Category: photographs (page 1 of 2)

Stuart Cary Welch Islamic and South Asian Photograph Collection – Pt. 3

 

This post is the third in a series about the Stuart Cary Welch Islamic and South Asian Photograph Collection written by the project’s staff and student catalogers in the Digital Images and Slides Collections of the Fine Arts Library.
Written by Logan Heiman

The Stuart Cary Welch South Asian Photograph Collection is a collection of over 60,000 35mm slide images of Islamic and Indian art, which documents artworks from the most prominent civilizations in the Islamicate world spanning the deserts of Uzbekistan all the way through to the Himalayas and onward to the Indian subcontinent. The credit for this collection belongs to its namesake. Stuart Cary Welch made use of his far-flung connections and influence as a renowned curator and art historian to document previously difficult-to-access artworks produced over the course of a millennium. While the Welch collection encompasses artworks of various forms and media in addition to architectural works, painted manuscripts constitute the heart of its contents.

Under the Mughal emperors such as Akbar (reigned 1556–1605), Jahangir (reigned 1605–1627), and Shah Jahan (reigned 1605–1627), royal patronage of the arts produced a great number of paintings, poetry, and exquisite manuscripts chronicling the sumptuous wealth and splendor of the court with its attendant rituals and ceremonies. Such manuscripts displayed the cosmopolitanism and erudition of the emperors for whom they were commissioned. This was also a golden age for Mughal architecture, particularly under Shah Jahan, who commissioned several large monuments including Taj Mahal.[i]

 

 

This detached folio from the Jahangirnameh (Memoirs of Jahangir) in the Aga Khan Museum depicts Jahangir appearing before his subjects from a jharoka, or balcony during the darshan ceremony, evoking the royal style of Hindu kings. The darshan ceremony, initiated by Akbar during his reign, emphasized the illuminating power of the emperor through ritual performance.[ii]

 

 

Other images convey not only the trappings of imperial wealth in the Mughal court, but also the social arrangements and hierarchy by which the emperor distinguished himself from the nobles and the nobles from the largely Hindu subjects of the empire. Take the example of this painting at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, depicting the Emperor Jahangir in the midst of a darbar. A darbar served an array of purposes including formal discussions of affairs of state and royal ceremonies. Here, Jahangir is seen in an audience hall surrounded by his son Prince Khurram (Shah Jahan) and grandson Prince Shah Shuja, along with courtiers. The position of the courtiers flanking the emperor denotes their privileged status following the strict protocol governing such ceremonies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yet another defining feature of Mughal paintings is their striking realism. A painting from the Johnson Album housed in the British Library exemplifies the commitment of commissioned artists to extraordinary detail and naturalism. Jahangir championed this particular style, as reflected in this painting that depicts a hunter scaling a tree. The hunter, whose eyes are set on squirrels high up in the branches, is at the bottom of the tall tree with no shoes. His expression is determined and his right foot is already in climbing action. But, the squirrels above already know that he has no chance. They are going on with their usual business, ignoring the man below. The depictions of squirrels show that the artist spent quite a long time studying them, such that he could accurately capture their busy activities and movements during the autumn season.

 

 

 

 

 

The aforementioned images provide just a small glimpse of the artwork documented by Stuart Cary Welch during his long, path-breaking career. Works from the Mughal Empire have been showcased here, and future blog posts will cover the many other empires and societies in which these artworks were generated.

 

[i] Mughal Empire on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mughal_Empire (retrieved on 11/27/17)

[ii] Jahangir at the jharoka window of the Agra Fort, folio from Jahangirnameh (Memoirs of Jahangir) from Aga Khan Museum’s website: https://www.agakhanmuseum.org/collection/artifact/jahangir-jharoka-window-agra-fort-folio-jahangirnameh-memoirs-jahangir (retrieved on 11/27/17)

 

There will be an exhibit of the Welch Collection images at the Fine Arts Library at Littauer Center from January 22, 2018.

Stuart Cary Welch Islamic and South Asian Photograph Collection – Pt. 2

Written by Bronwen Gulkis

This post is the second in a series about the Stuart Cary Welch Islamic and South Asian Photograph Collection written by the project’s staff and student catalogers in the Digital Images and Slides Collections of the Fine Arts Library.

