By Tracy A. Brown

Frederick Macmonnies (American, 1863–1937), Red-Haired Student at Easel, 1898-99,
oil on canvas, 32 x 21 ¼ inches, Private Collection

Reading other people’s diaries has long been a guilty pleasure of mine. Thanks to the publishing of their private writings, I’ve painted along with Alfred Munnings, peeked at the tortured existences of John Cheever and Virginia Woolf, and ventured into Studio 54 with Andy Warhol—to name just a few. So when NSLM’s George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Curator Claudia Pfeiffer asked me to transcribe the portrait painter Ellen Emmet Rand’s handwritten diaries in preparation for the Leading The Field: Ellen Emmet Rand exhibition now on view through March 22, 2020, it was my dream job come true–not only for the vicarious thrill, but for the honor of being part of the behind-the-scenes preparation of an NSLM exhibition.

In 2016, Claudia had painstakingly photographed Rand’s diaries (held in the University of Connecticut’s Archives and Special Collections*) page by page, and for the next couple of years a few of us Visitor Services Associates attempted to decipher Rand’s handwriting—which was no easy task. As Rand probably didn’t foresee her diaries being transcribed or published, she was a bit fast and loose with the punctuation and spelling. But apparently reading my grandmother’s “chicken-scratch” letters as a child had prepared me well, and I enjoyed solving the puzzle of every sentence. It helped that much of Rand’s vocabulary was from my grandparent’s era, as well: photographs were “Kodaks,” sick people felt “punk,” odd ones were “queer,” and most children “cunning.” She wrote descriptively about her portrait subjects, and was often amusing:

Thursday, May 23, 1935

“I worked very hard today, + if I did not make the portraits good, at any rate I made them liked by the family – I got Mr Clay about finished, he has been too ravishing all day, with twinkling eyes + a running nose, humming Yankee doodle perfectly in tune. I’ve yet to see his equal for charm.”

History is not a topic I’ve studied with enthusiasm in the past, but through Rand’s diaries I got a personal account of the news of the day, such as the Lindbergh baby kidnapping and trial (at which Rand was in the audience sketching), the Hindenburg disaster and disappearance of Amelia Earhart, as well as the crash of the stock market, the Great Depression, and the events in Europe leading up to WWII. Rand was invested in not only her family, community, and church, but the happenings of the world at large:

Tuesday, December 31, 1940

 “The war news is of such a nature that just today I did not turn on the radio much – just too disheartening…how can we be cheerful with the world in such a terrible state + England most of all – humans are strange things + will dance to the bitter end + insist on happiness, until it is taken by force.”

I’d thought the diaries would be largely about art, since Rand was a hugely successful painter. But over the years painting seems to have become chiefly a business to her, means to badly-needed income to support her family. As the effects of the Great Depression were realized, her worry became palpable. She agonized over unpaid bills and overdue portrait fees and raged at income tax time. As a result, her health and spirits began to flag.

Saturday, January 7, 1933

“…life on the whole has such a precarious undertone that at times it is a bit unreal & I don’t dare to enjoy it — I realize that everything depends on me + my work is so threatened just now.”

detail of Wednesday, March 10, 1937 diary entry by Ellen Emmet Rand (American, 1875–1941) with income tax cartoon

Monday, November 13, 1939

“…I am ashamed that my life is so controlled by my finances my happiness + content + discontent are all trackable to whether or not I have the price, not to indulge but just to live + pay bills.”

Surprisingly, Rand was largely without ego for one so successful; even in her private diary she never bragged.

Tuesday, April 18, 1933

“…I dropped my card at the White House, it may and it may not bear fruit, at any rate it’s the best I could do.”

Wednesday, August 9, 1933

“…Today was mostly notable for the fact that I did get a real honest to god order to paint President Franklin D. Roosevelt for the White House. I had a letter from Eleanor Roosevelt in which she said that he wanted me to paint him …I may go over there tomorrow to see him, or at least see the light.” 

Friday, November 24, 1933

…I worked practically all day on F.D.R’s portrait + if I’m not greatly mistaken I improved it, but I may be greatly mistaken.”

