Behind the Scenes: Audubon and Bachman: Quadrupeds Of North America, 1849-1854

 

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John James Audubon’s illustrated book, Birds of America, is one of the most famous scientific treatises in the world. Produced in London in the 1820s and 1830s, the original edition was enormous, measuring 39 by 26 inches. Thanks to a generous gift from Dr. and Mrs. Henry R. Liss in 2001, the Newark Museum possesses the first Octavo edition (10 by 7 inches), published between 1840 and 1844, a more manageable set of seven volumes. Two of these volumes are on display in the Museum’s “Seeing America” galleries. Known for its high aesthetic qualities and scientific accuracies, Birds of America quickly became the leading source of information on American ornithology.

Following this work, Audubon turned his attention to the mammals of North America, collaborating with a gentleman naturalist, the Rev. John Bachman of Charleston, South Carolina. Bachman wrote the text and supplied the scientific expertise; Audubon and his sons produced the artwork. Together they published a large-format set of three volumes in the late 1840s and early 1850s, which became renowned for the high quality of its color illustrations. A smaller edition under the title, The Quadrupeds of North America, came off the presses in 1849, 1851 and 1853 (volumes 1, 2 and 3, respectively).

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This Royal Octavo edition of The Quadrupeds of North America was recently given to the Newark Museum’s Library and Archives by Patricia C. Locke in memory of her husband, Richard S. Locke, an eagle scout who grew up in the city but was enamored of the outdoors. These handsomely bound volumes with their gold-embossed covers contain 155 hand-colored, full-page lithographs of exceptional beauty. In their introduction, Audubon and Bachman wrote: “We have endeavored…to place before the public a series of plates, which are not only scientifically correct, but interesting to all, from the varied occupations, expressions, and attitudes, we have given to the different species, together with the appropriate accessories, such as trees, plants, landscapes, etc…with which the animals are relieved.”

— William A. Peniston, Ph.D., Librarian/Archivist

 

 

 

March 21, 2017 at 2:05 pm Leave a comment

On View: Hot, Hotter, Hottest: 300 Years of New Jersey Ceramics

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The Grecian Vase, Lucien Boullemier and others for Trenton Potteries Company, Trenton, 1904. Slip-cast porcelain, enamel, clear glaze and gold paste. 55 1/2 h. x 23 dia. In. Gift of the Crane Company, 1969 69.133a-c; base a gift of the Crane Company and the Trenton City Museum, 2015 2015.4

Although the Newark Museum has been collecting New Jersey ceramics since 1910, there has never before been a permanent gallery devoted to this subject. On October 22, the Museum unveiled its first interactive display devoted to the history of pottery and porcelain production in New Jersey.

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Dish, Phillip Durell, Elizabethtown, 1793. Slab-formed redware with incised decoration, applied slip and clear lead glaze, 13 3/4 in. dia. Purchase 1948, John J. O’Neill Bequest Fund 48.440

Hot, Hotter, Hottest refers to the three levels of heat needed to fire the three basic kinds of clay products for which New Jersey was long famous. Hot (2192˚F) is for earthenware, which includes the red clay vessels of the early 1800s and the white pottery dinnerware that poured out of Trenton in the 1890s. Hotter (2192–2372˚F) is for stoneware, the dense, non-porous material that can be grey or tan and has been used for everything from pickle crocks to fine art ceramics. Hottest of all (2372–2552˚F) is for porcelain, the refined, white, translucent material that was invented by the Chinese many hundreds of years ago. Some of America’s finest porcelain came out of New Jersey factories, gracing the parlors of the Gilded Age elite and the dining tables of American presidents since 1918.

More than 90 examples drawn from the Museum’s vast holdings are on rotating display in a specially designed gallery in the “House & Home” installation in the Museum’s 1885 Ballantine House. Included will be examples that exist in no other museum collection, such as the late 18th-century presentation piece by Phillip Durell of Elizabethtown in 1793. Such redware, decorated by carving through a surface layer of white clay known as slip (which turns yellow when fired under a lead glaze), is generally considered to be Pennsylvania German in origin. However, Newark’s plate shows that non-German New Jerseyans produced this ware for a wide market in Federal America.

