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John Singleton Copley, Watson and the Shark, 1778. Image: Courtesy of National Gallery of Art, Washington

John Singleton Copley, Watson and the Shark, 1778. Image: Courtesy of National Gallery of Art, Washington

On a warm day in 1749, 14-year-old Brook Watson dove into Havana Harbor for a swim. As he floated surrounded by merchant ships, a shark sank its teeth into his leg, pulling him beneath the waves in a vicious, sustained attack that severed his right foot. Bleeding and helpless, he struggled to stay above water as a group of sailors maneuvered a small skiff into position and pulled him from the toothy Behemoth’s mouth. His leg would have to be amputated at the knee, but he survived his ordeal. Nearly thirty years after the incident, John Singleton Copley historicized Watson’s attack in the monumental painting Watson and the Shark.

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South America: the Land of Opportunity. A Continent of Scenic Wonders. A Paradise for the Tourist. General Information for Travelers, Detail. Lamport & Holt Line. 1912. Persuasive Maps: PJ Mode Collection

South America: the Land of Opportunity. A Continent of Scenic Wonders. A Paradise for the Tourist. General Information for Travelers, Detail. Lamport & Holt Line. 1912. Persuasive Maps: PJ Mode Collection

Persuasive Cartography: The PJ Mode Collection is a physical and digital open access collection of maps donated to Cornell University Library’s Rare and Manuscript Collections. This collection brings together maps from many eras from all over the world to explore their power as visual messengers. 

Following up on our interview in which he shares the origin of the collection, collector and donor PJ Mode shares a selection of his favorite pieces.

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Harriet Powers. Pictorial quilt. 1895-98. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Harriet Powers. Pictorial quilt. 1895-98. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

When the second wave feminist movement in the 1970s brought domestic art into the discussion of art history, textiles became a central topic. This led to the rediscovery of Harriet Powers, whose two surviving quilts currently hang in the Smithsonian and in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Powers, born a slave in Georgia in 1837, created the quilts after she was emancipated. She made use of appliqué techniques and storytelling often found in the textiles of Western Africa. While these textiles had typically been created by men, once the tradition was picked up in the United States women became the primary creators.

Powers became significant in academic circles more than half a century after her death as an exemplar of the influence and power of women’s domestic art and art inspired by traditions outside the Western canon, showing not only this type of art’s historical purpose and importance but its aesthetic influence and significance.

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Black iceberg. 1909. Image provided by Cornell University.

Black iceberg. 1909. Image provided by Cornell University.

Cornell’s Historic Glacial Images of Alaska and Greenland archive is a magnificent photographic assemblage of Arctic expeditions undertaken by Cornell faculty in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The majority of photographs document sweeping views of glaciers, their boundaries, and coordinates. Others portray explorers crossing the Arctic terrain by boat, foot, sled, and train, revealing the human effort involved in traversing the Arctic for scientific purposes. These expeditions sought to research the development and behavior of glaciers from a scientific perspective during a period in history when public interest in the Arctic surged. Today, the images in this archive have become a locus for interdisciplinary research.

Artstor’s Megan O’Hearn sat down with Cornell faculty members Matthew Pritchard, associate professor of geophysics, and Aaron Sachs, associate professor of history, to learn about their collaborative approaches to understanding and illustrating the process and impact of global warming using this incredible archive.

Meg O’Hearn: Can you give us a quick history of Cornell’s Historic Glacial Images of Alaska and Greenland archive?

Matthew Pritchard: The photographs are part of the Cornell archives and are particularly related to two Cornell faculty members. One is Ralph Stockman Tarr, who became a faculty member starting in 1892, and the other is one of his students who eventually became a faculty member, Oscar Von Engeln. The collection is an assemblage from different expeditions made by various Cornell faculty and students between 1896 and 1911. All those photographs were in the archives with the rest of the documents from these two people, but we weren’t aware of them until an Emeritus faculty in our department was cleaning his office and brought us a box of glass plates that had not been included in that collection.

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Waterweavers: The River in Contemporary Colombian Visual and Material Culture, Installation view; 2014. Image and original data contributed by Bard Graduate Center Gallery

Waterweavers: The River in Contemporary Colombian Visual and Material Culture, Installation view; 2014. Image and original data contributed by Bard Graduate Center Gallery

To mark the release of 2,600 images from Bard Graduate Center Gallery in the Artstor Digital Library, Bard’s curatorial team discusses the institute’s history and the importance of its Gallery exhibitions for expanding conventional notions of the art historical canon.

Bard Graduate Center Gallery is recognized nationally and internationally for groundbreaking exhibitions that highlight new scholarship in the fields of decorative arts, design history, and material culture. These feature rarely seen objects, drawings – including architectural renderings – and other exceptional works of art. Our research-driven interpretation materials provide visitors with in-depth labels and contextual photographs, and we translate curatorial thinking into display strategies that incorporate new media and film. As a non-collecting institution, our exhibitions are loan-based, drawing on a range of public and private collections around the world, and are celebrated for introducing the public to work that has never before been on view, or that is seldom exhibited in New York for reasons of rarity, accessibility, or condition. Located on West 86th Street on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the Gallery occupies three stories of a landmarked townhouse, creating an intimate environment for engaging with stimulating ideas and objects, from the simplest artifacts of everyday life to the most extraordinary and exquisite artistic creations.

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William Blake; Pity; ca. 1795. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

William Blake; Pity; ca. 1795. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

William Blake is perhaps the most famous artist born out of the British Romantic period, mostly known for his writing, paintings, and printmaking. But much like Vincent Van Gogh and Henry Darger after him, Blake was largely unrecognized during his lifetime and was mostly seen by the art community as an amateur. And while his published poetry and his illustrations of those poems are wholly original works, Blake spent the majority of his career drawing and painting scenes from fictional stories written by other authors—such as Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer, and Dante.

In fact, it might be said that Blake spent a lot of his time working on what we now call “fan art.”

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To celebrate the recent addition of nearly 500 images from SFMOMA’s permanent collection to the Artstor Digital Library, Nancy Minty, Artstor’s collections editor, examines more than 80 years of a pioneering institution.

Since 2009, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has partnered with Artstor to bring highlights of its collection to our community. The full collection of SFMOMA includes approximately 30,000 works of painting, sculpture, photography, architecture and design, and media arts. It represents artists from the early 20th century onwards, spanning Henri Matisse and Meret Oppenheim in the first decades, through Louise Bourgeois, Dorothea Lange, and Richard Diebenkorn at the century’s midpoint, and on to Sol Lewitt, Robert Rauschenberg, Richard Serra in its later years. Most recently, iconoclasts like Doris Salcedo, Marilyn Minter, and Ai Weiwei have led the collection into the new century (more…)

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