When Are Copies Useful?

by Alexis Goodin, co-curator of Copycat

We’ve posed four open-ended questions about the nature and usefulness of copies on a wall graphic in the Copycat: Reproducing Works of Art exhibition:

There surely are many answers to the question “When are copies useful?”—and I hope you’ll respond to this post with your own thoughts on this question—but today I’ll focus on prints and a photograph that copy works that no longer exist, are untraced, or changed by time.  The copies in question are not only fascinating original works of art, but they provide us with important information regarding the appearance of the works that inspired them.

An 1816 fire at Belvoir Castle destroyed the painting Penance from Nicolas Poussin’s first set of canvases depicting the seven sacraments. The fire reduced the ancient wing of the ancestral home of the Dukes of Rutland to ruins.  The modern building was spared, as were many works of art in the famed collection.  The London Times remarked, “Some of the most valuable pictures of the inimitable collection were fortunately preserved; and, above all, no lives were lost.” The etching Penance by Poussin’s brother-in-law, Jean Dughet, preserves the composition of the destroyed painting, albeit in reverse.

John Skippe, a collector of Old Master drawings, made a chiaroscuro woodcut after a drawing in his collection, which he attributed to Parmigianino. The red chalk drawing, reattributed to an “Imitator of Parmigianino” at the 1958 London sale of Skippe’s collection, hasn’t been located.  The work may be in a public collection as a work attributed to another artist; perhaps it is in a private collection, waiting for the experts of Antiques Road Show to identify it!

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York owns François Boucher’s canvas The Dispatch of the Messenger, but the painting’s pendant, The Arrival of the Messenger, has been untraced since the pair was offered for sale in February 1856. Jacques Firmin Beauvarlet not only copied Boucher’s compositions as drawings, but made prints of them as well.  While Beauvarlet reversed the compositions of the paintings in his prints—preventing us from reading the narrative as intended from left to right—the print The Arrival of the Messenger is nevertheless a valuable document of Boucher’s oeuvre. In fact, Alexandre Ananoff’s catalogue raisonné of Boucher’s paintings uses the print The Arrival of the Messenger to illustrate the lost painting.

Although not destroyed, the nineteenth-century chimeras and gargoyles made for the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris—part of Viollet-le-Duc’s restoration efforts of the medieval structure—have eroded over nearly two centuries.  The anonymous French photograph of the chimeras on the roof records the pristine appearance of these sculptures, giving us a sense of the powerful destructive force of weather and pollution.

Copies help preserve works of art that are no longer accessible to us, or are changed by time. I hope you’ll have a chance to explore the works of art featured in Copycat, now on view at the Clark through April 1.


Image Credits:

Jean Dughet (French, 1619–1679), after Nicolas Poussin (French, active in Italy, 1594–1665), From the First Suite of The Seven Sacraments, c. 1650. Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Ordination, Matrimony. Etchings on paper. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 2011

John Skippe (English, 1742–1811), after Parmigianino (Italian, 1503–1540), The Entombment, 1783. Overall: 1 3/16 x 10 5/16 in. (3 x 26.2 cm); image: 8 1/4 x 10 5/16 in. (21 x 26.2 cm); sheet: 13 7/16 x 16 7/16 in. (34.2 x 41.7 cm). Color woodcut on paper. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1980.21

Jacques Firmin Beauvarlet (French, 1731–1797), after François Boucher (French, 1703–1770), The Arrival of the Messenger and The Dispatch of the Messenger, after 1769. Etchings and engravings on paper. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1955.2236 and 1955.2237

Artist unknown (French), Chimeras, South Tower, Notre Dame, Paris, c. 1855. Albumen print on paper, mounted on canvas. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts. Gift of Paul Katz, 1995.6.2

By Monica Henry, Education Coordinator

My absolute favorite Clark family program is Start with Art, which serves preschool-aged children and their parents. Younger and older siblings are welcome to join in too, so nobody is left out. We designed Start with Art to introduce young families to museums in a way that, as one parent said, “made me feel comfortable and helped me to understand how to explain art to a child.” Start with Art is all about showing families that visiting a museum can be a fun activity for a family outing.

At each session we offer painting talks to engage children in looking carefully at art, and written gallery discussion guides to spark conversation about the art between parents and their children. We also offer art projects around a theme drawn from the works in our collection. Each session is organized around a different theme that appeals to children. Our January Start with Art event was on “Food and Art.”