The centerpiece of the gallery is the Grecian Vase, produced by the Trenton Potteries Company in 1904 for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in Saint Louis, Missouri. The Grecian Vase was one of four monumental vases standing over fifty-five inches tall, each uniquely decorated by hand in gold and enamel. Three of these great vases have survived, and Newark’s vase has recently had its original base returned, after having been separated from it over a century ago.

Interactive touch screens highlight the Garden State’s national importance as a pottery and porcelain center.

— Ulysses Grant Dietz, Chief Curator and Curator of Decorative Arts

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Beer mug, Belmont Pottery, Newark, 1882. Stoneware with cobalt slip decoration and salt glaze, 7 in. h. Gift of Helen M. Bairle, 1965 65.235

February 16, 2017 at 10:23 am 1 comment

Life, Love, Death: The Ballantines at Home in Newark

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To help mark the City of Newark’s 350th anniversary, the Newark Museum has launched a new story line into the “House & Home” installation of the Museum’s 1885 National Historic Landmark Ballantine House.

Life, Love, Death: The Ballantines offers, by means of interactive touch screens, a closer look at four aspects of the Ballantine house and its family. The Ballantines were in many ways very much like other wealthy families of America’s Gilded Age (1865–1915), and they experienced their own joys and sorrows as any family does.

In a city like Newark, the source of the wealth that built a house is always important. With the Ballantine House, the source was beer. From the time Peter Ballantine moved his young family to Newark in 1840 to the time his sons built their own houses on Washington Park, beer brewing had become a powerful force in American industry. Millions of factory workers across the nation—many of them German and Irish—drank beer as much for its nourishment as for its alcohol. The Ballantines, with access to plenty of fresh water and an immigrant labor force, became the most powerful brewers in Newark. A touch screen in the Dining Room looks at the beer industry in Newark.

ballantine-picnicThe house that Peter’s son, John, and John’s wife, Jeannette, built was the setting in which their children matured. In 1899 their daughter, Alice, was married in the house to a young Newark lawyer named Henry Young. A touch screen in the Reception Room explores Alice’s wedding and the social setting in which her marriage took place.

But not every story in the Ballantine House was happy. The two restored bedrooms upstairs tells a different kind of tale. Both John and Jeannette died in this house; John in 1895 and Jeannette in 1919. During this era, 82 percent of Americans died at home. Doctors visited the sick in their homes—especially if they were wealthy—and often the body was prepared for burial there. A touch screen in the Master Bedroom looks at death in America in more detail.

The one great tragedy in this house was the suicide of the Ballantines’ second son, Robert, in 1905. News of his death was reported in newspapers all over the United States, but the real reason behind it was never made public. A touch screen placed in Alice’s bedroom discusses Robert’s death and looks at the possibilities of what drove him to take his own life at the age of 35.

Ulysses Grant Dietz, Chief Curator and Curator of Decorative Arts

January 31, 2017 at 2:54 pm Leave a comment

New Permanent Installation: Native Artists of North America

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One of the big and exciting changes at the Newark Museum is our brand new Native American galleries, titled Native Artists of North America. Newly installed in the Mary Sue Sweeney Price and Clement Alexander Price Atrium galleries, at the entrance to the American art collection, this permanent installation showcases more than 100 works of Native American art, representing numerous tribal nations throughout the United States and Canada. Bringing together a wide range of historical and contemporary works, the show presents a diversity of types and styles of art: meticulously rendered watercolors; rare wood and stone carvings; handcrafted clothing and accessories; and exquisite examples of basketry, textiles, pottery, instruments and other objects, both beautiful and useful.

Rather than a comprehensive survey of all indigenous cultures, the new installation is designed to spotlight strengths of Newark’s unique collection, with a focus on Northwest Coast (Haida, Tlingit and Tsimshian), Northern California (Pomo) and the Southwest
(Pueblo watercolors and pottery, and Navajo and Hopi textiles). The Native American collection, which for many years was located on the second floor of the South Wing of the Museum, has not simply moved to a new space. Most of the material in Native Artists
of North America will also be new to most visitors. The works have been carefully selected from storage, studied, cleaned and repaired, and are looking their very best.

