African Negro Art from the Collection of Frank Crowninshield
- Dates: March 20, 1937 through April 25, 1937
- Collections: Arts of Africa
March 14, 1937: From March 20th through April 25th the Brooklyn Museum is exhibiting tho Frank Crowninshield collection of African Negro Sculpture. The exhibition will be formally opened with a reception and pre-view for members and guests of the Museum on the afternoon of Friday, March 19th, from four to seven o’clock.
This is one of the most comprehensive exhibitions of African Negro Sculpture over shown, embracing as it does work from eight different regions of Africa and many subdivisions within those regions. The general areas represented are: Tanganyika, Angola, tho Belgian Congo, French Equatorial Africa, the Cameroon Country, Nigeria, French West Africa and Sierra Leone. One hundred sixty two objects are included in the collection.
Sub-areas in the Belgian Congo represented are the Lower Congo with nine items, the Katonga Region with twenty-six items, the Kasal Region twenty three items and the Northern Congo with three items. In French Equatorial Africa, the French Congo is represented with two items, and Gabun with thirty two items. From the Cameroon country come five items, from Yoruba and Benin in Nigeria four items, from the Ivory Coast in French West Africa thirty eight items, from French Guinea three items, from the French Sudan eleven items. Sierra Leone is represented by one statue of a standing figure.
The male and female nude are the chief subjects of African sculpture, but animals are also represented, notably the lion, antelope, buffalo, gorilla and birds of various kinds. Decorative motives suggested by patterns of weaving, basketry, metal work and other techniques are freely used for ornament. Tatooing and elaborate styles of hairdressing are often indicated by the sculpture. The masks sometimes show combinations of human and animal or bird features.
The sculpture is by no means limited to figures in the round and masks, though those predominate, There are also cups, drums, sceptres, stools, head rests, bracelets, a bottle, a ceremonial hoe, a musical instrument something like a small xylophone, a fan, a spinning bobbin, a weight, ladles, and other objects decorated by sculpture.
The chief materials are wood, ivory and brass, though bronze, horn and gold are also used, Stone sculpture occurs in Africa but is not represented in this collection and is not particularly character-like most sculpture until comparatively recent times, African sculpture is primarily religious In function. African religion is a kind of animism, like the religion of most primitive peoples, that is it is based on a belief in numerous spirits, some of them spirits of the dead, some local divinities, some the spirits of various objects animate or inanimate. Such spirits are thought to be capable of taking up temporary or permanent residence in objects such as masks and statues, and also in living human beings and animals, a theory resembling that of mediumship or demonic possession. Masks and statues therefore are not merely represent ations of spirits but objects in which spirits take up their residence, either permanently or temporarily during a particular ceremony. In the case of a ceremonial mask, the person wearing the mask may be thought to be possessed by the spirit and may indeed feel and act as If he were. Statues or masks intended to provide a habitation for the spirits of the dead are frequently portrait likenesses, at least to the African eye. Probably the features are exaggerated as in a cartoon. In addition to the creation of statues and masks as habitations for spirits already existing, a special spirit may be created by the act of making a statue. This will then be the spirit of that particular image, not a spirit which had a former existence. The images of this last class are the only ones properly termed fetishes, An ancestor image or Image of a local divinity or spirit is not properly called a fetish.
March 20, 1937: The Brooklyn Museum opened an exhibition of the Frank Crowninshield collection of African Negro Sculpture with a preview for members and guests of the Museum yesterday after noon, Friday, March 19. The exhibition is open to the public today and will remain on view through April 25. Among those present at the preview yesterday were:
Mr. Frank Crowninshield
Mrs. P. C. Frayser
Miss Anna Hollivegs
Mrs. Francis Mellman
Mr. and Mrs. John Grahim
Mr. and Mrs. Miguel Covarrubias
Mr. Gordon Smith
Mr. Walter H. Crittenden
Mrs. Frank H. Parsons
Mr. Joseph Guincy
Mr. Walter Murphy
Mr. and Mrs. Philip Youtz
Mr. W. G. Bowdoin
Miss Mary Field
Mrs. Mary Davenport Hooker
Mr. John A. Mullen
Mr. Lawrence Steegmuller
Mrs. Herman de Wetter
Miss Shirley Gold
Miss Sylvia Rabinowitz
Mrs. Charlotte Rudyard Hallowell
Miss Helen Ormond
Mrs. Cornelius Donahue
Mrs. Mary Bentley Felter
Mrs. F. A. Hadley
Miss Ruth Korey
Mr. Edmund Morton
Mr. Raphael Stora
Miss Yee Ching Chih
Mr. Chu H. Jor
Mr. and Mrs. Stephen W. Dodge
Miss B. Ullman
Miss Olga Rosenson
Mr. David Laye
Mr. and Mrs. Dodge
Miss Ena Lloyd
Miss I. M. Lloyd
Mr. and Mrs. Renouf
Mr. H. N. Westover
Mrs. Howard Vernon
Mrs. R. Edson Doolittle
Miss Ruth Nutley
Miss Dorothy Jansen
Mr. Andrew Henning
Miss Sylvia Brown
Mrs. Randolf Johnson
Mr. Bertram Blomberg
Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1937 - 1939. 01-03_1937, 047. View Original
April 9, 1937: At a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences yesterday afternoon Director Philip N. Youtz reported that an exhibition of African art from the collection of Frank Crowninshield was opened on March 19th to remain until April 25th. It covers the esthetic phases of masks, fetishes, ancestral gods, etc., largely from the Belgian Congo, French Equatorial Africa and French West Africa.