Our first priority of the day is to make families feel comfortable and welcomed. We want them to know that we’re excited they’ve come! On the day of the event, Ronna Tulgan Ostheimer (Head of Education Programs), docent Carol Kiendl, our family program volunteer extraordinaire Linda Dragat, and I were all on hand to host.

The first activity on the program was to head to the galleries for a painting talk, which we repeated a little later that morning so that late-comers would have a chance to catch the talk (we know it can sometimes be hard for young families to get out the door on time!). I gave this particular painting talk about The Women of Amphissa, by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, which I selected because it is set in an ancient Greek marketplace. Carol Kiendl engaged the children in discussing The Wheatfield by John Constable.I really enjoy giving gallery talks at this program. I guide the group in exploring different sections of the art work, but approach it with a lot of flexibility. Preschool-aged children are excited to tell you about how the image relates to their everyday life. I like to highlight how fun it is to look at details they’ve never noticed before, giving the kids the chance to make discoveries and share their experience with the other children and parents as they talk about what they see.

Talking about art with kids might seem straightforward enough, but engaging children with seemingly complex artworks in a gallery setting can be a tall order for a lot of parents. We want to turn it into a laid-back conversation with their kids, along the lines of: What do you notice? What’s going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that? Do you like the picture? Discussing art in general doesn’t have to be hard or complicated, and what we’re trying to do is make it an enjoyable experience.

We share these techniques with parents both by modeling them during the gallery talks and in our written gallery discussion guides. As one parent said, “Start with Art gave me ideas and language for framing a conversation with my child.”

We gave the families some time to do a little exploring in the gallery, and then opened the art room so they could try their hands at “food and art” themed projects. Our masterpiece cookie project was far and away the favorite (who doesn’t love a painting you can eat?). The Clark’s caterer, Steve Wilkinson, made large, rectangular sugar cookies for the kids and supplied icing in four colors—it was the perfect “canvas” for edible pictures.

In another art-making project, kids snipped pictures from magazines and collaged their own stir-frys. We also offered the kids metallic markers and self-stick “gemstones” and let them go to town decorating wooden eggs with fancy stands.

When we design art projects for each Start with Art session (and our Family Days) we try to provide a variety of tactile experiences and motor tasks. If two of the three projects involve the same task, we’ll scrap one and choose another that provides opportunity for the kids to move their hands in another way and problem-solve from another angle.  It’s best to have a variety of materials to look at on the table, and the tactile experience of reaching into the bowls and touching the materials is also important. Are these materials interesting to touch? Do they catch the eye? We also try to bring in things kids haven’t played with before. Are these materials the kids would usually have at home or at school? If the answer is yes, we usually look for another option. The bottom line is that the process of making the projects is more important than the finished product.

Start with Art facilitates meaningful interaction between parents, grandparents, and children through gallery conversations and creative collaboration in the art room. Preschoolers are a curious, enthusiastic bunch, and we love to encourage their ideas, questions, and creativity!

We hope you’ll join us this Saturday, February 11 from 10 am to 12 pm for our next Start with Art program, this time on the theme “Animals.”

Can’t make it this weekend? We’ll also host a “Flowers and Plants”-themed program on Saturday, March 10!

Image credits:

Linnea Keiser-Clark, Finnegan Noyes and Liam Noyes working away

Henry Bradway (child) and Kim and Rich Bradway and Natasha Nugent (child)

Lawrence Alma-Tadema (British, 1836–1912), The Women of Amphissa, 1887. Oil on canvas,
121.9  x 182.9 cm. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts (1978.12)

Erin and Linnea Keiser-Clark

Zamir Ashraf eating his “paint”

Finnegan and Liam Noyes showing off their art-making skills

Loghan Strzepa working on her stir-fry collage at a table adapted for preschool height

By Michael Cassin, Director, Center for Education in the Visual Arts

By the time John Singer Sargent visited Venice for the first time in 1880, the Most Serene Republic had been in decline for two centuries. This decline didn’t make any difference to the tourists, who still meandered around the city “elegantly killing time,” sipping espressos at Florian’s cafe. It didn’t deter the artists either; Turner, Whistler, Monet and many others were entranced by the light that shimmered on the city’s waterways and metaphorically dissolved the solidity of its buildings.

