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Archive for the ‘Illustration’ Category

This post comes to us from Jenna Collins, Curatorial Intern

Morrill Rowena, Twilight Terrors, National Lampoon Vacation cover

Rowena, A. Morrill, Twilight Terrors, 1979. Oil on illustration board. National Lampoon Vacation cover, ca. 1980.

Currently displayed in the New Britain Museum of American Art, Rowena A. Morrill’s Twilight Terrors was commissioned in 1979 for the National Lampoon Vacation cover. It depicts the wild imagination of a young boy who envisions a terrifying dragon reaching out for him as he walks along a road at night. This charming painting captured my heart and imagination as it brought me back to a time when I, too, would fill the empty darkness of my room with wild imaginings of beasts and dragons.

As a child I was fascinated with the exciting and fanciful worlds created within the books I brought home from the library each week. The thrill and allure of a chilling mystery or a heroic adventure always kept me reading way past my bed time, filling my imagination with visions of monsters and worlds beyond the stars. Those nail biting epics inspired my love for illustration and I became intrigued by the artists who could transform these fantastical descriptions of monsters and their worlds into an illustration that captures not only an image but also the energy of the character. (more…)

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Have you recently ventured into the Contemporary Gallery at the NBMAA? Wondering what the futuristic sound-dome is all about? LIsten in as the artist-mastermind behind The Road Not Taken, Jason Huff, and Curatorial Intern, Emily Sesko, discuss  the work and muse about art and life.

Emily Sesko (ES): A few of your projects “zoom in” on an interaction between literature and algorithmic computer functions. How would you say your experiences with these projects, like “AutoSummarize” or “The Road Not Taken” have affected your perspective on literature, or have they not?

Jason Huff (JH): I think about literature differently now. I keep trying to imagine the 30 million or more books on Google Books, plus all of the other texts on sites like Project Gutenberg, and it’s overwhelming. When I created “AutoSummarize,” I was interested in Markov string generators and how computer algorithms could learn English-language grammars. I was curious to find the algorithms’ limits.

In “AutoSummarize,” I use Microsoft Word’s summary algorithm to create the summaries. It was absurd to me that software engineers had built a tool that would let users summarize any body of text to 1% of its original length. (Maybe it makes sense for business documents, but I’m still not convinced.) When I started using Word to summarize entire books, the results were unexpected. Suddenly, I was reminded of all the Cliffs Notes I read in high school, of classic books, only these summaries were even more succinct — ridiculously so. The summaries felt like parodies of the originals, but also true to the way reading and writing has changed over the years.

Microsoft added AutoSummarize to Word in 1997. Each new version includes some upgraded version of the function. There are some basic rules that apply to the summaries; word count, capitalization, etc. Outside of those rules, the algorithm is a bit of a mystery. Making the work was my way of trying to understand two things: one, how Word’s AutoSummarize function produces its summaries, and two, how an algorithm can tell stories.

To me, it is fascinating that algorithms are making content decisions. It’s not a big secret; everyone knows that algorithms power things like Google Search and grammar-correcting word-processing programs. What is interesting is how often people take these complicated equations for granted. If we start to think of them as authors of content — or co-authors — that collaborate with us to generate meaning and poetry, things start to get a lot more interesting. “The Road Not Taken” really points to this idea. It asks viewers to pause and think about the millions of other people and entities who co-create search suggestions, including the algorithm itself, their own personal search histories and current location notwithstanding. The scale of conditional factors is really tremendous, and the way the resulting prosaic language (in the case of Google search suggestions) is presented is meant to feel like a default choice. It’s designed to be seen and clicked, but not really thought about. It’s like Google saying, “Follow the easy paths. We know you like them.”

