Monday, August 22, 2011

Picasso at the Library

Currently on display through October 10 at the Main Library is "The Making of a Masterpiece: Picasso and Guernica." This small display located in the elevator lobby on the 4th floor is presented in conjunction with three other Picasso-related shows presently on view in San Francisco:

Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories at the Contemporary Jewish Museum through September 6, 2011

Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris at the de Young Museum through October 10, 2011

The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde at SFMOMA through September 6, 2011

The Library's display features selections from its copy of a special limited edition Picasso publication which offers exact facsimiles of the drawings rendered by Picasso in preparation of his 1937 masterpiece "Guernica." Each drawing has been reproduced precisely in the same size and on the same kind of paper as the original. Insights into the artist's creative process are also presented.

This display is an abbreviated reprise of a display presented by the Art, Music Recreation Center in 2007.

The Library offers the following titles for those wishing to further research Picasso's "Guernica."

Guernica by Picasso: A Study of the Picture and its Contexts by Eberhard Fisch (Associated Universities Presses, 1988).

Guernica, Pablo Picasso by Juan Larrea (Arno Press, 1969).

Guernica: The Biography of a Twentieth-Century Icon by Gijs Van Hensbergen (Bloomsbury, 2004).

Guernica: The Making of a Painting by Joaquin de la Puente (Silex, 1983).

Picasso-Gernika 70th Anniversary by Juan Pablo Fusi, et al (Ayuntamiento de Gernika-Lumo, 2007).

Picasso's 'Guernica' by Anthony Blunt (Oxford University, 1969).

Picasso's Guernica: History, Transformations, Meanings by Herschel Browning Chipp (University of California, 1988).

Picasso's Guernica: Illustrations, Introductory Essay, Documents, Poetry, Criticism, Analysis by Ellen C. Oppler (W.W. Norton, 1988).

Picasso's War: The Destruction of Guernica and the Masterpiece that Changed the World by Russell Martin (Dutton, 2002).

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900

Many costume books show the fashions of royalty and the upper classes, but few show the fashion of people of more modest means. Joan Severa’s Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and fashion, 1840-1900 looks at historical photographs to acquaint the reader with the everyday fashion of those times.

The book is divided into chapters by decade. In the first part of each chapter, Severa describes the trends for the span of ten years in general terms, giving the historical context and quoting from the foremost fashion arbiter of the time -- the 19th century "queen of the monthlies" Godey's Lady's Book and Magazine. Though the United States class system was quite fluid, it was necessary to dress in the prescribed manner to achieve upward mobility.

The author points out that a new invention such as the home sewing machine also figured into fashion assimilation. what could take several days sewn by hand, might only take several hours to sew with a sewing machine. After the sewing machine was patented in 1851 it took less than a decade for this invention to become a part of many households.

After generalities about each decade, the author focuses on fashion, broken down into areas for women of dress, undergarment, accessories, headgear and wraps. There are also briefer parallel sections for men.

The second part of each chapter is devoted to photographs and accompanying explanatory text. Each photograph is given a half page, with the text making up the other half. The type of photography, if known, is labeled in the top left hand corner with a range of dates within which the picture was taken. The owning institution is also noted.

In a daguerreotype listed as having been created between 1850-1853 an African American woman holds a partially open book while gazing into the camera. The woman’s hairstyle is more current than the dress and is the element that dates the picture. The dress looks to be constructed of fine wool which could be worn in the North during winter. The author conjectures that it was probably made for a larger woman and altered for the sitter. Reconstructing a fitted garment for a smaller woman is difficult, especially if one leaves the bodice on the dress. Here the back, front and midsections have been altered separately with the results that the seams are off center and darts look to be at odd angels. The dress should have fit snugly over the shoulders but, since it was not altered in this area, puffs up. Despite these alterations it is clear that the dress was of high quality.

In another example from the 1850s, a man sits one hand on hip, holding his outer shirt open so that a gun is exposed. The other hand holds a pick axe. The portrait is labeled “Joseph Sharp of Sharp’s Flats,” most probably indicating that he would be overseeing a plot of land to be mined for gold. Since his clothing is clean, and the equipment looks new, the author surmises that the picture was taken soon after these items were purchased, dating the period at the beginning of the California Gold Rush. The manner in which the necktie has been pulled out is at one end is consistent with many pictures of men from the early 1850s. Taking into consideration these two elements - the beginning of the Gold Rush and the idiosyncratic necktie, Severa arrives at the date for the photograph as between 1850-1852.

source: Bancroft Library (hosted at Calisphere)

We look at these photographs, taken 150 years ago, and though the clothing is from another era, we are tied by the commonality of fashion, and the wish to keep a record of oneself. It is also gratifying that the author pays attention to our country's diversity including images of African Americans, Chinese immigrants and Native Americans are included here. Through her scholarship and knowledge we gain insight into the lives of these people. Her ability to read the photographs reveal details that might have been lost to us – one different detail on a dress that would’ve been dated earlier pulls the year that the photograph was taken into the next decade.
Severa sums up her outlook in her preface with an epigraph written by a woman portrayed in a photograph:

Look upon this face, and know
That I was a person, here, in this time and place,
And I was happy.

