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

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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