Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Sunset of Sunset Magazine


It is an unusual time to be living in what is known generally as the Bay Area and frequently Silicon Valley.  If you know someone who has worked in high tech for awhile, it is entertaining to get their feedback on what they feel is the actual Capitol of Silicon Valley.  Some cities like to claim that title, individuals will disagree and point to famous garages in other locales.  But I digress.

It's hard to know exactly the boundaries of this Silicon Valley, but it has actual impacts on the land in the form of relentless construction of office space.

It is possible to observe a particularly ironic arc of history, which is the relocation of the headquarters of Sunset Magazine from its home in Menlo Park to Oakland.  Let's look at the history of Sunset magazine to understand why this is significant.

Sunset magazine was first begun in 1898 as a promotion tool by the Southern Pacific Railroad to entice people to get a train ticket and come West, to visit or live.  Stanford University has an excellent website on the history of this periodical, which you can view here: http://web.stanford.edu/dept/SUL/library/sunset-magazine/index.html

Of particular interest is the essay by State Librarian Emeritus, Kenneth Staff, who is a living expert on California history.  Of Sunset magazine he writes,

"By the time that journey was nearing completion, in the flush and expectant years following the Second World War, Sunset: The Magazine of Western Living had become more than a magazine. It had become a key prism through which the people of the Far West were glimpsing the possibilities and futures of themselves and their region. Sunset entered the twentieth century primarily as a tourist magazine. Sunset ends the twentieth century as a Far Western institution, its Menlo Park headquarters a place of near-pilgrimage. Through 100 years of Sunset, the Far West, now expanded to include the Mountain states, Hawaii, and Alaska, had voiced, and continues to voice, its deepest hopes and dreams: its collective pursuit of happiness through an equally intense pursuit of the good life."

Sunset, packed with recipes and photographs, promising not just the good life but the delicious life.  The magazine, affordable and irresistible in its glossy pages and promise of social ease through good recipes and beautiful homes and gardens, also became a mainstay in popular culture by expanding into books, guides and cookbooks, including the famous  Western Garden Book of Landscaping.

Will there ever be a periodical more connected to a particular social and geographical movement that came to define a lifestyle, that, real or imagined, placed California firmly in the minds of so many in different parts of the country?

Will there ever be a title so famous to be so quietly and surreptitiously dislodged from its actual home? For Sunset has been dislocated, giving up its famed Menlo Park home, or perhaps kicked out?  I don't have the whole story, but you can get a whiff of the transaction here:


In case this link is also "relocated" the relevant content is this:

"The gardens at 80 Willow Road, Menlo Park, CA are no longer open for self-guided walking tours, as we are boxing up our office in preparation for our dual moves to Oakland’s Jack London Square and Sonoma’s Cornerstone. The last date tours were open to the public were October 30, 2015. We hope you come visit us in our new digs!

Sunset's headquarters sits upon land that was originally part of a grant to Don José Arguello, governor of Spanish California in 1815. The early-California-style buildings that house our offices reflect that influence. They were designed by Cliff May, father of the California ranch-style home, to bridge indoor and outdoor living spaces. The main building opened in 1952.

The original Sunset display garden was designed by Thomas Church, the dean of Western landscape architects. It included a border that followed the contours of San Francisquito Creek, with distinct areas representing the major climate zones of the West, from the deserts of Arizona and Southern California to the cold, wet areas of the Northwest."

While many things could be said about the ongoing adaptation of Sunset, and the heavy blanket of irony that a magazine that itself could  be held partially accountable for the stampede of immigrants that did unholy things to the landscape of the West can also be uprooted, it is still a painful bit of irony that this inventor of California history is walking away from the site of its many sources, in particular the gardens and the architecture of Cliff May.

