Behind the Scenes: Preservation of the Collection



The summer is off to a busy start in special collections.  This week the the 19th-century Japanese screen by Kanō Seisen’in Osanobu, previously discussed in this blog ( was packed and transported via specialized art couriers Nishio Conservation Studio where it will under conservation over the next two years.

Additionally, a Scroll Painting of Birds and flowers by Motonobu Kano has just been returned after receiving conservation treatment.









This 15th century scroll was mentioned briefly before in this blog, prior to it’s conservation (



College Receives Funding to Restore Major Japanese Artwork


With its golden pigments and delicately painted detail, the 19th-century Japanese screen in Bryn Mawr’s Special Collections illustrates the moment when the “shining prince” Genji first sees his future beloved, Murasaki.

Donated by Asian art historian Helen Burwell Chapin, Class of 1915, the screen is the work of Kanō Seisen’in Osanobu, the last great master of the Kanō School of painting, a four-century-long tradition central to the visual cultural and heritage of Japan.

A significant piece of Japan’s cultural heritage—scholars believe it was part of a Shogunal dowry—the screen is in need of restoration. And Bryn Mawr is on the job.

With support from a $20,000 grant from the Sumitomo Foundation of Japan, Collection Manager for Art and Artifacts Marianne Weldon will be overseeing conservation work to be undertaken by Nishio Conservation Studios in Washington, D.C., one of the leading conservators of Asian art in the United States. Over the past year, Weldon has been working with History of Art doctoral student Anna Moblard Meier M.A. ’14 to identify and evaluate the College’s Japanese art collections.

Moblard Meier played an especially critical role in identifying the potential importance of the screen, doing background research on the work and the artist, and determining that the previously unidentified screen depicts a key moment from The Tale of Genji, a classic work of Japanese literature.

An incredibly rare example of Osanobu’s adept homage and adaptation of classical conventions, the screen tempted curators from the Philadelphia Museum of Art when they reviewed it last summer as they prepared for the exhibition Ink and Gold: Art of the Kanō. But although the pigments and painting are intact, the work had been structurally damaged over time and too fragile to be displayed.

The restoration of the screen will take about two years, and when the work is completed, the screen will be displayed in Canaday Library.

Identification and Preservation of Prints

Location: Bryn Mawr College

Speaker: Samantha Sheesley, Paper Conservator, CCAHA

Date: June 2, 2015

Time: 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Fee: $60

Major funding for this program was generously provided by the William Penn Foundation, with additional support from The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, the Independence Foundation, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

For more information:


Creative Dissent: Art of the Arab World Uprisings.

Exhibition opening at Bryn Mawr College January 22nd

The creative vitality of the continually evolving uprisings commonly referred to as the Arab Spring is captured in this immersive multimedia exhibition on loan from the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.  The exhibition’s curator, Christiane Gruber, Associate Professor of Islamic Art at the University of Michigan, will give the exhibition’s opening talk Thursday evening, January 22nd. Professor Gruber has published widely on contemporary issues in Islamic art, including a recent piece in Newsweek on the history of images of Mohammed in Islamic art

Along with the exhibition, Bryn Mawr is welcoming Ganzeer, one of the artists whose work figured prominently in the uprisings against the Mubarak and military governments in Egypt. Ganzeer will be meeting with classes and informal groups during the last week of January, and will give a public talk Monday evening, January 26, and participate in a public conversation on Tuesday, January 27th. The College has just acquired Ganzeer’s new set of silkscreen prints, “Of Course,” that recognize demonstrators who were brutalized by the military. The prints will be featured in the exhibition. Ganzeer has also just opened a new show at the Leila Heller Gallery in New York City that was featured in an article in The Nation.

See the exhibition’s website for additional information about the programs and speakers:

See an article in The Nation about Ganzeer’s current exhibition in New York:

See a recent Newsweek article on Images of Mohammed:…


Ganzeer. “Of Course, Blue Bra Lady” Silkscreen print, 2014. (2015.6.5)


Field Trip to the Cooper Hewitt Museum

Look out, New York City! A piece from our very own Bryn Mawr College’s Special Collections has already been carefully packaged and placed on a truck bound for the Cooper Hewitt Museum.


