The Gift of Time

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Matt Stevens, Managing Editor at The Huntington for the past ten years.

Every now and then a coworker comes along who is absolutely made for the job. They live it, breathe it, are the essence of the work—so much so that you think the job is them. In fact, you don’t know which came first; it’s a sort of workplace chicken and egg phenomenon.

Here’s how it all began with Matt Stevens: For a long period of time, The Huntington did its thing quietly. People knew it as a lovely place for tea, the spot where Pinkie and Blue Boy lived, the “museum” your grandmother brought you to.

But by the early 2000s, more emphasis was being placed on communications and outreach, on telling our story. And very rightly so; it turns out that with a library collection of more than 9 million objects, a spectacular art collection, and 120 acres of botanical gardens, there were a lot—a LOT—of stories to tell.

Enter Matt Stevens. Bookish and earnest with a wry sense of humor, Matt came to The Huntington to start a magazine. “You want to hire me,” he stated, in the most matter-of-fact manner I think I’ve ever encountered in an interview. And hire him I did!

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The inaugural issue of Huntington Frontiers, 2005

Brought in as the founding editor of Huntington Frontiers, Matt sought good stories like a bloodhound pursues forensic evidence: focused, perspicacious, selective. He befriended scholars, curators, and security guards alike in his search for the good stuff. He sidled up to anyone with a penchant for writing: staff, volunteers, renowned scholars who’d done research here. From Yale’s Edmund Morgan to Pulitzer Prize winners Alan Taylor and Daniel Walker Howe, Matt corresponded with all of them, winning their trust, editing their work, making it sing.

Almost to a person, people reacted with delight to the final product—their bylined stories, edited by Matt, running in the magazine. Most writers will tell you (especially writers with egos) that if they don’t absolutely abhor being edited, they certainly chafe at the process. But not with Matt. “A pleasure!” people would say to me, time and time again. “He’s amazing!”

In fact, he became the go-to person for much of the institution’s copy. Until, that is, buried under a mountain of unedited work, he hollered, “Uncle!” (Since then, we’ve brought on a bit of freelance editing help and tried to share the burden a bit.) Meanwhile, he took on the Annual Report, making it a triumph of a publication. He mastered our podcasting effort, editing, polishing, and uploading lectures and related materials to our iTunes U site, which he helped develop. He upgraded our style guide and created a higher quality standard for everything from event invitations to exhibition label copy. And he helped create Verso, the Huntington blog. And that’s just scratching the surface.

And now he’s leaving. Matt heads to USC to work his magic there as managing editor in the school of education; today is his last day at The Huntington. But what a gift the last 10 years have been. In fact, they passed in such a flurry of activity, I was stunned when he announced he would be leaving exactly a decade after he began.

In doing so, Matt made a single, final request of his colleagues: “Please, please, I ask of you,” he began, at a farewell luncheon the other day. “Please. It’s one space after a period. Not two.” And so I have tried. I even took out a pica ruler and measured this. But, geez, can I just say: that’s one bear of a habit to break!

And with apologies to Dickens (whose material, by the way, The Huntington holds a lot of—and, so sorry, Matt, about that dangling preposition, but you didn’t get to edit this piece, I’m afraid): It was the best of times, and the best of times.

Susan Turner-Lowe is Vice President for Communications at The Huntington.

The Library Tomorrow

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A selection of books on display in the “Library Today” gallery of the Library.

The next time you walk into the Library’s main exhibition hall to see “Remarkable Works, Remarkable Times,” be sure to stop into “The Library Today” gallery. Several remarkable videos will vie for your attention—one projected onto a table and five others on view on iPads. But don’t overlook the display of recent books published by scholars who have conducted research at The Huntington. Virtually all of them mention The Huntington in their acknowledgments. These books—and their authors—are the hidden treasures of The Huntington.

Each year, nearly 200 professors and graduate students receive funding to conduct research here through fellowships ranging from one month to a full year in residence. The grants total $1.7 million, with about 30 percent of the awards going to scholars from outside of the United States. The recipients for 2014–15 are listed here and include scholars who specialize in literature, the history of science, and the American Civil War, among other fields. Many grantees have been arriving throughout the summer and are busy at work in the Ahmanson Reading Room of the Munger Research Center.

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Readers busy at work in the Ahmanson Reading Room of the Munger Research Center.

One such researcher is Susan Brigden of Oxford University. She’s the inaugural Mary L. Robertson Visiting Fellow in Tudor Studies and will be the featured guest at the opening seminar of the Early Modern British History group on Sept. 13, one of the oldest seminar series among the more than a dozen that take place here every year. Then on Sept. 22 she’ll kick off the lecture season with a talk titled “Reformation Diplomacy: Henry VIII and His Ambassadors.” You can check out the entire slate of lectures here, not to mention the rich conference programs listed here. Lectures are free but often require reservations; conferences carry a modest fee.

