I am very pleased to announce the arrival of three new additions to the collections here at the NSLM. (Those of you who were here for our first Open Late concert got a sneak preview!) We had to wait quite a while to complete the installations – first for some landscaping and facility projects to be finished and then for the seemingly never-ending winter to end. But now that spring has sprung – so have our new sculptures!
We are grateful to the generous donors who gifted these lovely works to the permanent collection. Thanks are also due to the staff who helped make the installations possible. We installed the sculptures with the safety of our visitors and the safety of the artwork in mind.
Here is the roster of the newest outdoor works, who will welcome you to campus on your next visit.
This charming little filly, reaching to nibble at an itch, is number 2 of 5 casts by Jean Clagett. This piece was commissioned by donor Jacqueline B. Mars from the Virginia based artist, specifically for the NSLM. For any of you lucky enough to go to the Rolex 3-Day event at the Kentucky Horse Park this year, you would have seen another sculpture by Clagett – a life-size bronze of Olympian Bruce Davidson aboard his champion event horse, Eagle Lion.
Artist J. Clayton Bright is based in Pennsylvania. He is a sculptor, as well as a painter, who is best known for his animal subjects, like this life-size fox. Learn more about his process for creating bronze sculptures here (his studio website features a great slide show explaining the process for the “lost wax method”).
English artist Rupert Till has been working with wire for over 20 years. He started out sculpting steel wire (chicken wire) and now also works with bronze and copper. The figures he creates out of this surprisingly versatile medium are full of character, movement, and expression. Check out some of his other works here. This wire sculpture was generously donated by Reverend Elijah White, in memory of his late wife, Anita Graf White, who was a former M.F.H. of the Loudoun Hunt.
We’ll be adding some outdoor labels for these new sculptures soon. Now that nice weather is here, we hope you will come visit and enjoy the new outdoor installations!
Happy World Book Day! In celebration, I’m going to share with you the books that make the biggest impression when I give tours: the fore-edge painting books. Fore-edge painting is the very old practice of painting tiny images on the edges of the pages.
The book block is angled and clamped while the tiny watercolor painting is made.
After drying, the clamp is released and a bookbinder applies marbling or gilt to the closed book. This makes the painting invisible when the book is closed, but it appears when the pages are fanned.
NSLM’s fore-edge painting collection is housed in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room. We have about 30 of them, and they depict riding, hunting, or fishing scenes.
Most of them date from the middle of the 19th Century to the early 20th Century. Although fore-edge painting is rare, there are still some artists who produce fore-edge art today.
Do you have a hidden painting in your old books? Check your book collections and fan the pages. You never know what you might find!
It’s been a while since I had a chance to write on the blog, so I figured now would be a good time to highlight one of our most distinctive treasures in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room. The book is called Shokuba Ko, which translated from the original Japanese means, “How to Ornament Horses.” It’s part of the John H. Daniels Collection.
Shokuba Ko is a favorite on tours of the Library. It doesn’t appear on every tour, but it comes out often. I hope you’ll come to visit the Library soon, and maybe you can see this and many of our other printed treasures up close!
Don’t miss the chance to Meet the Artist Henry Koehler on Saturday, April 11th. He will be in the exhibition galleries to chat about Sporting Accoutrements: The Still Lifes of Henry Koehler from noon to 1 pm. It is a Free Admission Day. If you have time, make a day of it; stay for a showing of the movie classic, International Velvet, in the Library’s Founders’ Room beginning at 1 p.m. The film is also free of charge.
It was an honor to be invited to be on a first-name basis with Henry Koehler. He has been a noted sporting artist for over fifty years, and he may still be found at his easel. A great conversationalist, Henry said to me jokingly a while back, “Forgive me for repeating myself, but I will be eighty-eight years old in February.” I chuckled, but it struck me to the core. His charm, intelligence, and quick wit are timeless. I hadn’t done the math. Of course he is now eighty-eight; he was born in 1927.
