“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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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What do a stuffed horse, Seattle Slew, the Black Stallion, and Ronald Reagan all have in common? Although the question may seem like the set up for the punchline to a joke, the answer is that they are among the far-ranging photographic subjects represented in the vintage and antique equine imagery recently donated to the National Sporting Library & Museum by Judith & Jo Tartt, Jr.

Ronald Reagan, c. 1960, gelatin silver print, 8 1/8 x 10 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Donated by Judith & Jo Tartt, Jr., 2018

You may recall the loan exhibition in the Museum that ended in January 2018 titled The Horse and the Camera: From the Judith & Jo Tartt, Jr. Photography Collection. A subset of almost 70 tintypes, photogravures, albumen prints, gelatin silver prints, and collotypes from the 1870s to the 1960s were loaned by Judith and Jo Tartt from their 160-image collection of black and white photography to develop a narrative about technological advancements in cameras and resulting images; the evolution of equine sports photography; and the horse as the center of sport, work, and leisure. Among the highlights were early portraits, a stop-motion sequence of a horse and rider jumping by Edweard Muybridge, two images of equestrian competition in the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Leni Riefenstahl, and an art photo of draft horses by Alfred Stieglitz.

“Might Dudley” with Unidentified Female Driver, Toronto, c. 1960, gelatin silver print, 8 x 10 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Donated by Judith & Jo Tartt, Jr., 2018

The collection, however, is even deeper and broader than the topics explored in the exhibition.  Lighthearted circus performers; heart-wrenching war horse casualties; souvenir carnival photos (yes, even with a stuffed horse); iconic celebrities; and a multitude of newsworthy races, racehorses, jockeys, and finishes pepper the collection.

Child Actor Kelly Reno with Arabian stallion Cass Ole, both in the “Black Stallion” movie, c. 1979, gelatin silver print, 7 1/8 x 9 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Donated by Judith & Jo Tartt, Jr., 2018

How does a collection such as this come to exist? It is actually a sweet story. When they began courting, Jo Tartt, a photography expert and now-retired gallery owner, and Judith Tartt, a conservator and equestrian, began to build it together. They started carefully amassing photographic images that featured equines as a combined interest in the 1990s. Their criteria were composition, quality, and uniqueness; and it shows. Each image adds a level of understanding of the relationship that humans intrinsically have with horses, while at the same time providing a “different angle,” both in technical aspects of photography and in the context of the subjects captured.

John Kennedy, 1971, gelatin silver print, 10 x 8 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Donated by Judith & Jo Tartt, Jr., 2018

Many are original gelatin silver prints by unknown photojournalists, some with accompanying wirephoto news service captions. It is easy to get lost in the multitude of these images: a 1971 photo of John F. Kennedy, Jr., at the age of 11, riding a pony and looking absolutely miserable in his hunt attire; a human “foxhunt” in 1937; an astounding show of power in a draft horse pull on Martha’s Vineyard in the 1970s; or a 1952 photo of jockey Johnny Langden weighing out for his almost unbelievable 3,995th race.

Horse Pull, Martha’s Vineyard, c. 1970, gelatin silver print, 5 x 7 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Donated by Judith & Jo Tartt, Jr., 2018

The photographic images may be “weird” to some and “wonderful” to others, but in total they are a most welcome addition to the National Sporting Library & Museum’s holdings. Working on the previous exhibition and programs with Judith and Jo Tartt was an amazing and enriching experience, and knowing that we were able to develop a mutual respect that led to their ultimate decision to generously donate this precious collection is the best gift of all. We look forward to the opportunity of researching these images further and interpreting them in a multitude of ways. Don’t miss some of them in the upcoming exhibition, NSLMology: Science of Sporting ArtHere’s to the “weird and wonderful.”

