crossing borders siquieros

Tour Crossing Borders: Mexican Modernist Prints at the BMA

A new exhibition opened this fall at The Baltimore Museum of Art, highlighting our rarely shown collection of prints and drawings by renowned Mexican artists from the 1930s to the 1940s.

Crossing Borders: Mexican Modernist Prints features 30 works on paper by artists such as Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros, known as “Los Tres Grandes,” or the Three Great Ones, as well as images by Elizabeth Catlett. The works on view document the political, social, and cultural shifts that took place in the years following the Mexican Revolution.

Take a quick tour of the exhibition in this short clip with Senior Curator Rena Hoisington:

Crossing Borders: Mexican Modernist Prints is on view through March 11, 2018.

This image is owned by The Baltimore Museum of Art; permission to reproduce this work of art must be granted in writing. Third party copyright may also be involved. Image by Mitro Hood.

WATCH: Njideka Akunyili Crosby discusses new exhibition at The Baltimore Museum of Art

Artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby invited art enthusiasts inside her creative process the same day her new exhibition, Front Room: Njideka Akunyili Crosby | Counterparts, opened at The Baltimore Museum of Art.

On the heels of being named a 2017 MacArthur Award winner, Crosby sat down with BMA Senior Curator of Contemporary Art Kristen Hileman at The Maryland Institute College of Art to discuss culture, technique, and the beauty of breaking the rules.

WATCH BELOW:

Front Room: Njideka Akunyili Crosby | Counterparts is on view through March 18, 2018. 

[Photo: Mitro Hood]

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Artist Mark Bradford speaks at first Necessity of Tomorrow(s) event

How do you make a path to power where none exists? How do you assess a community’s needs and create access and opportunities for self-determination?

Artist Mark Bradford and BMA Director Christopher Bedford explored these topics and more during the first event of our new series, The Necessity of Tomorrow(s).

WATCH:

On Saturday, November 11th, guests filled the pews of Union Baptist Church to hear Bradford discuss his childhood experiences and lessons learned, his artistic practice, and commitment to community-based work. Doors opened with live performances curated by the Baltimore-based group SunSets with spoken word by Kondwani Fidel and jazz selections by Clarence Ward III & Dat Feel Good band.

The conversation, which was also streamed live at Morgan State University’s Turpin-Lamb Theater, touched on the launch of our upcoming partnership with Bradford, the Greenmount West Community Center (GWCC), and Noisy Tenants to provide skills-based training and equipment to begin a silk-screening project at the GWCC with Baltimore youth.

The Necessity of Tomorrow(s), invites nationally and internationally acclaimed artists and thinkers to Baltimore for conversations on art, race, and justice. The series borrows its title from an essay by science fiction author Samuel Delany who argues for the role of creative speculation in making a more just future. The BMA is encouraging communities throughout Baltimore to come together for these creative conversations.

What’s your tomorrow? How do we get there? Share your thoughts at bmatomorrows.org.

Photo: Mitro Hood

Art Matters: BMA hosts new radio segment on WYPR FM

If you tune in to WYPR 88.1 FM regularly, you may have spotted a new segment hosted by BMA Director Christopher Bedford.

“Art Matters,” airing the first Friday of every month at 4:44pm, connects listeners with some of the most innovative artists creating today. Each four-minute interview finds Director Christopher Bedford in conversation with an artist, exploring his or her work, vision, and influences.

The series kicked off this fall with Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald, who was selected to paint the official portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama. A conversation with artist Tomás Saraceno followed, where he discussed the inspiration behind Entangled Orbits, his new exhibition currently on view in the BMA’s East Lobby.

Listen to the latest chats HERE and tune in to 88.1 FM the first Friday of every month for more!

[Photo: Mitro Hood]

This image is owned by The Baltimore Museum of Art; permission to reproduce this work of art must be granted in writing. Third party copyright may also be involved.

