Phillips Collection Recap

Hi! I’m late, it’s true i’ll admit it. Weeks have passed since my last blog update, so I’m thinking the best form for this post is a recap of what I’ve been up to for the last five or six weeks and some concluding thoughts before my internship winds down tomorrow.

Curatorial Stuff

Since my last update, we have completed the Nordic exhibition catalogue and sent it to the publisher. Klaus Ottmann, the show’s curator, used my research in writing the image captions and as a result, I am being thanked in the book’s introduction!

I extend a special thanks to… and to Charlie Parsons, who assisted Dr. Ottmann on the research for the catalogue entries as part of his Woody Internship in Museum Studies from the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

This was such an honor and a pleasure to work on. In addition to research, I proofread both the Nordic catalogue and the catalogue for our upcoming Zilia Sanchez solo exhibition. I firmly believe this type of research and close reading has dramatically improved my ability to think and write about art as well as my passion for continuing in the field.

 

Exhibitions

As part of my assignment to research other DC special exhibitions, I visited a total of 4 DC museums this summer. I synthesized my impressions of shows at the NGA, Hirshhorn, SAAM, and National Museum of Women in the Arts into a presentation, which I present tomorrow. The presentation highlights positives and negatives from an exhibition and program planning perspective. I conclude my discussion of each show with a lesson I think the Phillips could glean from the execution of these shows.

Also for exhibitions, I’ve updated spreadsheets of image checklists and participated in meetings to plan upcoming shows

Public Programs

The list goes on! This summer I staffed the after-hours programs we host every Thursday, doing a variety of things from taking tickets to supervising craft stations.

Additionally, I’ve researched program ideas and potential speakers relating to the art of Zilia Sanchez as well as the art included in The Warmth of Other Suns, an upcoming show centered around migration and immigration. I explored an idea for a Zine making workshop in depth and drafted a budget. I’m told Programs may use my idea Spring 2019 when the Zilia show goes up.

I also edited and optimized our visitor survey form to consolidate two spreadsheets into one and optimize questions for analysis.

Working with Programs has sparked my interest in engaging new visitors and planning events where people can form deeper connections with the arts.

Music

Ah Phillips Music. We finally finished generating webpages for each performer in the 2018-2019 concert season. I also drafted promotional tweets advertising a series of concerts, which were tweeted from the official museum twitter.

Later, I copy edited the season brochure before it went to the publisher. Most recently I helped make a filing system to archive contracts and brochures from past concerts.

Misc Stuff

In between all of that fun stuff I’ve thankfully found the time to talk to several different departments within the museum and in other museums. I’ve had three informational interviews: one with Development, one with a Registrar, and one at SAAM with a Programs Assistant who used to intern at the UMD Center where I work now. I also saw the inside of the conservator’s studio, which was super super cool.

I’ve also recently organized and filed loan letters for another curator, attended a gallery opening at UMD, and of course, spent a lot of time on Hyperallergic.com

Meeting people from so many different ends of the museum world has expanded my perspective on what museum careers can look like and gifted me priceless insight on where I want to go with my career and what I need to do to get there.

Conclusion

It’s been a wonderful summer. This internship surpassed my highest hopes for what a summer program can be. I’m not exaggerating, this has been a formative experience for me and has completely altered my perspective on museum work and art history. I owe eternal gratitude to (alphabetical order i’m not ranking) Caitlin, Caroline, Kathryn, Kelley, Klaus, Liza, the rest of my brilliant coworkers and bosses, and of course the generous Woody family for making this such a fun and educational experience.

I attached some images below. Some of them relate to my summer experience, and some do not.

sam gil

Sam Gilliam
Along. 1969.
Acrylic on canvas
111 x 144 x 2 inches (281.9 x 365.8 x 5.1 cm)


Anne Truitt
15 Nov ’65. 1965.
Acrylic on paper
20 1/2 x 27 1/2 inches (52 x 70 cm)

 

Image result for albers luminous day

Josef Albers

Luminous Day, 1947-1952
Oil on Masonite
11 x 21 1/2 inches (27.9 x 54.6 cm)

Image result for hilma af klint parsifal

Hilma Af Klint
Parsifal, nº1 (1916)
Watercolor or Ink on paper
n.a. 