Stymie, 1959, gelatin silver print heightened with marker and gouache, 6 ½ x 8 ½ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Donated by Judith & Jo Tartt, Jr., 2018

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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

“The sky is the daily bread of the eyes” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Art is often best viewed with one’s head in the clouds. Temperature, season, and weather are all defined in the skyline of landscape and sporting scenes. Artists may use dramatic cumulonimbus clouds to mirror the excitement of a race, or low-hanging swathes of mist to promise a dewy morning, giving way to the afternoon sun. In NSLM’s collections, a wide range of cloud types can be seen that meld scientific study with artistic appreciation.

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 Booth Malone (American, b. 1950), Burrland Road, Orange County Hounds, oil on linen, 35½ x 29½ inches. Gift of Viviane M. Warren, 2018

Stratus clouds

In Malone’s Burrland Road, Orange County Hounds, we see an excellent example of stratus clouds, presumably at sunrise. They hang at middle height in the sky, usually measuring between 6,000 and 18,000 feet. While stratus clouds can bring a little fog or drizzle, for the most part they signify clear, dry weather. Here, the purple and blue clouds are set in contrast to the yellow, ochre, and red tones of the field, including hounds and rider. The color contrast and deep shadows of the figures suggest a cool, crisp morning. The viewer senses not only a low temperature, but also a breeze lifting the horse’s tail and hounds’ ears as they run forward. The direction of the breeze is perhaps echoed in the strokes of the stratus cloud, which in turn follows the direction of the field, urging the viewer’s gaze from left to right.

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 John Frederick Herring, Sr. (English, 1795-1865), The Start of the Derby, 1845, oil on canvas, 28 x 48 inches. Bequest of Elizabeth D. Clark, 2017

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Cumulonimbus cloud

Here we see an example of tense energy, both in the skyline and in the foreground. As jockeys and their mounts line up before a flat race in The Start of the Derby, 1845, the sky is dominated by a billowing column of cumulonimbus cloud. These large, often dark, clouds can soar over 20,000 feet in height and signify incoming rain or storms. In this case it looks as though the front is headed right towards the race meet! The horses kick and stamp in excitement, just as plumes of cloud reach into the sky. It is clear that, both above and below, drama is in store.

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Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait (American, 1819 – 1905), Jealousy, oil on canvas, 21 1/4 x 30 inches. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Timothy J. Greenan, 2012

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Cumulus clouds

When children learn to draw clouds, most often they start with perky, white, cumulus clouds. Cumulus clouds hang relatively low in the sky, often only 3,000-5,000 feet above the ground. While cumulus clouds can bring showers or develop into ominous cumulonimbus clouds, they are usually associated with calm and sunny days. In Tait’s Jealousy, a small herd of cows is seen relaxing in a sunny field edged by fences and wildflowers. Beyond that, a distant tree line softly blends the sky and earth together. Closer to the viewer, the rounded shapes of reclining cows are similar to the shapes of the clouds, evoking a peaceful and pastoral sense throughout the piece.

In art, as in life, the comings and goings of the clouds are worth note. Artists use skylines to tell the viewer about the meteorological conditions of their chosen setting, but they also use the science of clouds to emphasize the mood in every piece. Scientific principles can be found throughout NSLM’s collections. Learn more about them in NSLMology: Science in Sporting Art opening in Middleburg this April.

In July 1836, a stage coach at Walham Green suffered an accident: runaway horses overturned the coach and several passengers suffered broken limbs. One of the passengers was forcibly thrown from the coach, but escaped with only a strained back. That passenger was named James Pollard, a painter of coaches and carriages who was also a great traveler across the English countryside in pursuit of his occupation.

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“Omnibuses Leaving the Nag’s Head, Holloway,” Cat. No. 140, from James Pollard 1792-1867 by N. C. Selway, 1965. National Sporting Library & Museum.

James Pollard (1792-1867) was the son of engraver Robert Pollard (1755-1838). The elder Pollard strove to encourage his son in an artist’s career, and young James worked alongside his father producing drawings and designs for engravings while honing his skills as a painter.

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“‘Fly Fishing,’ from a painting by James Pollard, engraved on wood by F. Babbage,” from Animal Painters of England From the Year 1650, Volume II by Sir Walter Gilbey. National Sporting Library & Museum.

