Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Research: Worcester Art Museum "Then and Now" by Travis Simpkins. Update #10

     Research and examinations aside, of all staff, the Gallery Attendants probably spend the most time out amongst the collection. At least, they are certainly in a great position to observe and gauge the public's reaction to exhibits, and they are advantageous sources of insightful feedback. Out of curiosity, I've casually asked numerous guards which piece of Art seems to be the most popular amongst museum patrons. The answers came without hesitation. The overwhelming consensus is that, more than any other painting, John Singer Sargent's "Lady Warwick and Her Son" always inspires visitors to pause much longer, look and reflect. So, I thought I'd show a couple "Then and Now" shots that feature this masterful and engaging Sargent painting.
     -The first photo, taken 100 years ago in 1914, shows the Worcester Art Museum third floor landing 25 years before the fourth floor was added. "Lady Warwick", which had just been purchased the previous year, is roped off and presented in stately fashion across the way. The current view would be looking east to west from the Donnelly Gallery across to American Decorative Arts (the Rocket Ship and walls in the center of the gallery prevent me from accessing the exact spot, so the angle is slightly off). The scale and grandeur of the two scenes, separated by a century, has surely changed.
     -In the second composition, the Sargent painting can be seen in it's present location in Gallery 209, following the most recent renovation of that section of the European Galleries. Note the difference in light coming from the lay light ceiling in 2008, which was solely illuminated by florescent bulbs above. Visitors would often comment back then on how beautiful the skylights were in the European Galleries, not knowing it was actually just artificial light. The illusion is less pronounced today.

     -The sketch is of a small (about 4-inches tall) 15th Century ivory piece, "Adoration of the Magi", in the Medieval Gallery. I like the simplified features and expressive gestures. The gallery label seems somewhat indecisive regarding the piece's origin. However... To me, especially in looking at the rendering of the facial features, it appears to be very Germanic.

3rd Floor Galleries. Worcester Art Museum. by Travis Simpkins

European Galleries. Worcester Art Museum. by Travis Simpkins

Adoration of the Magi. Worcester Art Museum. by Travis Simpkins

     An enlarged view of the above 1914 photo reveals the silhouette of a familiar wall sconce. The original brass fixtures are long gone. An old photo, perhaps even this very one, was used to recreate 8 new wall sconces for the Worcester Art Museum's Centennial in 1997. The profile from the photo was traced in AutoCAD, and a New Hampshire company was commissioned to design the reproductions. The replicas, of course, now illuminate Stephen Earle Hall on the first floor.

Wall Sconce. Worcester Art Museum, 1910.

Wall Sconce. Worcester Art Museum, 2014