Top 6 Prints, Drawings, Photographs at The Baltimore Museum of Art

BMA Curatorial Assistant Morgan Dowty took over our Instagram feed this week to showcase some of her favorite images in our renowned Prints, Drawings & Photographs Collection.

In case you missed it, here’s a roundup of her top six picks from the BMA’s collection of 65,000 works on paper:

  1. Morgan Dowty, BMA Curatorial Assistant, signing on from the Department of Prints, Drawings & Photographs to bring you some of my favorite works on paper this week. With 65,000+ works on paper in the collection, there are plenty to choose from! I’ll begin with a favorite suite of engravings by Wenceslaus Hollar, “Diversa insectorum aligerorum,” c. 1646.

[Wenceslaus Hollar (Bohemian, 1607-1677) “Diversae insectorum aligerorum,” c. 1646. Eight etchings. Each approximately: 115 × 180 mm. (4 1/2 × 7 1/16 in.) Garrett Collection. BMA 1946.112.2413-20]

2. Tantalus, Icarus, Phaeton, and Ixion are four mythological figures whose hubris caused them to fall from Mount Olympia. In this suite of the “Four Disgracers,” Hendrick Golzius, master engraver of the 16th century, captures the falling body from all angles.

[Hendrick Goltzius (Dutch, 1558-1617) after Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem (Dutch, 1562-1638). “The Four Disgracers,”1588. Four engravings. Gift of Ruth Cole Kainen, in Honor of Jay McKean Fisher, Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs, BMA 2005.47 / Gift of James and Leslie Billet, Baltimore, BMA 1983.11 / Blanche Adler Memorial Fund, BMA 2013.357 / Garrett Collection, BMA 1984.81.137]

3. This album by Charles Norman Sladen is a new one of my favorites. On each page, Sladen includes photographs from a family vacation in 1916 to Great Chebeague Island, which he expands through imaginative pen and ink drawings. Scroll right to see some detail shots!

[Charles Norman Sladen (American, 1858-1949). “Great Chebeague Island, Maine,” 1916. Album of black ink drawings and gelatin silver print collages, bound with leather and fabric cover. The William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund. BMA 2001.289]

4. In this self-portrait, Käthe Kollwitz captures her own likeness in just a few precise marks.

This image is owned by The Baltimore Museum of Art; permission to reproduce this work of art must be granted in writing. Third party copyright may also be involved.

This image is owned by The Baltimore Museum of Art; permission to reproduce this work of art must be granted in writing. Third party copyright may also be involved.

[Käthe Kollwitz (German, 1867-1945). “Self-portrait,” 1924. Woodcut. Blanche Adler Memorial Fund, BMA 1956.176]

5. Printmakers often pull working proofs, or test prints, as they develop an image to track their progress. Swipe to compare these two states of Felix Bracquemond’s portrait of the French literary critic Edmond de Goncourt.

[Félix Bracquemond (French, 1833-1914). “Edmond de Goncourt,” 1879-1882. Etching. Purchased as the gift of Mrs. Fenwick Keyser, Reisterstown, Maryland, BMA 1997.19 / Purchased as the gift of the Print & Drawing Society, BMA 1983.76]

6. It’s been a treat to share a few of my favorites this week! If you’re interested in exploring more works on paper, consider making an appointment to visit the Samuel H. Kress Foundation Study Room of Prints, Drawings & Photographs by emailing PDP@artbma.org.

[Arthur Wesley Dow (American, 1857-1922) “Group of Buildings, Dow’s Compound, Ipswich,” /”Garden, Dow’s Home, Ipswich,” / “City Island, New York,” c. 1885-1897. Three cyanotypes. Gift of Susan Ehrens, Oakland, California, in Honor of Jay McKean Fisher, BMA 2015.343-345]

Which image is your favorite? Follow us on Instagram at @BaltimoreMuseumOfArt.

