Yesterday the library received a new exquisite publication, The Feel of Steel. Published in a small print run of 150 copies, this limited edition book focuses on the history of steel-engraved banknotes in the United States. Engraving is a form of intaglio printing whereby a design is carved into a metal plate. The carved lines are forced full of ink, then the plate is pressed onto a sheet of paper under high pressure, and the inked designed is transferred to the sheet. The "feel of steel" in the title refers to the tactile quality of the ink as it rests on the printed sheet. Our current paper currency still exhibits this quality.
The book notes the difference between letterpress, or relief, printing and intaglio:
The creation of high-quality intaglio work is a far more demanding discipline than letterpress printing ... The training of picture engravers was a long process. Intaglio was a much slower and more costly process, but it produced magnificent images that could be achieved in no other way.
Banknote engraving employed some of the most accomplished artists in the country, and the author considers the art the "pinnacle of printing and the graphic arts" in America. While providing a detailed history of banknote printing, including technical discussion, it also includes some fine examples of engraved prints. Many of these original prints were printed from original banknote plates. The attached prospectus provides an overview of the book.
The museum has many examples of engravings in its collections, both in the fine prints and library book collections. Make plans to view this book and other books with engraved illustrations by visiting the library during public hours.
This Sunday, January 10, from 1:00 - 4:00 p.m., is our next Family Funday. The folks from the Noble Planetarium will turn our library into the night sky and art-making activities, poetry, and storytelling will lead you to our galleries. Get bundled up and be ready to check out winter landscapes and night-time adventures at the Carter!
Over the past several months, you may have noticed that the Carter's building and grounds undergoing maintenance in preparation for the museum's 50th anniversary next year. All the activity going on around the building inspired this week's post, which draws from the Carter's collection of construction photographs by Charles Rivers (1904-1993).
Born in Greece, Rivers was a construction worker, union organizer, political activist, and photographer, who also worked on the construction of both the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building 1929-1930. Rivers led an incredibly full and varied life, and a full bio is available from NYU, which holds his personal archive.
Charles Rivers, Shadow of the Chrysler over the Graybar Building while a Load of Steel is Being Relayed from Derrick to Derrick to Reach the Floor where It is to Be Erected into Place, gelatin silver print, 1929, Gift of the artist, © Charles Rivers
Charles Rivers, Repairing the Derrick on the Chrysler Building, gelatin silver print, 1929, Gift of the artist, © Charles Rivers
Charles Rivers, The Bolter Up – Empire State Building [Self-portrait], gelatin silver print, 1930, Gift of the artist, © Charles Rivers
Snow twice in one week?! Where ARE we? Since it looks like we north Texans might ring in a slushy 2010, our photos this week are examples of two snowy New Year's Eves in other parts of the world.
Eliot Porter (1901-1990), View from Monastery Nunatak, Dry Valleys, Antarctica, December 31, 1975, dye transfer print, Bequest of the artist, ©1990 Amon Carter Museum
Brent W. Phelps (b. 1946), View West Toward Original Fort Mandan Site from Highway 200, North Dakota, December 31, 2000 [47Â° 14' 37" N -- 101Â° 11' 34" W], 2000, dye coupler print, © 2000 Brent W. Phelps
The New Year is just around the corner, and the Amon Carter Museum has a stellar 2010 exhibition schedule. Comprised of three special exhibitions that celebrate modern art, each will focus on different American modern art movements spanning the years 1902 to 1962 in a variety of media including works on paper, paintings, sculpture and photographs.
Mark your calendar for these dynamic exhibitions! Click here for more information.
American Moderns on Paper: Masterworks from the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art
February 27–May 30, 2010
Constructive Spirit: Abstract Art in South and North America, 1920s–1950s
June 26–September 5, 2010
American Modern: Abbott, Evans, Bourke-White
October 2, 2010–January 2, 2011
This week's photo comes from the Carter's Karl Struss archive. A fine art photographer, Struss was also an Oscar-winning cinematographer, which is why he was out photographing 1920s Hollywood.
Karl Struss (1886-1981), Hollywood [Shop Window Decorated for Christmas], gelatin dry plate negative, 1928, © 1983 Amon Carter Museum
One of my favorite things about the holiday season is making handmade cards. The process begins as early as summer, when I select the perfect papers and start devising that year’s theme. This tradition has now grown into such a production that almost every surface in my home is covered with envelope liners, labels, stamps, and eyelets for the first few weeks of December.
I am not alone in my handmade card fascination. The Smithsonian’s Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture’s current exhibition Season’s Greetings: Holiday Cards from the Archives of American Art showcases a variety of artists’ greetings. If you can’t make the trip to D.C. before the exhibition closes on January 10, you can enjoy thirty-four examples online, including works by artists in the Carter’s collection such as Alexander Calder, Stuart Davis, and Werner Dreves.
Haven’t had time to send your own holiday cards this year? The Smithsonian’s site allows you to send a free e-Card of one of the artist’s handmade treasures.
During our November Family Funday, families came from all over the metroplex to participate in multiple activities surrounding the theme Way Out West. Favorite activities included making charm bags and corn husk dolls, and striking silly poses for Shadow Silhouettes, a photography activity.
Children and families also explored the galleries in search of specific works of art and American Indian Storytelling. A fun day was had by all.
Don’t forget to mark your calendars for Night Visions, our next Family Funday, on Sunday, January 10th from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. where you can explore nocturnal works of art, listen to stories and poetry, and make your own evening inspired masterpieces. Family Fundays are free and great for the entire family.
As you might have heard, the Carter acquired a rare, complete set of Edward Curtis's The North American Indian, a 20-volume publication documenting American Indian life. Starting tomorrow, a selection of photogravures from the set will be on view in the Carter's photography galleries.
Only a few Carter staff have had the opportunity to see all 723 of the Curtis photogravures, and I was lucky to be one of them. I catalog all new art acquisitions at the museum, so I have seen each one of these photographs and, of course, have a few favorites. The quality of the whole set is pretty amazing, but these images really stood out to me because they are so different from the Carter's other collections documenting the lives of Native Americans.
Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952), Waiting in the Forest - Cheyenne, photogravure, 1911, Purchase with the assistance of an anonymous donor
Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952), Watching the Dancers, photogravure, 1922, Purchase with the assistance of an anonymous donor
Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952), Kotsuis and Hohhuq - Nakoaktok, photogravure, 1915, Purchase with the assistance of an anonymous donor
Edward S. Curtis: The North American Indian is on view through May 16, 2010.