Art History:   Grade 3 Lesson 4

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Art Periods

  Red White and Blue Art - Folk Art


  1. Sampler, c. 1786, Hannah Staples, possibly Connecticut, American ( - ) Silk on linen, 10 3/4” x 10 ‘/2”. Reproduction photograph.

       The sampler, which Samuel Johnson defined in “A Dictionary of the English Language” as “a pattern of work; a piece worked by young girls for improvement,” was used before needlework handbooks became available. Young women practiced stitches and stitch combinations on a piece of cloth, learning decorative motifs, letter styles, numerals and various embroideries that they might later use on their household linens or personal items such as petticoats, nightgowns, and handkerchiefs. Some samplers were worked by little girls as young as eight years of age, serving an educational purpose by aiding them in learning of the alphabet and numbers.


  2. Leaping Dear, mid I9th century, Anonymous artist, American,  steel pen and ink on paper. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center, Williamsburg, VA. Reproduction print.

     In the computer age, it requires a leap of imagination to hark back to another era when the ability to write was a mark of culture and penmanship an art. A “fine hand” was admired and school boys worked on penmanship exercises with the same diligence their sisters applied to needlework.

    The Spenserian method of writing was widely taught in boys academies and business schools. In the hands of a particularly dexterous and imaginative penman it was transformed into a fanciful and pictorial art. Animal subjects seemed to hold special appeal.


  3. Witch Whirligig, c. 1850, artist unknown, New Hampshire or Massachusetts, Wood, painted. height II 1/2", Reproduction photograph.

      Since the time of the infamous witch trials at Salem, MA during the 17”’ century, the image of the witch has been imprinted upon the New England psyche. During the 19”’ century, witch scarecrows, weather vanes, and whirligigs were especially popular. This gaily painted and decorated whirligig is fitted with a broom that is topped by a propeller.


  4. Shaker Spirit Drawing, c.1848, Amy Reed,  New England. reproduction print

     Signed, “from Mother Ann to Amy Reed” January 7, 1848.

    Mother Ann Lee, who fled from England in 1774, bringing a tiny band of persecuted followers to
    Watervliet, NY, founded the Shaker community. Celibate, they lived communally. A spirit of
    revivalism swept the Shaker communities expressing itself in song, dance, prose and a variety of
    inspirational drawings. They were revered as divine revelations and in many cases lovingly preserved by their owners, yet it seems that they were never displayed publicly. The inscriptions, said to be messages from Mother Ann, who had died in 1790, were mysterious and would be explained and revealed at some future time, the Shakers believed.

    It is not surprising that these Shaker artists depicted the glories of Heaven in terms of the beauties of the natural world, for the sect had a special feeling for nature. Shaker communities were situated in the unspoiled countryside, and one of their most profitable industries was the preparation of medicinal herbs and packaged seeds. By about 1860 the Shaker revival had run its course. As the atmosphere of the communities changed, inspirational drawings ceased to be made, and a fascinating chapter in the history of American folk art came to a close.


  5. Oval Boxes, 19th century, Shaker,  New England. Wood, maple and pine with brass tacks. Length of largest box, 13 ¼”. Reproduction photograph.

      If any one type of Shaker small craft could be singled out to demonstrate the perfection of their work, the choice would have to be that of box making. Delicately constructed and beautifully crafted little boxes were a Shaker specialty. These were made in square, round and oval shapes. With their oval boxes, baskets, and carriers, the Shakers created a craft form which was uniquely their own. These distinctively designed containers were made in dozens of different sizes, starting with tiny ovals and graduating up to the handsome full-size boxes and carriers. (They were sold by the dozens in graduated sets.) Some were made as shallow lidded boxes; others as baskets with fixed handles; and still others with lids and fold-down loop handles. Despite their appearance of flawless simplicity, construction of the carriers required special skills. They were made of maple, birch, oak, and cherry. The thin walls were fashioned with delicately shaped fingers which were neatly overlapped and riveted at the connection. Steam bending over a form provided the proper shape. After the shape was secured, the overlapping end fingers were glued and riveted. The bottom, mad of thicker wood, was then inserted and tacked around the edges. Early carriers were usually painted. But those made later, particularly during this century, were stained in natural wood tones, then varnished and polished.