Slides on the light table

Before the widespread availability of high-quality digital images, patrons at the Fine Arts Library viewed images on 35mm film slides, strips of developed film housed in a lightweight metal, plastic, or paper frame. These could be viewed through a slide projector, or at a light table–the Fine Arts Library still has some of these tables in our Lamont location. The library also has over 607,000 slides left from these days, and most scholars and professionals would have kept their own image collections as well. However, this was not always the case. Stuart Cary Welch, the former curator of Indian and Later Islamic art at Harvard, owned a collection of approximately 65,000 slides, which he left to the Fine Arts Library. In a memorial essay for Martin Dickson, “Salute to a Coauthor,” Welch later recalled that when he began amassing his slides, a colleague of his “spurned their use as not quite honorable, akin to cheating at cards.”[1] However unorthodox his methods may have been at the time, they were eventually adopted across the field of Islamic and Indian art.

Like any analogue technology, the clarity and resolution of 35mm slides was dependent on the type of film used and the developing technique. Most of the Stuart Cary Welch collection was photographed on Kodachrome, a proprietary film and emulsion technique owned by Kodak and popular throughout the 20th century. Kodachrome was prized for its archival qualities, since the color dye was added to the film surface in layers during the developing process, allowing for greater clarity, nuance, and pigment stability. However, like all archival materials, slide images degrade over time. The Fine Arts Library staff and our team of photographers has been working to preserve these images by re-photographing the physical slide, and then editing this digital image to restore and their original color balance.

Slides also fostered a unique collaborative way of working. Welch recalled that Martin Dickson, a professor of Persian Studies at Princeton, “underwent trial by color slide” in 1960 upon first visiting the Welch residence to discuss the project that became The Houghton Shahnama.[2]  Veterans of the Fine Arts Library will recall a time when professors prepared for their lectures by sorting slides side by side on a light table and loading them into a carousel. Welch collected images from across America, Europe, the Middle East, and India, and then manually reconstructed manuscripts and artistic communities by grouping dispersed images in the same carousels. As we inventory Welch’s slides, we often come across these carousels, filled with images from his publications and lectures.

Today, it is so easy to access high-quality digital images that we forget the meticulous processes that earlier scholars went through to assemble their image collections. Now that 35mm slide technology is no longer in use, these slides become artifacts of a formative period in the discipline of art history. Our next post will cover some of the treasures of this exciting research collection.

 

 

 

[1] Welch, Stuart Cary. “Salute To A Coauthor: Martin Bernard Dickson”. In Intellectual Studies On Islam: Essays Written In Honor Of Martin B. Dickson, 9. Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 1990, 9.

[2] Welch 1990, 14.

 

Salted Paper Prints from Special Collections

Here you see the wide range in tonality and richness in colors. Indeed, monochrome can be very colorful. We are so glad that many of these salt prints have remained in good condition, such that the facial expressions and details of clothing and accessories for each sitter are still astonishingly clear.

In collaboration with the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, and Houghton Library, Harvard Library’s Weissman Preservation Center (WPC) is hosting a symposium on the Salted Paper Prints from the Harvard Fine Arts Library’s historic photographs collection on September 14th and 15th. During the two-day symposium, a hands-on workshop hosted by the Northeast Document Conservation Center will allow participants to explore the chemistry and artistic nuance of creating salted paper prints. A brief lecture will acquaint the participants with the basic chemistry and variations of the process and discuss preservation concerns.

The salted paper print was an early negative/positive printing process developed by William Henry Fox Talbot in England in the 1830s. Many beautiful examples of this process were created in the 19th century and can be found in a variety of photograph collections.

Read more about the symposium and how to register.

Read the previous post about the Salted Paper Prints Symposium.

Salted Paper Prints Symposium

Salted paper print at the Fine Arts Library

Salted Paper Prints: Process and Purpose
A Collaborative Workshop in Photograph Conservation

In collaboration with the Foundation for the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic WorksHarvard Art Museums, and Houghton Library, Harvard Weissman Preservation Center (WPC) is hosting a symposium on salted paper prints on September 14th and 15th. Registered participants will be able to attend a special viewing of salted paper prints from the Harvard Fine Arts Library‘s historic photographs collection on September 13th.

