Under the Influence of Empire: Whistler’s Naval Review Etchings

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Blogger’s Note:  This post has been adapted from the research I did for my MA qualifying project, and I hope it will help to familiarize you with not only my work but my style. A major reason I’ve been drawn to Whistler’s work is the pervasive interest in waterscapes and watercraft shown throughout his corpus. As I’ll begin to unpack here, too, his work and biography are deserving of more critical attention. Historical figures are rarely as simpleor as innocentas they are often made out to be.

Introduction

James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), an American expat and major figure of nineteenth-century European and American art, was and remains best known for his disavowal of the more communicative functions of art in favor of what he espoused as “art for art’s sake,” an idea he preached publicly and vociferously. Whistler has also been noted for his big, entertaining, if also irascible, personality, a reputation he carefully cultivated. His biography is littered with coming-to-blows episodes with patrons and colleagues. Whistler actually published the correspondence from these episodes in a memoir of sorts, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies. Often described as “cosmopolitan,” Whistler’s transnationalism certainly did inform his artwork, not least through his sometimes-radical adaptations of East Asian aesthetics. One aspect of his career that has been overshadowed by his flamboyant personality and artistic innovations is that Whistler was an artist in an age of empire. The effects and influence of imperialism were not only formative but informed some key works of his mature career. These key works include the etchings in his Naval Review set from 1887.   Read more

Landlocked No More

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Me in 2019 with a cardboard cutout of George Stout at the premiere of the documentary Stout Hearted.

Hi everyone! My name is Morgan Brittain. I’m thrilled to be joining The Mariners’ Museum and Park team as a Graduate Assistant from the William & Mary American Studies PhD program. I’ll be working in the Archives, helping to provide greater online access to our collections, during these unprecedented times of COVID-19 and beyond. Throughout this process, I’ll be blogging a lot, and I hope we’ll get to know each other a bit in the coming months. I look forward to reading and responding to your comments. For today, though, I’d simply like to introduce myself a bit.

I hail from Iowa, middle (depending on who you ask) of the Midwest. Specifically, I’m from Winterset, a town of 5,000 with Hollywood claims to fame. It’s the birthplace of John Wayne, setting of The Bridges of Madison County (both the film site and the structures themselves), and home town of Monuments Man George Stout (immortalized by George Clooney as Frank Stokes). I loved growing up there for a lot of reasons, but probably most of all for its history, visual richness, and access to the outdoors.   Read more

Not Your Average Joe

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Marion Barbara “Joe” Carstairs

Joe

Marion Barbara “Joe” Carstairs would be the first to tell you that she was “never a little girl.” Born February 1, 1900, in London, Joe was the first child of American heiress Frances Evelyn Bostwick (the second child of Jabez Bostwick, a founding partner of Standard Oil). Her legal father was Captain Albert Carstairs of the Royal Irish Rifles, or, at least, we think. Captain Carstairs re-enlisted in the army one week before Joe’s birth. He and Evelyn divorced soon after that, and some suggest that he may not have been Joe’s biological father.

Joe’s mother, who went by her middle name, Evelyn, was “fed by alcohol and heroin,” according to biographer Kate Summerscale. She was known for her string of lovers and husbands. Joe’s favorite was Count Roger de Périgny, who was much more of a buddy than a father. The Count shared many of his hobbies with his new stepdaughter, some much less wholesome than others. The most important, however, was his love of things that go fast. In fact, de Périgny had one of his racecars modified so that 16-year-old Joe could drive it. The relationship between Evelyn and Roger, unsurprisingly, did not last.   Read more

I Must Be Outta My Gourd

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Green gourd birdhouse
Green decorated created by a participant using paint, stencils, glue, and pinecone scales.

Isn’t it amazing how one of your hobbies can spill over into your work life and it is considered to be a good thing?! Two years ago, my co-worker Erica Deale approached me to be a part of the Park series that she developed. This meant that I could share one of my favorite crafting mediums: GOURDS! Yes, gourds! Not those colorful ones you see everywhere in fall decorations, and which can rot after a few weeks. I mean the ones that have been known to last for years! 

Gourds are members of the Cucurbitaceae family which includes: cucumbers, squash, melons, and zucchini. They can be ornamental or hardshell and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. For centuries, cultures around the world have turned this gift from nature into water dippers, bowls, masks, baskets, jewelry, and musical instruments. Today, you can see gourds turned into birdhouses and creative masterpieces using coiling, glues, beads, clay, decoupage, fabric, paint, woodburning, and so much more. You are only limited by your imagination!    Read more