Local business reporter Nate Donato Weinstein reported back in 2014 that, "Pricing was still sketchy late Wednesday, but several sources told me it was expected to sell for more than $1,000 per square foot, which would peg the value at at least $77 million. One source estimated the deal in the range of $1,200 per square foot, but the number couldn't be verified."  This information is from an article posted at:  http://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2014/12/11/sunset-magazine-property-sells-to-embarcadero.html

Recent local periodicals and websites report that the headquarters of Sunset are moving to Oakland,
so the magazine that originally was designed to lure people West is decamping to the East Bay.

The present state of popular periodicals has some parallels to the departure of Sunset's headquarters:  moving from a very stable and known past into a future that has equal numbers of threats and opportunities.  I thought to myself a few days ago about the presence of free newspaper racks that appear on some corners as well as the demise of so many bookstores that once offered hundreds of periodicals.  Will Sunset also fade or will it continue on its long trajectory and find a new route to conquer?

Yours to ponder.  But if you'd like to see the real deal, please visit SJSU Special Collections and Archives on the 5th floor of King Library, where we have the back issues from volume 4.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Art Therapy and new conversations

Greetings!  One of the most delightful parts of my work at SJSU as the Art Librarian is to visit the Art Building on Tuesday evenings when the semester is in session.  The department has a speaker series that happens weekly from 5-6 (Room 133) and then from 6 p.m. on, student art exhibits are in the galleries.

I can't tell you how amazing it is to see the work of these emerging talents--you just have to come some Tuesday night.  You might see work by a photographer, or a sculptor, or a digital/spatial installation that will have you understanding what is meant by the term digital/spatial art. Don't forget to over to the Industrial Studies building too though, where the glass shop is and another student gallery is located.

Last night's presentation by Richard Whittaker gave me many things to think about, but two in particular I will share with you here:

1.  His magazine, Works and Conversations, is a treasure trove of information on Bay Area artists.  He has conducted interviews with artists like Viola Frey, Carl Cheng, Richard Berger...so many!  See for yourself!  http://www.conversations.org/search.php?id=Artist

As your alleged art librarian, I can't believe I didn't know about this magazine before and will be adding to my repertoire of search sources, as well as sharing it with my Art Library tribe, ARLIS.

2.  Besides being a writer and magazine editor, Whittaker is also a trained clinical psychologist.  When I read about his background before hearing his presentation last night and then saw images of his work and then the magazines he has produced, the question that came to my mind was about Art as Therapy.  Richard kindly took a few minutes to talk with me after his presentation and I am about to post the questions we talked about here:

Bibliometrics of Art Therapy--what is the future of the field of Art Therapy

From the librarian side of the desk, I have had many students over the years ask for sources on Art Therapy and/or Art Therapy as a profession.  The type of resources seem skimpy to me, and I am wondering why that is and the future direction of this field.

Here's why I say it is skimpy.  In the PsychInfo database, which is the Great Big Book of Everything as far as journal literature in Psychology, the term Art Therapy has only been in use as a descriptor since 1973.

Here's how the Thesaurus in PsychInfo defines and breaks down this term:

"Therapy that uses the creative work of clients for emotional expression, sublimation, achievement, and to reveal underlying conflicts."

    Broader Terms Creative Arts Therapy
    Related Terms Educational Therapy, Movement Therapy, Recreation Therapy

Choosing the phrase Art Therapy as a descriptor retrieves 3,789 entries.

I'm going to apple/orange this next example since I should choose a "therapy" as a parallel search but the next search coming to my mind is Motivation, which retrieves 41,619 entries.

Well, here's a contrast:  the phrase  "Eye Movement Desensitization Therapy" is tagged to 1,085 entries, but that term has only been in use in this database since 1997.


So that's a quick trip into a bibliometric look at the impact art therapy journal literature...another way to look at it would be to see how widely held are the journal of this field, such as Art Therapy, which sits behind the stern paywall of Taylor and Francis, or other titles like the British Journal International Journal of Art Therapy, which turns out also to be a paywalled Taylor and Francis title.