Dr. Spinden left New York for Mexico on February fifth and returned on March 16th. While there he arranged an exchange with the National Museum of Mexico, sending them sixteen pieces of Costa Rican stonework from the excess material of the Brooklyn Museum in return for an equal number of Mexican stone sculptures, mostly Aztecan including figures of Chicomfcoatl, Xochipilli, Chalchihuitlicue and other conventionalized gods in addition to masks, etc. At the same time ancient pottery, jade ornaments and other objects were secured by purchase and permission for exportation was obtained from the Mexican government. Neither lot of Mexican specimens has as yet reached the Museum.
During this Mexican visit Dr. Spinden was privileged to observe the new explorations now being undertaken at Monte Alban by Dr. Alfonso Caso, and was present when ancient offerings of jade, etc., were discovered and removed. He also delivered two lectures on Mexican archaeology at the Winter Institute of the Committee on Cultural Relations with Latin America and visited several archaeological sites.
A project to form a bibliography of exploration was accepted and set up under the WPA with the Museum acting in cooperation with the Explorers Club. The work will be done in workrooms provided by the Works Progress Administration at 1780 Broadway.
A Toltec mask of serpentine, recently discovered near Atzcapotzalco in the valley of Mexico has been loaned to the Museum by Mrs. Elizabeth C. Bush.
Department of Oriental Art
During the last month the Trustees purchased a page from an Egyptian 9th century copy of the Koran written in bold Kufic letters and an Indian portrait of the Moghul school that dates about 1640. The Koran page is from a well-known copy of the book, and similar pages are owned by the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Freer Gallery, Washington. The Moghul portrait shows a courtier standing in profile. It is delicately drawn in ink heightened with faint washes of color. The Museum also purchased a selection of material excavated by the American School for Indian and Iranian Studies and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, at Chanhu Daro, India. This Indian material dates from about 3000 - 2500 B.C. and consists largely of pottery toys, kohl jars, stands and fragments of painted pottery. With the exception of the collections owned by the Boston Museum, no other institution outside of India possesses such pieces.
The Persian and Indian objects recently given by Mr. and Mrs. Frederic B. Pratt were removed from the exhibition of recent accessions and placed on permanent display in the Persian and Indian galleries.
A small selection of Indian objects relating to the dance were displayed in the Sculpture Court on Saturday morning, March 20th in connection with the dance recital given by the Hindu dancer Shushila Shikari at that time.
Several Indian musical instruments and five plaster casts were sent on permanent loan to the Larchmont-Mamaroneck Children’s Museum.
The Curator lectures to two classes of students from the Traphagen and Parsons Schools and Pratt Institute on “Near Eastern Rugs” and “Chinese Ceramics.” He also lectured to a specially invited group on Saturday afternoon, March 20th, on "Persian and Indian Miniature Painting."
Library and Print Division
The most important addition to the Print Division was made by the generous gift of Mrs. William A. Putnam who presented to the Museum $10,000 for the establishment of a “William A. Putnam Memorial Print Room”. The new print room is located on the second floor immediately adjacent to the print gallery and the stack room and is in every way suited to the study of prints. Its north windows provide excellent light and it is conveniently located near the Library. The room has already been redecorated and will be soon equipped with the necessary presses and photographic apparatus necessary in the study of prints. This new Print Room is one of the most valuable contributions recently made to the citizens of Brooklyn.
Despite the fact that March was a short month in the schools due to the ten day Easter vacation, the attendance in the Education Division was 8,284, an increase over February of one thousand. Of that figure, 6,423 students from both the Elementary and High Schools were handled by members of the Division.