Birmingham Museum of Art's Clarence B. Hanson, Jr. Library

Wednesday, November 4, 2009 1 comments

Dubbed "the secret library" by the Black & White City Paper, the Clarence B. Hanson Library located in the Birmingham Museum of Art is a great resource for art historical research. While you may not take the books home with you, they have some resources that UAB's Sterne Library does not have. They are particularly great for researching the library's own works. The registrar of the BMA keeps a bibliographical record of each work, which is available to the public, and the library usually has a copy of each work in the bibliographical records. In short, you can find every resource for works of art owned by the BMA in this library. The following is more information from the library's homepage:

Open to the public Wednesdays 1-4 and by appointment.

Located on the first floor of the Museum, the Hanson Library is one of the most comprehensive art research libraries in the southeastern United States. Library holdings include over 35,000 items focusing on objects and styles in the Museum's permanent collection and traveling exhibitions. The Library holds a broad range of research materials including general art reference works, auction catalogues, artists' files, periodicals, indexes, exhibition catalogs, and databases.The Chellis Wedgwood Collection, housed in the Lucille Stewart Beeson Rare Book Room, is the largest and most comprehensive special collection in the world related to Josiah Wedgwood and his manufactures, and makes the Library the U.S. center for the study of Wedgwood. Among these holdings are letters from John Flaxman and Benjamin West, and Sir William Hamilton's Collection of Engravings from Antique Vases, known as the Hamilton Folios, the first color plate books in the history of art.

Clarence Bloodworth Hanson, Jr. (1908-1983) was publisher of The Birmingham News and a Birmingham Museum of Art Board member for twenty-four years. An avid bibliophile and collector of rare books, including a fine private press library, Mr. Hanson brought a keen love of history and art to his duties at the Museum. In his memory, Mr. Hanson’s wife Elizabeth Fletcher Hanson (1910-2001) endowed the Clarence B. Hanson, Jr. Library for the benefit of the Birmingham Museum of Art and its visitors.

Due to the unique nature of many items in the collection, patrons may only use Library materials on the premises. A photocopier is available.

To use the Library's full resources, scheduling an appointment is strongly advised. Please call 205.254.2565 x3944 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to make an appointment.

UAB ContentDM Image Search Tutorial in 10 Steps

With research papers and presentations just around the corner, we thought it would be helpful to provide a tutorial on how to use UAB's online slide library called ContentDM. It is accessible through the Sterne Library website with your BlazerID. Once you understand the steps, you can create your own personal folders to save images. This tutorial will show you how to search for and download images from the database. Follow the red boxes in pictures below to find the items on which to click. You may click on any of the images for a larger view of each step.

-Step 1: Go to the Sterne Library homepage and click the link to the UAB Digital Collections.
-Step 2: From the UAB Digital Collections site, click the link to the Art History Collection. This will take you to the front page of ContentDM.
-Step 3: Here is where access to the database gets strange, but if you follow these steps it will be easy. The picture below is what the page looks like when you arrive. As you can see, the images do not show up yet and instead have a "restricted file" label. Click on any of the images listed. For this example, the first image was chosen but any will work.

-Step 4: Once you are on the information page for the image you clicked on, click on the link to the right of "Rights." This will take you to the sign-in page for the database so that you may view and download the images.

-Step 5: At the sign-in page, enter your BlazerID and password, then click "To the resource."

-Step 6: Now you are signed into the database. As you can see, the same default images are on the homepage. The difference is that you can see the images now that you are logged in. Click the "advanced search" link at the top of the page.

-Step 7: Once on the advanced search page, make sure that only the "art history" box near the bottom is checked off. This way your search will only consist of images. Type the criteria you wish to find in the search box and click the "search" button. For this example, we used the search keyword "warhol."

-Step 8: All of the images that match your search criteria will show up on the results page. Scroll through to find the one you need. If there too little or too few results, alter your search criteria until you find the image that you seek. The slide library is constantly adding new images so keep in mind that while the database has thousands of images, it might not have the one that you need. Once you find the correct image, click the title to go to the image's information page. For this example, we chose the first one listed.

-Step 9: Once on the item's information page, click the link to the right of "Full resolution." This will bring up the image in its full high-resolution quality. All of the files are JPEGs.

-Step 10: You are just about done! When the image has finished loading, right-click on the image and select "save image as..." or similar, depending on which internet browser you are using (Mozilla Firefox was used for these examples). Pick a place to save your image and you are done!

High Museum Offers $5 Tickets for College Students

Wednesday, October 21, 2009 0 comments

October is almost over but that just means you still have 10 more days to take advantage of this offer by the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. The price includes admission to multiple special exhibitions.

ATLANTA, October 7, 2009 – During October, the High Museum of Art is offering $5 tickets to college students. Admission includes “Leonardo da Vinci: Hand of the Genius,” “John Portman: Art & Architecture” (beginning October 17), as well as all other exhibitions and the permanent collection. Tickets must be purchased at the museum in person for day-of or advance reservations. Proof of a valid student I.D is required. The museum is closed on Mondays and has extended hours on Thursday evenings until 8 p.m. October 16 is Friday Jazz when the museum will be open to 10 p.m.

