For peoples of ancient Western Asia, things did not exist until they were named. Names were believed to derive from the intrinsic qualities of things, resonating in perfect harmony with their past, present, and future. At the same time, naming reflected humans' inclination to give an order to the plethora of things, both animate and inanimate, that surrounded them. Being able to name things, then, also denoted control, authority, sovereignty.
This is a guest post by Michael Healy, a doctoral candidate in comparative literature at the Graduate Center, CUNY.
As a student of the various strands of modernism in the early twentieth century, I found that an early version of one such strand was most prominent among the many nineteenth-century manuscripts I read through and cataloged in the summer of 2018 in the Reading Room at the Morgan: the sense that art and literature grow out of the vivid witness and keen observation of events happening around us all the time, some recorded in official histories and others not.
Since 2006, the Morgan and Boston Early Music Festival have partnered to present outstanding early music concerts in Gilder Lehrman Hall. These include renowned instrumental and vocal ensembles plus celebrated semi-staged productions of lesser-known Baroque operas. Although Nevermind (Anna Besson, flute, Louis Creac’h, violin, Robin Pharo, viola da gamba, Jean Rondeau, harpsichord) is not able to perform in our auditorium this year, we are delighted to launch a series of streaming concert broadcasts, beginning on Friday, October 16, 8 PM (EST).
After the death of his mother in 1924, J. P. Morgan, Jr., resolved to tear down his parent’s brownstone on the corner of Madison and Thirty-Sixth Street and erect a building adjacent to his father’s library. This new structure, known as the Annex, would allow the institution he founded in his father’s name to serve the public.
Over 900 objects relating to Maurice Sendak’s (1928–2012) stage designs for The Magic Flute, The Cunning Little Vixen, Love for Three Oranges, The Nutcracker, and an opera based on Where the Wild Things Are arrived at the Morgan in 2013 as part of the artist’s extraordinary bequest. For many of us, the magic of Sendak’s books, in particular Where the Wild Things Are, live vividly in the memories of our childhood. It is thus both a delight and an honor to create a safe home for these wonderful objects.
Virtually no art object is without a complicated history concerning its creation and its journey from the artist to the museum. As repositories for art, museums no longer merely preserve the past—they must also actively work toward interpreting and uncovering tangled and often discomforting histories with a critical eye and open mind. During the prolonged period of working from home, and with the aid of snapshots taken by my colleague Maria Fredericks, Director of the Morgan’s Thaw Conservation Center, I embarked on a campaign to better understand and describe a group of miniatures on ivory that have been in the collection since 1991 but have not been thoroughly researched or interpreted.
An earlier post discussed some of the traditional colors that appear in the Morgan’s block books. In most cases, the hand-applied colors are typical of the dyes and pigments seen in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. However, a few unexpected pigments were discovered during the study of these fifteenth-century books, enabling a better understanding of how some of them were changed over the centuries.
What do you expect to see when you come to the Morgan? Rare books and master drawings? Cherished names like Austen, Tolkein, and Babar? Modern art, or contemporary photography? How about music?
It turns out that the first half of that list is more likely than the second. A recent survey showed that relatively few visitors think of the Morgan as a place for modern art or photography, despite our deep collections in those domains. And less than a quarter expect to see a music exhibition when they visit the Morgan.
In 2013 The Morgan acquired one hundred photographs by Peter Hujar and, along with them, a vast collection of material including correspondence, job books, and contact sheets. The contact sheets were made between 1955, when Hujar was in his early twenties, and 1986, shortly before he died of AIDS-related pneumonia, and they demonstrate the range of Hujar’s practice.