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BMA Outpost finds Home in Remington, Upton neighborhoods

The BMA Outpost is the mobile museum of the Baltimore Museum of Art, a flexible and nomadic art making space that works with different communities across Baltimore City for three months at a time.

Every day the Outpost sets up, it builds a Museum around the idea of “Home” and encourages residents to contribute drawings, paintings, ideas, and conversations. It becomes a space where the unrecorded conversations and dialogue are just as important as the ideas documented and contributed through art.

This fall, the BMA Outpost has been in residence in the city’s Remington and Upton neighborhoods, working with Church of the Guardian Angel, R. House, and the Union Baptist Church as host sites.

The BMA Outpost at the Church of the Guardian Angel in Baltimore's Remington neighborhood.

BMA Outpost at the Church of the Guardian Angel in Baltimore’s Remington neighborhood.

Talking about the idea of home quickly becomes complex and loaded for everyone. Home is a relationship that can bring up feelings of happiness, confusion, anger, frustration, love, and everything else that could fall on the spectrum of human emotion.

Individuals can have many different associations with the idea, thinking about their nuclear family and place of residence, as well as a more expanded view of how they relate to their community. While our communities are constantly in flux and changing—sometimes for the better sometimes for the worse—art-making and dialogue can help us envision ideal futures and different realities.

Art can be a catalyst for us to ask, “What would a better future look like?” while also recognizing and honoring past histories.

In Remington, the Outpost has been working with Church of the Guardian Angel every Saturday from 10am to 2pm, in conjunction with the Church’s Thrift Store hours, as well as at R. House for “Remington Night” every Thursday from 3pm to 7pm.

Remington as a neighborhood has vastly changed in the last decade, with a major influx of development from companies like Seawall Development. As change happens rapidly, how does a community work together to envision a brighter future that includes everyone? The Outpost poses this question to Remington residents to encourage dialogue across the boundaries of age, gender, class, and others, to not only think about what that brighter future sounds and looks like, but to also develop real actions to move towards those goals. The Outpost strives to create a space for both agreement and dissent, as art-making can be a powerful tool to bring people together and find commonalities.

The BMA Outpost at Union Baptist Church in Baltimore's Upton neighborhood.

BMA Outpost at Union Baptist Church in Baltimore’s Upton neighborhood.

In Upton, the Union Baptist Church and the BMA Outpost have created a pop-up museum called “Art and Spirit,” which nods to the longstanding histories of the Upton neighborhood, the Church’s home since 1905.

The Upton neighborhood has deep ties and major contributions to African American liberation and autonomy, Civil Rights era activism, community building, and boasts many past residents and architectural structures of historical significance. Dr. Harvey Johnson’s pastoral and civic achievements, and the childhood home of Thurgood Marshall, the first African American individual to serve on the Supreme Court, are just pieces of Upton’s history.

Art and Spirit is inspired by past Soul Schools of the neighborhood, which were unofficial places of thought, organizing, and support in the Upton community. They were places where young people learned from their elders with a deep sense of community as the social fabric. Art and Spirit is a reflection of the creative community of the past, present, and future of Upton. Art and Spirit is open every Tuesday and Wednesday from 1pm to 5pm and Thursdays from 8am to 12pm.

BMA Outpost visitors with City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke in Remington.

BMA Outpost visitors with City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke in Remington.

The BMA Outpost’s collaborations with the Remington and Upton communities will culminate in an exhibition at R. House highlighting the work created. The exhibition will be on view and open to the public in December 2017.

Beginning in January 2018, the Outpost will begin new collaborations with the Cherry Hill Town Center in south Baltimore, and the Loch Raven VA Clinic in northeast Baltimore through March 2018.

Find the BMA Outpost online HERE.

(Author: Dave Eassa, Manager of Community Engagement at the BMA)

Melting Art

FORTY YEARS AGO, on August 6, 1977, The Baltimore Museum of Art gained national attention when artist and poet John Kinsley erected a 15-ton, 64-ft.-long ice sculpture of the word MELT on the front steps.