The Huntington posts audio of many of these programs as well. On iTunesU you can find more than 150 talks, including Alan Taylor’s lecture about the book he was working on during his fellowship in 2012–13. (The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 went on to win the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in history.) Most of the talks from the 2013–14 season are now available for download, including Louis Hyman’s Haaga Lecture about “Entrepreneurs of the New Deal,” in which he managed to work in a mention of Scrooge McDuck and tell a joke about the efficient market hypothesis. (Yes, it got a lot of laughs.)

So history is never dead at The Huntington. And, according to Frederick Hoxie, it isn’t even past. “If we as Americans have a special story to tell,” he said last year during his lecture about Native American history, “we won’t find it in the past. We will best tell the story in the future about the society that we will all make together. A story that will be informed by our past but will not reproduce it. That society—that new society—will be one based on accepting our complicated history and acknowledging the different perspectives it has produced.”

This is my last post as editor of Verso. Special thanks to Kate Lain for her invaluable work on Verso. Special thanks also to the many volunteers who have helped sustain Verso, Huntington Frontiers magazine, and The Huntington’s audio programming, including Linda Chiavaroli, Nicole Fanning, Virginia Lawson, Bob Pierpoint, and Joyce Schlaker. You, too, are hidden treasures of The Huntington.

Matt Stevens is editor of Verso and Huntington Frontiers magazine.

A Stinky Family Tree

This shot from earlier today shows the relative size of the plant.

This shot from earlier today shows the relative size of the plant.

The newest flowering of the titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum, or “Corpse Flower”) at The Huntington has generated good questions about the origin of this plant at our institution. This wonder of the vegetable kingdom has now flowered for us five times, including 1999, 2002, 2009, 2010, and the latest this year.

This iconic photo of a visitor from 1999 says it all.

This iconic photo of a visitor from 1999 says it all.

The first bloom, in 1999, caused the greatest sensation of all five events for visitors and staff alike. It was obtained in March of that year from longtime friend of the gardens, Dr. Mark Dimmitt of Tucson, Ariz. Mark in turn had obtained it from the Index Seminum of the Palmengarten in Frankfurt, Germany. This plant was given the accession number 85000, which means it’s the 85,000th plant to be recorded in The Huntington’s living collections. This reference number makes it easier to distinguish it from our other titan arums.

In 2002 we were treated to a second blooming of 85000. This helps answer the question “When will it bloom again?” This species has been known to bloom in successive years and also to delay a subsequent flowering for 10 years or more. A variety of factors are involved in this “decision” by the plant to flower. Size is not an absolute criterion since the current (2014) plant has a corm that weighs only about 30 pounds, while corms have been recorded weighing upwards of 300 pounds. It is safe to say that the larger the corm, the larger the inflorescence, or “flower” (For more on this see my note at the bottom of this post.)

The flowering in 2009 was unusual in several respects. This plant, one of a batch assigned the number 87333, was grown from seeds produced from the 1999 flowering. John Trager, curator of desert collections for The Huntington, found a way to manipulate the anthers to obtain pollen and hand-pollinate the female flowers of the same inflorescence. Ordinarily the female flowers would be past their receptive stage when the pollen is shed by the male flowers, a mechanism that helps ensure out-crossing and genetic diversity in wild populations of titan arums. This successful “selfing” resulted in a number of vigorous specimens and gave rise to two flowering events.

The 2009 bloom put on quite a colorful display.

The 2009 bloom put on quite a colorful display.

The inflorescence of the 2009 blooming was preceded by a very large leaf: the leaf stalk (petiole) was about 12 feet tall and about 10 inches in diameter. This leaf remained viable for a year and a half. The size and vigor of a leaf can be an indication of flowering capacity. Besides being the result of self-pollination, this plant was also unusual in that it was planted in an open bed in The Rose Hills Foundation Conservatory for Botanical Science here at The Huntington. This allowed the root system to develop freely and help the corm store up more energy than it might be able to in a pot. This placement also provided a scenic venue resembling its forest habitat in Sumatra. After a leafless dormancy of a few months, this plant pushed up an inflorescence nearly seven feet tall, the largest of the five blooms at The Huntington.

The flowering in 2010 was also produced on a plant growing in the ground in the conservatory. Its inflorescence was much smaller, probably owing to root competition from a nearby fig tree. This plant is one of a crop of seedlings grown from a cross between a plant at the University of California, Santa Barbara (the female parent) and pollen from 85000 (the male parent). This group was given the number 89999. On The Huntington website there is a photo sequence showing the early to late stages of this plant’s flowering. Of the several dozen plants of A. titanum in our collections, most are from this cross.