But, like an insider keen to show off his local knowledge, Sargent turns his back on “tourist Venice” and leads us off the beaten track, to a little place we’d never find on our own. It might look a bit seedy, with its dark doorways and its walls shedding stucco; we might hesitate to venture down such a narrow alley after nightfall, but Sargent’s confidence is contagious. His painting is a “snapshot” of life in backstreet Venice caught with amazing deftness and painterly self-assurance.

Turning abruptly into the passage we come upon a man and a woman engaged in some private interchange. The man’s attention is fixed on the woman (that salmon pink skirt is pretty distracting!).

The woman has noticed us, though whether she’s pleased to see us or not is hard to say.  As she steps into the wine store she looks at us with…surprise? annoyance? flirtation? Sargent leaves us wondering. And how should we respond?

Personally, I think I’d take a stab at a gracious apology, a “Scusi signora” and head back to Florian’s for another shot of espresso. Or maybe grappa. How about you?

This painting, and three other masterworks by Sargent will be traveling to the Amon Carter Museum of Art in Fort Worth, Texas, this spring! Sargent’s Youthful Genius: Paintings from the Clark will be on view at the Amon Carter from March 11 to June 17, 2012, as part of a joint program with the Kimbell Art Museum, which will concurrently host the exhibition The Age of Impressionism: Great French Paintings from the Clark, part of the Clark’s international tour of masterpieces.

Image credits:

Carlo Naya (1816–1882), “Venezia. Riva degli Schiavoni” (con l’Hotel Danieli). Numero di catalogo: 88a. {{PD-1923}}

John Singer Sargent, (American, 1856–1925), A Street in Venice, c. 1880–1882. Oil on canvas, 75.10 x 52.40 cm. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (1955.575)

Game Face

Everyone’s got their game face on for Sunday’s Superbowl, even the paintings and sculpture at the Clark. It seems the Clark’s art favors their hometown team the New England Patriots over the New York Giants.

Hope you enjoy this album that includes our favorite “patriot” and sneak peek of Clark Remix, which opens 2/12.

By Alexis Goodin
Exhibition Co-Curator
and Curatorial Research Assistant at the Clark

Just a couple more labels to mount on the walls, a few lights to tweak, and then Copycat: Reproducing Works of Art will be ready to open to the public. It’s gratifying to see the exhibition become a reality.

Just last fall, James Pilgrim, co-curator of the exhibition, and I were looking at prints in the Manton Study Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, selecting works for this show. We were amazed to discover that the Clark’s collection included more than a thousand works that could be classified as reproductive prints (prints made after other works of art), whether drawings, paintings, or other prints. We saw wonderful works in our first months of research on this exhibition, and had a difficult time narrowing our selection down to just forty-three.

In choosing prints for Copycat, we looked for strong impressions of works in excellent condition. We gave preference to prints that had never been exhibited at the Clark (and, on that note, had to say “no” to a few prints that had been recently shown, as works on paper are sensitive to light and, by a rule, should only once every five years).

James and I looked for works with diverse subjects, made by artists representing a variety of eras and geographies, from sixteenth-century Germany to eighteenth-century Britain, to nineteenth-century France. We also wanted to exhibit prints that utilized a variety of techniques—engraving, etching, lithography, mezzotint, chiaroscuro woodcut, to name just a few—in order to convey the range of options that artists had to choose from when creating prints that copy other art.

I hope you enjoy the works on view as much as I enjoyed selecting them! Here’s a sneak peek at what you’ll see in the galleries:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Image credits:

Eugène Delacroix (French, 1798–1863), Lion Devouring a Horse, 1844. Lithograph on chine collé on paper. © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1993.38.1

Francesco Bartolozzi (Italian, 1727–1815), after Guercino, Italian, 1591–1666, The Libyan Sibyl, c. 1780. Etching and color etchings on paper. © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts. Acquired with funds donated by participants in the Friends of the Clark Print Seminar, 1984.75b

Johann Gottlieb Prestel (German, 1739–1808), after Jacopo Ligozzi (Italian, 1547–1627), Allegorical Composition: Virtue Overcoming Sin, 1780. Color etching and aquatint, with gold woodcut additions, on paper. © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts. Acquired by the Clark, 1987, 1987.55