Henry is from a generation of talented artists who found a niche in illustration art before the rise to photography in many periodicals. He graduated from Yale in 1950, moved to New York, and quickly became a successful commercial artist regularly featured in such magazines as Sports Illustrated, Vogue, Town & Country, and The New Yorker. Henry’s confident line drawings show his illustration background. Below is a sketch that he donated to the NSLM of sporting scholar Alexander Mackay-Smith, one of the institution’s founders. The charcoal is a preparatory study for the final version which appeared in the article, Rampart of Pedigree by Huston Horn (text only), in Sports Illustrated in February 11, 1963. (If you read the article, you will see that not much has changed in Middleburg!)
Henry had an early love of sailing, and one of his college roommates introduced him to foxhunting. He took to it immediately and followed the Litchfield County Hounds, in Middlebury, CT, for seven years. “One of the advantages of being a painter, if luck goes right, you can paint what you like, what you love to do anyway,” he says about his two passions. His success brought the attention of Jacqueline Kennedy, who saw his sailing images in Sports Illustrated and commissioned him to produce a painting of President Kennedy sailing as a gift to her husband. Below is a link to the informative CBS News article and delightful interview between Henry and his stepson, CBS correspondent Anthony Mason, delving into the fascinating story surrounding the commissions by the Kennedy family in the mid-1960s.
By the early 1960s, Henry recognized the negative impact photography was having on illustration art and turned his attention to easel painting. His enjoyment of hunting broadened to include observing and painting other equestrian pursuits. Since then, he has easily moved through international sporting circles sketching and painting many of the major race courses and tracks, polo events, and hunts in the United States, England, France, and Italy throughout his career. Henry has touched on not only equestrian pursuits, but most all traditional turf and field sports in his work, including fishing and shooting. To-date he has had over seventy gallery and museum exhibitions.
Although he has worked on commission, Henry is not known for formal portraiture. Instead, he prefers to capture the atmosphere of a given scene, looking for intimate and often informal moments, from every perspective. His observations of horse racing, for example, might include clamorous starts; studies of jockeys milling about, weighing in, or adjusting a boot, often from innovative angles; the saddling paddock; a jockey’s valet tending to tack; engaged spectators; and a grouping of discarded jockeys’ helmets.
In his varied approach to his compositions, Henry includes still lifes. These more contemplative works sometimes take a back seat to his more dynamic compositions. The exhibition, Sporting Accoutrements: The Still Lifes of Henry Koehler, was an opportunity to isolate Henry’s paintings of fox and stag hunting, racing, polo, fishing, and shooting paraphernalia, giving the visitor a quiet, introspective experience. Working with Advisor and NSLM Board Member Lorian Peralta-Ramos, each painting was selected to highlight the artist’s deep knowledge and respect for the objects and the nature of their use.
If you would like to learn more about Henry Koehler and his exhibition, come out to meet him in person on April 11th and have a chat. I promise, it will be worth your time. Exhibition catalogues are also available at the front desk and at the NSLM’s Amazon Marketplace.
Lady Masters of Foxhounds (Lady MFH) are a compelling topic around the NSLM lately! When that happens around here, it’s usually time to take to the shelves to see what our collections can tell us. For this topic, I checked out the “The Story of American Foxhunting; From Challenge to Full Cry” by J. Blan Van Urk.
“The Story of American Foxhunting,” published in 1940, tells the story of foxhunting history in North America. The book is written in two volumes; Volume I covers 1650-1861 and Volume II covers 1865-1906. This classic book is a comprehensive history. I dug in to see what I could find here on Lady MFH.
Women in hunting have few mentions in these pages. Interesting tidbit: did you know Martha Washington used to hunt with her husband George?
Martha wasn’t a MFH though. The first Lady MFH, according to Van Urk, was Mrs. Gertrude Rives Potts with the Castle Hill Hounds in the early 1900s.
Mrs. Potts’ story with the Castle Hill Hounds leads to Urk’s discussion of previous ideas of women as incapable of hunting. It appears that opinions were, for a long time, that women could ride well but not well enough for hunting. While Urk does discuss the controversy surrounding women’s roles on the field, he also leaves us with this (remember, this was published in 1940): “The ladies – God Bless them! What would hunting be without them!”
If the stories, history, and controversy of Lady Masters of Foxhounds is a topic you wish to learn more about, join us on May 23th at the NSLM for The Dynamic Role of Lady Masters: A Foxhunting Roundtable. A panel of Lady MFH will join in an open and candid discussion, with time for questions and comments from the audience. Reception begins at 12:30 pm, and the roundtable discussion is from 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm. Email for more information.