John Kinsley's Revenge on the Winter of '77, The Baltimore Museum of Art, August 6, 1977

Artist John Kinsley in front of “The Revenge on the Winter of ’77” on the front steps of the BMA, August 6, 1977.

Kinsley’s three-dimensional, one word poem, “MELT,” was titled The Revenge on the Winter of ’77. Much like the rest of Baltimore, Kinsley was thrilled to be finished with the terribly bitter cold of the past winter. As an artist, he longed to express his feelings through his art. He chose to combine his love of poetry with his interest in sculpture, allowing the words of the poem to “do what they say.”[i] It was the time of participatory art: art that demands to be touched, felt, read, and most importantly, enjoyed.[ii] After convincing the BMA to allow him to install his work, Kinsley spent $3,000 to bring his poem to life that summer.

Media interviewing artist John Kinsley.

Media interviewing artist John Kingsley.

Word got out about Kinsley’s ambitious project and news crews, journalists, and radio hosts from all over the country came to witness the brief poem. People magazine hired a cherrypicker crane to get a full-view shot of the sculpture.

BMA Senior Registrar Melanie Harwood remembers all the commotion leading up to and during the installation. “[Kinsley] couldn’t get the ice he needed right before the big day.” August 6 was the third choice of date for the artist. A massive flood and heat wave depleted the city’s ice supply, forcing Kinsley not only to reschedule the event, but also to look to Wilmington for an ice supplier.[iii] Kinsley laughed at the irony of the weather dictating the premier of his art, when it was the unruly winter weather that had been the inspiration. He had hoped the sculpture would last four days, but the high temperatures of the day quickly melted the ice. Harwood also recalled the dilemma with the excess of melted water: beneath the front steps was where the BMA used to house the museum’s offices, and this excess water was leaking right onto them.

Artist John Kinsley directing the ice crew with Melanie Harwood observing in the background.

Artist John Kinsley directing the ice crew with Melanie Harwood observing in the background.

This new type of art was unfamiliar to many Baltimore residents, and thus the work was regarded with skepticism. Some viewers found the actual melting of the ice less stimulating. A few viewers even wanted to drink the melted ice, rather than watch it “wastefully” melt away.[iv] Another remarked that this art seemed “alive” rather than “hung up and dead,” referring to the art typically exhibited inside the museum.[v]

Visitors viewing the recently completed MELT sculpture.

Visitors viewing Kinsley’s recently completed MELT sculpture.

By  the end of the day, the sculpture was set and the ice had begun to disperse, along with the crowd. The spectacle was over, the initial excitement gone, and so Kinsley’s work was left to melt away on its own.  Kinsley lost count of all the interviews he had given in the past few weeks, and expressed his feelings of relief after the art’s completion. Today all that survives of this art of the photographs taken, and the memories held on to by its spectators.

–Amanda Witherspoon

 

[i] Jones, C. (1989). Back Tracks: A One Word Poem in Ice. The Baltimore Sun.

[ii] Jones, C. (1989). Back Tracks: A One Word Poem in Ice. The Baltimore Sun.

[iii] Jones, C. (1989). Back Tracks: A One Word Poem in Ice. The Baltimore Sun.

[iv] Schidlovsky, J. (1977). Poem in ice that says “Melt” does just that outside Baltimore Museum. The Baltimore Sun.

[v] Schidlovsky, J. (1977). Poem in ice that says “Melt” does just that outside Baltimore Museum. The Baltimore Sun.

 

Team Work: Poets and Artists of the 1960s

This image is owned by The Baltimore Museum of Art; permission to reproduce this work of art must be granted in writing. Third party copyright may also be involved.
In the spring of 2016, Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings & Photographs Rena Hoisington taught the course “Paper Museums: Exhibiting Artists’ Books” to 11 students in Johns Hopkins University’s Program in Museums and Society. The students’ work resulted in Off the Shelf: Modern & Contemporary Artists’ Books, closing June 25. In addition to determining the exhibition’s checklist and organization, Rena’s students wrote descriptions of the artworks featured for wall labels as well as blog posts that explore individual artworks featured in Off the Shelf. This post in the blog series is by Taylor Alessio on Salute, Odes, Permanently, and The Poems.