The current flowering titan arum is a sibling of the plant that flowered in 2009. It also bears the number 87333 but with a different clone or individual designation.

Other titan arums in The Huntington’s tropical collections are expected to reach flowering size in the next few years. We hope to be able to offer a display of several plants flowering simultaneously that will delight and amaze visitors sometime soon.

A view into the 2010 bloom.

A view into the 2010 bloom.

The “flower” of the titan arum is actually an inflorescence comprised of an outer whorl, or bract (the spathe), with a flower-bearing axis (the spadix) at the center. The spathe and spadix construction is common to all members of the Araceae, or aroid family. The longest portion of the spadix, from the tip downward, is the appendage, a nearly hollow structure that resembles a loaf of French bread. Below the appendage is a zone of male flowers, and below this are the female flowers. Technically, A. titanum has the most massive unbranched inflorescence of any flowering plant; other plants have a much larger inflorescence (e.g., the Talipot Palm, Corypha umbraculifera) that is branched, or an unbranched structure that is taller (e.g., some aloes and agaves).

Dylan P. Hannon is curator of conservatory collections at The Huntington.

Three Musicians Sharing in the Chinese Garden

Wu Man (center), playing alongside Kojiro Umezaki (left) and Dong-Won Kim (right), delivered the inaugural performance at the Chinese Garden’s Clear and Transcendent pavilion on June 18, 2014. Photos by Martha Benedict.

Wu Man (center), playing alongside Kojiro Umezaki (left) and Dong-Won Kim (right), delivered the inaugural performance at the Chinese Garden’s Clear and Transcendent pavilion on June 18, 2014. Photos by Martha Benedict.

Few things are more relaxing than live musical performances at The Huntington during the summer. Don’t forget that every Wednesday from 1 to 3 p.m., you can enjoy traditional music in Liu Fang Yuan, the Garden of Flowing Fragrance. In fact, an early summer performance in the garden’s Clear and Transcendent pavilion is still reverberating. You can now watch a video of Wu Man, the renowned virtuoso of the pipa (or Chinese lute), whose performance of a specially commissioned work on June 18 capped off her residency as the Chinese Garden’s first visiting artist.

The concert kicked off the Chinese Garden’s Clear and Transcendent pavilion as a new venue for cultural programs. Native oaks arched over the audience seated in the adjacent courtyard. In the evening’s introduction, Chinese Garden Curator June Li said the pavilion’s name alludes to “music reaching every crevice of the garden and across the water.” The garden is modeled after classical Chinese gardens of Suzhou. During the 16th and 17th centuries, merchants of the busy trading center prospered and built enchanting private retreats. Their gardens were a world of refinement and harmony as pavilions became stages for music and dance.

In front of the pavilion’s blond gingko wood screen, with intricate carvings of traditional musical instruments on one side and scenes from the Chinese play The Peony Pavilion on the other, Wu strummed the pipa and was joined by Kojiro Umezaki, who played the shakuhachi, a Japanese bamboo flute, and Dong-Won Kim, who beat the jang-go, an hourglass-shaped Korean drum. Since there’s no extant music written for all three instruments combined, original arrangements comprised the heart of the program. Wu composed Three Sharing because she felt inspired by the garden’s Three Friends pavilion, which represents the pine, bamboo, and plum during early spring in China.

Wu Man playing the pipa, or Chinese lute.

Wu Man playing the pipa, or Chinese lute.

Wu has traveled extensively during her musical career, appearing with major symphony orchestras, playing in the world’s great concert halls, and performing with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project. In the case of the music, as Wu pointed out, the cultures of China, Japan, and Korea meld to become a distinct sound that reminded Li of jazz improvisation. “Wu Man not only cares about traditional Chinese music,” she observed, “but also how that music connects with contemporary life.”

The concert culminated Wu’s five-month residency, which inaugurated The Huntington’s Cheng Family Visiting Artist Program and utilized her musical talents as a teacher and communicator. As part of the residency and The Huntington’s partnership with Eliot Middle School in Altadena, Wu visited a 7th grade band class at the school. Audrey Durden, The Huntington’s school programs and school partnerships manager, said students were initially skeptical about the pipa, an instrument they had never seen before. “But Wu Man just charmed them,” she said. By the end, a couple of the students wanted to skip lunch and join in with their own instruments.

As for future events in the Chinese Garden, Li said next year’s musician-in-residence could be someone who plays the music of Chinese composers in Western orchestration. She also envisioned presenting Kun opera, an ancient form from the Suzhou region. And perhaps one day those Peony Pavilion scenes that are carved on the panel in the Clear and Transcendent pavilion will spring to life in the Garden of Flowing Fragrance.