I haven't looked at subject headings and holdings in WorldCAT, or I could also just look for a lit review on the "state of art therapy"  as a profession on art therapy organizations websites and in the databases...but for now, I invite your questions and thoughts about Artists as Art Therapists.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Provenance, Ownership, and art in America

Hello readers!

I have decided to revive this blog and use this venue more specifically for writing about issues about researching art and artworks, since my other blog platform has gotten far broader than library issues.  There is so much exciting work happening on museum websites that makes it easier to locate provenance and exhibit history, and that is what I want to write about today.

But let's back up a little bit:  researchers often want to know how a certain artwork came to reside in a certain place, as well as the places where an artwork has traveled for exhibition.  I had the uncanny feeling of time travel this spring when I went to see an exhibition at of artwork owned by the National Galleries of Scotland.  While I have read about the artwork of Frederick Edwin Church and seen images of his paintings, the exhibit at the De Young was the first time I saw one of his canvases in person.  The enormous canvas of Niagara Falls is stunning--in size and in artistry.  It is one of those miraculous canvases that continues to open up the longer you gaze at it and every time you look at it from another place in the room.  You can see a digital copy here:  https://www.nationalgalleries.org/collection/artists-a-z/c/artist/frederic-edwin-church/object/niagara-falls-from-the-american-side-ng-799

You may be dazzled by the digital version, as well you might be by the composition and colors, but on my screen it displays about the size of a postcard.  This is a shame!  In person, the canvas is taller and (thank goodness) wider than me--it is enormous, you can lose yourself in the shimmering water and try to see just around the bend of the river. 

I was feeling time-traveley when I looked at this painting and then noted on the exhibition information that it was painted in New York, possibly exhibited in Paris in 1900, then donated to Scotland by one Mr. John Stewart Kennedy.  And there I was in San Francisco, halfway around the world from Scotland, looking at a scene of New York over 100 years old, the blues of the water and sky so fresh and skillful that I was captivated.  This canvas outlived its creator, but I experienced Church's vision of the famous waterfalls.

So, the exhibition note gave me some information, as does the museum website, but what would I do if I wanted to confirm the 1900 exhibition of the painting, read more about Church, and more about J.S. Kennedy?

To the catalog of course, to search for Church, Frederic Edwin as the author and the subject, doing these same searches in Link+ to find more books. 

My interest in John Stewart Kennedy is piqued because there are not entries for him in American National Biography or the Dictionary of National Biography.  In  Link+ there is this title:  The man who found the money : John Stewart Kennedy and the financing of the western railroads / Saul Engelbourg and Leornard Bushkoff and the titles that also list Kennedy, Stewart J have the following juicy subject headings:  Kennedy John S John Stewart 1830 1909 Trials Litigation Etc

Now, why is it then when we are researching Philanthropists, the subject heading Capitalists and Financiers appear hmm?? 

This summer I have been reading a title that answers that question in part:  Old Masters, New World:  America's Raid on Europe's Great Pictures by Cynthia Salztman (Viking 2008).  She puts it eloquently but plainly to explain why America's robber barons were eager to acquire and display European paintings, "Although it may seem ironic that Americans were drawn to images of England in the era of George III--the king from whom they had independence in the Revolution a century before, by taking possession of the portraits, Americans marked a financial and cultural conquest"  (107).

Financial and cultural conquest indeed.  Having been to the Morgan "library" in New York City and been simultaneously dazzled and disheartened at the bibliographic treasures in floor to ceiling locked cases, it is clear that Morgan's acquisitions of art was more about inventory than taste.  While the Isabella Steward Gardner collection presents its own series of curious acquisition,

Of course, who am I to judge the desire to acquire art in the days before large museums, mass produced books, and now online galleries of digital images?  The historical precedent for "collecting" art as a means of demonstrating cultural dominance was already a tradition by Napoleon before J.P. Morgan Chase came along, wasn't it?  At least when Capitalists and Financiers purchase art, the provenance trail is a little clearer than wartime looting and hoarding?