A set of four books entitled Salute, Odes, Permanently, and The Poems printed by the Tiber Press in 1960 offers a look into the artistic and intellectual culture of New York City. Publisher Floriano Vecchi and businessman Robert Miller ran the Tiber Press, which worked almost exclusively with artists of the second generation of Abstract Expressionism, a movement defined by its spontaneity, materiality, and dedication to non-figurative art. The Tiber Press spared no expense in the making of this series, allowing the artists to create distinctive textures in their screen prints. The variety in textures was made possible by new technology in screenprinting that allowed for the layering of textures through the combination of gloss and matte inks. The poems shine equally as they were immaculately hand-pressed text on stunning hand made papers.

1991.50a-e_title

Odes is a collaboration between poet Frank O’Hara and artist Michael Goldberg, both of whom drew inspiration from the New York City arts scene.  (O’Hara would eventually become a curator at the Museum of Modern Art and Goldberg a Professor at the School of Visual Arts.) O’Hara dedicated each of the poems in this book as an ‘ode’ to something or some one, including a poem written for his collaborator. His informal, diary-like style draws the reader into his world without the heavy burden of uncovering the ‘deeper’ meaning of his poetry. The prints Goldberg created for this book are reminiscent of the graffitied walls of the New York City subway. One of the odes was a collaboration between artist and author, and the short poem appears within Goldberg’s screen print. The poem reads, “Well. / it is better / that / SOMEONE / love them / and we / so seldom look on love / that it seems heinous.” The poem is integrated into the print. Layers of color that appear to be brushed on the page in spontaneous motions are layered together with the text which are not printed in letterpress but are in the artist’s hand, and are a part of the print.

This image is owned by The Baltimore Museum of Art; permission to reproduce this work of art must be granted in writing. Third party copyright may also be involved.Another interesting and influential pair brought together by the series are the Pulitzer prize winning poet and art critic James Schuyler and the acclaimed artist Grace Hartigan.  (In 1960, the same year Tiber Press published this volume, Hartigan moved to Baltimore and soon began teaching at the Maryland Institute College of Art where she eventually became the Director of the Hoffberger Graduate School of Painting.) Their book, Salute, takes on the themes of the city and nature. Schuyler’s poem, “A HEAD,” contemplates angels, life, and death, he also considers the small annoyances in life, “fulfilled plans that no longer suit the hour / appetites that sicken and are not slacked / (such as for milkshakes), / lost or stolen handkerchiefs / invisible contagion / (like the common cold).” The image accompanying the poem, later entitled Salute: This So-Called Angel yellow and black color scheme is reminiscent of city streets. While the poet and artist do not directly confront the city in this opening, they take up some of the relatable bits of everyday life and express them through poetry and art.

These two examples demonstrate the web of artists and poets involved in creating this set of books. All of them, drawn together by Vecchi, may have already been influencing and critiquing each other before they were brought together for this collaboration. The freedom given to both the artists and poets by Vecchi allowed for the creation of four books that push the medium of screen-printing to create incredible new textures and allow poetry and art to interact across the page.

