Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Marriott C. Morris Photograph Collection

Marriott C. Morris, J.R.M. [Jane Rhoads Morris] & baby, ca. 1900.

A young woman leans against a painted brick wall, her back straight and her hair dark hair pulled into a knot at the top of her head.  She holds a baby in her arms wrapped snugly in a knitted blanket. The baby’s left hand is a blur of motion; despite his calm expression he was unable to keep still for the photograph. Who was this woman with the timid smile?  And who was this chubby cheeked child?

We know who this woman was partly because her husband, Marriott C. Morris, decided to take her photograph.  Her name was Jane Rhoads Morris and the baby is probably one of her sons, Elliston Perot Morris or Marriott C. Morris Jr.  She married Morris in 1897, but her husband had been taking photographs long before then.  

Marriott C. Morris, Family group at back porch of 4782 Main St. Father, Bess, Hannah, Mother, Aunt Lydia, Uncle Charles Rhoads, Auntie Beulah. Geo. S. Morris & Catherine Harman, 1889.

Marriott C. Morris was a member of a prominent Philadelphia Quaker family who took his first photographs during his freshman year at Haverford College.  Morris continued to document his life through photographs of his large extended family and network of friends, his Germantown neighborhood and his many travels across the East Coast and even Bermuda.  One of his favorite subjects was the Morris family home Avocado, located in Sea Girt, New Jersey. 

Marriott C. Morris, [Front view of Avocado with two women sitting on the porch, Sea Girt, NJ], ca. 1900.

Marriott C. Morris, [View of Victorian decorated parlor, possibly Avocado at Sea Girt], ca. 1900.
Thanks to a generous donation made by Marriott C. Morris’s grandchildren David Marriott Morris, Eleanor Rhoads Morris Cox and William Perot Morris in memory of Marriott Canby Morris, the Library Company will be able to share these photographs with a wide audience.  Through a process of research, digitization and publication, people will be able to experience these photographs through the Library Company’s blog, twitter feed and an upcoming online exhibition.  As the Assistant Project Manager for this collection it is my hope that these photographs will not be seen simply as images of nameless faces but as a record of lives well lived, as a capsule of what Morris loved and wanted to remember.  Even more, these photographs provide  a window into the past, a snapshot of a time and a place, that give us a glimpse of everyday life in late 19th century Philadelphia.  There is a lot to learn from these photographs and I’m excited to share the Marriott C. Morris Photograph Collection with you.

Alison Van Denend
Assistant Project Manager
Marriott C. Morris Photograph Collection

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Light from Dark: woodcuts old and new

A woodcut speaks in a language that is abstracted, abbreviated, encoded and timeless.

John G Hurtin,   Baronet, will cover this season  (New York State, s.n., 1800) The gouge marks in the ground beneath the figures' feet show the carver's bold approach. 
With a sharp blade, the artist removes wood from the surface of a smooth wooden plank, paring away what is not needed.  What is left is a raised design that will carry the ink to the paper.   The process of working from dark to light (through cutting) forces the artist to make bold choices, black or white choices.   It requires directness in both cutting the block and in editing the message that one is trying to convey.

Chestnut Street Theatre, Pauvrette! or, Under the snow! … (Philadelphia, 1864)

There are many kinds of woodcuts to be found in our collections.  In the McLean Conservation department we are delighted every time we open up a book and discover a treasure hidden inside.  Whether boldly cut with broad strokes of the gauge, or carved with finesse, woodcuts command attention, even 200 years later, and speak in a timeless and universal visual language

Ercker.  Beschreibung allerf├╝rnemisten mineralischen Ertzt vnnd Bergkwercks (Frankfurt, 1598)  In this foundry scene, puffs of smoke are magically rendered into puffy symbols of smoke, and the metalsmith works with quiet intensity.
As I make my own woodcuts, I feel connected with the anonymous makers who came before me.  As an artist and Conservator, I am inspired by their immediacy, the clarity of intent, and their hand-hewn charm.  Come to the Library Company of Philadelphia to discover more examples of woodcuts from our collections, on view outside the Reading Room beginning September 30.

Andrea Krupp, Mountainside, 18 x 18, 2014 

Andrea Krupp, Riding to the Althing, 16 x 12, 2014

Andrea Krupp, Saga 2, 16 x 20, 2014
NORTH of HERE, an exhibit of Iceland-inspired woodcuts and monoprints by Andrea Krupp, opens October 10, 6:00-9:00pm at Twenty-two Gallery  in Philadelphia.  A Gallery Talk “Iceland, Inspiration and the artistic process” will be held October 11, 3:00pm, at the same location.  All are welcome!

Andrea Krupp