Click here to watch video of the June 18th performance of Wu Man, Kojiro Umezaki, and Dong-Won Kim. Also on YouTube is video of a Huntington concert from May 20, 2014, featuring Wu Man and Gamin, performing on the Korean saengwhang and piri.

The three performers take a bow at the conclusion of the concert.

The three performers take a bow at the conclusion of the concert.

Linda Chiavaroli is a volunteer in the office of communications at The Huntington. She is a Los Angeles-based communications consultant.

A Study for Gassed

The men depicted in John Singer Sargent’s Study for Gassed, ca. 1918–19, are rendered in the final painting (below) third and fourth from the left. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The men depicted in John Singer Sargent’s Study for Gassed, ca. 1918–19, are rendered in the final painting (below) third and fourth from the left. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Since the opening of The Huntington’s exhibition of spectacular World War I posters in the West Hall of the Library, we’ve taken note of a very different and sobering depiction of World War I currently on view in the Chandler Wing of the Scott Galleries.

The World War I posters on view through Nov. 3 were created to energize and excite: bold, colorful, and graphically pungent, they encouraged enlistment, investment in the war effort, and other patriotic behavior. The war effort was a good thing.

A close-up view of Gassed (below) shows the pair of soldiers from the study, now among their injured comrades.

A close-up view of Gassed (below) shows the pair of soldiers from the study, now among their injured comrades.

But an artwork in the Chandler Wing provides more of a reality check on the heinousness of war—from the experiences of the renowned portrait artist John Singer Sargent (1856–1925), no less. In a corner of the gallery, tucked among an exhibition of American prints, is one of Sargent’s studies for his monumental painting Gassed, completed in March 1919, and now at the Imperial War Museum in London.

The study shows two soldiers together: one appears to be doubling over or stumbling from the effects of mustard gas exposure as the other man holds him up with one arm. In the final 7.5-by-20-foot painting, the men depicted in the study are in a line of injured soldiers, their eyes bandaged after being blinded by gas. Led by orderlies, they make their way forward while holding on to one another. In the foreground lie dozens of dead and wounded soldiers. These images are in stark contrast to the background, where an almost imperceptible group of uninjured soldiers play soccer as the ravages of war are so close at hand.

The British War Memorials Committee of the British Ministry of Information commissioned Sargent to document the war showing Anglo-American cooperation. In July 1918, the artist visited the Western Front to spend time with British and American troops. A recent New York Times article mentioned that Sargent “originally envisioned painting a homage to gallantry. But in France, he visited a field hospital crowded with soldiers who had been exposed to mustard gas, a poison that burned the body inside and out.” The experience in August 1918 so affected Sargent that he immediately changed the theme of the commissioned work.

Fellow artist Henry Tonks had travelled to France with Sargent. Recalling the event later in a 1920 letter (and quoted in the Imperial War Museum’s label for Gassed), Tonks wrote, “After tea we heard that on the Doullens Road at the Corps dressing station at le Bac-du-sud there were a good many gassed cases, so we went there. The dressing station was situated on the road and consisted of a number of huts and a few tents. Gassed cases kept coming in, lead along in parties of about six just as Sargent has depicted them, by an orderly. They sat or lay down on the grass, there must have been several hundred, evidently suffering a great deal, chiefly from their eyes which were covered up by a piece of lint. Sargent was very struck by the scene and immediately made a lot of notes.”

John Singer Sargent (1856–1925), Gassed, 1919, oil on canvas, Imperial War Museum, London. © Imperial War Museum (Art.IWM ART 1460).

John Singer Sargent (1856–1925), Gassed, 1919, oil on canvas, Imperial War Museum, London. © Imperial War Museum (Art.IWM ART 1460).

Sargent’s painting reminds us of the number of fallen soldiers in World War I: the war claimed the lives of some 9 million combatants. The Huntington’s study for the painting is but a tiny portal into that experience, and yet it is haunting and dramatic in and of itself.

For two very different World War I experiences at The Huntington, take a look at the posters in the Library and then check out the Sargent drawing. They provide fascinating juxtapositions: war as romance, nationalism, and industry on the one hand; war as pain and suffering on the other. And while they seem remarkably contradictory, in fact, they are ultimately pieces of the same story told over, and over, and over again.

Study for Gassed is on display in “Highlights from the American Drawings and Watercolors from The Huntington’s Art Collections” in the Susan and Stephen Chandler Wing of the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art. The exhibition is on view until Jan. 5, 2015, although many works will be rotated in October 2014.

Susan Turner-Lowe is Vice President for Communications at The Huntington.

The Posters to End All Wars

I Want You for U.S. Army is one of about 40 posters that will go on view beginning Aug. 2 in “Your Country Calls! Posters of the First World War.” The poster was made in 1917 by James Montgomery Flagg (1877–1960). The Huntington Library, Art Galleries, and Botanical Gardens.