Our recent Fellow, Collin McKinney, has left the NSLM and returned to Bucknell University. We asked Collin to share some of his experiences over the last two months in Middleburg and in our collections. Here’s what he had to share.
I arrived in Middleburg on a sunny day at the beginning in January. I think it might have been the only sunny day during my entire stay. Notwithstanding the snow and cold—and it sure was cold—I spent a fantastic two months working at the National Sporting Library. During my eight weeks in Middleburg I had a simple routine. I would wake up and go for a jog around town and out by the Salamander Resort. After breakfast I would work at the library, compiling notes and references from the books in the library’s collection. After lunch and an espresso at Common Grounds I would head back to the library and work until closing time. After dinner in the cottage I would review my notes for the day and plan my work for the next morning. That might not seem very exciting to most people, but for an academic to be able to escape department meetings, course prep, and household chores in order to focus on research, it was pure bliss.
My short stay was extremely productive. I am researching the link between masculinity, militarism, and sport in Spain. Although the library’s collection is especially rich in American and British sources, there are also some real treasures on Spain. I found books on bullfighting, jousting, fencing, dueling, and hunting. One of my favorite discoveries was a hunting manual attributed to the King Alfonso XI, Libro de la montería (the NSLM has an 1582 edition as well as a facsimile version from the nineteenth century).
Besides being a fascinating description of the hunting practices in medieval Spain, it confirms the link between hunting and martial success. King Alfonso tells his readers that: “a knight should always engage in anything to do with arms and chivalry, and if he cannot do so in war, he should do so in activities which resemble war. And the chase is most similar to war.” Over the centuries, as military activity became professionalized and Spain created a standing army, men no longer needed to hunt but continued to do so for pleasure.
While a cursory glance might suggest that modern sport is far removed from the battlefield, a more careful look will reveal the link between field sports, indeed all sport, and warfare. The next time you turn on a football game, notice the military rhetoric used by sportscasters, watch the strategies involved as teams attack and defend their terrain, and note the way spectators demonstrate their loyalties with flags, fight songs, and uniforms as they celebrate symbolic battles of controlled violence.
During the coming months I plan to write two articles. The first is titled “How to Be a Man in Nineteenth-Century Spain,” which will outline the tension between traditional, rough masculinity and modern, refined masculinity. This study will examine the rise of the bullfight as an example of the way that bellicose masculinity was socialized, codified, and relegated to the sporting arena by Spain’s middle class. The second article I plan to write deals with the sportification of warfare more generally, beginning with medieval field sports and continuing to present-day activities like soccer and tennis.
With snow still on the ground and the temps way colder than we prefer here in Virginia, I’m thinking ahead to summer for many reasons. One in particular is that summer means internship time! I’m a big fan of internship programs. In the liberal arts fields, especially museums, internships are essential for gaining experience and getting started in your career. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without the opportunities I found through museum internships, so I’m always excited to work with students and help them along on their career path. Plus, interns can provide a huge amount of help to all of us here at the NSLM! (Not to mention they are often young, tech savvy college kids who help me figure out all the latest apps for my iPhone.) It’s a win-win-win.
Are you, or a student you know, interested in an internship at the NSLM? We are now accepting applications for Summer 2015. Take a look at the available positions and application instructions on the NSLM website here.
Last summer, we were lucky to have three fantastic recent college graduates spend several weeks interning at the NSLM. They were kind enough to take time out of their busy young-people lives and answer a few questions for us.
Our 2014 all-star line up was:
Kasey Morris – Princeton University, Class of 2014, Major: Classical Studies
Emily Perdue – Winthrop University, Class of 2014, Major: History, with concentrations in Art History and German
Anna Carneal – Longwood University, Class of 2014, Major: Public History
1. What led you to look for a library or museum internship?
Kasey: The summer before my senior year at Princeton, I went on an archaeological excavation and realized how much I really liked handling artifacts and objects; it was fascinating to begin to understand history from a more physical, hands-on perspective. I knew that I wanted (and needed) to get more experience in a museum setting if I wanted to seriously pursue such a field of work in the future.