Attributed to Félix Bracquemond (French, 1833–1914), after William–Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825–1905), Nymphs and Satyr, c. 1873. Etching on paper. © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1999.6

Charles Courtry (French, 1846–1897), after Théodore Géricault (French, 1791–1824), Trumpeter of the Hussars, c. 1870. Etching and drypoint on paper. © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1955.2423

John Baptist Jackson (English, c. 1701–1780), after Paolo Veronese (Italian, 1528–1588), The Marriage at Cana, 1740. Color woodcut on paper. © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 2002.1

Édouard Baldus (French, 1813–1889), Statue of Pericles with Standing Figure in the Tuileries, c. 1856. Salt print from a wet-collodion-on-glass negative on paper. Collection of the Troob Family Foundation, TR2003.35.5

David Lucas (English, 1802–1881), after John Constable (English, 1776–1837), Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, 1831–32. Mezzotint on paper. © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts. Gift of the Manton Foundation in memory of Sir Edwin and Lady Manton, 2007.20.6.1

By local artist and musician Karl Mullen

Curious children, aspiring artists, outdoor adventurers, and people of all ages interested in magical thinking and being inspired, that’s who.

For the past three Saturdays, I’ve led Discover, Collect, Create, a four-week series of art walks on the Clark campus exploring the winter landscape and the creative process. Ronna Tulgan Ostheimer, head of education programs at the Clark, Willinet executive director Debby Dane, and I collaborated on this program, which invites children and parents on open-ended nature walks that heighten their senses and inspire art making. And the Clark’s grounds manager Matt Noyes taught us about the trees, paths and geology of Stone Hill.

Each of the Saturday sessions is different and the participants vary, the common theme being Paul Klee’s famous observation that “drawing is a line that goes for a walk.”   After discussing the concepts of line, pattern, shape and texture, we go exploring.  Next thing you know, everything in sight spurs ideas for drawing: footprints on the path, animal tracks, tree branches, cloud formations, the horizon line atop Stone Hill, geometric shapes of museum buildings down below.

I encourage participants use video and their imaginations to “draw with a camera.”  Thanks to an investment by Willinet in Flip cameras that will be used in this and other community projects, children zoom up the trunks trees, crouch down to capture pockets of stones hidden beneath the snow, and run with the camera to create a kind of kaleidoscope montage. One intrepid artist climbed up the trees (with mom’s supervision) to get a better vantage point for her footage.  It’s about nature from the kids’ point of view.

The first Saturday of the project was 40 degrees and snowless, so participants hiked the Howard Path up Stone Hill and collected sticks, branches, leaves, and stones. They danced to a tin whistle and mimicked the rustling of golden leaves that hang onto the branches of beach trees, despite winter’s bluster.  They also played piano on the trees.

The art project that week was making temporary kinetic sculptures out of birch bark installed on a majestic ash tree that crowns Stone Hill.

Week two was chillier, and, in the spirit of Paul Klee, the group took turns taking a ball of string for a walk to make wonderful line drawings in the fresh snow.

To heighten their audio awareness, they took turns playing musical instruments and listening—really listening—to their echoes off the museum building and the deadened sounds of the music throughout the snowy trails.  They talked about the notion of music being a note going for a walk.

Week three saw a blizzard!  Undaunted, the artists made glorious drawings with sticks and strings and left trails of circles and primary shapes that the falling snow quickly erased as nature reclaimed the temporary markings. More art-making continued inside in the warm penthouse of the Manton Research Center where participants made drawings inspired by their experience outside.

This Saturday is the fourth and final session of Discover, Collect, Create. And it looks like the weather is cooperating—as of this writing the forecast is sunny and in the 40s!  Bundle up and meet us at 1:00 pm in the Clark’s courtyard lobby for a memorable artistic adventure.

Photographs by program participant Michael Stern and Karl Mullen.

The Clark Photograph and Clippings Archive contains nearly a million images that were used to teach and study art in the early twentieth century.  Sadly, some of these images represent the only remaining documentation of important works of art. The Lost Art Project draws on the Clark’s photograph and clipping collection to highlight these important lost works.

Today’s lost art work is St. Mary Magdalene, by Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787).

Batoni’s oil painting was destroyed in the Second World War, during three allied bombing raids of Dresden between February 13 and 14, 1945.

Click here to learn more.