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Whether one is an expert on indigenous art or enjoys these works on a purely visual level, visitors to Native Artists of North America are treated to a rich range of textures, colors, materials and techniques. One of the gallery’s highlights is Newark’s excellent collection of Pueblo watercolors, a modern approach to painting taken up by many Native American artists in the early 20th century. Newark has works by several of the acknowledged masters of this style, ranging from documentary subjects to abstract designs. With works like Kachinas Distributing Gifts, artists like Fred Kabotie (Hopi) documented the public dances of their communities at a time when ceremonial activities were being
repressed by government policies of assimilation. The vitality of the living traditions and unique stories these objects tell comes further into focus through the interpretive gallery text, written by a diverse team of Native American artists and curators.

Studying the collection over the past year and a half has led to some exciting re-discoveries and new attributions, largely thanks to the work of Adriana Greci Green, Ph.D., the lead curator on this project. One of the masterpieces of Newark’s Northwest Coast
collection is a Bear Rattle that came into the collection in 1955 with no known artist, and is now understood to be the work of Sdiihldaa/Simeon Stilthda, a revered 19th-century Haida chief. Newark’s Bear Rattle is one of only six known examples by this master carver. Dr. Green has worked closely with Newark’s registrars, conservators, designers and curators, and with the distinguished team of Native artists and scholars she assembled to research and produce this exhibition. The curatorial team includes Sherrie Smith-Ferri, Ph.D. (Dry Creek Pomo-Coast Miwok), D.Y. Begay (Diné), Susan Sekaquaptewa (Hopi), Emil Her Many Horses (Oglala Lakota) and Mique’l Dangeli, Ph.D. (Tsimshian and Tlingit Nations). Having these colleagues visit and lend their expertise to our collections has been a wonderful experience.

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Recognizing that the indigenous art of New Jersey is underrepresented at the Museum, building our collection to better represent Lenape art and culture has emerged as an important goal for the future. Working on Native Artists of North America has allowed us to meet and begin building relationships with the Nanticoke Lenne-Lenape and the Ramapough Lenape Nations.

— Tricia Laughlin Bloom, Ph.D, Curator of American Art

 

January 11, 2017 at 3:39 pm Leave a comment

The Newark Memorial Building

One hundred years ago, as the City of Newark concluded its 250th anniversary, it held an architectural contest for a “Newark Memorial Building” to house a public auditorium; meeting rooms for civic organizations; gallery space for its museum of art, science and industry; an art school; and a public university. The director of the museum at the time, John Cotton Dana, even called for “a roof garden” with “a restaurant with modest prices” as well as “public baths” in the basement. The Newark Evening News proposal a grand Italianate palace akin to the Free Public Library to which it would be joined by a bridge; it was to be built on the site at the corner of Washington Street, Broad Street and Orange Avenue (where the Rutgers Business School is currently located).

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The City Planning Commission had different ideas. It purchased land on Broad Street between Camp Street and Pennington Street near Lincoln Park, and it invited well-known architects, like McKim, Mead & White; Cass Gilbert; John Russell Pope; and others to submit drawings and plans. McKim, Mead & White won the competition.

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Soon thereafter, though, controversy erupted over the means by which the city acquired the site. It was suspected that some of the commissioners profited by the sale of the land. More importantly, however, Dana did not like the location, the size, the style or the purposes of the proposed building; it did not meet his definition of a “new museum.” Finally, the First World War intervened, and the project died quietly.

A new museum building had to wait until 1923 when Louis Bamberger, the department store magnate, agreed to construct a building on the former estate of Governor Marcus L. Ward. It was Bamberger who hired the architect, Jarvis Hunt from Chicago; appointed his facilities manager, Abraham Schindel, to oversee the project; paid the bills; and presented the building to the City for the use of the Newark Museum Association. The doors opened in March 1926.

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Through the generosity of the Estate of Ellen Keely Hunniken – a fund established for the purchase of materials relating to Essex County – the Newark Museum’s Library and Archives acquired this year the 16 plates and the 3 pages of text descripting the competition for “the Newark Memorial Building” that were published in The American Architect in October 1916. This is a fitting acquisition for the celebration of Newark’s 350th anniversary.