I Want You for U.S. Army is one of about 40 posters that will go on view beginning Aug. 2 in “Your Country Calls! Posters of the First World War.” The poster was made in 1917 by James Montgomery Flagg (1877–1960). The Huntington Library, Art Galleries, and Botanical Gardens.

World War I marked the beginning of modern warfare, the collapse of empires, and the passing of ordered societies in which everyone knew their place. The Great War, which started July 28, 1914, was also a seminal moment in which graphic arts converged with patriotic fervor to arouse all citizens to action. “Your Country Calls! Posters of the First World War” brings together 40 international examples from The Huntington’s collection, including the most famous American recruiting poster of all time: Uncle Sam pointing at the viewer and saying, “I Want You for U.S. Army.” The exhibition opens on Aug. 2 to coincide with the week’s 100th anniversary of the start of the war.

Treat 'em Rough / Join the Tanks United States Tank Corps, United States, 1918, August William Hutaf (1879–1942), color lithograph. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Treat ‘em Rough / Join the Tanks United States Tank Corps, United States, 1918, August William Hutaf (1879–1942), color lithograph. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Poster art had been used earlier to rally support for causes, but as David Mihaly, Jay T. Last Curator of Graphic Arts and Social History for The Huntington, observes, “What is new is the organized, mass distribution of posters during World War I.” Government agencies and private charities in combatant countries raised a volunteer army of artists, most very well known, to produce designs—startling in their variety—that were seen everywhere people looked: on walls, in windows, on public transportation, and in popular magazines. Messages urged not only enlistment, but service on the home front, including investment in the war effort and humanitarian aid.

I Want You for U.S. Army was designed by celebrated illustrator James Montgomery Flagg, who adapted his 1916 Leslie’s magazine cover for the iconic message and used himself as a model for Uncle Sam (the Roman nose is the giveaway). “Like many, I thought this poster originated in World War II,” says Mihaly. It was so effective that it served active duty in the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Enlist / On Which Side of the Window Are You?, United States, 1917, Laura Brey (dates unknown), color lithograph. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Enlist / On Which Side of the Window Are You?, United States, 1917, Laura Brey (dates unknown), color lithograph. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Artists famous for their depictions of animals created powerful symbols. For example, a ferocious cat, claws bared, leaps out from August Hutaf’s poster, Treat ‘Em Rough!, luring men to join the U.S. Tank Corps. (The exhibition’s gallery guide folds out into a reproduction of this poster that is perfect for decorating your wall.) A more subtle approach to recruiting is seen in Laura Brey’s Enlist: On Which Side of the Window are You?, in which a well-to-do young man gazes out a window as soldiers march by.

Brey is one of only a few women artists who designed war posters, but women contributed significantly to the effort in other ways. Mihaly notes, “Women working in munitions factories started decades before World War II icon “Rosie the Riveter.” Adolf Treidler’s For Every Fighter a Woman Worker suggests equality and poses a woman worker in such a way that a triangle turns into a “V” for victory. American industrial might is also the theme of William Dodge Stevens’ Teamwork Builds Ships, which focuses not on the vessel, but on the strength and heroic stature of the men building it. (For more on this poster, see the article Riveting Images in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of Huntington Frontiers.)

For Every Fighter a Woman Worker, United States, American Lithographic Co., ca. 1918, Adolph Treidler (1886–1981), color lithograph. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

For Every Fighter a Woman Worker, United States, American Lithographic Co., ca. 1918, Adolph Treidler (1886–1981), color lithograph. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Winsor McCay, famous for pioneering the full-page comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland, used his cartoon style to explain Liberty Bonds in If You Can’t Enlist—Invest. America is represented by a sword-wielding super hero, who foreshadows Captain America, using the Liberty Loan as a giant shield against menacing invaders. One of the most emotionally arresting posters is Joseph Pennell’s That Liberty Shall Not Perish from the Earth, in which New York City burns around a decapitated Statue of Liberty. The design helped raise $6 billion in the most successful American bond drive of the war.

Mihaly culled from more than 700 posters and ephemera of the period in The Huntington’s possession. He says he’s hard pressed to choose favorites. “You get attached to all of them. They all have fantastic stories.” He’ll be sharing some on a curator’s tour on Aug. 28. (UPDATE: The curator’s tour is now sold out. You can check the ticketing site to see if any tickets open up.) The exhibition runs through Nov. 3, 2014.

If You Can't Enlist—Invest / Buy a Liberty Bond, United States, ca. 1918, Winsor McCay (ca. 1867–1934), color lithograph. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

If You Can’t Enlist—Invest / Buy a Liberty Bond, United States, ca. 1918, Winsor McCay (ca. 1867–1934), color lithograph. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Linda Chiavaroli is a volunteer in the office of communications at The Huntington. She is a Los Angeles-based communications consultant.