Image result for martin soto climent gossip

Martin Soto Climent
Gossip. 2017
Tights, mirror, banak wood
12 1/5 × 8 3/10 × 3 9/10 in (31 × 21 × 10 cm)

Colonial Williamsburg: Project Preview IV

Death of General Wolfe Benjamin West, c. 1770

Recently, I have been looking into the life and work of Benjamin West, the first American painter of international renown. A portrait that was loaned to Colonial Williamsburg a few years ago is in question regarding its attribution as it was one of his early works while he still lived in America. The portrait, depicting Severn Eyre of the illustrious and wealthy Eyre family on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, dates to somewhere between 1749-1759. Due to the time (as Benjamin West was born in 1738 and would had to be between the age of 11-21 when he painted this) and the location (as West primarily painted only in Pennsylvania and briefly in New York before going abroad and never returning), the attribution is questioned. So, I was to look into the whereabouts of Benjamin West during this time and see if it was remotely possible that this portrait may have actually been done by him.

Benjamin West (1738-1820) was born near Swarthmore, Pennsylvania to an innkeeper. Though his parents attended Meeting, they did not belong to the Society of Friends until later, when West was already in England. In a painting from 1772 when he was visited by family in England, West depicts his family in the simple and modest clothing of Quakers while he depicts his wife, children, and himself wearing lavish and fashionable clothing, standing out from his half-brother and father who sit before him. He was encouraged to pursue his talents from a young age, despite the fact that Quakers generally disapprove of portrait painting. Nevertheless, according to the legends written by Benjamin West’s biographer, John Galt, he made his first likeness at the age of 6-7 and soon caught the attention of rich and well-connected men who stayed at his family’s tavern, gaining patronage that would bring him to Lancaster, PA and then to Philadelphia. There, he was introduced to the professional painter William Williams who inspired him to pursue painting as a career. While in Lancaster in 1755-56, he paints “Death of Socrates,” his first history painting, something that he would pursue for the rest of his life. In 1756, he attracted the attention of Dr. William Smith, provost of the College of Philadelphia (now UPenn), and had a program focusing on classical learning specially devised for West, something which would encourage his imagination and influence his history paintings in the future. After meeting William Kelly in New York (where he moved in 1758 in search of higher fees for his paintings), he is given 50 pounds for a voyage to Italy, where he is to study the masters and improve upon his skill.
In 1760, Benjamin West sets sail for Europe and never returns to America, though it always holds a dear place in his heart and vocally introduces himself as American to many of those he meets in Europe. After three years in Italy studying the masters and learning from Anton Raphael Mengs, he travels to London, where he sets up shop and establishes himself. In less than three years, he becomes close friends with both Benjamin Franklin (who later becomes the godfather of his second son) and King George III. Soon, he is appointed a charter member of the Royal Academy of Arts where he is able to display his paintings and establish great renown. He is appointed the History Painter to King George III in 1772 and then the Surveyor of the King’s Paintings in 1791. In 1792 he is elected the second president of the Royal Academy, a position he serves for 28 years (apart from a yearlong blip where he attempts to retire but is unsatisfied by the new president’s work so he takes over a second time in 1806).
All of this is to show that Benjamin West was highly regarded for his adept skill at painting and his creative and revolutionary outlook on history painting. Before West, history painters depicted their subjects in classical garb, something that was a key pillar of the neoclassical style. However, West decided to depict historical scenes with greater accuracy and in time-period appropriate attire. For instance, his most famous work “The Death of General Wolfe” depicts a scene from 1759 in the French and Indian War, with the subjects all wearing their military attire. This accuracy and realism changed the tide for history painters and, while he did face backlash initially, influenced many painters who came after him. Benjamin West is often known as the Father of American Painting, as he took many fledgling American artists under his wing, including John Singleton Copley, Charles Wilson Peale, Gilbert Stuart, and Thomas Sully. The list goes on, but it is clear that the influence of Benjamin West extends beyond the 400+ works that he produced.
As I wrap up the last few days of my internship here, I am still trying to find out whether or not Benjamin West could have painted the portrait of Severn Eyre, attempting to place him in Virginia or Eyre in Philadelphia. Stay tuned!