Figure 5. “Posing for Official White House Portrait,” The Hartford Courant, September 3, 1933.
Published in 2015, Enabling Authority: Ellen Emmet Rand, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the Power of Portraiture by Emily M Mazzola

It was difficult to witness Rand’s self-esteem decline over the years:

Friday, April 21, 1933

“I rose up early, with something like pessimism in my chest – feeling that my portrait was not too good…last night I made a sketch of myself at about 12.30 in the mirror, just to get my hand in, it was quite good and quite like me but so hideous that it would knock your eye out.”

Tuesday, April 10, 1934

“The first shock I got today was my picture in both Herald Tribune + Times both photos were so ugly that I could not shake it off but just felt hideous all day, in spite of which I brought a new… dress…trying to get some self respect I suppose, my looks are getting so offensive to me that I can no longer laugh it off.”

The diaries are chock full of minutiae, as Rand habitually recorded not only the comings and goings of her family and various guests, but also the more intimate ups and downs of married life. Rand’s portrait of William Blanchard Rand, her husband of 30 years, hangs at the top of the stairs in Leading The Field, and on my morning rounds through the museum I mutter a few choice words at him as I pass by—because I know intimately the pain and humiliation his dalliances and absences caused Rand, although she tried to rise above it:

Thursday, July 24, 1930 

“…I was out of sorts from early morning on account of not being able to locate Blanchard, + I am in a general sense enraged at his being at Lebanon so much of the time – Then I painted very indifferently and accomplished practically nothing.”

Thursday, February 1, 1934

“…Edith is of course going to Virginia with Blanchard. I wonder if she is planning to take my saddle as well as my husband, well I can’t do much about her taking him, or him taking her, but my saddle is still mine. “

Ellen Emmet Rand (American, 1875–1941), William Blanchard Rand, Esq. M.F.H. The Old Chatham, 1936, The William Benton Museum of Art, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut [image source: University of Connecticut website, Ellen Emmet Rand Gallery, https://benton.uconn.edu/ellen-emmet-rand-gallery/ ]

Of course there are two sides to every story, but I only have access to hers, and what an engrossing story it was. It pained me to reach the final entry—Thursday, May 8, 1941—when Rand abruptly announced the end of her daily record. She died a few months later. 

“I will close indefinitely writing my diary. I think I will begin again in July, my fingers are still queer + numb + though they hardly ever hurt, they are awkward when I write… It does not bother me to paint I am at it every day. Today was bad, in more ways than one. I got on poorly with M.W. Clement who posed rather spasmodically…The weather was poor…Well better luck will be reported when I take it up again. Anyway…tomorrow may be brighter – until probably July then goodbye.”

It’s my understanding that relatively few people have read Rand’s handwritten diaries, so I consider it a privilege to have helped transcribe them. I hope she doesn’t mind. And I hope visitors will come in droves to see her amazing work at NSLM.

*All quotes are from diaries held in the Ellen Emmet Rand Papers, Archives & Special Collections, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, Finding Aid


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Tracy Brown is a Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts graduate and retired commercial artist-turned-fine artist. She has served the National Sporting Library & Museum as a Visitor Services Associate for nearly three years. She also rides, hikes, and raises Angus cattle on her farm in Culpeper, VA.

When I walked into Joan Danziger’s studio for the first time in 2016, it was magical. An authentic reflection of the artist’s creative output for the past four decades, it is both a working space and a showcase.

I was there to view a new wire and glass sculpture series Danziger had embarked upon of horses. I knew of her previous beetle sculptures, and my interest was piqued. Against a backdrop of over 50 sparkling insects hanging on a wall were two completed equine works, Riders of the Blue Spirit and Black Star, and a few others that had been started.

Black Star, 2016, metal and glass, 32 x 48 x 17 inches

They were something new, something different. As I walked around the sculptures taking pictures of them, I began to analyze how they were different. They were joyful, they made me smile, and they were free-spirited; there was something noteworthy about how they were created that made them unique.

Riders of the Blue Spirit, 2016, metal and glass, 29 x 40 x 29 inches

Danziger has completed 17 horses in the past three years since that visit, of which we have on loan 13 in her current solo exhibition at the National Sporting Library & Museum, Canter & Crawl: The Glass Sculpture of Joan Danziger. Her sometimes whimsical works have a freedom and airiness that is emphasized by their mixed media and construction. Each has a metal base with a soldered rod around which up to four layers of chicken wire are wrapped and shaped. Because her materials are so lightweight, Danziger can project her forms, sometimes as much as 3 feet, away from their footings. The negative space created around the works adds an almost ethereal quality. The support rods are mostly hidden in the finished sculpture, heightening the allusion of her horses as archetypes of dancing, galloping, jumping, and frolicking.