Emily: I heard about the internship program from a family member who had recently become an NSLM member. I was looking for an internship for the summer after graduation, in order to start getting some experience in a museum or library field. I was extremely excited to learn more about the program. It was a perfect opportunity to learn more about what I wanted to make a career in.
Anna: After graduating from Longwood, I wanted to stay involved with museums – I figured interning at the NSLM would be the perfect opportunity to get hands-on experience and apply what I learned at school in the field. Plus it’s a great resume builder!
Who did you work with and what types of projects did you work on during your time here?
Kasey: I mostly worked with Nicole Stribling, but also had the chance to assist Claudia Pfeiffer and Alexandra McKay. I gained a lot of experience not only with the curatorial side of things, but also with the membership and events aspects of museum work, to include helping at the front desk and being involved with the annual polo benefit match. The great thing about my NSLM internship was that I was able to learn at least a little about all the things that make a museum run efficiently by interacting with almost all members of the staff at one point or another.
Emily: I had the opportunity to work with John Connolly, the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian, on archive collections. My first project was sorting through and creating an archival system for documents and photographs from the family of Leon Rasmussen, a journalist and editor for the Daily Racing Form. (He was the creator of the “Rasmussen Factor” which looks at the effect of inbreeding in stallions and how that determines the level at which they could win). The archival project was by far my favorite during my internship because it gave me the knowledge and experience in the field that I’ve always wanted to work.
Anna: I worked with Nicole Stribling, Curator of Permanent Collections at the Museum, on a variety of projects – many involving work with the collections database, called EmbARK. This included helping to complete a thorough inventory of the art collection in the Library and Museum, and conducting research on artists in the database.
What was your favorite part of your NSLM internship?
Kasey: My favorite project was definitely completing the initial processing on a very large collection of antique dog collars which were donated to the museum. This included measuring, photographing, and researching collars which ranged in date from around the 4th century BC through the 20th century, from places all over the world! There were so many interesting stories connected to particular pieces – names of pets and messages from their owners inscribed on collars, including one from a small pub in England and another connected to a famous World War I American general. However, even more than this particular project, I would have to say that my favorite part overall was getting to meet and work with everyone – NSLM is a wonderful community of incredibly intelligent and fun people.
Emily: My favorite part of my NSLM internship was being given the opportunity to work with an amazing group of people and in a wonderful institution, on projects that have given me great experience and new knowledge. I graduated with a degree in History and have always wanted to work within a museum or as an archivist. As far as a specific project that was my favorite, the Rasmussen archival project was definitely the best. I was able to work on it on my own to create a system for searching the documents that had been donated. It was awesome to learn more about Leon Rasmussen and his career first-hand.
Anna: My favorite part of the internship was how tightly knit the full time staff seems to be. It helps working at a smaller institution because you can get a better view on how a museum runs. I feel it’s important to know more than just one single aspect of how a museum operates, because a future job may require a more diverse skill set than what is listed in the job description.
What’s next in your academic or work career?
Kasey: I am currently working on my Master’s in Classical Archaeology at Oxford, with an emphasis on Roman portraiture and the history of collecting classical art. I volunteer in the museum system here (mostly working on coin cataloguing at the Ashmolean), and I hope to stay in the UK to pursue a doctorate in either archaeology or ancient history.
Emily: I am currently working part-time at the NSLM and am still learning so much about working in a museum every day, which is absolutely amazing. I love every minute of it! I am planning on attending graduate school soon to get my Master’s degree in Museum Studies. I am also hoping to find a full-time job at an historical institution to continue learning and gaining new experiences as much as I can.
Anna: I recently accepted a full time position as a Museum Educator with Morven Park in Leesburg. I am excited to see where this job leads me over the next couple of years as an emerging Museum Professional.
A big Thank you and Congratulations to our interns for all of their hard work and accomplishments!
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“Drawing Covert,” refers to the practice in foxhunting of putting hounds in a covert (pronounced like “cover”), a thicket or wooded brush area, to find the fox.
This blog is about the exhibitions, tours, research, programs, and events, at NSLM on its unique collection of books, archives, paintings, sculpture and much more.