Colonial Williamsburg: Project Preview III

Another project I’ve worked on that has spanned the majority of the summer was the research of both sitter and painter of a recently acquired painting to the CWF collection. The portrait, depicting a middle aged woman in fashionable, yet relaxed dress, hails from the Lynchburg/ Bedford, VA area. When the research was handed over to me, the date of the portrait had been established at around 1820-1830 roughly based on her fashion, which the Costumes curator had determined. Across the back of the portrait was the name “Yancey” and through research it was shown that this portrait was likely that of Elizabeth “Bettie” Macon Yancey, wife of Col. Joel Yancey. From Bedford, VA, Joel Yancey had served in the War of 1812 and then settled down in Bedford at a home called “Rothsay.” Joel was the superintendent of Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, and the couple frequently dined at Jefferson’s country home. Bettie and Joel had a number of children, but only a few of them went on to marry and have children of their own. However, their grandson Robert Davis Yancey was the subject of a novel turned movie in the 1940s titled “The Vanishing Virginian.” When Joel died in 1833, Bettie moved to Lynchburg, buying a home for herself and her young daughters in the downtown area, a house that still stands today and is known as the Elizabeth Yancey House. For the most part, however, Joel and Bettie were fairly upper middle class, and the portrait of her reflects that. It is an intimate portrait, likely only intended for consumption by family and close friends and displayed in private rooms of the house, due to the informality and intimacy of the portrait.

My research focused on learning anything I could about Mrs. Yancey and possibly identifying a painter. There were few painters with studios in Lynchburg or Bedford during the early-mid 19th century, but quite a number of itinerant painters who set up shop temporarily before moving on to the next town. However, the work of Harvey Mitchell caught my attention. A native of the Bedford/Lynchburg area, Mitchell was born around 1801 and made a career of portrait painting. He primarily worked in Bedford and Lynchburg, painting many family members, but he also made it down as far as South Carolina, as newspaper advertisements show. He never signed any of his work, making it difficult to attribute a number of his works, but it seems as if his style varied quite a bit. He stood out to me from the other possibilities due to the significant connections that he had to the Yancey family. His sister Katherine Mitchell married into the Steptoe Family of Bedford through James C. Steptoe. Bettie and Joel’s daughter Catherine Louisa also married a Steptoe, Thomas Steptoe, the brother of James. Additionally, a third brother, William Steptoe, was close friends with Joel Yancey, with whom he had fought in the War of 1812. Additionally, William Steptoe was the primary physician for Thomas Jefferson when he was at Poplar Forest, and is also known to have dined with Jefferson there. Even further, Harvey Mitchell’s father owned the grain mill that supplied Poplar Forest, and this man would have been someone that Joel Yancey was rather acquainted with, as correspondence indicates. Thus, because of these connections through business and marriage, I feel as if there are a number of opportunities in which a portrait painting may arise. After studying a number of Harvey Mitchell’s paintings, similarities begin to arise. However, the examples of his other works are not high quality and I have been attempting to find better examples to help conclusively make this attribution.

This research has been a fun dive into hundreds of questions for which there are not yet complete answers. My research on this portrait has helped raise these questions and open doors as I was in contact with museums across the Central Virginia region, art appraisers, and even a descendant of the painter Harvey Mitchell. It has been one of the most interesting projects I have worked on this summer and I enjoyed getting well acquainted with Mrs. Yancey.

Winterthur: Weeks 1 and 2

Weeks 1 and 2 passed in a whirlwind of activity as I settled into life in Delaware and working at Winterthur.

Winterthur Grounds: Fields away from the main house
Winterthur Grounds: One of my favorite views on the property!

Getting to the main gate on my first day was the easy part… finding the parking lot presented a bigger challenge. With instructions in an email on my phone and a map kindly offered by the gatehouse security officer, it was good I arrived a few minutes early. Several unmarked turns, a run-in with the resident geese, and a curving one-lane road up a small hill finally got me to the staff parking lot.

Amanda, the curatorial department’s graduate fellow, met me in the museum’s main atrium. We headed up 6 flights of stairs (the elevator was broken) to meet the other curators and show me my office. Afterwards, she spent the morning giving me a tour of the house itself as well as the more traditional gallery spaces and the new Dining by Design exhibit.

