where it will be on display from June 23–September 27.

In preparation for this major exhibition that is being billed as a ‘once in a lifetime Piero di Cosimo retrospective’, I recently spent considerable time in the museum’s conservation department treating the painting to improve its appearance and ensure its safe travel. The treatment included selective removal of upper layers of synthetic varnish that had developed a hazy appearance since their application in 1971 and 1985. An underlying thin layer of natural resin varnish was left in place and a new conservation-grade varnish was applied in order to achieve the proper saturation and surface sheen. The treatment also included inpainting minor losses and past retouches that had discolored. By reducing the visual impact of the losses and discolored retouches, viewers can now appreciate more fully the illusion of depth, form, and clarity of detail achieved by the artist.

In addition to the conservation treatment, museum preparator Trevor Toney worked with the conservation department to equip the painting with a sealed climate chamber to ensure that proper preservation conditions be maintained throughout its travels. The appearance of this treasured and important painting is now much improved and the painting is certain to be a highlight while on exhibit at the NGA, the Uffizi, and again at WAM upon its return in the fall of 2015.

Learn more about The Discovery of Honey by Bacchus

- Philip Klausmeyer, Conservation Scientist and Paintings Conservator

Monday, February 2, 2015

access magazine redesign

We hope you enjoy the newly re-designed issue of access magazine. After seven issues over the course of two years, we thought it was time for a “re-fresh.”  Our aim was to create a more organized look that pushed collection and exhibition imagery to the foreground, while keeping the design contemporary and unobtrusive. We hope the design changes make access more accessible visually and informationally. 

The re-design includes:
• A table of contents 
• Improved legibility with a simpler grid structure
• More white space to make artwork from the collection really pop
• Reduced number of fonts, continuing to feature Arial (ubiquitous web font / referencing tech)
• An overall look and feel that is contemporary, yet timeless 
• A special, pull-out insert, which uses our new mascot, Helmutt, to engage kids and families in WAM exhibitions

Click here to view a digital copy of the Winter issue of access magazine

- Kim Noonan, Publication and Graphic Design Manager

Friday, January 30, 2015

Armormaking the way you never imagined it

I’m delighted to report that the Museum has just acquired a first-edition copy of Politura Armorum (Polishing Armor), plate 17 from the series Nova Reperta (Modern Discoveries), dating to the 1580s. The series celebrates inventions and other discoveries made after the fall of ancient Rome, and its contents range from windmills and gunpowder to oil painting and stirrups. The designs were created by Jan van der Straet, a Netherlander who relocated to Italy to design tapestries and wall-paintings for wealthy clients (who knew him by his Latinized name Johannes Stradanus). Stradanus kept his professional contacts in Antwerp, sending copies of his designs to colleagues who could render them as copperplate engravings for the mass market.

Today we imagine armor being made by a lone craftsman at his forge, but armormaking was actually an industrialized process by the 1500s. Polishing Armor shows water-powered grinding and polishing wheels, churning out mass-produced armor components for the ever-growing armies of the early modern age. The legend reads “Polishing Armor: Swords, axes, all the arms of war, are polished nowadays, but were not in Antiquity.” The print is one of surprisingly few realistic representations of the making of armor in the period, and therefore an excellent addition to the arms and armor of the Higgins collection.

- Jeffrey L. Forgeng, Curator of Arms & Armor and Medieval Art

Thursday, January 29, 2015

New Acquisitions – 2014

This past calendar year was quite the whirlwind for the Registrar’s office. Most notably, we packed, catalogued and transferred about 2,000 objects from the John Woodman Higgins Collection. We also were kept busy with various loans associated with the Knights! exhibition and other gallery rotations. So the day to day operations of our department had to keep going throughout the Higgins Armory collection transfer!

It should not surprise anyone that aside from receiving the arms and armor collection, we had active acquisitions in our other curatorial departments of Contemporary, Asian and PDP.

