Erastus Salisbury Field (Leverett, Massachusetts, May 19, 1805 – Sunderland, Massachusetts June 28, 1900)

Oops! Fell down another hole. Learn about Field here >. Yep. He’s a primitive painter—but really was gripped by triangles (you will see). The dude had something going on. Ladies and these nutty organza collars? shawls? like our friend Ammi Phillips had (only Phillips was ever so more puritanical). Some of these paintings are templated (red curtain on left, landscape on right) but many are just sock in the likeness and put a nice neutral in the background. However from his portraits, he evolved to doing these nutty landscapes and architectural images which (at least with the Garden of Eden one really makes me think of Pennsylvania’s pride, Edward Hicks who painted around the same time).

The Garden of Eden, 1860.

The Garden of Eden, 1860.

Historical Monument of the American Republic , 1867–1888 Oil on canvas, 9 feet 3 inches x 13 feet 1 inch, Museum of Fine Arts, The Morgan Wesson Memorial

Historical Monument of the American Republic, 1867–1888
Oil on canvas, 9 feet 3 inches x 13 feet 1 inch, Museum of Fine Arts, The Morgan Wesson Memorial

Another view

Rob Cassetti talks about the change in opera when it had competition. Opera was challenged for audiences by the advent of the motion picture. Movies pushed Puccini, for example, to create a big “The Girl of the Golden West” (La fanciulla del West)—creating big, live music that could not be replicated in a movie theater. New technology drove art to change…putting movies on one path, and forcing the traditional medium to change—to keep audiences and to stay relevant. This is the case of illustration—-and the whole schism around traditional media and digital…with digital being poo-poo’ed for not being “real” or legitimate. Technology challenges the status quo—and those either adapt or move aside. Technology may not subsume the traditional—but it does challenge it.

To that, I was plugging away at looking at Ammi Phillips (April 24, 1788 – July 11, 1865) work and discovered in a “no duh” moment that he was working when the first daguerrotypes came on the scene while he was painting (the last 25 years). This creates an interesting time— a blend—when technology, technique, and art purpose can shift due to a new media—a new availability to create images. One can have an oil painting reflecting tradition, wealth, and privilege which would associate you with like people or have a daguerrotype made—showing you “in the moment” with out romanticism, with no softening. A daguerrotype was a singular image like a painting, but very portable and very real. Lively, living breathing people.

Interestingly, as I looked at the Library of Congress pages— daguerrotypes showed not only living people, but people who smiled, laughed and who had joy in others (pairs of children, groups of sisters). Having a daguerrotype made was something that was a democratic process— with every shape, size, age, race, background and the Library of Congress' collection brought that home while scrolling though all the images. These images show what these people really looked like, how they chose to show themselves—unvarnished—from images of dentists pulling teeth to sweet brothers holding hands.

Clark sisters, five women, three-quarter length portraits, all facing front
Grandmother and aunts of photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston. Digital Id cph 3d02003 // . Library of Congress Control Number 2004664300

I thought I would go grab a selection of women’s images from the Library of Congress’ online collection to see how a woman might portray herself in a daguerrotype versus the staid portraits that were frozen in time and romanticized by the limner, Ammi Phillips. Could there be clues from a fashion standpoint? layout? design? connection with the viewer? Love Phillips, but let’s just look at what else was happening….even beyond Matthew Brady and his game-changing work and vision.

Here we are (selection was made from images 1840-1849)— and what a group of lovely, real women we have in front of us….women we might know today —work with, socialize except for the clothes that they are wearing and the impossibly time-consuming hair. Many of these wormen are connecting directly with the photographer showing their inner self either with confidence like the awesome Clark sisters, the coy flirtiness of the lady (third row/left), to the insecurity of the picture taking and her youth (center top). These are people who want to be seen, to be captured in the moment—perhaps as a present for a family member, friend or love. These were women with edges, with inperfections, with wit and personality and were not icons of “nice girls”. How did Ammi Phillips respond to this? How did he address this freshness, this change, these portable portraits that were a window into the sitter’s life—many showing similar poses (proper ladies with books, caps) but not romanticized—complete with physical imperfections and souls showing through their eyes.

Technology changed portraiture. People continued to have their portraits painted, but having an option, a more democratic option which was more affordable, portable and a true window into a living person also had it’s appeal. There were couples together, babies together, and families together. There is a daguerrotype of a father and his sons with the bible. There were many, many images of black people—who took advantage of this shift. No conclusions here…just observations on how daguerrotypes touched a much wider swath of people—and captured more of the reality of the time.

Sturm und drang

Asparagus, Q. Cassetti, 2012, vectorIf tomorrow is Super Tuesday, does this make it Super Monday? I am loving the sturm und drang of the Republicans—all of it comic and ridiculous with the current apex of insanity being el Rushbo nationally calling out a 23 year old law student calling her a prostitute. El Rushbo is a rude, arrogant brute who vascillates between being sewn onto the coat of Republican party and denying his engagement in this group. He is a vicious man with a bully pulpit that speaks to the tremendously vocal minority. I used to think he was funny in his insanity, but this recent episode has eliminated all the funny this ass espouses. I hope that the bile splashback onto the Republican party is significant and lasting. It is alarming to me that to  the Republicans, contraception is more imporant than world affairs, more important thans olvency, more important than energy, pollution, education, the future. What does the consititutional right of religion have to do with each and every individual woman making independent and personal decisions about her own health and body? What is about bringing contraception into the office and allowing one’s boss to decide who gets it covered or not (Blunt Rubio amendment).

There is a right and wrong in this matter. It is an individual decision…the right of the individual versus a societal one. Why is it that these men have any, ANY say in this matter? What is with this nasty vaginal probe requirement in Virginia? Each and every legislator who votes for this should have to experience it before voting (and be FORCED to see  the monitor). No one can make decisions about  other people’s bodies particularly the “weaker” sex. I hope someone is doing some pretty intense pollling just to confirm that the Republicans do not care for the women’s vote as they have, to my thinking, cast it right in the garbage. Say good bye to 50.8% of the votes. Enough for my angry, mismatched ramblings…it just obscene that we are focusing on things that isnt a group decision but that of an individual. There is so much more to talk about and resolve to make the world a better place.

Thank you for your patience today. Just had to say it.