Images:  Michael Goldberg. Odes. 1960. Illustrated book with images on the cover, title page and 3 pages by the artist. Text by Frank O’Hara. Bound volume with five color screenprints (including image on the cover and title page) and text. Book: 453 × 363 mm. (17 13/16 × 14 5/16 in.). The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Floriano Vecchi, New York, in Memory of William Richard Miller, BMA 1991.50. Copyright Michael Goldberg Estate; Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY
Grace Hartigan. Salute. 1960. Bound volume with five color screenprints (including image on the cover and title page) and text. Bookcover: 453 x 363 mm.; slipcover: 463 x 370 mm.. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Floriano Vecchi, New York, in Memory of William Richard Miller, BMA 1991.51. ©Estate of Grace Hartigan

Die Scheuche: Avant-Garde for Children

Kurt Schwitters, Käte Steinitz, and Theo van Doesburg. The Scarecrow. 1925. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchased with funds contributed to Celebrate the 90th Birthday of Beatrice Levi; Nelson and Juanita Greif Gutman Fund; and Art Acquisition Fund, BMA 2009.114 © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

In the spring of 2016, Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings & Photographs Rena Hoisington taught the course “Paper Museums: Exhibiting Artists’ Books” to 11 students in Johns Hopkins University’s Program in Museums and Society. The students’ work resulted in Off the Shelf: Modern & Contemporary Artists’ Books, closing June 25. In addition to determining the exhibition’s checklist and organization, Rena’s students wrote descriptions of the artworks featured for wall labels as well as blog posts that explore individual artworks featured in Off the Shelf. This post in the blog series is by Grace Golden on Die Scheuche:

I’ve been assigned to read dozens of books throughout my college career, but before this course I have never been assigned a children’s book.

Die Scheuche, or The Scarecrow, is not a normal children’s book. A collaboration between the German artists Kurt Schwitters and Kate Steinitz as well as the Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg, Die Scheuche presents avant-garde concepts to children and adults through a series of typographic illustrations. Kurt Schwitters is often linked to the modernist movement of Dada, which rejected reason and embraced chaos. Theo van Doesburg was a member of the De Stijl movement, which limited expression to abstract, geometric forms and primary colors. Die Scheuche clearly presents the influences of these movements.

The farmer (represented by an uppercase B) threatens and kicks the scarecrow (represented by an uppercase X).

The farmer (represented by an uppercase B) threatens and kicks the scarecrow (represented by an uppercase X).

The story focuses on a scarecrow that owns a top hat, cane, and silk scarf. He feuds with a farmer, a rooster, and chickens, who hack at the scarecrow until he loses his belongings to the ghosts of their former owners. The story is radical and undoubtedly silly, but it successfully packages modernist concepts and design into an entertaining children’s book.

Each spread of Die Scheuche is made up of a red and blue page, each displaying sans serif illustrations and text. The narrative text is integrated into typographic illustrations, with the layouts growing increasingly complicated with each turn of the page. An uppercase letter represents each character, transforming the alphabet into a set of anthropomorphic figures who interact with the dialogue and narrative text directly.

The Dada and De Stijl movements both focused on destroying the future in order to usher in the future, the main theme of Die Scheuche. The scarecrow is literally a straw man, representing the past. His fanciful clothing links him to the bourgeois culture that Dada aims to destroy. The farmer, the rooster, and the chickens hack away at his accouterments until they reveal that he has no substance. Although less direct than most children’s books, the complexity of Die Scheuche reflects the movements from which it is derived. The overlap of De Stijl and Dada concepts is paired with the overlap of visual narrative and illustration, creating a fully integrated and experimental children’s fable.

Bibliography: Atzmon, Leslie. 1996. The Scarecrow Fairytale: A Collaboration of Theo Van Doesburg and Kurt Schwitters. Design Issues 12 (3). The MIT Press: 14–34. doi:10.2307/1511700.

Schwitters, Kurt, Annja Müller-Alsbach, and Heinz Stahlhut. Kurt Schwitters: Merz—A Total Vision of the World. Wabern/Bern: Benteli, 2004.