Golden Prince, 2017, metal, glass, dichroic glass, and brass wire, 39 x 53 x 25 inches

The contemporary sculptor’s pieces are obviously not meant to be perfect representations of horse anatomy but are an exploration of the spirit and nature of the horse. Danziger’s studio assistant Rebecca Long, a representational sculptor, creates the basic forms, and Danziger instructs her on elongating and exaggerating proportions. In her early career, Danziger was an abstract painter having studied at Cornell University. Relying on her knowledge of color theory and abstraction, she cuts and applies glass shards and braids wire to the forms to create mosaic surfaces that are an intriguing play of light, shadow, texture, translucency, and opacity.

Detail of Riders of the Blue Spirit, 2016

As a photographer, I can attest to how difficult it is to capture the nuances and subtleties of three-dimensional art in a photograph. We at NSLM are excited to be the first venue for Joan Danziger’s uplifting horse series so that visitors may experience these sparkling jewels in person. If you haven’t seen the exhibition yet and are within driving distance, I encourage you to visit Canter & Crawl before it closes on January 5, 2020.

Panorama of one of the Canter & Crawl galleries.

pfeiffer

Claudia Pfeiffer is the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Curator at the National Sporting Library & Museum and has been with the organization since the position was first underwritten by the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation in 2012. Her primary focus is the research, design, interpretation, writing, and installation of exhibitions. E-mail Claudia at cpfeiffer@nationalsporting.org

The permanent collection at the National Sporting Library & Museum has over 1,300 objects, including paintings, sculptures, works on paper, weathervanes, and dog collars. That’s right, dog collars.

Fifteen years ago, Dr. and Mrs. Tim Greenan began collecting dog collars, eventually amassing 187 of them. In 2014, they donated their entire collection to the NSLM, making the museum one of the largest (if not the largest) repositories in the world for these niche objects.

Dr. Greenan and the Curatorial department are developing an exhibition for 2022 that will display the objects alongside works of art that feature similar collars. The show will also highlight the relationship between dogs and humans and how that relationship has evolved throughout the centuries.

It’s hard to remember a time when dogs have not been Man’s Best Friend snuggling up on our laps and eagerly awaiting our return. Initially, they were trained for war, hunting, working, fighting, and scouting. The one shown below dates from the 18th century and is firmly utilitarian.  The spikes repelled attackers and protected the canine.

Dog Collar, 18th century, British, metal,
7 inches diameter x 1 inches wide

The brass one below would have been used for bear baiting or boar hunting. It is important to remember to not look at such collars through 21st-century eyes, but rather keep it in context of the 18th century. While we view it as cruel, bear baiting was considered a regular sport for all societal classes at the time. This collar is inscribed “WILLIAM ECKLES ISLAND HILL 1792.” The sharp sawtooth edges would have protected the neck of the dog wearing it.

Dog collar, 1792, British, brass,
6 inches diameter x 2 1/2 inches wide

The large horsehair collar below (and my favorite!) is from the 18th century, possibly from Goa, India. It is decorated with orange agate cabochons and is almost 12 inches in diameter. You can imagine that this is also quite heavy and would probably have been worn by a mastiff.

Dog collar, 18th century, possibly Goa, India, horsehair leather with agate cabochons and brass mounts with ring attachment
11 3/4 inches diameter x 2 7/8 inches height x 3 1/2 inches wide

As dogs were domesticated, they also served as a status symbol: the breed, pedigree, and, of course, the collar. Tiffany & Co., known for their wonderful and highly sought-after jewelry, also produced many everyday objects, including the below silver dog collar from 1831-1832. It is inscribed with the owner’s name, “GEO. H. INGERSOLL ./ NEW YORK.,” is adjustable, and came to the collection with the owner’s choice for a lock. It was not uncommon for dogs to be stolen, their identification to be removed, and then be resold on the street as dogs in need of a home. The lock served to discourage would-be thieves.