Bed. ca. 1885-1887. Designed by Lockwood De Forest. Manufactured by Ahmedabad Wood Carving Company. Chased brass over teak core, perforated copper. Gift of Mary Patterson McPherson, President of Bryn Mawr College, 1978-1997. Bryn Mawr College Collections. Photographed by Karen Mauch. (Deanery.454)

Our bronze nineteenth-century Indian headboard will be featured in one of the new exhibitions at the December 12, 2014 grand reopening of the Cooper Hewitt Museum, Passion for the Exotic: Lockwood de Forest, Frederic Church.

cooper 2

Opening Exhibitions at the Cooper Hewitt Museum in December 2014. From Accessed 23 October 2014.


The headboard is part of a set of two that were designed by American artist, Lockwood de Forest. De Forest is probably best known for his introduction of East Indian art to the American and European aesthetic in his role of a designer and importer of exotic goods. The headboard is one example of the many pieces created by the Ahmedabad Wood Carving Company in India and exported to New York for de Forest’s business. The headboard is made of chased brass and perforated copper panels decorated with East Indian floral and animal motifs over a teak wood frame.

The headboard made its way to Bryn Mawr College by way of Mary Elizabeth Garrett, who purchased the headboard from de Forest for her Baltimore home. In 1904 Garrett left Baltimore to live with her partner, M. Carey Thomas, at Bryn Mawr College. Garrett brought a large quantity of her furniture with her, including the headboard. The headboard is just one of many examples of de Forest at Bryn Mawr College, as he worked closely with Garrett and Thomas from 1894-1909 decorating and furnishing a large portion of their campus home in the College Deanery. While the College Deanery no longer stands, de Forest’s work remains part of the college’s collections and can be viewed online on TriArte, the art and artifacts database of Bryn Mawr’s special collections.


Beds in Mary E. Garrett’s Bedroom, Deanery, Bryn Mawr College. February 9, 1968. Photographed by Karl A. Dimler. (PAB_Deanery_072)

De Forest’s East Indian aesthetic designs, as well as the work of his former teacher Frederic Church, are the subject of the exhibition at the Cooper-Hewitt museum. The exhibition provides an excellent opportunity to view our headboard alongside other pieces designed by de Forest. In addition, the Cooper Hewitt Museum is located in the former residence of Andrew Carnegie, who commissioned de Forest to decorate his library in his signature East Indian style, which remains part of the museum’s collection today.


Family Library in the Andrew Carnegie House, New York, 1898-1901. Designed by Lockwood De Forest. Image from the Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, New York and the Museum of the City of New York, New York. Published in Roberta A. Mayer, Lockwood de Forest: Furnishing the Gilded Age with a Passion for India (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2008) p. 168, fig. 148.

This exhibition will provide an exciting opportunity to see a piece of Bryn Mawr College history embedded in a broader narrative of international design.

The Cooper Hewitt Museum has announced December 12, 2014 as the date of their grand re-opening.

Reconnecting with the Bryn Mawr Deanery

The Bryn Mawr College Deanery has been the focus of my research this summer as a graduate intern in Special Collections. The Deanery was demolished in 1968 for the construction of Canaday Library–more recent generations of students have never heard of it, let alone seen it. However, a small piece of the Deanery does remain on campus–its garden, The Blanca Noel Taft Memorial Garden (’39). Despite the fact that it is no longer standing, the Deanery was a beautiful example of late-nineteenth-century American design and an important landmark in the history of Bryn Mawr College.

arieal view of deanery

Aerial View of the Deanery, ca. 1960’s (PAB_Deanery_008)


The Deanery was the campus residence of the first Dean and second President of the College, Martha Carey Thomas. From 1885 to 1922, the Deanery became a focal point on campus for students, faculty, and visitors, who attended events, teas, and meetings within its walls. When Thomas retired, she gave the building to the College and it was used as the Alumnae House until its demolition in 1968. Over the 83 years that the Deanery stood on campus it came to be a symbol of Bryn Mawr College itself.