A salted paper print, or simply salt print, is a photographic printing process whereby paper is coated with salt solution and then a silver nitrate solution to capture images. It was a popular photographic printing technique between 1839 and approximately 1860.[1]

WPC has undertaken a university-wide project, the Salt Print Initiative, to preserve and enhance access to salt prints across campus, including inventorying the salt prints held by individual repositories, including the Fine Arts Library.

This symposium will present a multi-disciplinary, two-day program that focuses on the preservation, characterization, use, and interpretation of the salt print process, now over 175 years old. Read more about the symposium and how to register.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt_print

Staff from Harvard Weissman Preservation Center selected some salted paper prints from our collection for the initial presentation at the Fine Arts Library in December, 2016.

Stay tuned for more images from the historic photographs collection.

 

 

Lucy in the Sky

Peter Malutzki.  Lucy in the sky.  Big Brother is Watching You...

Book artist Peter Malutzki became interested with “selfies” and especially the way young women posed themselves for display on the Internet.  He reused images found online to create a book about fantasy and self-representation, Lucy in the Sky; Big Brother is Watching You.  Superimposed are the words from the Beatles’ song, Lucy in the Sky, a text he found a fitting juxtaposition to the self-presentation of these pictures.

Malutzki has been making books, using a wide variety of found materials and printing techniques, for decades.  With his partner Ines von Ketelhodt, he undertook a 50-volume set created over 10 years and based on a story by Jorge Luis Borges.  Entitled Zweite Enzyklopädie von Tlön, it evokes in visual terms a lost society like the one described in Borges’ story Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.

Take a Trip Around America… at the Harvard Fine Arts Library

A grey, Boston winter is soon upon us, we could all use a sunny postcard or two to brighten the day.  Luckily, the Harvard Fine Arts Library has an enormous postcard collection ready for your viewing pleasure.

Atlantic City

Hotel Traymore and Boardwalk, Atlantic City, N.J.

This collection mainly created in the early 20th century focuses on landscapes, architecture, and historical buildings and sculptures, stretching the world over.  Most heavily collected are cards from France, Italy, Germany and Spain, but a substantial number representing Canada, South and Central America, and the United States have recently been sorted and highlighted within the collection.

Lower New York

Lower New York, by Victoria Hutson

Some postcards are classic, colorized landmarks like the boardwalk at Atlantic City, and others have more stylized architecture like artist Victoria Huntson’s rendering of lower New York City.  Others still are wild shots of nature, like the spitting volcano of Kilauea in Hawaii.

Kilauea Volcano

Volcano of Kilauea, Hawaii

The collection is not without humor, and includes goofier cards such as the highly amusing “Busy Person’s Correspondence Card,” in which the sender checks off phrases to assemble a message:

“This burg is   (  )hot as h***   (  )out of sight!    (  )dead   ( X )a swell joint

(  )off the map   (  )classy”

A Busy Person's Correspondence Card

A Busy Person’s Correspondence Card

A few are even more unique, like this one from Ottawa.  When held up to the light, the cut-outs of the windows, moon, streetlamps, and reflections “glow” with sunset colors.

Chateau Laurier-Ottawa

Chateau Laurier-Ottawa. Grand Trunk Railway System

Whether for historical research, artistic inspiration, or just for fun, take a trip to the postcard collection at the Harvard Fine Arts Library.

Don’t forget to write!

Thanks to Alexandra Winzeler for compiling this entry and helping to sort through the American postcards!

Sporting Portraits Collection

Nicknames and Stylish Hair: all a day in the life of a bare-knuckle boxer.

Take a moment to explore images from the Sporting Portraits collection.  This collection contains over 350 photographs, prints, broadsides, clippings, and hand-drawn illustrations from the mid-18th to the 20th centuries.  These portraits captured the likeness of more than 100 American, British, and Irish boxers.

John L. Sullivan

John L. Sullivan

The nicknames and facial hair alone are worth a look through this collection.  Who can resist the classic masculinity of handlebar mustaches?  Peter Maher and John C. Heenan wear them well.

Mustaches aside, a few tough women held their own in this rough sport, one such notable being Bertha Frances.

Bertha Frances

What good is a boxer without an equally intimidating nickname?

