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Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage

December 4, 2009 3 comments

Long before Photoshop and Scrap-booking; long before Dadaists and Surrealists incorporated collage into their art, the women on England’s upper class created ornate works, mixing the new medium of photography with painting and drawing.

In the exhibition “Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage”, currently on display at the Art Institute of Chicago Metropolitan Museum of Art, Elizabeth Siegel curates an exploration into a time and the inner circle of this privileged class.   These albums the aristocrats were creating tell fantastical stories, taking us into their world of literature or society.

"Butterfly" by Marie-Blanche-Hennelle Fournier

The technology of photography had been around for 20 years by the time these women began to create the works, but the advent of the “carte de visite” allowing for numerous images on one negative, increasing the amount of images available and they began to share the images with others.  The artists began to place those photographs in playful settings surrounded by hand painted worlds.

Lacking the heft of the surrealists’ messages, the works are a mixture of Terry Gilliams’ animation for Monty Python and the scrapbooking craze.   Heads on playing cards, as bubbles floating in the air and on the bodies of ducks, the images show a whimsy not often equated with Victorian Society.

The exhibition, “Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage” continues through January 3rd at the Art Institute of Chicago before heading to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The exhibition, “Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage” continues through May 9th at the  Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Edgar Miller – Forgotten Renaissance Man

November 6, 2009 7 comments

In the late 1920s, Edgar Miller began a career as a designer.  This Art Institute of Chicago dropout began creating beautiful stained glass and woodcarvings in private residences around Chicago’s Lincoln Park Neighborhood.  Using scrap as material he created ornate environments where residents could escape the drudgery of life is the city.

Surprisingly, eighty years after being first envisioned, several of these private residences still exist.  Richard Cahan and Michael Williams capture these art-filled homes in a new book, Edgar Miller And The Handmade Home.  They tell the story of this artisan who spent most of his career creating beauty very few would experience and enjoy.

Miller didn’t settle for one medium, but rather explored painting, stained glass, ornate wood carvings and tile work, among many others, all for the challenge sharing his vision in a new way.   And what he achieved over his lifetime is truly something special.