Dog collar, 1831-1832, American, silver,
4 1/4 inches diameter x 3 /4 inches wide

The inscriptions could sometimes be whimsical and silly.  The one below is from the 1920s or 1930s and reads, “I’M / H.O. SWINFORD’S DOG / WHOSE DOG / ARE YOU?”

Dog collar, 1920s or 1930s, American, leather, 4 inches diameter x
1 3/4 inches wide

The image below shows an Italian collar from the 1940s with distinctly Roman motifs. One crest has an image of Romulus, the founder of Rome, and his twin brother, Remus. The other crest shows the she-wolf that nursed the twins after they were abandoned. Incredibly appropriate motifs to adorn such an object!

Dog collar, 1940s, Italian, leather,
5 1/2 inches diameter x 1 3/4 inches wide

Stay tuned as we continue to learn about these everyday, yet fascinating, objects. We’ll be posting more teasers in preparation for the forthcoming 2022 exhibition.

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

I might have been complaining a little bit to my colleagues at the lunch table when a co-worker suggested that I blog about the behind-the-scenes curating of Leading the Field: Ellen Emmet Rand. “I think people would find it interesting,” she said.

Ellen Emmet Rand (American, 1875-1941), Mrs. I. Tucker, Burr, Jr., M.F.H. The Norfolk, 1933, oil on canvas, 48 x 37 inches, Collection of the Burr Family

I thought that curating Leading the Field would be more straightforward. The vision seemed simple enough. First, gather as many of the 20 paintings as possible that were included in the 1936 exhibition, Sporting Portraits by Ellen Emmet Rand, N.A., held at the Sporting Gallery & Bookshop in New York City. Then, find other works that would relate to Rand as an equestrian and a countrywoman.

Ellen Emmet Rand (American, 1875-1941), Miss Charlotte Noland, Foxcroft School, 1929, oil on canvas, 40 x 30 inches, Collection of the Foxcroft School, Middleburg, Virginia

We already knew the names of all the sitters and hunt affiliations of the works in the 1936 exhibition and had close ties to the hunt world. NSLM Board Member and former Joint Master of Piedmont Fox Hounds Turner Reuter helped make phone calls and connections, and I contacted the other hunts. Gary Dycus, another Rand researcher, also offered helpful leads. The first paintings fell into place quickly.

Ellen Emmet Rand (American, 1875-1941), Dr. Howard Collins, ex-M.F.H. The Millbrook, 1935, oil on canvas, 44 x 32 1/2 inches, Collection of Jen and Blair Collins

In the early stages of the project, I met Emily Mazzola who was working on her Masters of Arts in Art History at the University of Connecticut. She had kept a spreadsheet of all the Rand titles she came across along the way. Several of these titles jumped out at me as paintings of the artist’s family and farm: Gren with Gun and Dogs, 1903; John — Sketch on Dykeman, 1924; North Pasture—H.H.F., 1925; Boys with Horses, 1928;  Bill on Polo Pony, 1930s; J.A.R.[John Alsop Rand] – Riding Clothes, 1930s; Silo and Cows – H.H.F, 1930s; W.B.R. [William Blanchard Rand] – Pink Coat, 1930s; Velvet Cap, Whip and Gloves, 1930s; and Chris in Horse Stall. Surely, some of these paintings would still be in the family’s hands.

Ellen Emmet Rand (American, 1875-1941), Hamlet Hill in the Snow, 1923, oil on canvas, 22 x 28 inches, Private Collection

Despite what I considered to be a solid list of leads, it turned out to be one of the most challenging list of exhibition loans I have undertaken in my career. Most of the paintings were still in private hands and had passed through one, two, and sometimes three generations. Twisting branches of family treesdivorces, re-marriages, estates, and family alliancesled to dozens and dozens of possible candidates, countless hours of ancestry and obituary research, and a multitude of cold calls and emails to strangers.

Ellen Emmet Rand (American, 1875-1941), Mrs. Fletcher Harper, 1930, oil on canvas, 43 x 29 1/4 inches, Private Collection

It is always exciting to track down an owner of a work; however, it is only the first step. Unlike institutional loans in which we navigate through a bureaucratic process of approvals and paperwork, securing private loans is about building relationships founded on trust. Loan form completion, conservation standards, and scheduling of packing and pickup around busy schedules can start to seem insurmountable. Lenders reach a tipping point when they truly feelnot just thinkthat their altruism will have a benefit that outweighs the prospect of empty walls and concern over the safety of their cherished pieces.