But to return to my original discussion about researching provenance and exhibition history, I want to return to the idea of patronage.  Let's take the Titian canvas "Rape of Europa" as our example.  As Saltzman recounts, the canvas that Isabella Stewart Gardner coveted and ultimately brought the U.S. was originally created as a commissioned artwork by Philip II of Spain.  However, the canvas traveled after its creation.  "Titian's Europa had remained in the Spanish royal collection until the early eighteenth century when Louis Philippe, duc d'Orleans, acquired it.  When, in 1798, the Orleans collection was sold and the paintings went to  England, Europa ended up in the possession of the 4th Earl of Darnley, who hung it in his house, Cobham Hall, in Surrey" (74). 

How does a 21st Century viewer understand this wildly out of context painting? Does it matter that the painting is separated from the other Titian "poesies" based on Ovid, that is no longer in a royal collection, that it hangs in a gallery an ocean away from where it was created?

I leave you with these questions for now. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Unexpected portraits, and a free topic!


My other blog, Bookcharmer, often relates my wanderings through databases, explaining how I found information on a topic. But this recent bibliographic journey had an unexpected art history result, which is why I am posting it here. Bonus: if you read to the end, you'll get a free topic to explore!

Today's topic: I was sniffing out a possible writing opportunity for a reference source, and as wise writers know, if you have the chance to see how much is available on a topic before you volunteer to write on it, you take that chance. So I did a little leisurely datascraping on one Lindley M. Garrison, who served as the Secretary of War under Wilson during World War I. My usual place to begin, the Classic Catalog, didn't gin up a thing, either in a subject or keyword search. What next? Link+ of course, which did gin up a very interesting title:

Secretaries of war and secretaries of the army: portraits and biographical sketches / by William Gardner Bell. Washington, D.C. : Center of Military History, United States Army, 2003.

A ha! But wait, when I check the holdings to see which Link+ library has the title, SJSU shows up? Hmm, why didn't it show up in my catalog search?

If you want to puzzle it out, compare these two bibliographic records, I'll wait:



You saw it, right? The table of contents note on the Link+ record? This is that iffy space between books catalogued with that info and books catalogued without it. This is an area in which I am unschooled on so I won't speechify on it but to say that sometimes I like TOC notes, if the chapter titles are indeed specific and useful, and sometimes I do not, as when the chapter titles are vague. In this case, I like it.

So, let's go back to the classic catalog (catalog.sjlibrary.org) and do a title swearch for Secretaries of war and secretaries of the army, because I noticed in Link+ that there were several editions.

The 2010 edition is online! Here's the link: http://catalog.sjlibrary.org/record=b4456219~S1

Yes, off we go to the online version hosted by the Government Printing Office! If you want that URL it is: http://permanent.access.gpo.gov/gpo34904/CMH-Pub-70-12.pdf but the link in the catalog record will take you there as well.

Yes, it's the whole book! Take a browse...yes, did you see one yet? A nice full color image of a portrait? And below that, the artist information? At this point, I am having that "hey wait, I wasn't expecting THIS" moment that is what I love about research. As I was scrolling to find the entry on Garrison, I am distracted by noticing that one name keeps popping up: Daniel Huntington.

Interestingly, the info on Huntington isn't simply repeated, the author provided additional information about the painter to contextualize particular portraits. This is the one that caught my attention:

"Daniel Huntington (1816–1906) was a student at Hamilton College in Utica, New
York, while Lewis Cass was Secretary of War. He had advanced in his profession to
become president of the prestigious National Academy of Design by the time Cass
died in 1866 and painted the former secretary’s portrait seven years later. Huntington
produced some 1,200 works during his artistic career, about 1,000 of them portraits.
Fifteen of his portraits were of primary (nominated and confirmed) Secretaries of War."

