NESBA field trip to see The Glass Flowers, Botany Library, and Straus Center at the Harvard Museums

A fun day was had by our members at the three Harvard collections: The Glass Flowers, Botany Library, and Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies at the Harvard Art Museums. The curators gave us great insights into the Blaschkas' products, we even saw Blanch Ames paintings, and it was fascinating to see the actual paints that Sargent used.... Winsor Newton of course. Here are some insights from our members as well as some photos:-Suellen Perold
With the recent reinstallation the Blaschka Glass Flowers, the display is handsomely arranged and appears brighter. There is now space for some limited rotation of models. such as a few representations of pollinators, such as a bee, moth, and butterfly currently exhibited.-Deborah Cassady










Being an avid botanical artist it was wonderful to experience the museum and all that it has to offer, especially the glass flowers. I loved hearing of the Blaschkas history and their passion for creating their art with glass, (isn't that what art is all about; sharing your passion with those that are interested). I just finished reading "The Invention of Nature", about Alexander von Humboldt and of course this book has a chapter on Haeckel as well as the others. What a coincidence I've had after reading the above book and discovering that Blaschkas created sea creatures just like Haeckel. So much to discover and connect with. Just seeing the glass flowers is wonderful in itself, but then to connect all of the dots with all of the creative, inspiring, adventurous people of that time is facinating. -Kate MacGillivary

It is much easier to see the intricate detail and deft coloring of the glass flower specimens in the newly refurbished exhibit. Each "specimen" is thoughtfully displayed reflecting plant habits, realistic coloring, and supporting botanical information. Rotational exhibit cases currently display insects pollinating plants. -Susan Fulton




I was fascinated by the story of the glass Mountain Laurels created by Leopold and Rudolf Balaschka. One was the typical variety Kalmia latifolia, with cup shaped leaves, the other more unusual Kalmia polifolia (pictured here) had multiple narrow petals. The living examples of these plants can still be seen at the Arnold Arboretum -Beth Sanders



It was worth the journey to see the glass flowers again. The skill in making full scale or enlarged small details is astounding; root masses, stamens, finely cut leaves on whole plants is phenomenal. The new pollination section is a timely inclusion. Seeing an original and a printed, possibly etched, reproduction emphasizes the differences and nuances that change with printing methods. Although we would have liked to see more of the paint collection the conservator was able to give some insights into their work. The conservation rooms have amazing equipment peeked at through the glass walls. On the 5th floor of the Art museum is a novel interactive collections inventory. -Frances Topping


I found the work of Blanche Ames particularly interesting especially since NESBA has been involved with botanical demonstrations at Borderland, the home created in the early 1900s by artist and suffragist Blanche Ames and her botanist husband Oakes. -Nancy Horrall


 









The thing that Jennifer said that sparked my attention most was her comment after someone asked for more details on how the Blaschkas used colored glass versus painting the models with pigments in mineral spirits. She said that she thought that they used whatever they needed to use to get the job done at the time.
I guess it sounds simple enough in one respect but it's something I have been thinking about a lot. An artist should use whatever she needs to use to realize her vision. It's really been that way all along, whether you use oil, egg tempera, graphite, ink, camera obscura, photos, either separately or together. Whatever you need to get the job done is what you should use.
I like that.-  Kathy Folino
Sargent's paints

To find out more about the glass flowers click on:

http://hmnh.harvard.edu/glass-flowers

http://hmnh.harvard.edu/file/644071



Herbarium page
Harvard art museum pigment collection

To find out more about the pigment collection click on:

https://www.facebook.com/greatbigstory/videos/1628572424111851/


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