In addition to its important role in the history of Bryn Mawr, the Deanery was an unusual example of late-nineteenth-century American décor. Thomas and her partner, Mary E. Garrett, greatly expanded the Deanery and lavishly decorated it with eclectic pieces of American, European, and Asian design. Several famous contemporary American artisans were involved in the project, including artists Lockwood de Forest and Louis Comfort Tiffany, and landscape designer John Charles Olmsted. Thomas and Garrett also traveled extensively and brought back objects they had purchased to the Deanery.

tiffany light

Stenciling and Light Fixture on Ceiling of M. Carey’s Study (the Blue Room) by Lockwood de Forest and Louis Comfort Tiffany


Japanese Fu-Dog Figurine, late 19th century, bronze with traces of gold leaf
Purchased by M. Carey Thomas for the Deanery (W.314)


Part of my work in Special Collections this summer has been to make more information about the importance and beauty of the Deanery accessible to a wider audience through two large projects: the completion of a Wikipedia article on the Deanery; and the creation of wall text and labels for objects from the Deanery now displayed in Wyndham.


If you have kept up with the Special Collections Blog, you know that Bryn Mawr College has been increasing its presence on Wikipedia, so my completion of the article begun by Rachel Starry and Joelle Collins about the Deanery was part of this larger project. Writing a Wikipedia article was a new experience for me. I have never written anything for such a broad audience so it was exciting to think that the interesting and important information I learned could be shared on such a large scale. {Wikipedia Article on the Deanery}


After the Deanery was demolished in 1968, Wyndham became the new alumnae house and the new home for a large number of pieces from the Deanery. Special Collections was interested in creating labels for many of these pieces, as well as several other objects of interest in Wyndham. It is my hope that students, alumnae, and visitors will have a greater appreciation for the amazing pieces that surround us every day on Bryn Mawr’s campus. It is a truly unusual atmosphere for any American college, whether large or small, single-sex or coed, private or public, to have such quality and quantity of wonderful pieces on display around campus.

temple vase

Chinese Cloisonné Vase, 19th century, metal and enamel
From the Deanery. Now on Display in Wyndham. (W.719)


Octagonal Tabouret (Side Table), 19th century, possibly fabricated by Ahmedebad Furniture Workshop (India), wood with inlaid bone/ivory
From the Deanery. Now on Display in Wyndham. (Deanery.405)












While the Deanery is long gone, the history surrounding it and the art that filled it remain. It is my hope that through endeavors such as the Wikipedia page, labels in Wyndham, and perhaps even a future exhibition on the Deanery, new generations of Bryn Mawr students will hold it as dear as their predecessors.


Emily Moore

Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology


The Raison d’être of Successful Design: Prints from The Associated American Artists in the Levine Collection


Shannon Steiner working with a color silkscreen print by Belgian surrealist artist Paul Delvaux. (2012.27.421)


This summer I undertook the pleasant challenge of conducting preliminary research on the donation of works on paper from Jacqueline Koldin Levine ’46 and Howard Levine. As I cracked open the first portfolio and began my research in earnest, I discovered an intriguing pattern of provenance among a number of the prints.  The Levine Collection contains quite a few lithographs that were commissioned for sale by The Associated American Artists, a New York gallery and print publishing house founded in 1934. The AAA grew into a large-scale organization that produced large quantities of affordable and attractive works on paper by well-known American artists. The Associated American Artists still exists today in the form of a corporation that manages designer-manufacturer collaboration in the making of household décor and paper goods.  I probed the history of the AAA further and learned that the company was essential in creating a market for modern art among the American middle class in the recovery period following the Great Depression. Although print collectors in earlier historical moments had the option of buying individual works and portfolios, the Associated American Artists pushed print collecting into the realm of industry. The AAA organization shaped American taste in art and design on a much larger scale.

This fact brought to my mind a post written earlier this year on a personal indulgence of mine, the popular contemporary design blog Apartment Therapy. The site invited readers (themselves mostly lower- to upper- middle class) to share the maximum amount they had spent on artwork for their home and what the piece meant to them as both consumers and armchair interior designers. The monetary amounts varied wildly, from $0 to $8,000, but the overwhelming consensus within the comments was that original art elevated one’s home above the status of a simple dwelling and transformed it into an exhibition space for the good taste and cultural literacy of its residents.  In fact, Apartment Therapy described original artwork as the “raison d’être of successful design,” and readers’ comments revealed that the medium most common to this phenomenon was precisely the same as that marketed by The Associated American Artists – prints and works on paper. A brief look at the history of The AAA can illuminate how art collecting became accessible to the American middle class to such a degree that original artwork at a modest price remains a hot commodity even today. Furthermore, the AAA business model indicates that the gallery consciously marketed the purchase of works on paper as a taste-making endeavor. The AAA prints in the Levine Collection, therefore, offer a unique glimpse into the construction of a middle-class collecting culture.