Image credit: Kurt Schwitters, Käte Steinitz, and Theo van Doesburg. The Scarecrow. 1925. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchased with funds contributed to Celebrate the 90th Birthday of Beatrice Levi; Nelson and Juanita Greif Gutman Fund; and Art Acquisition Fund, BMA 2009.114 © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

Fairy Tale Etchings by David Hockney

"THE OLDER RAPUNZEL" FROM ILLUSTRATIONS FOR SIX FAIRY TALES FROM THE BROTHERS GRIMM 1969 ETCHING IN BLACK 9 1/2 X 10" © DAVID HOCKNEY PHOTO CREDIT: RICHARD SCHMIDT

David Hockney. “The Older Rapunzel” from “Illustrations for Six Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm,” 1969. Etching Edition of 100 Portfolio and 100 Book-C. 17 3/4 x 16 1/4″ © David Hockney

In the spring of 2016, Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings & Photographs Rena Hoisington taught the course “Paper Museums: Exhibiting Artists’ Books” to 11 students in Johns Hopkins University’s Program in Museums and Society. The students’ work resulted in Off the Shelf: Modern & Contemporary Artists’ Books, now open.

The exhibition presents more than 130 artists’ books—artworks conceived of and produced in book form—and prints by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Kiki Smith, David Hockney, and Ed Ruscha. Stephen King, Frank O’Hara, and Robert Creeley are among the 30+ authors represented. More than half of the artists’ books and related prints in the exhibition have never before been on view at the BMA.

In addition to determining the exhibition’s checklist and organization, Rena’s students wrote descriptions of the artworks featured for wall labels as well as blog posts that explore individual artworks featured in Off the Shelf. The first in the blog series is by Julia Raphael on David Hockney’s etchings:

In 1970, Petersburg Press published Six Fairy Tales, a collection of stories by the Brothers Grimm with etchings by David Hockney. The six stories that Hockney chose to include are: The Little Sea Hare, Fundevogel, Rapunzel, The Boy Who Left Home to Learn Fear, Old Rinkrank, and Rumpelstilzchen.  Upon first viewing Six Fairy Tales, I was immediately struck by what a distinctly different and innovative approach Hockney took to illustrating the tales contained in this book. I, and I might venture to say most readers, have become accustomed to encountering publications of fairy tales that are elaborately illustrated in bright colors with fantastic ornamentation. We’ve developed this conception from many of the other illustrated versions that exist of these same stories and even from the popular Disney films based on tales by the Brothers Grimm.

It is well known that Hockney has a great affinity for the Brothers Grimm’s work, having read more than 200 of their folktales. Regarding their tales Hockney said that, “They’re fascinating little stories, told in a very, very simple, direct and straightforward language and style; it was their simplicity that attracted me. They cover quite a strange range of experience from the magical to the moral.”[1]  His etchings reflect much of what Hockney himself said he admires most about the stories.

Each story is accompanied by a number of illustrations – as few as four and as many as 11. Interestingly, when illustrating the stories, Hockney did not always choose to illustrate the passages that were the most dramatic or significant for the advancement of the plot. Instead, he chose those parts of the text that most inspired his imagination or presented artistic challenges. For example, Hockney chose to illustrate the glass mountain from Old Rinkrank because it was not immediately clear how one would go about drawing such a mountain and he wanted to explore that graphic dilemma.  He chose to include “The Boy Who Left Home to Learn Fear” because it is such a strange, imaginative story that presented a breadth of artistic opportunities. [2]

Additionally, Hockney chose to portray a much less idealized version of the stories in which even the princesses are not strikingly beautiful, as is shown above in his etching “The Older Rapunzel.”  This unusual presentation challenges the viewer to think about the tales in a different light and emphasizes some of the darker themes present in the stories.

Hockney’s etchings—simple in composition, yet incredible detailed—offer the reader a different way of engaging with these popular fairy tales, effectively leaving their creative interpretation up to the reader.

[1] Robert Flynn Johnson, “David Hockney and the Brothers Grimm,” David Hockney: Six Fairy Tales, Landau Traveling Exhibitions, 2010.

[2] “David Hockney: Illustrations for Six Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm,” Christies, http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/prints-multiples/david-hockney-illustrations-for-six-fairy-tales-5532594-details.aspx.