“Leonardo da Vinci: Hand of the Genius” explores Leonardo’s profound interest in and influence on sculpture. It features approximately 50 works, including more than 20 sketches and studies by Leonardo, some of which will be on view in the United States for the first time. The exhibition also features work by Donatello, Rubens, Verrocchio, and Rustici—including Rustici’s three monumental bronzes from the façade of the Baptistery in Florence that comprise “John the Baptist Preaching to a Levite and a Pharisee,” which was recently restored and has never left Florence. Also included are works from world-renowned collections, including those of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Vatican Museums, the Musée du Louvre, the British Museum, and the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence.

Beginning October 17, the High will also present “John Portman: Art & Architecture,” an exhibition featuring architectural projects, furniture, paintings, and sculpture by Atlanta-based architect and artist John Portman. The fifteen completed and current architectural projects that will be featured span five decades of national and international developments, including the Hyatt Regency Atlanta (1967) that is globally renowned as the first modern atrium hotel. The projects will be presented with large-scale photographs, design plans, elevations, text, articles, and in some cases, architectural models. The exhibition will also feature paintings and sculptures by Portman—most never before publicly exhibited.
---posted by JMB

Upcoming Events at the Birmingham Museum of Art

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 1 comments
As many of you know already the Birmingham Museum of Art is currently showing the special exhibit Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery. What you may not know is that there are several upcoming events to coincide with the exhibit. Admission to the museum is free, as are most of the BMA's events & exhibits. The following are some of the ones that are of interest to artists & art historians:
  • Tuesday 10/27 at 2:00PM, Coffee with the Curator: Graham C. Boettcher, PhD (William Cary Hulsey Curator of American Art) will fill you in on the fascinating stories told in Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness and give behind-the-scenes information that only a curator could know. Boettcher received his undergraduate and doctoral degrees from Yale University, and worked on this exhibition for several years, as a graduate research fellow at the Yale University Art Gallery. Cost is free.
  • Thursday 11/5 at 6:00PM, Steiner Auditorium, Hidden Bonds: Revealing the Legacy of Slavery in American Art through the Collection of the Yale University Art Gallery: Graham C. Boettcher, PhD (William Cary Hulsey Curator of American Art) will reveal the “hidden” legacy of slavery in Yale’s collection through a discussion of masterworks by John Smibert, Samuel King, Hiram Powers, and Henry O. Tanner, among others. Established in 1832, the Yale University Art Gallery is among the oldest museums in the U.S. and its collection of American Art is considered one of the finest and most comprehensive. However, evidence of the African-American experience, particularly the history of slavery, is not always readily apparent. Cost is free.
  • Tuesday 11/10 at 12:00PM, Confessions of an Art Geek (Artbreak-November): Scott Stantis (Editorial Cartoonist at the Chicago Tribune and formerly editorial columnist for The Birmingham News). In this 30-minute gallery talk, Stantis will discuss the powerful effect that many of the works in Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness have on his work. He points not only to political cartoons, but also to prints and paintings as having influenced him. Cost is free.
  • Thursday 11/12 from 6-9:00PM, College Night, Rockin' in the U.S.A. ($6 for college students and faculty with ID, includes admission to the exhibition Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness) Go old school! Whether you choose to play “Born in the USA” on the big-screen version of “Rock Band” or rock out with band Act of Congress, this is sure to be an all-American night of fun! When you need a break from the games and the music, enjoy tours of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, meet the curator Graham Boettcher, go on a scavenger hunt through the Museum to win a prize, and sample an all-American menu.
  • Friday 11/13 at 6:00PM, Steiner Auditorium, Burning Daylight, Frederic Remington, Electricity, and Flash Photography: Alexander Nemerov, PhD (Chair, History of Art Department, Yale University). Between 1906 and 1909, in the last few years of his life, Frederic Remington painted some of his greatest pictures—a series of nighttime scenes dramatically lit by firelight and moonlight. In this talk, Nemerov will discuss these moody, mysterious paintings and their relation to the technologies of electric lighting and flash photography then coming in to widespread use. Nemerov also writes about the American visual culture of different periods and has authored a book and several essays about Remington and the art of the American West. Cost is free.
  • Tuesday 12/8 at 12:00PM, So You Say You Want a Revolution?, Rip van Winkle and the Problem of American Identity (Artbreak-December): Chris Metress, PhD (Director, University Fellows Program, Samford University). In this 30-minute gallery talk, Metress discusses what Rip Van Winkle missed as he slept through the American Revolution. More than an ordinary folktale, Washington Irving’s beloved classic explores what American national identity looked like in this time of cultural, political, and geographical change. Cost is free.
---posted by JMB