New Rooms with Views

The reopening of the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art includes new installations of works from The Huntington collection, including Robert Rauschenberg’s Global Loft (Spread) (1979), at right. It is featured in this room with loans from the Rauschenberg Foundation. Photo by Tim Street-Porter.

The reopening of the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art includes new installations of works from The Huntington collection, including Robert Rauschenberg’s Global Loft (Spread) (1979), at right. It is featured in this room with loans from the Rauschenberg Foundation. Photo by Tim Street-Porter.

This Saturday, visitors can wander for the first time through five new rooms in the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art. The new section, previously used for storage in the Lois and Robert F. Erburu Gallery, adds 5,400 square feet of gallery space to display The Huntington’s growing collection along with important loans.

The expansion gives curators a total of 18 rooms to highlight works that date from the 18th century up to the late 20th century. As visitors move in and out of the rooms they can discover connections among objects within galleries while also tracing the notable transitions and milestones in art movements that are documented from room to room.

In another new room, photographs by Edward Weston (in background) are accompanied by decorative arts, including Footed Bowl, ca. 1945, by William Manker; Footed Vase, ca. 1967, by Edwin and Mary Scheier; Colemanite Blue, ca. 1965, by Faith Zink Porter; and Folded Bowl, ca. 1960, by Otto and Gertrud Natzler. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo by Tim Street-Porter.

In another new room, photographs by Edward Weston (in background) are accompanied by decorative arts, including Footed Bowl, ca. 1945, by William Manker; Footed Vase, ca. 1967, by Edwin and Mary Scheier; Colemanite Blue, ca. 1965, by Faith Zink Porter; and Folded Bowl, ca. 1960, by Otto and Gertrud Natzler. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo by Tim Street-Porter.

One of the new rooms spotlights the work of Robert Rauschenberg and is anchored by The Huntington’s monumental 2012 acquisition, Global Loft (Spread) (1979), a complex work that incorporates pieces of fabric, found objects (three glue brushes), and appropriated images with acrylic paint on three conjoined wood panels. The remaining works in the gallery have been lent by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and explore the relationship between Rauschenberg’s printmaking practice and his paintings. The loans will be installed in ongoing six-month rotations.

“We’re thrilled to be part of this partnership with the Rauschenberg Foundation,” says Jessica Todd Smith, the Virginia Steele Scott Chief Curator of American Art. Like Global Loft, many of the prints on loan feature appropriated imagery and found objects.

Smith hopes they will illuminate Global Loft in new and surprising ways. “There are hours’ worth of looking embedded in these prints,” she says.

Edward Henry Weston, Oceano, California, 1936, silver print mounted on board. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. © 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.

Edward Henry Weston, Oceano, California, 1936, silver print mounted on board. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. © 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.

Another room spotlights the work of Edward Weston, who selected and printed for The Huntington 500 pictures concentrating on images that he had shot between 1937 and 1939, when he was on a Guggenheim grant. The new installation focuses on some of his finest landscapes of California and the West, including images of Death Valley, Yosemite, Point Lobos, and the Sierras.

“The installation marks the first time The Huntington has displayed photographs in its permanent installation of American art,” says Smith.

Like the Rauschenberg items, the Weston photos are sensitive to light and will be rotated on a regular basis.

Matt Stevens is editor of Verso and Huntington Frontiers.

Making It Real

Last fall, students from Eliot Middle School in Pasadena toured the permanent exhibition “Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World.” Photo by Roger Gray.

Last fall, students from Eliot Middle School in Pasadena toured the permanent exhibition “Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World.” Photo by Roger Gray.

With summer in full swing, a few highlights from the past school year still linger in the minds of soon-to-be 8th graders from Eliot Middle School in Pasadena. Last fall, as 7th graders, they toured “Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World” in Dibner Hall of the History of Science, and in the spring they marveled at “Remarkable Works, Remarkable Times: Highlights from the Huntington Library” in the Library’s Main Exhibition Hall.

Eliot, a visual and performing arts magnet school in the Pasadena Unified School District, is one of four partner schools with The Huntington and the first middle school. (The Huntington has a longstanding collaboration with Rockdale Elementary and fairly new relationships with Torres High School and Arroyo Seco Elementary, all of the Los Angeles Unified School District.) The experience of Eliot’s students and teachers demonstrates how the institution develops and nurtures relationships with schools that go way beyond a single field trip.

The Huntington wanted to partner with a middle school because “students are at the age when they start figuring out who they are,” observes Audrey Durden, The Huntington’s school programs and school partnerships manager. “If we can give them a vision of what’s available, hopefully they have a little bit more to ponder as they think about their future.”

