Friday, September 5, 2014

Research: Worcester Art Museum "Then and Now" by Travis Simpkins. Update #4

     - In the first photo, from 1920, Medieval works are showcased in the calm southeast corner of the first addition's Main Hall at the Worcester Art Museum. The mantle piece and andirons at center are now displayed in the less-sunny Gallery 111. This same corner sees much more fast-paced action today, with waitstaff buzzing in and out of the Cafe kitchen area. The decorative corner columns and capitals are still there, the window was lengthened and a new door opening was cut, but the area is still recognizable when compared side-by-side. The unseen area behind the wall now contains the kitchen and storage rooms, but once housed Museum Administration offices.
     - In the second photo, from 1982, a young girl contemplates Gaston Lachaise's "Standing Woman" in the northeast corner of Salisbury Hall. The Lachaise sculpture was part of the Dial Collection, a cumulation of works by leading figures of early 20th Century Art, acquired by publisher Schofield Thayer (1889-1982). It had been arranged for the Dial Collection to be on permanent loan to the Worcester Art Museum during Thayer's lifetime, with the expectation that the works would be later bequeathed to WAM. A disparaging comment made about his collection, however, caused Thayer to write the Worcester Art Museum out of his will... instead leaving the Dial Collection to the Metropolitan Museum. Because WAM had expected to receive the 20th Century masterpieces all along, the permanent collection was built around it, and consequently the surprising loss of the Dial Collection has left gaps in the museum's 20th Century holdings. The same corner of Salisbury Hall appears less occupied today, but will soon find new life with the arrival and installation of the Higgins Armory collection.

     -The sketch is of "Venus", a 2nd Century Roman work in the manner of Praxiteles, which entered the WAM collection early-on, in 1903.

1st Floor (1920 Wing). Worcester Art Museum. by Travis Simpkins

Salisbury Hall. Worcester Art Museum. by Travis Simpkins

Venus, 2nd Century A.D. Worcester Art Museum. by Travis Simpkins

     -In old photos of the Worcester Art Museum, especially the century-old views, various polished stone pedestals can be seen tucked off to the sides of the gallery spaces, supporting the collection's sculptural works. Below are two enlargements of photos from 1914 and 1905, showing two variations of style. I had often wondered what became of those pedestals, many of which seem like works of Art on their own. I just assumed they had been damaged, decades ago, and likely thrown away.
Pedestals, early 1900's. Worcester Art Museum

     Recently, the glint of polished stone coming from a darkened corner of the museum basement led me to this pleasant view: Mismatched sections of antique pedestals, broken and collecting dust... but not discarded.
Broken Pedestals, 2014. Worcester Art Museum