One Final Project
As the second-year fellows got closer and closer to graduation, we gave careful thought to how best to approach another beloved Winterthur tradition: the taking of the class photo. The shoot has traditionally been an opportunity for the fellows to express something of their personality as a class. Each year’s fellows have taken an individual approach, choosing a favorite room in the house or incorporating a Winterthur-evocative theme. Past settings have included the Chinese Parlor, the dining porch, and the enviable fellows lounge of early classes, Memorial Library. Themes have ranged from woodworking to luxury automobiles to croquet.
WPAMC Classes of 2008, 2014, 2009, and 2015
Last year’s class famously re-created “The Last Supper.” In a nod to their clever use of art historical reference, and embracing our class’ own love of theatrical posing (see below), we decided to try to capture an eighteenth-century American family portrait. Although we considered several options, the clear choice was “The Peale Family,” by the eminent mid-Atlantic portraitist of the Revolutionary era, Charles Willson Peale (below). Hailed by art historians as “a tour de force of artistic conception and technique,”* this affectionate rendering of the artist’s wife, brothers, sisters, mother, and daughters has a lively, collaborative atmosphere that we felt reflected something of our friendship and working style as a class. The painting also seemed appropriate for its connection to Philadelphia, the Peale family home and a city we’ve come to know and love during our time at Winterthur. (For a flashback, see Trevor Brandt’s post the class of 2017’s first group trip to Philly, here).
Our visit to Plimoth Plantation
Charles Willson Peale, The Peale Family, 1773-1809. New York Historical Society, 1867.298
To get ready for the shoot, we selected complimentary colors for our outfits in a reasonably “18th century” palette, and coordinated the gathering of props. Rather than a family of artists, we would be a family of curators, with reference books, gloves, and magnifying glass all at the ready. Instead of holding babies, we would hold objects for curatorial examination. Fake fruit borrowed from the museum’s fabulous Yuletide collection would add a pop of color and reference the still-life components of the original composition. The Vauxhall Room, with its easily controlled sources of light, seemed to our photographer Jim Schenck to provide a perfect setting in which to re-create the painting’s shadowy background.
Although our time at Winterthur is often spent in our classmates’ company, our projects rarely involve all eight of us, with the exception of certain group endeavors like one we did in Summer Institute, working on a furnishing plan for Newlin Grist Mill (here). During our final days at Winterthur, we enjoyed the opportunity to work on a final collaborative project of an entirely different nature!
Photo credit to Jim Schneck, along with our thanks for his time and artistic vision. Thanks also to Nalleli Guillen for helping to facilitate the shoot!
*New York Historical Society Online Catalogue Entry, Object Number 1867.298. Accessed May 17, 2017, http://www.nyhistory.org
By Emelie Gevalt, WPAMC Class 2017