Eliot science teacher Roger Gray adds, “For many of these kids it was their first experience with a lot of things outside a classroom setting.” He has a stack of student thank you letters to The Huntington to prove this, with remarks like “I had never seen a Venus flytrap” and “I had never seen that many old books with amazing stories before.”

Eliot science teacher Roger Gray in the school’s garden. Photo by Linda Chiavaroli.

Eliot science teacher Roger Gray in the school’s garden. Photo by Linda Chiavaroli.

Gray points out that in-school lessons have more relevance when students can connect them to experiences outside the classroom—what he calls “making information real.” In the case of his class, the visit to the natural history section of “Beautiful Science” translated directly to its study of ecosystems and mechanisms of evolution in the spring.

“When we visited in the fall,” said Gray, “Charles Darwin was simply a funny looking guy with a beard who kept interesting pictures of birds. However, by the time we studied Darwin in the spring, the students were better equipped to absorb Darwin’s importance and how he changed science.”

Gray’s students, inspired by the communication of ideas demonstrated in “Remarkable Works, Remarkable Times,” have created Eliot Arts: Kingdom Plantae. They gathered plants from around Eliot’s campus, pressed and preserved them, and then depicted them as they applied their skills as observers and artists.

After their spring 2014 visit to “Remarkable Works, Remarkable Times,” students  gathered plants from around Eliot’s campus and pressed and preserved them. Photo by Roger Gray.

After their spring 2014 visit to “Remarkable Works, Remarkable Times,” students gathered plants from around Eliot’s campus and pressed and preserved them. Photo by Roger Gray.

Teachers benefit from the partnership as well. “We have a fairly extensive school garden here,” said Gray, who has taken courses at The Huntington Ranch. “The garden aspect of The Huntington has been very helpful to me professionally and has given me hands-on experience in an area in which I didn’t have a great depth of knowledge.”

The discovery extends to Eliot households too. Students and teachers can return to The Huntington at any time with their families.

In addition to collecting plants, the students applied their skills as artists and observers. Photo by Roger Gray.

In addition to collecting plants, the students applied their skills as artists and observers. Photo by Roger Gray.

What happens now for Eliot-Huntington? Teachers have been attending workshops this summer, and families new to Eliot in September will be introduced to The Huntington at a Family Day. During the 2014–15 school year, field trips will continue, including a special project with 7th grade students.

“We look forward to many years of partnership to inspire and challenge the middle school students,” said Durden.

But why wait until next year?

“I liked the museum,” wrote one of Gray’s students last spring. “It is so cool. I will go there on summer break.”

Linda Chiavaroli is a volunteer in the office of communications at The Huntington. She is a Los Angeles-based communications consultant.

The Spirit of 1776 and 1924 and 1979…

A modest pocketbook made in 1776 is but one of many artworks at The Huntington that together tell a “full, rich story” about the history of art in the United States. The pocketbook was made by Elizabeth Fellows in 1776 and is a promised gift of Jonathan and Karin Fielding. Photography © 2014 Fredrik Nilsen.

A modest pocketbook made in 1776 by Elizabeth Fellows is but one of many artworks at The Huntington that together tell a “full, rich story” about the history of art in the United States. Photography © 2014 Fredrik Nilsen.

With the arrival of Independence Day weekend, The Huntington is counting down the days to the opening of expanded gallery space in the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art. Come July 19, you can visit five new rooms that will allow for the display of nearly 100 more works.

“Our goal is to tell a full, rich story about the history of art in this country,” says Kevin Salatino, Hannah and Russell Kully Director of the Art Collections at The Huntington. “This expansion should delight, and in many cases surprise, our visitors with a number of remarkable new acquisitions. We’re in an exciting moment for The Huntington’s art collections, and particularly for the continuing evolution of American art, whose story we’re able to tell now with greater depth and breadth.”

Art Director Kevin Salatino wrote about the recent acquisition of George Bellows’ Summer Fantasy (1924) in the most recent issue of Huntington Frontiers.

Art Director Kevin Salatino wrote about the recent acquisition of George Bellows’ Summer Fantasy (1924) in the most recent issue of Huntington Frontiers.

That story is also covered in a companion book, American Made: Highlights from The Huntington Art Collections, which features more than 100 works in full-page illustrations, including the pocketbook above, made in 1776 by Elizabeth Fellows. The books are already available from The Huntington Store. The pocketbook was on display recently in the exhibition “Useful Hours: Needlework and Painted Textiles from Southern California Collections.”

