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Since its founding in 1962, the Friends of the Davison Art Center (FDAC) has been devoted to the growth and public enjoyment of the DAC collection through a wide variety of events for both its members and the greater community.  The primary mission of the FDAC is to expand and promote the Davison Art Center collection at Wesleyan University.  Learn more about the FDAC here.

Become a Friend

Please join the Friends!  As a member, you support the acquisition of new works for the DAC collection.  With a volunteer Board of Directors and minimal overhead expense, the FDAC directs a high percentage of its membership dues directly to its mission.  Wesleyan students can join the FDAC free of charge – click here to become a student member today!


Written by FDAC Board Member Sharifa T. Lookman ’17

This summer I have had the opportunity to research and live on campus. In addition to realizing Connecticut’s extreme humidity (who knew this was the same state that snows us in all winter!), I am enjoying the east coast’s international collections and thriving art culture. Most recently, I visited the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and enjoyed a special traveling exhibition Peter Blume: Nature and Metamorphosis, on view in Hartford through September 20.

Peter Blume (1906-1992) was a Russian born artist who emigrated as a child to New York City, where he later studied art as a young adult. His studies took him to Italy for year, but he returned to the city and established himself as a practicing artist.

Having just spent four months abroad in Florence myself, I was intrigued by Blume’s time in Italy. Upon looking at his works it became clear to me that a lot of his influence came from the Italian Renaissance, particularly in his piece Recollection of the Flood. True to Renaissance tradition, Blume created multiple iterations of the work in the form of cartoons and studies. His understanding of composition and human form evolves throughout his studies, and his figures exhibit Giotto and Michelangelo-esque understandings of the human figure by showcasing bulky forms and almost over exaggerated anatomical mass. In Study for Recollection of the Flood Blume situates his figures in space, blocking them in using light and dark tones. The artist depicted working on a fresco in the background mimics Blume’s own artistic process as he sketches his composition into the wall fresco. It is supposed that the studio in the painting is actually based on Blume’s own workspace, further identifying the artists with Blume himself. This process of painting depicted also references the Renaissance fresco painting technique, in which the artist would sketch in their composition and cartoon in a red pigment called sinopia, which would become the under painting.

Blume further imbued his painting with an Italian influence in the content itself. In 1966 the Arno River in Florence flooded, damaging much of the city’s architecture, archives, and art. In the following decade efforts were made by conservators to restore the damaged artwork and frescos. Blume depicts the aftermath of this event in Recollection of the Flood. In the foreground Blume portrays survivors of the flood in a state of homelessness and despair, while in the background he illustrates artists perhaps repairing damage to an existing fresco or creating a new one, emphasizing hope and revival.

More involved analyses of these pieces have been done that push past just the flood itself. Here I have isolated the notion of the flood to emphasize the work’s Italian and Renaissance sensibilities, in both content and technique. I posit that Blume’s Recollection of the Flood and its studies are not just imitations of the Italian Renaissance, but rather can be interpreted as contemporary portrayals of Italy’s people and values. By capturing the art and techniques of Italian Renaissance as well as the attitude of contemporary Florence, the works reminded me more of my time spent in Italy than I believe even a Michelangelo would. It was unexpected, however, to be so vividly reminded of this time while perusing an American Modernism exhibition! I found this these works of Blume’s to be an unexpected and yet honest taste of Italy and its history in our very own Connecticut.

By Clare Rogan, Davison Art Center Curator

Henri Evenepoel (Belgian, 1872-1899), Au Square (At the Public Gardens), color lithograph from L’Estampe moderne, 1897. Purchase funds, 1959.181.28. (photo: M. Johnston)

Henri Evenepoel (Belgian, 1872-1899), Au Square (At the Public Gardens), color lithograph from L’Estampe moderne, 1897. Purchase funds, 1959.181.28. (photo: M. Johnston)

With a swirling striped skirt, elegant leg o’mutton sleeves, and a green hat topped with exuberant feathers, the Parisienne turns to leave the scene. Her red parasol shields her from the summer sun as she catches the eye of the artist, Henri Evenepoel. But she can’t leave yet! Her daughter—perhaps two years old, perhaps a little younger—is not ready to leave the park! Grasping her red pail, the child leans in the opposite direction, obstinately unwilling to go home.

This humorous observation of everyday life in Paris is found in Henri Evenepoel’s color lithograph, Au Square (At the Public Gardens), published in November 1897 as part of the series L’Estampe moderne. Evenepoel was a young Belgian artist who came to Paris in 1892 to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, under P.V. Galland, then Gustave Moreau. By 1894, the young artist was exhibiting at the Salon, and he rapidly joined the Parisian avant-garde, closely studying the work of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Pierre Bonnard.

The monthly portfolio L’Estampe moderne was part of a boom in original artist’s color prints in the 1890s. Major exhibitions of Japanese art in the 1880s and 1890s had introduced European artists to the flat planes, repeated patterns, and cropping of Japanese color woodblock prints, known as ukiyo-e. By the mid-1890s, the youngest generation of French artists had embraced original color prints. Au Square is printed in red, pink, yellow, green, and ochre from five lithographic stones . The tight cropping, the calligraphic line, the flat color planes, and the pattern of the polka-dotted sunbonnet all evoke the hallmarks of ukiyo-e prints.

Yet this is a thoroughly Parisian scene of an elegant mother with her recalcitrant child. The small girl’s costume humorously echoes the mother’s fashion. In the distant future, the pink ruffled sunbonnet will be swapped for a flirtatious hat, and the child’s red hair will be arranged in artful tendrils like her mother’s. But right now, as of this very moment, all she wants is to play in the park.


Mural Update

In the May Monthly Message we reported that the first mural as part of a project at John Lyman Elementary School in Middlefield, CT, is complete! The project was  led by Kate TenEyck, Visiting Assistant Professor of Art and Art Studio Technician.

We are happy to report that the second mural is now complete as well. Here it is underway last month…

And here is “Math Party” complete:

Learn more about this colorful project on the CFA Blog.

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