That afternoon, I sat in on a Room Committee meeting. Actually, “sitting in” gives the wrong idea; these meetings take place on the move. As part of a two-year grant, the curatorial staff is in the process of assessing items in the collection that could be deaccessioned. Each week, they visit a set of rooms and discuss potential candidates for removal. With all the curators gathered together, these meetings also offer the opportunity to consider tweaking room displays, rearranging furniture, or switching out objects that have been on display for too long. Observing this dialogue presents a wonderful opportunity for me to learn more about the collection.  Interpretation styles also changed dramatically over the years. I already look much more carefully at the way the rooms are arranged.

Most of my days are not quite as scheduled as the first one, and I generally divide my time between several different projects and departments. On Tuesdays, I work with Public Programming, developing and helping staff “Terrific Tuesdays” (an art program for kids). Wednesday mornings are reserved for the curatorial staff meetings. One day of the week I also work in registration, assisting the graduate student and two other interns who are working on Winterthur’s ongoing storage project (installing better, more accessible storage over the next 10 years).

The rest of my time is spent working on smaller projects for different curators. During my first week, for instance, I helped Linda Eaton (the Textile Curator) prepare some dolls for a special tour. After Linda wrote up a sheet with basic information about the dolls to leave for the tour guide, we went to the Textile storage rooms and lifted down the boxes we needed (on the top shelf, of course). Then, we set up the dolls in the Textile Study Room along with student papers on several of the dolls from the graduate program.

Another project that took up quite a bit of time during my first two weeks also came from Linda, and required me to research the provenance of a potential purchase. I gave myself a crash course on folk art and 19th-century samplers as I attempted to use the few clues we possessed to assess the age of an unusual piece of needlework. I enjoyed the mystery, and also got the opportunity to become familiar with some of the antiques and auction house databases to which Winterthur subscribes as well as with the Winterthur library. Even Google Maps proved useful- I had never really appreciated the potential research uses of the satellite function before!

A (longer-term) task that I began in the first two weeks was related to an NEA grant Winterthur received to photograph parts of its collection. These object photographs needed to be attached to the catalogue itself, which required me to make multimedia files noting the image title, photo creator, copyright information, where users could find these photos stored, and who could access these photos. With over 600 photographs to insert, I am now very familiar with the contents of several songbooks and many sets of Winterthur wallpaper fragments!

My Summer as an Environmental and Social Intern

This summer, I am interning with the Economics and Sustainability Department at the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), a member of the World Bank Group (https://www.miga.org/). MIGA promotes foreign direct investment (FDI) in developing countries by providing guarantees (political risk insurance and credit enhancement) to private sector investors and lenders. MIGA’s guarantees protect against non-commercial risks (e.g. civil unrest or government expropriation) and can help investors obtain access to funding sources with improved financial terms and conditions.

As a multilateral development agency, sustainability of the guaranteed project is important, and MIGA can only support investments that meet the Agency’s Performance Standards on Environmental and Social Sustainability (https://www.miga.org/Documents/MIGA_Performance_Standards_October_2013.pdf). MIGA’s Environment, Social, and Integrity (MIGEI) unit is responsible for conducting environmental, social, climate change and integrity due diligence of potential projects and monitoring the compliance of projects supported by MIGA guarantees.

As an Environmental and Social (E&S) Intern, I support the E&S specialists to evaluate potential projects. My work primarily consists of performing background research to support early screening of investments that have applied for a MIGA guarantee. To screen investments, I use online tools and databases to identify potential biodiversity issues related to a project’s location. I also conduct contextual risk research, which involves assessing the risks associated with specific sectors in different countries. Understanding a project’s physical, social, and political environment allows members of the E&S team to better assist investors and lenders with creating and maintaining sustainable practices.

This internship is a great opportunity for me, as I am particularly interested in sustainable development and development economics. Working at MIGA will allow me to improve my writing and communication skills and to further my knowledge of developing countries. By the end of my internship with MIGA, I hope to be able to apply what I am learning to my international relations coursework. I am excited to spend the rest of my summer interning at MIGA, familiarizing myself with its work and development impact.