Hilda Castellón, Seated Nude with Flowered Hat, lithograph, after 1964. Commissioned for The Associated American Artists. (2012.27.446)

In 1934, artist agent and publicist Reeves Lewenthal observed that the American art market was restricted to the country’s most wealthy buyers. Original art, primarily painting, was something only the elite could afford to collect. Lewenthal represented a number of art schools with artist faculty producing original works, and thus he kept an eye open for business opportunities that might maximize the resources of his clientele. At the same moment the Federal Art Project, the artistic initiative of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal that ran from 1935-1943, had encouraged artists to make prints en masse for free distribution to public schools and public sector workers. Lewenthal studied the Federal Art Project and its popularity, and he crafted a business model that shared the Federal Art Project’s focus on works on paper, yet aimed for a profit for both himself and his artists.

The Associated American Artists offered prints by reputable teaching artists and by less well-known artists with strong ties to fashionable art movements, in many cases the spouses of famous painters and printmakers. For example, Hilda Castellón, wife of Surrealist artist Federico Castellón, produced a lithograph of a seated nude woman for the AAA in 1964. Her husband’s reputation as a peer of Picasso and Miró made Hilda’s work desirable by association, but Lewenthal’s pricing structure made the work much more affordable.  In this case, the Associated American Artists catered to middle-class consumers who possessed an interest in Surrealism but lacked the funds to bankroll the purchase of an original by Dalí or Ernst. Surrealism could thus “go mainstream” and advertise the buyer’s familiarity with and taste for modern art.


Alexander Dobkin, Paternity, color lithograph, ca. 1950 or later. Commissioned for the Associated American Artists. (2012.27.424)

In other cases, Lewenthal took advantage of the institutions he represented as an agent and commissioned prints by respected faculty and chairs of visual arts departments at renowned schools. The Levine Collection contains two lithographs by Alexander Dobkin, an Italian-American artist and art instructor who earned a reputation for his vivacious figure drawings. Dobkin was a popular faculty member in New York City, teaching at both the Art Students League and the Educational Alliance. The AAA commissioned several lithographs from Dobkin in the wake of his success at group exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art and the Art Institute of Chicago, and capitalized on Dobkin’s penchant for warm, family-oriented subject matter. Dobkin was simultaneously modern and familiar, making his prints the perfect product for the AAA’s target customer.


Alexander Dobkin, Confidence, lithograph, 1959. Commissioned for The Associated American Artists. (2012.27.535)

From the end of the Great Depression up until the early 1970s, the Associated American Artists gallery specialized in works on paper. Beginning in the 1960s Lewenthal branched out, and invited artists to design paper and domestic goods, such as stationary, plates, and serving utensils. In this way, the AAA represents the first large-scale artist-as-designer business collaboration.  The phenomenon was not unlike today’s designer collaborations with department stores, such as Target’s numerous fashion and home goods lines produced in tandem with high-end design houses such as Missoni and Altuzarra, or clothing store H&M’s diffusion lines from Versace and Karl Lagerfeld.  The Associated American Artists could therefore be understood as a pioneer of artistic diffusion, pushing the world of fine art into the living rooms of the American middle class. These living rooms (as well as bedrooms, dining rooms, offices, you name it!) still function as venues for a middle-class interest in art, as the Apartment Therapy post makes clear.

The aim of the Associated American Artists was to make the high-class world of art accessible to middle-class America, and thus the gallery was instrumental in directing the tastes of 20th-century buyers.  I look forward to continuing my exploration of the Levine Collection prints and I hope that the AAA prints I’ve found are not my last. These works represent an often-overlooked demographic of the American art market that persists even today as bloggers and their readers carry on the AAA tradition, continuing to equate original printed artwork with good design and civilized gentility.