Ellen Emmet Rand (American, 1875-1941), Jake in Hunting Clothes, 1936, oil on canvas, 42 x 32 1/4 inches, Collection of Rosina Rand

Of the 22 lenders to Leading the Field: Ellen Emmet Rand, all of us at NSLM owe a huge debt of gratitude to the 16 individuals who committed to their loans. I first started the journey towards a better understanding of the artist Ellen Emmet Rand believing that transcribing the 767,000 words of her 17 years’ worth of diaries would be the most daunting aspect of the project, but thanks to NSLM Visitors Services colleagues taking on the transcriptions, this was not the case. Instead, Rand’s words became an earwig in my brain encouraging me to continue to track down loans for the past three years. Thanks to our generous public and private lenders and Rand’s own words, Leading the Field: Ellen Emmet Rand presents exciting new scholarship with paintings, sketches, illustrations, and photographs gathered from across the miles.

Ellen Emmet Rand (American, 1875-1941), Boys with Horses, 1928, oil on canvas, 79 x 64 3/4 inches, Collection of Rosina Rand

Don’t miss the exhibition before it closes on March 22, 2020. If you would like to schedule a tour, please contact Clarice & Robert H. Smith Educator Valerie Peacock. For the further reading, please see the Ellen Emmet Rand Slept Here blog.

Ellen Emmet Rand (American, 1875-1941), The Hound Show at The Riding Club, (Last Show at the Riding Club), January 31, 1936, oil on panel, 27 1/2 x 23 1/4 inches, Collection of Rosina Rand

pfeiffer

Claudia Pfeiffer is the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Curator at the National Sporting Library & Museum and has been with the organization since the position was first underwritten by the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation in 2012. Her primary focus is the research, design, interpretation, writing, and installation of exhibitions. E-mail Claudia at cpfeiffer@nationalsporting.org

As a Visitor Services Associate at the National Sporting Library & Museum, I often talk to guests about two artworks: an oil, Over the Brush Fence, 1930 and a watercolor, Portrait of a ‘Chaser, 1935. Both were painted by Paul Brown (American, 1893-1958).  Visitors enjoy reminiscing about Paul Brown drawings, prints, and illustrations that they have seen over the years.

Paul Brown (American, 1893-1958) Over the Brush Fence, 1930, oil on canvas, 
26 x 32 7/8 x 1 7/8 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Nancy Searles, the artist's daughter, 2011
Paul Brown (American, 1893-1958) Over the Brush Fence, 1930, oil on canvas,
26 x 32 7/8 x 1 7/8 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Nancy Searles, the artist’s daughter, 2011

Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Brown was a well-known equestrian artist and illustrator. He captured the excitement of polo matches, horse shows, and steeplechase events in whimsical, yet accurate detail. He also illustrated over 100 children’s books. NSLM is lucky to be the repository of the largest Paul Brown archive of first edition books and artwork in the world.  An especially intimate part of this collection came to us in 2011 from his daughter, Nancy Brown Searles.  Part of the Searles Collection is an archival box filled with drawings in pencil, pen and ink, and watercolor. Many are charming sketches drawn on nothing more than a torn piece of newsprint or remnant of an art board. 

[untitled], 1935, illustration, pen and ink, Paul Brown Archive, Box 11,
Searles Collection, 2011

The oldest drawing is of a lion, signed “Paul Brown, age 6.”

[untitled], 1899, pencil on paper, Paul Brown Archive, Box 11, 
Searles Collection, 2011
[untitled], 1899, pencil on paper, Paul Brown Archive, Box 11, Searles Collection, 2011

There are also endearing sketches and drawings that include handwritten notes to family and friends.

 [untitled], early 20th century, watercolor, Paul Brown Archive, Box 11, 
Searles Collection, 2011
[untitled], early 20th century, watercolor, Paul Brown Archive, Box 11,
Searles Collection, 2011

In addition to my position at the museum, I am working, part-time, on a Master of Museum and Gallery Studies at University of St Andrews in Scotland.  As part of my collection-based project, I am cataloguing the Searles Collection. I write condition reports and confirm dates so that relationships between drawings in the museum and books in the library can fill out a narrative of the artist’s career.  Paul Brown’s joie de vivre and consummate draftsmanship shines through in all his work from early sketches to mature drawings.

