Archive | Art & Social Issues: the Schiller Collection RSS feed for this section

Schiller Collection: Rockwell Kent

11 Dec

Kent_WmnMst_pgRockwell Kent, And Women Must Weep, 1937, Lithograph

The Schiller Collection is currently being held over at the Columbus Museum of Art in Columbus, Ohio. Above, is the image I chose to write about out of all the pieces in the collection.

The Schiller Collection definitely has a theme to it, especially when looking at the varying interests of the Schiller Family. When paging through the book that the Museum had available, it really cam down a to a few points; Economic, War, and Race and Ethnicity. Out of those three it really came down to social justice and modern meanings behind the works. After looking through the book, I didn’t find it strange at all that Rockwell’s works should be included.

During Rockwell Kent’s life, he traveled throughout North America and found inspiration for his work after experiencing the landscape around the area. In the 1950s, he was blacklisted for being to leftist in his activism during the Red Scare. He ended up donating a majority of his work (More than 800 pieces) to the Soviet Union in the 1960s and has left many in the United States after his death.

This is a great example of his work just due to the fact that it’s a little different in how this isn’t a usual landscape piece and the emotions are clearly conveyed in this one. It’s obviously about grief and war and how women had to deal with losing husbands, brothers, and fathers to the drafts of WWII. The heavy shadowing on her body and the way it’s leaning up against the frame, head bowed unable to see her facial features suggests that she wants to hide her grief but her whole body conveys it in her stance and actions. Hidden somewhat behind the fence is a man marching off from his home, back turned from the woman. At this, we can only assume that this is the person she is crying over.

There are some wonderful motifs in here as far as how the theme of war and grief come across. I like that it greatly shows the level of what people had to go through when they had to watch a member of their family leave or possibly never come back. I’m sure as that man was walking away, that’s what many women were thinking, “Is this the last time I will see them?”

Also, the fine, minute details of the piece really draw you throughout the picture. The lighting, the atmosphere, the actual background with all the little details are just wonderful and contribute greatly to the overall work. Also, the composition is wonderful. You can’t help but look first at the woman and then as your eyes move throughout the work and you follow the fence heading down the hill, that is when you see the man and then the realization hits you that she is crying because someone she loves is going off to war.

L. Engle


Robert Gwathmey: Civil Rights

11 Dec

Robert Gwathmay is one of the earliest white artist to represent African American figures in a compassionate light. Though he references symbols of ignorance and stereotype as a means to permeate progressive attitudes toward civil rights in America. His venture into Social Realist painting began through the influence of his wife’s work, Rosalie, who documented a series of southern blacks through painting and photography. This motivated Gwathmay to live and work at a tobacco farm after receiving the Rosenwald Fellowship where he immersed himself in southern life. His works promoted social justice through the 1940’s-50’s, exposing the distorted lack of equality between black citizens and the white majority.

Rosalie GwathmeyMan Plowing and Scarecrow, 1940

Rosalie Gwathmey
Man Plowing and Scarecrow, 1940

Robert Gwathmey, Custodian, 1963 Work featured in the Schiller Collection at the Columbus Art Museum
Robert Gwathmey, Custodian, 1963
Work featured in the Schiller Collection at the Columbus Art Museum

Robert Gwathmey, End of Day, 1944

Robert Gwathmey, End of Day, 1944

Robert GwathmeyTobacco Farms, 1944

Robert Gwathmey
Tobacco Farms, 1944

Schiller Treasures

10 Dec

During a time period when there were many great threats to democracy, Philip Schiller and his wife Sue collected art that encompassed the expressive thoughts of the time. Their collection captures reactions to the great depression, the stock market crash of 1929, and Roosevelt’s New Deal. Many people were viewing Socialism as an option and evaluating the value of unions.
Fortunately, this collection of art has survived and many of the pieces are now in the possession of the Columbus Museum of Art.


Lunch, 1964
George Tooker



James Guy
Black Flag, 1940



Thoughts and deviations on aspects of The Schiller Collection

4 Dec

In the conclusion of  The Schiller’s collection titled, IN THE EYE OF THE STORM: AN ART OF CONSCIENCE 1930-1970, it summarizes the collection:

“Their paintings and prints encourage us to expand, rather than limit, our efforts to ensure that this country lives up to its democratic ideals, that the rights of all citizens to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are protected, but not at the expense of citizens of other countries. Ben Shahn closed a 1951 lecture with words that still ring true today:

….if either art or society is to survive the coming half-century, it will be necessary for us to re-asses our values. The time is past due for us to decide whether we are a moral people, or merely a comfortable people, whether we place  our own convenience above the life-struggle of backward nations, whether we place the sanctity of enterprise above the debasement of our public. If it falls to the lot of artists and poets to ask these questions of art alone that is at issue, but the survival of the free individual and a civilized society”

i want bob marley copyAn image I found wondering around the net, from this blog:

And going back to the focus the Schiller Collection, housed at the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio. Looking through the catalog of the collection there is much to talk about, I was driven to this particular print:

Sternberg_Facism_pgThe work above is a screen print created by Harry Sternberg in 1942. It was exhibited in 26 museums across the USA in 1943 in the exhibition titled “American War”.

The depiction of facism is self explanatory once one realizes Sternberg’s upbringing, son of poor Jewish immigrants and living in America in times of war. An active member of American Artist’s Congress, Sternberg’s colorful and gestural print, resembles german expressionism,  gestural and saturated prints, full with  visceral emotions, that create an ambiguity between the palette, the subject, and its a reflection of the historical context. For war is war, and it brings death and destruction, still when such called victory comes some throw their hats up to the air to celebrate and commemorate…The three headed creature (represents Hirohito, Hitler, and Mussolini) as its running away, stepping over Jewish and Christian emblems as well as mathematical tools used for science and art. Alongside the three headed figure run rats, leaving behind a landscape of devastation, burning buildings amongst a landfill of corpses. The figure looks disturbed,fatigued but yet aggressive. The chain in the hand is evidence that the figure took part in the events depicted in the background. Yet my response to the chain the figure hold on its right hand seems ambiguous. The chain can be understood as a symbol of repression, the potential of a weapon, or an unleashed chain can be interpreted as symbol of  release, the breaking free. Perhaps it is ambiguous in its own right, and it hints to all of these.

This work was displayed along with other 99 prints from various american artists in 1943, each artists provided 26 copies of their work and 26 museum across the nation displayed the works. As we look back to different wars throughout the course of human history the propagation of imagery of war’s turmoils and victories are displayed, from the Trajan Column, to the Bayeux Tapestry, to Washington Crossing the Delaware, to Mort Künstler’s Glorious Fourth (depicted below).  Though this piece does not pertain to The Schiller Collection, it brings something to the table within the duality of war and the depiction of such. The works in The Schiller Collection are propaganda in the sense that they are transmitting a reality, documenting hard times, for the most part. In contrast the painting Glorious Fourth comes to glamorize and put upon a pedastal the rise of a nation. One aspect that I really enjoy about the works integrating The Schiller Collection is that it brings a comfrontation to the human condition so many want to neglect but has been ever present. An amalgam of situations, moral debate, violence, aggression and defense. Above all,  the seeking for an ideal, which is in constant re-newal, what are these values being defended, placing stacks of lives to protect them? After all it is the memes that define the context of the times.34_2

Looking at the Schiller Collection made my thoughts deviate,wars on ideals and how things should be. Struggles of the human spirit, fighting for rights, stacks of lives defending values. What are these and who defines them? I could not agree more with the essential core of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”…

stage-Nicole Matta Santos