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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.

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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!


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Carl Van Vechten (American, 1880–1964) Gertrude Stein with Flag, 1935. Gelatin silver print. Friends of the Davison Art Center funds, 2013. © Permission by the Van Vechten trust (copy photo: R. J. Phil).

Carl Van Vechten (American, 1880–1964). Gertrude Stein with Flag, 1935. Gelatin silver print. Friends of the Davison Art Center funds, 2013. © Permission by the Van Vechten trust (copy photo: R. J. Phil).

Written by Jim Dine Curatorial Intern Rebecca Wilton ’15

Gertrude Stein liked Wesleyan men best—or so she stated in Everybody’s Autobiography, published in 1937, two years after her visit to Wesleyan University in January of 1935. Stein’s lecture tour of 1934–35 was her first trip to America in almost 30 years, and her audience was as fascinated by her as she was by them. According to an editorial in the The Wesleyan Argus, “No one as yet has been able to determine whether Miss Stein is smarter than the people she talks to, or is just smart enough to make them think she is smarter than they are by seeming smarter than they are smart.” It is curious that Carl Van Vechten would choose the American flag as the background for Stein’s portrait, given her choice to live most of her life in Paris; but perhaps it is an allusion to Van Vechten’s part in bringing Stein to the United States for her tour. In fact, over the course of their long friendship, Van Vechten was a loyal supporter of Stein’s literary pursuits and an important source of encouragement. Soon after their meeting of 1913 in Paris, Van Vechten began to serve as Stein’s de facto literary agent in the United States, sending her work to magazines, securing book deals, and publicizing her creative talent to any of his connections that would be useful to her. Van Vechten’s devotion to Stein did nothing to prevent his own creative pursuits, however. He published several novels and became one of the most accomplished portrait photographers of the 1930s. His portraits of other artists, writers, performers, and socialites give us an intimate glimpse into the personalities of some of the most notable artistic innovators the early 20th century.

In Gertrude Stein with Flag, Van Vechten invests Stein’s portrait with a sense of dignity, a testimony to the mutual admiration and respect that characterized their long friendship. Nevertheless, the slight smirk on Stein’s face reminds the viewer of the charm and intelligence, the sense that she knows something we don’t, that so enthralled her admirers. She has the bearing of a reigning queen taking in her subjects with bemusement—an image that fits the role she played among her friends in Paris as well as the United States.


Titian. The Pastoral Concert (c. 1509)

Written by FDAC Board Member Sharifa T. Lookman ’17

There are certain works in art history that one must be familiar with, from Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” to Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring.” And of course Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” When visiting the Louvre in Parisa few weeks ago, I actually got to see this work. Or rather I got to see other people photographing the Mona Lisa, a small panel barely visible behind reflecting glass. It was a phenomenon akin to my visit to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome where masses of people rushed to the front of Michelangelo’s Pieta, took a picture, and went on their way. An experience that deserves hours of contemplation was replaced by a thirty-second glimpse and, of course, the mandatory photo!

Once I elbowed my way through the throngs of people vying for a front row view of the lady in question, I found myself on the other side of the room, practically vacant in comparison to the space I had just left. And there, on the other side of Mona Lisa’s wall was Titian’s “Pastoral Concert,” a painting I had studied a year before. I was ashamed to have almost missed it, but it was clear that I was not the only one who had. Titian’s painting is modest in size and somewhat dwarfed by the larger surrounding paintings hung salon-style. The technical skill and compelling characters, however, demand attention. The painting suggests pastoral levity, with two seated figures engaged in music and poetry, surrounded by two muses. Though not the most exacting narrative, Titian’s brushwork and palette are unrivaled when viewed in person, and I spent hours looking and sketching.

The Louvre could not possibly be covered in such detail, even given months. The value and prestige of artwork is perpetuated by museum curating, and the viewership of such works is heavily influenced by fame and scholarship. I was struck by just how much artwork we miss in search of the next big work noted on our museum guide. I question when art viewership became less of an individual, subjective experience and tastes became altered by scholarly assertions of “good” and “bad” art.

Whether a canonical work or not, there is enormous value in experiencing, understanding and critiquing it based on one’s own terms. And I would suggest, as much as you might want to prove your proximity to some of the most famous works throughout history, to leave your camera at home. Instead, bring a sketchbook and a pencil, or, if you’re really gutsy, nothing at all. And don’t neglect the works we have made modest, hidden behind silent walls.

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