One thousand portraits??? So where is the secondary literature on Huntington? Is this a topic ripe for art historical pursuit? Read the entry on him in Oxford Art Online, see WorldCAT to find out if there is a biography of him, and especially enjoy this digital document provided by Columbia University: A Catalog of Paintings by Daniel Huntington from an exhibit in 1849. This is a wonderful document, giving the owner of each of the paintings and often little notes about where it was painted.

I wonder, where are all those paintings now? And who is going to write a biography on Daniel Huntington, or undertake a catalogue raisonne?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summer exhibition going, 2013 version!

Greetings! The SJSU Campus is in the quiet of June, but the museums and galleries of the San Francisco Bay Area are popping. My first excursion of the summer was to the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art. I attended the opening reception for two ongoing exhibits, NextNewCA and Mari Andrews: Over, Under, and Inside Out, both of which will be up through early September. I was very excited about the NextNewCA exhibit, as two recent SJSU MFA graduates, Barbara Boissevain (MFA Photography, 2013) and Jennifer Groft (MFA Spatial Art, 2013) have work in this show. The works of both these artists, Boissevain's large prints and Groft's oversized wooden clothes pins, engage scale to draw your gaze. In particular, Boissevain's capture of the colors and shapes of the salt flats of the South Bay provide an interesting overhead perspective.

These works contrasted nicely with small works of art from nature highlighted in another exhibit, Mari Andrews' finely crafted displays of found objects. While some of her creations are wall sized installations, they are made of very small, delicate parts. Looking at the arrangement of seed pods, pine cones, and shells immediately brought to mind the pleasure of discovering and holding nature's artwork, like a sea urchin shell. Walking back and forth between the work of these three women artists, I was seized with the hallmark feeling I get from being in a good exhibit, which is counterintuitive to staying longer, the feeling of "hurry home! Go find that shell! Wait, go look at a map of where the salt flats are located, no, first go find a clothespin and think about the scale of the ones in the gallery"...and other buzzing thoughts.

It is a compact but mighty combination of exhibits, NextNewCa and Mari Andrews' Over, Under, and Inside Out. I feel certain these, as well as the other items to see at ICA, will set your mind buzzing too.

The ICA is located at 560 South First Street, you can check their hours at their website: http://www.sjica.org/. I know that now, in lazy June, September is hardly possible to contemplate, but it will come quickly so get down to First Street before then!

What's on your exhibition list for summer? Up next for me, Impressionists on the Water at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Happy Birthday Albrecht Durer!


Albrecht Durer is on my mind as The Internet reminds me it is his birthday. What would he think of our world today? Would he be suprised to know that a cache of his works are on display in Washington D.C.? If you happen to be going to D.C. between now and June 9th (better hurry!) you absolutely must take yourself to the National Gallery for this exhibit: http://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/durerinfo.shtm

Those of us not going to D.C. before June 9th, myself included, must content ourselves with the online exhibition catalog, which is quite nice. But the itch to see some Durer could not be sated with online alone. Having had marvelous luck with what I call my "library catalog party tricks" in the past, i.e. turning up a very nice copy of Leonardo's Treatise on Painting in our own SJSU Special Collections, I wondered if the same trick, keyword searching "Durer" then sorting the results by reverse chronological order would result in treasure.

Once again, the catalog reveals treasure! Two, in fact! One more mysterious than the other. I hastened to Special Collections, digital camera in hand, and here are the results

SJSU Library is the proud repository of a 1591 edition of Pittore e geometra chiarissimo della simmetria dei corpi humani printed by Domenico Nicolini. Voila! You may click here for the catalog record: http://catalog.sjlibrary.org/record=b1408590~S1

For your viewing pleasure, the title page:

If you look carefully at the top corners of this page, you'll see where previous owners have left their mark, one L.E. and one Wm. Rothenstein:

Which one of these owners, or perhaps another anonymous aspiring artist, do you think is responsible for this marginalia?