In 1820, James was commissioned by Edward Orme to produce a painting of a mail coach for a signboard of an inn. The painting caught the eye of the Austrian ambassador, who requested another by the same artist. Three more orders came in, and James was on the road to an established career painting coaches, horses, and passengers. He would go on to exhibit at the Royal Academy in 1821 and again in 1824.

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“The Bath & Bristol Mail Coach By Moonlight,” Cat. No. 19, from James Pollard 1792-1867 by N. C. Selway, 1965. National Sporting Library & Museum.

Pollard was a sportsman, and although he enjoyed most success as a painter of coaches, he also painted other sporting scenes. He was an avid fisherman and painted angling scenes multiple times. He also painted scenes from the Epsom races and occasionally foxhunting scenes.

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(after) James Pollard (English, 1792-1867) Aylesbury Grand Steeplechase, The Light Weight Stakes: Starting Field, Plate 1, 1836 aquatint on paper, 15 ¼ x 20 ½ inches National Sporting Library & Museum, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Norman R. Bobins, 2012

In 1825, James married and went into business for himself as an independent artist. He enjoyed great success in the 1830s, but in 1840 his wife and youngest daughter both died. It was reported that James never truly recovered his old form. His career suffered, though he continued to produce paintings into the late 1850s. In his later years, he retired to live with his son and family, and he died in 1867 at 75 years old.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail 

When a covey of quail is flushed, the birds instinctively take simultaneous flight from cover in an energetic burst, dispersing within seconds. It makes for challenging sport, and from mid-October to mid-March, in what is known as the Southern plantation belt, a tradition plays out, much like it has for over a hundred years. Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama are known for premiere quail shooting. Many of the properties that are still in operation were acquired after the Civil War by industrialists who cultivated habitats for the game birds and popularized the genteel pursuit.

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Ogden Minton Pleissner (American, 1905 – 1983) The Covey Rise, 1960, watercolor on paper, sight size 16 ¾ x 28 inches, Gift of Private Collection, 2018

A recent donation from a private collector to the National Sporting Library & Museum, the watercolor Covey Rise, 1960, by prominent American sporting artist Ogden Minton Pleissner (1905-1983) offers a glimpse into this regional pastime. Two pointers are seen in a classic pose, pointing in the direction of the flushed quail flying toward a pine row, while two guns stand ankle deep in wet grass and take aim in the foreground. To the right, the mule-drawn wagon is equipped with seats for the gentlemen and space for the gun dogs and accouterments; it likely carries an elaborate luncheon to be enjoyed in the field.

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Pleissner painting outside of his cabin. Ogden Pleissner, 196-? / unidentified photographer. Ogden M. Pleissner papers, 1928-1976. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. [source: https://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/items/detail/ogden-pleissner-8477 ]
Pleissner was an avid sportsman who knew the nuances of upland bird shooting. He took up wingshooting in the 1930s and gained access to sporting camps, preserves, plantations, country estates, and patrons internationally. The artist’s sporting background informed his subject matter, and he became known for his painterly and authentic scenes such as Covey Rise, 1960. A previous owner of the picture, Andre W. Brewster, wrote Pleissner in June 1982:

I have long admired your work and finally purchased this watercolor at the Crossroads in New York a year or two ago. It reminds me much of Oketee [sic]…It would be most appreciated if you would write me of the place, time and circumstances of your painting of this particular watercolor.

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Letter from Andre W. Brewster to Mr. Ogden Pleissner, June 7, 1982, NSLM Curatorial files

The Okeetee Club, a game preserve to which Brewster referred, was started in 1894 by a group of New Yorkers who banded together to purchase 50,000 acres in South Carolina to establish the quail club. It featured a rice field that was reminiscent of the one depicted by Pleissner. The artist responded a few days later:

The watercolor that you have was painted several years ago at Talassee [sic] Plantation in Albany Georgia. I’m sorry it is not on Oketee [sic], but as the quail country all through the south is very similar it could very well have been there. I hope this will not spoil your enjoyment of the painting.

