Inside Look lecture series 2021
On September 19 and September 24, Kristen Nassif, an Art History doctoral student at the University of Delaware, led "Inside Look" gallery talks at the Delaware Art Museum on Randolph Rogers's sculpture Ruth Gleaning (c.1850). The sculpture depicts a poignant moment from the Old Testament, when Ruth, who remained to help her husband's mother following his death, is gleaning wheat, or gathering leftover bits of grain following the main harvest. She looks up to see Boaz, a wealthy landowner who, in turn, admires her loyalty, selflessness and great beauty. They fall in love and marry and inaugurate an important bloodline. Attendees were enthralled and eager to discuss what made Ruth's story such a compelling subject for artists in the late nineteenth-century and how Rogers was able to carve from mute stone such a dramatic moment in Ruth's life, the pivot between widowhood and marriage and between penury and enduring distinction as the great grandmother of King David. The lingered to look closely and took note of the artistic tension between idealized elements, like Ruth's face, and realistic features like her fingers, toes and hair, and to speculate on changing historical notions of womanhood
Ruth Gleaning, c. 1850. Randolph Rogers (1825–1892). Marble, 47 × 26 × 26 inches, base: 20 × 28 × 28 inches. Private Collection, Delaware, Courtesy of Art Finance Partners, LLC.
Embroidery Examined and Explored
This pair of talks, held on April 9 and April 11, encouraged attendees to closely consider Marie Spartali Stillman's embroidered tunic and shoes, on display at the Delaware Art Museum for the exhibition, Collecting and Connecting, Recent Acquisitions, 2010-2020. The discussion was led by Lea Stephenson, a PhD student a PhD student in Art History at the University of Delaware who specializes in Gilded Age art and especially the ways that art can engage the senses. Participants, more than five dozen, were highly engaged, resulting in a wide-ranging discussion touching on Stillman's Pre-Raphaelite context, the gendered ways that art history gets written, the ways in which some art forms, such as embroidery, are relegated to amateur status, and even on to dialogues about ways to write more inclusive explanatory narratives in museum settings. Several descendants of the artist were in attendance and offered insights into Stillman's family and their dedication as patrons of the art. The conversation benefitted from the intimate anecdotes on the Spartalis interest in horticulture and gardening and the artist's own surviving collection of embroidery and silk.
Embroidered Shoes, not dated. Marie Spartali Stillman (1844-1927). Embroidery on silk, each: 4 1/2 × 3 × 10 1/2 in. (11.4 × 7.6 × 26.7 cm). Delaware Art Museum, Gift of Eugenia Diehl Pell, 2016. Photograph and digital image © Delaware Art Museum.