So I think there is a second author hiding in plain sight, and remixing not only our very interesting historic literature, but also the everyday junk language we use to search the Web. I think phenomena like Google search suggestions are just as influential to pop culture as a pop-novelist whose writing reflects a particular moment. Our own everyday story is being told back to us in these fractured web- and software interfaces all the time. It is its own kind of literature. (more…)

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Image

This August, we’re challenging our visitors and readers to submit a creative caption

for Lulu Delacre’s illustration for Senor Cat’s Romance. Fill out a caption card and drop it in the box hanging in the gallery or simply write in the comment section below. Don’t forget to leave us your contact information so we can send you a free 

year-long family membership if you are the winner. Take a look below to see who you’re up against!

(more…)

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NC WyethThis July, we’re challenging our visitors and readers to submit a creative caption for N.C. Wyeth’s illustration for Treasure Island. Fill out a caption card and drop it in the box hanging next to the painting or simply write in the comment section below. Don’t forget to leave us your contact information so we can send you a free year-long family membership if you are the winner. Take a look below to see who you’re up against!

(more…)

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This post comes to us from Emily Sesko, Curatorial Intern

Down comes Norman Rockwell, and up goes Pinocchio.

Walt Disney, Scene from Pinocchio, 1939, for the film Pinocchio, 1940, Celluloid painting (animation cel), Bequest of Helen Vibberts, 2008.88 LIC

Walt Disney, Scene from Pinocchio, 1939, for the film Pinocchio, 1940, Celluloid painting (animation cel), Bequest of Helen Vibberts, 2008.88 LIC

Beginning this week, kids rule! Visitors have a chance to catch a glimpse of an original animation cel from Disney’s 1940 film with our newly-installed show from the Low Illustration Collection, featuring illustrations, covers, and much, much more from publications intended for young readers. Gracing the walls in the Low Illustration Gallery now are some old favorites (like Mickey and Minnie, and a photograph from Walter Wick’s I Spy series) and some new friends, including seven illustrations by Nicholas Napoletano for a children’s book in the works by our very own Director Douglas Hyland. (more…)

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This post comes to us from Sarah Churchill , Curatorial Intern.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

One of the perks of interning here at the New Britain Museum of American Art is access to the museum’s excellent programming, including last month’s symposium “Toulouse-Lautrec & His World Under the Microscope.”  Art historian Nancy Noble presented thought-provoking insights into the inhabitants of Lautrec’s world, while Rhea Higgins focused her attentions upon the many parallels between Lautrec and his contemporary Edgar Degas. Degas, aware of the so-called “parallels” famously said of Lautrec, “He wears my clothes but cuts them down to his size.” Ouch.

I was struck also by the comparison drawn by Noble between Lautrec and Andy Warhol. Both were printmakers and savvy, self-conscious marketers who worked tirelessly to elevate the genre of commercial art. Both suffered crippling disabilities and terrible isolation. This connection is probably the most poignant, for it was the experience of isolation that formed, not only the love of art in each of them, but also the sadness and longing that underscores their work. More fascinating still is their shared interest in the popular culture of their day. It would not at all seem strange to picture the two, side-by-side, holding court at Studio 54. Both Lautrec and Warhol blurred the line between life and art to the point that it can be tough to tell which is the reflection…

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This post comes to us from Ronald Abbe, Museum Docent.

Jane Avril, 1895. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). Color lithograph. Herakleidon Museum, Athens, Greece

Jane Avril, 1895. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). Color lithograph. Herakleidon Museum, Athens, Greece

Toulouse Lautrec has come to the New Britain Museum of American Art. Is he an alien presence or a comfortable fit?  The answer is obvious when one views the connections between his art and the work that emulates it elsewhere in the Museum.

Lautrec was an innovator.  He tried to find a way to capture a moment in the most dramatic way possible.  His cropped compositions make his scenes seem to be glimpsed in passing.  The asymmetry of his arrangements and the daring exaggeration of figures and faces make his scenes come alive.  These effects were startling in the late l9th century but so were photography and the new printing process of lithography.  Quickly, the public found his poster lithographs exciting, and soon there was a craving in Paris for all things new.

(more…)

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