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Letter from Ogden M. Pleissner to Mr. Andre W. Brewster, June 11, 1982, NSLM Curatorial files

It is exciting when an artwork is accompanied by materials that shed such a personal light on a composition.  The recent addition of the watercolor and letters to NSLM’s collections is significant, not only as a representative work by Pleissner, but as a subject that is greatly underrepresented in the art collection. Depicting a classic aspect of sporting life that is still pursued today, Covey Rise, 1960, is now on view in the Museum. Stop by and see it in person! Plan Your Visit


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Claudia Pfeiffer has been the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art 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

There is a phenomenon that occurs in almost every museum: from a collection of thousands, a few works of art or historical objects emerge as a set of ‘fan favorites’. At NSLM, one such popular piece is Foxhounds and a Terrier in a Stable Interior, by John Emms. Each subject is painted with a keen eye for detail, the scene is restful, informal, and dignified. In fact, Emms’ low vantage point prompts the viewer to see these hounds (and terrier) as equals. It quickly becomes clear which animals have the larger personalities.

Foxhounds and a Terrier in a Stable Interior, 1878, John Emms (English, 1841-1912), oil on canvas, 39 x 52 inches, Gift of Mrs. Felicia Warburg Rogan, 2008

Viewers love this painting for a multitude of reasons, including the colors, textures, and the hounds’ expressions. My favorite thing about this piece is that Emms uses triangular composition here in much the same ways that Renaissance artists did centuries before.

The triangle lends a sense of stability to traditional compositions. The wide base helps to ground the eye while the narrow peak draws the viewer’s gaze upwards, usually to a face. Even though the subject itself may not be symmetrical, a triangular composition suggests balance. Emms uses an intricate arrangement of paws, noses, tails, and ears to construct triangles in Foxhounds and Terrier in a Stable Interior, while Leonardo Da Vinci only used one figure in Mona Lisa. My favorite little scene in Emms’ piece is a grouping of three hounds in the back of the kennel. The downward gaze of the hound at the top, with the other two gazing across at each other, is strikingly similar to many Madonna and Child paintings of the Renaissance era.

In particular, one of my favorite comparisons is to Raphael’s The Madonna and Child. In this piece, a young Mary extends both of her arms outwards: her left arm reaches down to bring St. John the Baptist closer to herself, while her right hand is raised to wrap the infant Christ in her garment. The motion is at once maternal and deferential. Meanwhile, in Emms’ painting, we see a similarly intimate moment caught between three hounds. Though probably not a maternal scene, the two hounds lying in the hay regard the sitting hound somewhat respectfully. The sitting hound is pale in color, and his or her down-turned eyes suggest a kind of long-suffering piety recognized in older dogs who live around rambunctious puppies or children. In both paintings, the grouping of subjects creates a very clear triangle between the seated figures and two smaller or reposed figures in their charge.

Once you start recognizing triangles in painting compositions, it is very difficult to stop! I encourage you all to take a stroll through our galleries to see how many more examples you can find of sporting artwork that shares compositional geometry with Italian Renaissance masters.


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Anne Marie Paquette is the Clarice & Robert H. Smith Educator at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM). Her passion for museum work began shortly after graduation with a Bachelor’s degree in History from James Madison University. Between her expeience working at the Fredericksburg Area Museum & Cultural Center and the Washington Heritage Museums, she has done everything from designing summer camps to formulating major fundraisers. Have a question? Contact Anne Marie by e-mail

In 2017, over 40 original watercolors by English artist Reuben Ward Binks (1880-1950) were donated to the National Sporting Library & Museum as part of a generous bequest from the late Mrs. Elizabeth Dunn Clark of Middleburg (March 23, 1936–April 7, 2017), breeder and owner of Springfield Farm Labrador Retriever kennels and founder of the Labrador Retriever Club of the Potomac.  Sporting Dogs by Reuben Ward Binks, an exhibition of the works is on view at the National Sporting Library & Museum through September 30, 2018.