  6. Bottle Cap Basket, 20th century, Artists unknown. Southern United States. Metal bottle caps, h. 12 1/2”. Reproduction photograph

     Bottle cap art is strictly a 20”’ century phenomenon. Baskets, bowls, and other utilitarian objects have
    been fashioned by countless artisans across the country who follow the early American tradition of
    making something useful and attractive Out of discarded bits and scraps. Few objects of this type have
    the coherent sense of design evident in this piece.
  7. Carousel Horse, 1902-1909, D.C. Muller and Bro. Shop, Philadelphia, PA. Wood., carved and painted, glass jewels and horsehair. H. 62”. Reproduction photograph.

      The carving of the ears identifies this horse as the work of Daniel Muller. Both Daniel and his brother Albert were excellent carvers who learned their craft under the master carver Gustav Dentzel. When they left Dentzel to form their own firm, they specialized in making fine horse-drawn chariots for carousels.


  8. Cigar Store Indian Maiden, 1875-1900, possibly made by Samuel Robb’s Studio, New York city. Wood, carved and painted. h. 56”. Reproduction photograph.

      Three-dimensional carved representations of the Native American were especially appropriate for use as display figures outside 19th century tobacconists' shops, for it was the Red Man who introduced smoking tobacco to early adventurers exploring the New World. Many cigar store Indians are unique - the result of skillful carving by a single artisan. The majority however, were created in carving shops where several carvers might work on a single figure, each craftsman executing a portion of the carving that best suited his particular talents. Today, museums and private collectors are most interested in those examples that have been preserved in their original condition, with their painting decoration intact.


  9. Bride’s Box, c. 1850, maker unknown. 7 1/2” x 18 5/8” x 11 1/8”. The Historical Society of Berks County, Reading, PA. Reproduction photograph.
      The first bride's boxes probably came to America as part of the baggage of German colonists. They became important items of furniture in Pennsylvania. Often oval in shape, these boxes of thin strips of pine were given to the bride by the groom at the time of their wedding. Gaily decorated with colorful illustrations, they became containers for personal belongings.

    This box bears the inscription: My pledge here I give my hand.


  10. Butterfly, weathervane, c. 1880, poster, Shelburne Art Museum.


  11. The Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles, France, 1996, Faith Ringgold, American (1930 - ), lithograph onto fabric, quilted. Poster
       Faith Ringgold, artist and author, utilizes the art forms of painting, mixed media sculpture, performance, quilts, and writing to tell her story. Born October 8, 1930 in New York City’s Harlem Hospital, Ringgold grew up on the heels of the Harlem Renaissance and at the threshold of the Great Depression. Her great grandmother, a slave, stitched quilts for her master in Florida. Ringgold’s mother, Willi Posey, was a fashion designer and dressmaker. Her father, Andrew Louis Jones, Sr., came from a lineage of preachers versed in oral tradition. Ringgold combines her inherited affinity for fiber and her love of storytelling to deliver the message of her personal history.

    Ringgold studied art and education at City College in New York during the 1960’s. In attempting to develop her own personal style of art, she mixed elements of her formal European art training with her personal study of African art. Recurring motifs and features in her art work that were borrowed from the African aesthetic, include: the Kuba, a tie-dyed material using four triangles to compose a square, and the utilization of figures with enlarged heads to portray humans with great wisdom.

    Fictional character, Willia Marie Simone, entertains a group of famous nineteenth and twentieth century African-American heroines who are traveling all over the world holding quilting bees. Here in Arles, France, they meet the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh who made paintings of sunflowers.

    Heroines pictured:
    Madame C. J. Walker (1879-1919) became the first self-made American-born woman millionaire. She left over half of her fortune to charitable and educational causes.
    Sojourner Truth (c.1797-1883, born Isabella Baumfree) spoke out against slavery and advocated for women’s rights.
    Ida Wells (1862-1931) was a journalist who exposed the horrors of lynching in the south through writing and lecturing.
    Fannie Lou Hammer (1917-1977) was imprisoned for registering people to vote. She succeeded in registering thousands of voters.
    Harriet Tubman ( c.1820-1913) brought over 300 slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad.

    Rosa Parks (1913- ) was arrested in 1955 because she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a segregated bus.
    Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) was an educator who founded a college for African-Americans. She also served as special advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt.
    Ella Baker (1905-1986) was active in civil rights organizations. She improved housing, jobs and consumer education for African-Americans.

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