A few works from this treasure box, as well as some of his books from the NSLM’s F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room, will be on display in the Library’s Mars Gallery beginning in late September.  Artwork from the archive will be seen, publicly, for the first time ever!  This small exhibit may make you think twice before you throw away a box of childhood drawings.  You never know where the pen, pencil, or paint brush may take you. Check our website soon for exhibition details.

Grace Pierce is a part-time Visitor Services Associate at the National Sporting Library & Museum.  She is also pursuing a Master of Museum and Gallery Studies at University of St Andrews in Scotland. When not greeting visitors at the museum or cataloguing in art storage, Grace can be found on the links in St Andrews. 

Principles for the Development of a Complete Mind: Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses—especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.
– Leonardo da Vinci

In popular culture, hard science and art are often perceived as opposites. In reality, however, there is an intimate link between the physical sciences and the creation and perception of an artistic work. An understanding of chemistry, specifically, is able to provide a fascinating twist to artistic appreciation. As an example, the patina of the 19th-century cow weathervane in the National Sporting Library & Museum’s permanent collection is complex and beautiful. A reflection of its age, verdigris is visible where the applied gilt surface has worn away.  One of several weathervanes bequeathed by Paul Mellon, it is currently on view in the exhibition, NSLMology: The Science Sporting Art. The decorative object provides a springboard for discussions about chemistry and art.

American School, 19th century, A Cow, molded copper with cast iron and cast zinc horns, 14 1/4 x 23 inches, Bequest of Paul Mellon, 1999

Chemistry as a science deals with the material properties of elements and compounds, and how these things work together. It is sometimes referred to as the “central science” because it bridges and connects the natural sciences. In art, everything from the mixing of paint to casting of sculpture can be described with chemical reactions and terminology.

The molded body of the weathervane was made from a copper alloy which turns greenish-blue when exposed to the elements. Note also that the patina of the metal exposed in the head of the cow is gray. This is because it is made of cast iron with cast-zinc horns. Welded onto the body, the heavier materials create balance for smoother spinning on the weathervane’s axis. Traditionally, gold leaf was not only applied as an aesthetic choice but also as a practical one. Gold is one of the least reactive elements and the most malleable of metals. It can be hammered into extremely thin sheets and retain its ability to be an effective barrier against moisture and exposure to oxygen.

Ferdinand Pautrot (French, 1832–1874), Rooster, Snails, and Pumpkin, after 1860, bronze
6 1/2 x 3 3/4 inches, Gift of the Estate of Milton Ritzenberg, 2018

Metal casting is integral to the NSLM’s bronze collection. From a scientific perspective, this technique provides fodder for an examination of chemical theory. For example, casting encompasses the three states of matter—liquid (molten bronze), gas (released as the bronze is poured and cools), and a solid (resulting sculpture). Also, the cooling of the bronze is an exothermic reaction, involving the release of heat.

Diagram of classic lost wax casting of a bronze, graphic by Jody West

Pigments are another natural platform for discussing chemical principles. Before paint was mass produced, artists often mixed their own paints from naturally occurring elements and minerals. For example, white paint could be made using lead (lead carbonate), white lime (calcium carbonate), or gypsum (calcium sulfate dihydrate). In 1921, American and Norwegian companies began to develop titanium dioxide, or titanium white, for painting in mass quantities. Knowing this brings a completely different perspective to looking at NSLM’s 17th to 21st century art collection. It begs analysis of how whites compare from one work to another and invites observations about the differences and similarities between them.

Left to right:  Abraham van Calraet (Dutch, 1642–1722), Portrait of a Horse in a Landscape (detail), c. 1690, oil on panel, 19 x 23 1/4 inches, Gift of Mrs. Henry H. Weldon, 2008; Follower of James Ross (British, fl. 1729–1738), A Hare Hunting Scene  (detail), 18th century, oil on canvas, 34 ½  x 54 ½  inches, Gift of Gerald Parsky, 2008; John Bucknell Russell (Scottish, 1820–1893), The Day’s Catch (detail), 1865; oil on canvas, 21 1/4 x 29 1/4 inches, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Timothy J. Greenan, 2011; Phoebe Phipps (English/American, ?–1993), The Quail Hunter (detail), 1986, acrylic on canvas, 18 x 24 1/2 inches, Gift of Mrs. Mimi Abel Smith, 2012