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Reuben Ward Binks (English, 1880-1950), Anxious Moments: F.T. CH. “Kirkmahoe Rover”, F.T. CH. “Banchory Ben”, and F.T. CH. “Banchory Bright” in Marsh, watercolor on paper heightened with gouache, 14 x 17 3/4 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Bequest of Elizabeth D. Clark, 2017, photo by Finley Stewart

The collection features portraits of sporting dogs, primarily Labrador Retrievers, from the 1920s and 1930s. Most of the depictions are of canines from the kennels of the English sporting dog enthusiast Countess Lorna Howe (c.1890-1961). She was influential in the development of the Labrador Retriever breed in England. Born Lorna Katherine Curzon, she acquired her title with the marriage to her second husband, Richard George Penn Curzon, the 4th Earl Howe (1861-1929) in 1927.

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[image source http://www.gentlesteplabrador.it/educazione/76-le-origini-del-labrador-retriever/ ]
Howe first began working with Labrador Retrievers in 1913 and quickly became a leading owner, breeder, and trainer. She helped organize the British Labrador Club in 1916 and was chairman from 1935 until her death in 1961. Dogs from her Banchory kennel won numerous championships. Howe eventually owned and competed a variety of dogs, including pointers, setters, spaniels, and Pugs, but the Labrador remained her favorite throughout her life.

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Reuben Ward Binks (English, 1880-1950), Yellow Lab Retrieving a Drake Mallard from the River, watercolor on paper heightened with gouache, 8 1/2 x 11 5/8 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Bequest of Elizabeth D. Clark, 2017, photo by Finley Stewart

Scandal of Glynn was the first Labrador owned by Lorna Howe. Before dying at the young age of five from canine typhus, he sired one litter of puppies which included only one dog (male), named Banchory Bolo. Banchory Bolo (1915-1927) became a champion Labrador Retriever owned by Lorna Howe. A highly successful competitor at field trials and the foundational sire to numerous later champions, Bolo became known for his ability, temperament, and conformation (body shape), which Labrador breeders sought in the early 20th century.

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Left: Reuben Ward Binks (English, 1880-1950), F.T. CH. Banchory Bolo, 1921, watercolor on paper heightened with gouache, 6 1/2 inches in tondo; Right: Reuben Ward Binks (English, 1880-1950), Scandal of Glynn, 1921, watercolor on paper heightened with gouache, 6 1/4 inches in tondo, National Sporting Library & Museum, Bequest of Elizabeth D. Clark, 2017, photo by Finley Stewart

In 1918, when Howe purchased the young dog Bolo, he was considered dangerous and untrainable. In her 1957 book, The Popular Labrador Retriever, she chronicles her story of caring for the dog through illness, earning the animal’s trust through kindness, and training him to become a winning retriever. A copy of Howe’s book may be found in the NSLM’s Library Main Reading Room.

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Reuben Ward Binks (English, 1880-1950), 1933 CH. Banchory Bolo, Corbie, and Beningbrough Tangle, 1933, watercolor on paper heightened with gouache, 13 1/2 x 15 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Bequest of Elizabeth D. Clark, 2017, photo by Finley Stewart

Howe commissioned Binks to paint at least thirteen compositions that featured or included Bolo in a variety of settings and poses. The artist had made a career of painting portraits of dogs and their individual characteristics. He worked primarily in watercolor and gouache, a more opaque type of watercolor paint, throughout his career. Howe was one of his earliest patrons, and he went on to paint portraits for dog enthusiasts throughout England and America, including the British Royal family.

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Reuben Ward Binks (English, 1880-1950), Thank you Snipe, watercolor on paper heightened with gouache, 7 x 6 1/4 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Bequest of Elizabeth D. Clark, 2017, photo by Finley Stewart

Many thanks to Garden & Gun for featuring the exhibition on its website.
Click Here to View Garden & Gun Gallery

Plan your next visit to NSLM!


This is Curator of Permanent Collections Nicole Stribling’s final blog post. After 5 ½ years with NSLM, she has left her position due to a family relocation. Her insightful pieces will be missed.