This was such a surprise--when (carefully) turning the pages of diagrams and suddenly finding that years, maybe centuries, ago, a previous reader had tried out Durer's advice.

What of the other items, the more mysterious? Well, the keyword search is the "random result" generator in many ways--if the given word appears in a record, the result is retrieved. So, why did this title show up in the results?

Fama Austriaca, das ist, Eigentliche Verzeichnuss denckwürdiger Geschichten, welche sich in den nechstverflossenen 16. Jahren hero biss auff vnd in das Jahr 1627 begeben haben : darin sonderlich die Böhmische Vnruhe vnd Aussgang derselben, neben viel anderen Sachen so sich fast in der gantzen Welt zugetragen, erzehlet werden : sampt einem kurtzen Stam̃ Register dess hochlöblichen Hauses Oesterreich / zusamen gezogen vnd in diese Ordnung gebracht durch Casparen Enss.
Publication Information Gedruckt zu Cölln : Bey Peter von Brachel vnd Abraham Hohenberg, 1627.

In the note section, the record states "Print by Albrect Dürer pasted on flyleaf."

Here's what it looks like:

How and why did it come to be pasted in this book from 1627? A proud owner once penned H.T. Brewer on the title page...did the book seem a handy spot to paste a Durer print????

Such are the mysterious and treasures that can be revealed by the mighty keyword search!

Friday, January 18, 2013

A little Art History with your Downton Abbey

Happy New Year! I'm going to use the popular series Downton Abbey as a jumping off point to wax..waxily...about the surge of high quality images available online, but also comment on the vagaries of digital representation. Ready?

If you haven't been watching Downton Abbey, you've got a little catching up to. Many viewers describe it as "fairy-tale" because for Americans, it is. Our labor and social history and the general Disneyfication of anything with the world "castle" or "princess" conjure up a confection of ahistorical confabulation. Add in some fantastic costuming and gossip-y storylines, and we're hooked. The fashions and visual culture of the early twenties are captivating, women's fashions in particular.

There is quite a bit of verbiage already available on the web about the "real" Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle. I want to focus on something a friend mentioned this morning while we were talking about the show. He said, "I love that painting that hangs in the dining room, I just want to spend a long time looking at it." So, I decided to see if we could have a virtual visit with it. The first thing to do: find the name of the painting and the artist. This was conveniently provided to me by Leslie Van Buskirk's article on the LA Times blog, online at:


It states, "that gigantic portrait of a man on a horse that’s often visible behind Hugh Bonneville’s head in the dining room on “Downton Abbey” is a 1635 portrait of King Charles I by Anthony van Dyck."

Now, I already knew about the massive project to digitize all of the UK's painting, charmingly called "Your Paintings" which is online at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/about/

You can search or browse this site in several ways. Since this is an ongoing project, there are collections not yet represented in this online archive. I found several images of Charles I by Van Dyck, including Charles I on horseback. However, in checking the locations, noted that Highclere is not yet part of the online collection. I spent a little time comparing the available versions, and was very interested in noting the differences I could detect from the digital versions. For example:

Here's a link to a version of the portrait held at Apsley House:


Open it in a new tab, then open this version from the Royal Collection in another browser window:

Charles I with M. de St Antoine

You can read about the provenance of the work, and magnify the image.

But what about the painting that hangs in Highclere Castle? The website for Highclere provides a small gallery of images, which you can see at: http://www.highclerecastle.co.uk/about-us/the-state-rooms.html#

Look at the bottom right of the screen to find "Gallery." At present, the Charles I portrait is the 23rd of 24 images.

Now that I've sent you to three different places, take a minute to compare the versions. I would have you pay particular attention to the color of the draping fabric as well as the color of the sky behind Charles I in each of the versions.

It is time for lunch now, but when I return, it will be with the printed Van Dyck: a complete catalogue of the paintings in hand for additional mulling.