Many of the other highlights from the book have long been on permanent view in the Scott Galleries. Since the opening of the galleries in 1984, The Huntington has displayed American works from the 18th to the 20th century. But in recent years there has been a steady increase in acquisitions spanning the 20th century, including the acquisitions of Summer Fantasy (1924), by George Bellows; For W.A. (1969), by Tony Smith; Global Loft (Spread) (1979), by Robert Rauschenberg; and Free Floating Clouds (1980), by Sam Francis.

Click here to watch a video about Robert Rauschenberg’s Global Loft (Spread), 1979. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. © The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York. Photography © 2014 Fredrik Nilsen.

Click here to watch a video about Robert Rauschenberg’s Global Loft (Spread), 1979. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. © The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York. Photography © 2014 Fredrik Nilsen.

The expansion of the galleries showcases these new strengths with the five new rooms focusing on these areas: the early 20th-century landscape, with works made from 1900 through the 1920s; photographs, with an emphasis on The Huntington’s rich Edward Weston holdings; paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts made in the 1930s; geometric abstraction and Pop Art; and The Huntington’s painting by Rauschenberg, whose interest in becoming an artist was inspired by a visit to The Huntington in 1946, rounded out with important loans from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.

“While our display has always included some works from the 20th century, now we are able to explore important themes in greater depth,” said Jessica Todd Smith, Virginia Steele Scott Chief Curator of American Art at The Huntington. “We will be sharing with visitors a solid representation of pre- and postwar American art, with major works from some of the most innovative and influential artists of the period.”

Matt Stevens is editor of Verso and Huntington Frontiers.

Add Dame to Her Name

Before Hilary Mantel published the Man Booker Prize–winning Wolf Hall (2009 ) and Bring Up the Bodies (2012), she had written nine novels, including A Change of Climate (1994), An Experiment in Love (1995), and The Giant, O’Brien (1998).

Before Hilary Mantel published the Man Booker Prize–winning Wolf Hall (2009 ) and Bring Up the Bodies (2012), she had written nine novels, including A Change of Climate (1994), An Experiment in Love (1995), and The Giant, O’Brien (1998).

British author Hilary Mantel has been named Dame of the British Empire in Queen Elizabeth’s annual birthday honors, announced earlier this month. The Huntington, as home to her literary archive, celebrates and congratulates Dame Hilary. Followers of Verso will recall reading about her two most recent novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, which have attained enormous success in their account of the life and career of Thomas Cromwell, statesman and advisor to King Henry VIII. Both novels won Britain’s prestigious Man Booker Prize (back-to-back wins by a writer are unprecedented), and both were recently produced on stage by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford. The two plays currently are being performed in London’s Aldwych Theatre, and television productions will be on view in the United States early next year.

Hilary Mantel. Photo by Jerry Bauer.

Hilary Mantel. Photo by Jerry Bauer.

Mantel’s accomplishments with her two Cromwell novels are eminently Dame-worthy in themselves, but the honor afforded her by the queen also stems from her entire body of work, stretching back nearly 30 years and encompassing novels, essays, and memoirs. Her novels Eight Months on Gazzah Street and A Change of Climate draw on her own experiences living in Saudi Arabia and South Africa, where her geologist husband was stationed. In An Experiment in Love, winner of the Hawthornden Prize, Mantel follows three girls as they begin university life, exploring women’s ambitions and desires. A pair of novels, Every Day is Mother’s Day and its sequel, Vacant Possession, are wickedly hilarious satires of familial relationships, while Fludd is a humorous look at a down-at-the heels Catholic Church in a dismal English village where, to the consternation of the priest, mysterious things happen.

Two historical novels that preceded Mantel’s Cromwell fiction are A Place of Greater Safety, about the French Revolution (it won the Sunday Express Book of the Year Award), and The Giant, O’Brien, the story of the real Charles O’Brien who came to London to earn money as a freak on display. Mantel’s 2005 novel, Beyond Black, featuring a medium who appears harmless but who is capable of unleashing terrible psychic damage, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize.

Mantel explored her own background in her memoir Giving Up the Ghost, revealing how her own habits of introspection and self-examination, together with her rather unorthodox upbringing, informed the themes of her fiction.

Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1988) drew on the author’s own experiences living in Saudia Arabia

Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1988) drew on the author’s own experiences living in Saudia Arabia.

Asked her reaction to being named a dame, Mantel noted that she is thrilled and honored, as well as gratified to know that the merit she saw in her own writing is also perceived by others. But, she says this honor in no way signals the culmination of her writing career, noting that she feels “very energized,” has a lot of new work before her, and looks ahead to her “most exciting writing years” still to come. For the near future, all of us can look ahead to the publication of The Mirror and the Light, the third and final volume in her account of Thomas Cromwell, and The Huntington can anticipate receiving the manuscripts and drafts for this novel, to join the other manuscripts in the archive of her papers.

Sara S. “Sue” Hodson is curator of literary manuscripts at The Huntington.