The Louvre - a closer look at artworks

The official Louvre website has many different interactive tools with which one can learn more about pieces of art and their history. One of the best tools that they have is called "A Closer Look." This tool contains videos and art historical information about over a dozen important pieces of art housed in the Louvre. Formal analysis and contextual research combine with intense close-ups and videos to give the viewer more information than they would get if they went to the museum and saw the work in person. For example, you can find out exactly which flowers are in the garden of Jan van Eyck's Virgin and Child with Chancellor Rolin (1435) and why they were chosen; as art historians know, nothing is thrown into a work of art without reason. If Renaissance art is not your thing you can also learn about the Winged Victory of Samothrace (c.190 BCE), a portrait of the Marquise de Pompadour by Maurice-Quentin Delatour, or the ancient Code of Hammurabi, among many others. Museum websites often offer these wonderful tools so why not take advantage of this easy and fun way to learn?---posted by JMB - a visual search tool

Spezify is an entirely different kind of search tool. Instead of providing a list of links, it gives visual excerpts of search results. This is a great resource for any person who is a visual thinker or thinks out of the box. For the example shown above, we searched "Van Gogh" in honor of the previous post. The following is more about Spezify from their "About Us" page:
Inspired search

Spezify is a search tool presenting results from a large number of websites in different visual ways.

We take web search further, away from endless lists of blue text links and towards a more intuitive experience.
We want you to get a good overview of a subject,
find useful information and be inspired with Spezify.

We mix all media types and make no difference
between blogs, videos, microblogs and images.
Everything communicates and helps building the bigger picture.

We collect websites and are aiming to use as many relevant, free and open API:s as possible to generate extensive and diverse search results.

---posted by JMB

Van Gogh Letters Now Online

The Van Gogh Museum had released a complete online database of the artist's letters. The database includes translations of the texts and interactive footnotes. Be sure not to miss the quick guide containing easy-to-follow instructions on the many features of the database.

Van Gogh's letters show method, not madness

AMSTERDAM — While Vincent van Gogh has become almost as famed for his troubled mind as for his paintings, a new exhibition in the Van Gogh Museum seeks to remind us there was more method than madness to his style. In honor of the publication of a new compendium of all the artist's known correspondence, the museum has put more than 100 personal letters in which he discusses his craft on display alongside the actual paintings. Museum Director Axel Ruger said the exhibit, opening Friday, is arranged to make a visitor feel "as if you are being led through the collection with Van Gogh giving commentary on his own work." Seeing the letters next to the paintings underlines Van Gogh's professionalism, which is sometimes overlooked amid spectacular biographical details such as his mental illness, his apparent amputation of part of his own left ear after a quarrel, and his suicide in 1890 at age 37. In the letters — known from recent books and films — Van Gogh writes about both the philosophy of painting and the technical details. "I'm working on those peasants around a dish of potatoes again," he said in a letter to his brother Theo on April 9, 1885, referring to one of his earliest masterpieces, "The Potato Eaters." The note also contains a sketch of the painting. Van Gogh, who was influenced by the Impressionists, said he felt there was "life" in the piece, which he started in the day and continued working on by lamplight on a large canvas. "The beautiful effects of the light in nature require one to work very fast" he said, adding he didn't feel he could yet compare with 17th-century Dutch masters such as Rembrandt. "At the point where I now am, though, I see a chance of giving a felt impression of what I see ... (but) never exactly — for one sees nature through one's own temperament." The compendium includes all 820 known letters by Van Gogh, tracing his youth and late start as a painter to his spectacular blossoming in the late 1880s. "The number of letters isn't really unusual but the literary quality of the letters, that's special," said Curator Leo Jansen, one of three experts who spent 15 years on the project. "You literally can't find it in any other artist: he was painter and writer at the same time." Van Gogh's letters were previously translated to English in 1958. The new compendium includes 20 new letters as well as complete versions of some letters previously only published in part. More importantly, Jansen said, it gives more precise translations and includes reproductions of more than 2,000 paintings Van Gogh makes reference to. In all, it offers an unusually complete picture of the mental world of one of the world's great artists. For Van Gogh fans not interested in buying the 6-volume set, the entire compilation has been put online as a free, searchable database in French, Dutch and English — the three languages in which the painter wrote. The database includes images of the sketches contained within in the letters, which are often stunning in their own right. "Here's a sketch of the latest canvas I'm working on, another sower," Van Gogh said in a letter to his brother Theo, on Nov. 21, 1888. "Immense lemon yellow disc for the sun," he wrote. "Green-yellow sky with pink clouds. The field is violet, the sower and the tree Prussian blue. " Van Gogh goes on to specify that he planned to put it on a size No. 30 canvas, 91 centimeters x 72 centimeters (about 36 x 28 inches.) The drawing is easily identifiable as one of several versions of "The Sower" on display at the museum. Jansen said that letter is not at all unusual — Van Gogh often gave indications of the colors he planned to use, and sometimes went further in describing the effect he was chasing by using certain color combinations. Though Van Gogh was a social and financial failure, selling just one work in his lifetime, "he was not a hysterical, irrational man: he was very methodical," Jansen said. "He chooses his goal very carefully and works toward it step by step." The book and Web site were published on Oct. 6; the museum exhibition opens Oct. 9, 2009 and runs through Jan. 3, 2010.

---posted by JMB