With a clinical eye, scientific principles are easily observed in art. An understanding these ideas can enhance one’s appreciation of a work. Chemistry is just one section in NSLMology on view though September 15, 2019. Weather, Ecology, Motion, and Color Theory are also presented in the same way in the interdisciplinary exhibition to shed a universal light on the understanding and appreciation of sporting art. Please join us in the galleries to explore this new perspective on the collection!


pfeiffer

Claudia Pfeiffer has been the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator at the National Sporting Library & Museum since the position was underwritten by the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation in 2012. Her primary focus is the research, design, interpretation, writing, and installation of exhibitions. E-mail Claudia at cpfeiffer@nationalsporting.org

“Just living is not enough…. one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower”

-Hans Christian Anderson

Since the beginning of time, mankind has left permanent marks on the planet. Ancient peoples cultivated wild plants and animals, and built great civilizations. Now, people live in almost every ecosystem on the planet- whether in the tundra, in forests, or on tropical islands. While cities clearly show peoples’ effect on the landscape, the world’s open and agricultural areas demonstrate our connection to the plants, animals, and features of the world around us.

calraet
Portrait of a Horse in a Landscape, Abraham van Calraet, c. 1690, oil on panel, 26 1/2 x 30 1/2 x 2 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum

In van Calraet’s animal portrait, the viewer might first think that this horse is out in the wilderness, content in his freedom and with the whole world at his hooves. But on closer inspection it becomes clear that his neighbors are domesticated cows, and while no fences are visible there appear to be buildings in the hazy distance. Organisms living together in an environment often have symbiotic relationships, and humans are an important part of this environment, even if they are not seen. In this case humans may have a mutually beneficial relationship with their livestock. Judging by the size of the horse he is well cared for; fed, watered, and brushed. He also seems to have plenty of space to roam, alongside the cows. In return perhaps he is ridden or hitched up to a cart or carriage now and again.

Russell_days catch.standard
The Day’s Catch, John Bucknell Russell, 1865, oil on canvas 27 x 35 1/4 x 2 3/4 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum

Apart from farmland, people can also change ecosystems by bringing new species to far away places. Brown trout, like the ones in Russell’s The Day’s Catch, are native to Europe, from northern Norway and Russia all the way to the Atlas Mountains in Northern Africa. Since the 19th century, humans have introduced brown trout species to Australia, India, and North and South America, mainly as a sport fish. Some kinds of trout live exclusively in freshwater streams and lakes, while others live most of their lives in the ocean and only travel to freshwater areas to spawn.

While not inherently dangerous, introducing new species to an area can put pressure on an ecosystem. In some places, like Australia, brown trout endanger other fish by directly competing for food and other resources. In Canada on the other hand, trout populations are threatened by yet another newcomer, an alga commonly known as ‘rock snot’. In each of these cases, anglers and local inhabitants work together to re-balance the ecosystem and remove hazards to native populations.

SONY DSC
Frederick M.M. Warburg with Middleburg Hunt at Goose Creek Michael Lyne, 1950, oil on canvas 22 x 25 3/4 x 1 3/4 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum

Foxhunting is a sport traditionally pursued in temperate zones, the native habitat of European red foxes. As English foxhunters moved around the world, they brought the sport- and the associated animals- with them. In Lyne’s Frederick M.M. Warburg with Middleburg Hunt at Goose Creek, the Virginia Piedmont is seen in autumn, complete with fallen leaves. Viewers also see several species not indigenous to this area. Horses were brought to the colonies with Spanish and English settlers in the 16th and 17th centuries. These riders are following a pack of foxhounds, which were introduced to the Mid Atlantic area starting in 1650. the hounds’ quarry is not identifiable. Gray foxes have lived in North America for millennia, but their cousins, red foxes, are believed to have been brought from Europe during the colonial era as well.

While the subjects of these paintings have lived in their respective habitats (whether man made or natural) for hundreds of years, they are still newcomers in the long timeline of ecology. In each case, humans have forever changed the face of the environment. It is peoples’ responsibility to recognize our impact on the world around us and to treat our surroundings with respect.

 

Want to learn more about Ecosystems in our artwork? Visit NSLMology: the Science of Sporting Art, opening at NSLM on April 12!