Shannon Steiner, PhD Candidate, History of Art Department


Bryn Mawr College to Host Protecting Collections: Disaster Prevention, Planning, & Response


PCRN_Banner - Copy
Only a few more days to register for Protecting Collections in Bryn Mawr, PA
Register by June 11th!
Protecting Collections: Disaster Prevention, Planning, & Response One of the most important steps any cultural institution can take to safeguard its collections is to be prepared in the event of an emergency or disaster.  This two-part program will guide participants in risk mitigation, emergency planning and preparedness, response, and recovery.  By the end of the second session, participants will develop and complete an emergency preparedness and response plan; learn how to train staff to implement the plan effectively; set pre-and post-disaster action priorities for collections; learn how to use practical decision-making skills during an emergency or disaster; and have information on salvaging a variety of materials, including books, documents, photos and objects.By registering for this program, attendees agree to participate in both the first and second sessions; the two sessions are scheduled several weeks apart in order to give attendees time to undertake several planning assignments.SPEAKERS

Laura Hortz Stanton, Director of Preservation Services, CCAHA
Dyani Feige, Preservation Specialist, CCAHA
Jessica Keister, Paper & Photograph Conservator, CCAHA


June 24 & August 5, 2014 – Registration Deadline is June 11th!
Bryn Mawr College Special Collections
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010

Times: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


Fee: $50
Registration Deadline: Register at least two weeks prior to the program date.

Registration, secure credit card payment, and additional program information are available at


  • Lunch will not be provided.
  • Refunds will be given until two weeks prior to the program date, minus a $10 cancellation fee.
  • If you have special needs, please contact CCAHA at least three weeks prior to the program date so that accommodations can be made.

Questions?  Call CCAHA’s Preservation Services department at 215.545.0613 or email us at

Protecting Collections: Disaster Prevention, Planning, & Response is a part of the Pennsylvania Cultural Resilience Network (PaCRN).  Funded through an Institute of Museum and Library Services National Leadership Grant, the goal of PaCRN is to create a strong network and provide resources for effective emergency response and recovery for cultural institutions in Pennsylvania.  Training, relationship-building, and Commonwealth-wide policy development will be the primary focus of this two-year initiative.

Recent Donation of Prints

This semester, John and Joanne Payson rounded off a year of exceptional generosity by donating a collection of twentieth-century prints and print portfolios to Bryn Mawr College’s Special Collections.


Teddo, Paul Cadmus, 1985, Lithograph, 9 7/8” x 10 ½” (2014.11.6)

The donation followed a substantial loan of American art used to form the student-curated exhibition, “A Century of Self-Expression: Modern American Art in the Collection of John and Joanne Payson,” which will hang in the Class of 1912 Rare Book Room of Canaday Library until June 1, 2014. The students, members of the 360° course cluster “Exhibiting Modern Art,” had the opportunity to work closely with the Paysons on the exhibition and accompanying publications, programs, and special events. The course cluster blog at tells the story of this amazing year in the voices — and with the images — of the students.


Lion of Prague, Jack Levine, 1982, Etching and Aquatint, 11 1/8” x 9” (2014.11.10)

The recent donation includes work by Jack Levine, Isabel Bishop and Paul Cadmus, who are all featured prominently in “A Century of Self-Expression,” as well as by Doris Rosenthal, Ben Shahn, and Bernarda Bryson Shahn. Like many of the works in the exhibition, the prints appeal largely to a realistic style of representation that persisted alongside more radical and experimental visual trends that are often thought to characterize twentieth-century art. The prints cover a wide range of subjects, including portraits, political, mythological, and biblical stories, and scenes of modern city life.

It’s been a pleasure to collaborate with  Paysons and especially to catch up with Joanne, who received both her AB and MA from Bryn Mawr College. The new prints will serve as a source of interest and inspiration for students involved in the recent exhibition and for future generations of Bryn Mawr scholars.


Pygmalion, Jack Levine, 1977, Lithograph, 19 1/2” x 12 1/2” (2014.11.1)


Portfolio of Eight Etching 1927-1934, Isabel Bishop, 1989, Etching 14 ½” x 11 ½” (2014.11.11.a-j)