  • John C. Heenan “The Benicia Boy”
  • John L. Sullivan  “The Boston Strong Boy”
  • Valentine Braunheim “Knockout Brown”
  • Johnny Murphy “Birmingham Sparrow” (later a boxing instructor at Harvard College)
  • James J. Jeffries “The Boilermaker”
James Jeffires "The Boilermaker"
James Jeffries “The Boilermaker”
John L. Sullivan embroidery

John L. Sullivan “The Boston Strong Boy” in a “Stevengraph” silk embroidery

While only a few images from this extensive collection are available online, the rest are on their way to being digitized.  The collection includes examples of excellent craftsmanship– such as the silk embroidered portrait (known as a “Stevengraph”) of John L. Sullivan– and striking imagery, like Thomas Worth’s illustration of the Peter Maher and Robert Fitzsimmons fight.  The print is visually compelling even to the most peaceful observer.

Maher Fitzsimmons fight

Peter Maher and Robert Fitzsimmons fight, depicted by Thomas Worth

Thanks to Alexandra Winzeler for compiling this entry and cataloging the sporting portraits!

Travels in Arabia Deserta

Damascus, the street called “Straight”. HSM.CC:0501.

 

“It is the true Arabia … there can never be another picture of the whole, in our time, because here it is all said, and by a great master”  T. E. Lawrence

Setting off from Damascus in 1876, Charles Doughty travelled for 21 months across the deserts of Arabia, through regions almost entirely unknown to Western eyes. He faced many hazards, from malnutrition and heat exhaustion to attack by hostile Wahhabi communities. Initially he travelled with the Hajj, before venturing into the desert interior alongside a Bedouin family and other nomadic groups. He reached the city of Unayzah, in central Arabia, and finally arrived at the Red Sea port of Jeddah in 1878.

His account of this remarkable journey is considered to be one of the finest travel books in the English language and inspired T. E. Lawrence’s excursions thirty years later. Despite its abundant merits, it was little known until Lawrence became its most avid and practical reader, using it as a guide during his travels across Arabia and admiring its descriptions of a bygone way of life. Lawrence provided a preface to the 3rd edition, published in 1921.

The Folio Society has recently published a new edition of Travels in Arabia Deserta. The new edition includes a preface by the author and politician Rory Stewart, in addition to Lawrence’s tribute.  Stewart underlines the importance of Doughty’s achievement, saying that “no one who is seriously interested in travel or Arab custom, or indeed the extremity of human experience, can afford to ignore this book”.

While the original edition was illustrated with line drawings, the new version also includes 48 photographs from the period, selected from the collections of the Fine Arts Library.  These images, from our extensive holdings of photographs by the Maison Bonfils, provide a new visual context for Doughty’s travels.  Creating digital files for the publication gave us the opportunity to include a few more of these evocative images in VIA, Harvard’s online image catalog.

 

Camerawoman revealed

Capital, San Pedro la Rua cloister, Estella, Spain. Arthur Kingsley Porter Collection.

The Fine Arts Library holds a collection of over 10,000 photographs of European medieval monuments taken by Professor Arthur Kingsley Porter (1883-1933)  in the 1920s.   The Porter collection includes negatives as well as prints and served as the basis for several of his noted publications such as Romanesque sculpture of the pilgrimage roads (1923).

Kathryn Brush, Professor at the University of Western Ontario,  has studied Porter’s work in depth and  recently focused on the role played by Lucy Wallace Porter (1876-1962) in her husband’s photographic campaigns.  There is reason to believe that Mrs. Porter took many of the images and even that she may have been the more accomplished photographer.  It is of course difficult to attribute responsibility in the absence of detailed shooting records.  It was rewarding therefore to locate  this image of Mrs. Porter behind the camera as evidence of her efforts.

 

Unique photography book acquired

The Fine Arts Library recently acquired a limited edition publication by renowned Australian photojournalist Stephen Dupont.  Entitled Axe Me Biggie, a rendering of the Dari expression for “take my picture”, it includes ninety black and white Polaroid portrait photographs of Afghanis taken near the central bus station in Kabul, on one day in 2006.  These were selected from over 665 images in total; as part of the project each print was presented to the sitter and the negatives retained to make further reproductions.  Although several of these images have been exhibited and published before, this book presents the largest survey available to date.   This handmade book features images printed digitally on heavy photographic paper.

Dupont has been photographing in Afghanistan since 1993 and the portrait project compliments his more journalistic work in the area.   He has photographed in many war-torn parts of the world to date.  Dupont was the Peabody Museum’s Gardner fellow in 2010 and is currently photographing in Papua New Guinea for that project.

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