— William A. Peniston, Ph.D., Librarian/Archivist

January 4, 2017 at 10:44 am Leave a comment

Newark in Nashville: Buddhist Art on the Road

buddhist2While famous the world over for our outstanding collection of Tibetan Buddhist art, the Newark Museum also houses superior collections of both Japanese and Korean Buddhist art. The exhibition Secrets of Buddhist Art: Tibet, Japan & Korea demonstrates these combined strengths and will premiere at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, Tennessee from February 10-May 7, 2017. The Frist commissioned this pan-Buddhist exhibition for its 10,000 square feet main exhibition spaces, knowing of Newark’s collection riches. Newark Museum staff has been busily preparing 126 works for travel—researching and writing label copy, conserving and framing works currently unframed, planning and implementing specialty mounts for display, and preparing works for crating and shipping. Much of this conservation work would not have been possible without the support of the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation that has funded the Museum’s first ever in-house conservator, Linda Lin. As an object conservator, Ms. Lin dauntless has taken on numerous detailed tasks not only treating objects herself, but also managing contract textile and paintings conservators and consulting with lacquer experts about the Museum’s treasures.

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One of the challenges of responsibly housing and exhibiting the Museum’s treasures is just this conservation work. With over 33,000 works of art from Asia, the Newark Museum’s collection of Asian art ranks as one of the largest collections of this material nation-wide—more than double that of the Asian Art of San Francisco and one-third larger than the Freer Sackler Smithsonian’s Museums of Asian Art. Traveling exhibitions, like this one feature special exhibition spaces that double the Museum’s own providing a wonderful showcase of Newark’s collection riches to a national audience.

– Katherine Anne Paul, Curator, Arts of Asia

December 20, 2016 at 11:09 am Leave a comment

In Remembrance: Dorothy “Dottie” McNally (July 5, 1917-August 5, 2016)

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Dottie Dowling (before her marriage) in historical costume for an event at the Newark Museum, ca. late 1930s.

In late 1936 Dorothy “Dottie” Dowling began working for the Bach Society which rented space in the Newark Museum. Soon, in early 1937, she was hired to work in the secretarial pool for the Museum itself. In those days, she operated the switchboard, answered telephone calls, took dictation, typed letters, ran the mimeograph machine, among other duties. It was “a smoke-free, lipstick-free, fingernail-polish-free” environment, but it proved to be the beginning of a life-long career.

In 1945, five years after her marriage to George McNally, she became the secretary to the director, a position she held under four different directors until 1970 when she was appointed Assistant to the Director. She retired in 1982 but continued to work as a volunteer until 2004 – 68 years after first coming to the Newark Museum.

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Dottie McNally with Directors Mary Sue Sweeney Price and Samuel C. Miller, ca. early 2000s.

According to Mrs. McNally, Miss Winser, the first director she worked for, was “a vivacious woman – rather robust – a dear woman.” “I loved working with her – once I got used to her – it took some doing!” Miss Kendall, the second director, was “a shy, quiet New England type, reserved and tight.” She retired after only a year and was succeeded by Miss Coffey who “had a whole different approach to things.” An “outgoing” woman, very active in professional organizations, Miss Coffey encouraged Mrs. McNally to expand her knowledge of museum administration, and she, thereafter, assumed responsibility over several projects designed to improve the physical spaces of the Museum.

Under Director Samuel C. Miller, after her promotion to Assistant to the Director, Mrs. McNally become one of his “triumvirate”. She was in charge of personnel, buildings and grounds, city and state budgets, and special capital projects. In particular, she was responsible for overseeing the first restoration of the Ballantine House in 1976. “No major crisis or minor detail in the museum escaped her assiduous attention or the exercise of her unfailing energy,” Miller declared at the time of her retirement. “Her loyal devotion, sound judgment, and personal concern for people have been invaluable to our operations.”

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In the words of Director Emerita Mary Sue Sweeney Price: “Dottie was an exemplar of that generation, shaped by the Great Depression and World War II, which took nothing for granted. She personified loyalty and devotion, and valued family – including her museum family. That she accomplished so much speaks volumes about her innate intelligence and common sense. Nor will we ever forget her sly wit and generous sense of humor.”

On August 5 Dorothy McNally passed away at the age of 99. Trustees, staff, and members – the entire Newark Museum community – have lost “a marvel far greater than her diminutive stature, and central to the success of our beloved museum,” as Mrs. Price put it so eloquently.

William A. Peniston, Ph.D., Librarian

 

 

November 14, 2016 at 10:47 am Leave a comment

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