Some of these objects are now on view, such as Andy Warhol’s Red Book #136 (2014.625) located in Gallery 321. This Red Book consists of twenty (20) Polaroid photographs taken around 1972 of individuals associated in the life of Andy Warhol. All of the prints are currently on display along with the actual Red Book.

 If you would like to see what else we acquired during the year 2014, we have created a collection to view online. In this online collection, all of the objects are displayed with images. Which ones are you most excited to see on display?

Click here view New Acquisitions – 2014

- Sarah Gillis Assistant Registrar, Image Management

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Gallery Makeover

Do you know how, when you remodel one room in your house, the other rooms suddenly need remodeling too?  The same thing happens at WAM.  Right before KNIGHTS! opened last March, we ripped out the grey carpet in the Hiatt Gallery, which had been there since the wing opened in 1983, and replaced it with beautiful wood floors. It’s made a huge difference and contributes to the clean, updated look of the exhibition.
The problem was …  it made one of our other main exhibition spaces, one story below, really look like it needed a makeover.  Our gallery for changing exhibitions of prints, drawings, and photographs – where Perfectly Strange just closed – also hadn’t been updated since the 80s (the carpeted baseboards must have looked great over thirty years ago). And, to give us even more flexibility in that space, we are installing movable walls, so each show can have its own unique configuration, and putting in energy-efficient LED lighting.

The new floors – and walls -- will debut with the opening of Uncanny Japan: The Art of Yoshitoshi on Saturday, February 28th.

The exhibition will certainly be beautiful…and so will the new floors.

- Jon L. Seydl, Director of Curatorial Affairs

20th-century Galleries Rotation

The most recent rotation in the 20th-century galleries has just been installed, including work by Jasper Johns, Ed Ruscha, Roy Liechtenstein, and Tom Wesselmann, as well as two recent acquisitions, a set of Polaroids by Andy Warhol and a fantastic video by Christian Marclay. Please check it out!

 - Jon Seydl, Director of Curatorial Affairs

Monday, January 5, 2015

WAM’s First Acquisition

Left: William Morris Hunt, Helen Mary Knowlton (American, 1832-1918), 1880, oil on canvas, 102.2 x 76.8 cm (40 1/4 x 30 1/4 in.), Worcester Art Museum (MA), Gift of Helen M. Knowlton, 1896.1

How many of you are always surprised when you read a museum label and discover that a given work was, in fact, painted by a woman?  Many of us do, and this reaction is partly due to our embedded cultural beliefs of the “male artist” trumping female artists in quality of work.  I do not aim to ruffle feathers here, as the Guerilla Girls have already successfully made strong awareness to other Museums about their lack of female artists on their walls.  But the fact remains; we expect most paintings and sculptures before the Modernism period to have been created by men.

What might equally surprise you is to know that our very first accessioned work at the Worcester Art Museum (1896.1) was by a woman, Ms. Helen Mary Knowlton.  She donated to the museum a portrait of William Morris Hunt, who was her teacher for many years.

I enjoy this painting as Mr. Morris, rather later on in his life, contemplatively gazes at something to the left—what is out of view for us.  I also enjoy his beard, which greatly exceeds the lack of hair on his head!  Knowlton’s painting encapsulates Morris’ years of gained wisdom and his achieved status in life with a subtly muted paint pallet. It’s warm, inviting. One almost wants to sit and enjoy a cup of a coffee with Mr. Morris and listen to his stories.

Knowlton was a successful woman during the 19th century, actively painting and teaching, as well as being a critic of local shows for a Boston newspaper.  A native of Worcester, the acquisition of Knowlton’s work as the first into an early encyclopedic art museum evokes much profound symbolism and meaning.   This acquisition emulates the respect for local Worcester artists that the museum has always had, as well as the disregard for gender in defining what is considered “high” art.

- Sarah Gillis, Assistant Registrar, Image Management

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