Dressed for the Photographer also includes a glossary, contacts for the photographic sources, an index, and an extensive bibliography.

Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900 by Joan L. Severa (Kent State University Press, 1995).

Thursday, August 4, 2011

An Afternoon with Silent Film Star 'Baby Peggy'

(image source: Niles Essanay Silent Movie Museum)

In the 1920s, Diana Serra Cary was known as "Baby Peggy." Signed to a million dollar contract at age five, this child actress was once one of the biggest little film star celebrities in the world. At this special event, Cary will speak about her remarkable life in Hollywood more than 80 years ago, her recent work as a writer and film historian, and her lifelong love of books and reading. A short film is included and a book signing will follow.

This event will be presented on Sunday, August 7, 2011, at 2:00 PM in the Koret Auditorium, Main Library, Level. All programs at the Library are free and open to the public. This program is supported by the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.

This event is offered in conjunction with the library exhibition "Reading the Stars: The Silent Era." This special exhibit, on display on the in the Steve Silver Room on the Library’s fourth floor, looks at some of the many books about movies and movies stars published more than 80 years ago during the silent film era; the exhibit is part of "Shhhhh! Silents in the Library."

Exhibit organizers Thomas Gladysz, Christy Pascoe and Donna Hill will lead a guided tour of the exhibit from 1:00 to 1:30 preceding An Afternoon with Silent Film Star 'Baby Peggy.'

To learn more about life and career of Diana Serra Cary, read “The Return of Baby Peggy” by Thomas Gladysz.

Books by Diana Serra Cary:

The Hollywood Posse: The Story of a Gallant Band of Horsemen Who Made Movie History (Houghton Mifflin, 1975).

Hollywood's Children: An Inside Account of the Child Star Era / new foreword by Kevin Brownlow (Southern Methodist University Press, 1997).

Jackie Coogan: The World's Boy King: A Biography of Hollywood's Legendary Child Star (Scarecrow Press, 2003).

What Ever Happened to Baby Peggy?: The Autobiography of Hollywood's Pioneer Child Star (St. Martin's Press, 1996).

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Large Screen Videos: Opera Series 2011

“Ritratto di giovene unomo” by Dosso Dossi, said to be a portrait of Lucrezia Borgia, Duchess of Ferrara (image source: National Gallery of Victoria)

The Art, Music & Recreation Center of the San Francisco Public Library in association with San Francisco Opera Guild will present their annual program of large screen videos. These programs feature selected clips of previously filmed productions of operas from the upcoming San Francisco Opera season. Narration and commentary is provided by Opera Guild director George F. Lucas.

The August 4 program features a screening of excerpts of Lucrezia Borgia by Gaetano Donizetti. The cast of this 2009 Munich production includes Edita Gruberova as Donna Lucrezia Borgia, Pavol Breslik as Gennaro and Alice Coote as Maffio Orsino. The conductor is Bertrand de Billy.

On August 11 we will screen excerpts from George Frideric Handel’s Xerxes performed in 2000 by the Semperoper from Dresden. The cast includes Paula Rasmussen as Xerxes, Isabel Bayrakdarian as Romilda, Patricia Bardan as Amastre and Sandrine Piau as Atlanta. The conductor is Christophe Rousset.

Excerpts of Georges Bizet’s Carmen will be screened on August 18 featuring a Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London performance from 2007 conducted by Antonio Pappano. The featured performers include Anna Caterina Antonacci as Carmen, Jonas Kaufmann as Don Jose, Ildebrando D’Arcangelo as Escamillo and Norah Amsellem as Micaela.

Our final screening on August 25 features Giuseppe Verdi’s Attila in a 1991 Teatro alla Scala, production conducted by Riccardo Muti featuring Samuel Ramey as Attila, Cheryl Studer as Odabella, Kaludi Kaludov as Foresto and Giorgio Zancanaro as Ezio.

Each screening begins at noon at the Koret Auditorium, Main Library, Lower Level and will last approximately 60 minutes. All programs at the Library are free and open to the public. This program is supported by the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.

The library has scores, libretti, and recordings of Lucrezia Borgia, Xerxes, Carmen, and Attila.