December 5, 1929:
According to the report of Dr. Fox, Director of the Museum, a great deal of the energy of the staff of the Museum was put into preparing for the exhibitions which opened on December 2nd. These exhibitions were the remarkable installation of nineteen early American rooms, one of the most important additions that has been made to the Museum's exhibits, and the exhibition of paintings by the late Walter Shirlaw and a group of his pupila, as well as an exhibition of Paintings by John R. Koopman and members of his Brooklyn Institute class of painting and drawing. This took up the energies of both the Departments of Fine Arts and Decorative Arts for the last few weeks.
It was somehow found possible by the Decorative Arts Department to take time to prepare an exhibition of Italian textiles which was shown at the Carroll Park Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library and at which there was an attendance of 3500 persons.
Another event of major importance was the opening of the exhibition of modern Norwegian Prints in the Print Gallery with a first view and tea. This was the first showing of an Exhibition that is to go on tour throughout the museums of the country.
The Department of Ethnology announces two new exhibitions in the course of preparation, that of the rugs of the Near East from the collection of Mr. Ernest G. Metcalfe, which opens on December 16th, and an exhibition of drawings by American Indians, mostly from the collection of Miss A. E. White. This latter exhibition is to be opened about January 15th.
The attendance of 34,705 at the Central Museum for the month covered by the report is accounted for in great part by the 35 separate events such as lectures and special gallery talks which were given by the Department of Natural Science and the Department of Education.
Plans announced by the latter department are those for a Christmas Play to be given for the entertainment of the crippled children on the afternoons of December 18th and December 21st in the place of the story hour. The actors will consist of the children who regularly attend the Saturday story hour and the play will be entitled "Why the Chimes Rang" and will be accompanied by music on the new organ.
An interesting part of the report was the discussion of the meetings of the Brooklyn Entomological Society which was founded in 1876 and is the oldest society of its kind in America. It has held its monthly meetings at the Brooklyn Museum since 1912 and has received considerable prestige from this affiliation. It has prospered under this association and its publications have quadrupled in scope and value during that time. Some time ago the society dispensed with its own library in order to strengthen that of the Museum which now has one of the best all-around working libraries in entomology in the country.
Under the heading of accessions some of the most important were an oil painting, "Pont du Carrousel, Paris" by Frank M. Armington, the gift of Mr. Alfred W. Jenkins and an oil painting "Study" by Charles Conder, the gift of Mrs. John W. Alexander.
The report includes a long list of loans made by people interested in early Americana for the purpose of furnishing the new American rooms.
The print Department announces a gift of two etchings by Caroline Armington, presented by Mr. Alfred W. Jenkins and the loan by Mr. William A. Putnam of forty-one prints important for the inclusion of works by such famous names as Cameron, Dürer, Haden, Legros, Claude Lorraine, Meryon, J.F. Millet, Rembrandt, Whistler and Zorn.
An unusual accession in the Department of Ethnology was a Turkish costume from the vicinity of Constantinople dated about 1800, which was purchased.
The Department of Natural Science received from Mr. Manuel Gufstein a short-eared owl in the flesh.
January 28, 1930:
An exhibition that will place the Indian in a new light as a competent artist will open to the public on the first floor of the Brooklyn Museum on Saturday morning, February 1st. It will consist of a collection of colored drawings by American Indians, the property of Miss A. E. White of New York and Santa Fe. Miss White was led to make this collection because of her welfare work among the Indians. She recognized the talent and encouraged native craftsmanship in better textiles, as well as the more ambitious fields of expression. The work is principally that of the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico and Arizona and included in addition pictures drawn by Kiowa Indians of Oklahoma.
The exhibition will be on view for a month.
Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1916 - 1930. 01-03_1930, 011.
February 1, 1930:
The Exhibition of Art by American Indians, made up principally of colored drawings by American Indians from the collection of Miss A. E. White, opens to-day (Saturday, February 1st) on the first floor of the Brooklyn Museum in the gallery just off the entrance. The exhibition has been arranged by Dr. Herbert J. Spinden, Curator of Ethnology of the Museum, to show how a closely knit social group, such as an Indian tribe, expresses itself in art. Early pottery, hieroglyphs from a Mexican altar, costumes and head dresses are also shown to demonstrate the origins and background of this present-day art. The exhibition is designed principally for the use of the schools and is expected to appeal to them because of its romantic matter, the simple, direct and highly decorative work and the fact that it illustrates what other young people with an artistic background have done.
The earliest pieces shown are pottery decorated by motifs that are still used today. Another exhibit is a group of colored drawings of Aztec hieroglyphic frescoes dating c1500 A.D. from the front of an adobe altar at Tizatlan near Tlaxcala, Mexico, revealed by Mexican government excavations.The other exhibits are Indian head dresses and costumes and doll-like representations of the gods from the Museum collections. All these things are closely related in feeling and contain some of the same motifs used in the drawings and woodcuts which make up the major part of the exhibition.
The pictures are both colored drawings, woodcuts and linoleum cuts, all of which show remarkable facility of artistic expression, original sound composition and excellent taste. The subjects are tribal dances, hunts and symbolic designs.
While doing welfare work among the Pueblo Indians, Miss White, who has lent the pictures, became interested in them as craftsmen and encouraged them in the making of better textiles as well as in drawing and painting. The result has been extremely fruitful as the exhibition testifies.
The first collection of Indian drawings that became well known in this country was made by Dr. Walter Fewkes more than a generation ago. He realized that some record of the Indian dances of the Southwest should be made and, accordingly, hired a number of Hopi Indians to depict all the special deified aspects of nature - called "Katchinas" by the Indians - that appear in their ceremonies. Thus the collection explained this symbolism of the different gods and the costumes of the dances in which the gods are impersonated. One of the four volumes of these drawings, which is called the Codex Hopiensis, has been lent for the exhibition by the Bureau of Ethnology where the entire collection is deposited.
The phase of Indian art illustrated by the exhibition came into being with the work of Crecensio Martinez and Alfredo Montoya of the village of San Ildefonso in 1917. The village was in the throes of poverty and hunger because white settlers had robbed them of some ancient water rights. The two artists having nothing else on which to raise money, offered their paintings in the Santa Fe market and were pleasantly surprised to find that they could be exchanged for silver. A third Indian from the same village made the experiment of painting with the result that he is now regarded as the leader among Pueblo artists. This man was Alfonso Roybal, baptised with the Indian name of Awa Tsireh meaning "Cat-tail Bird." He draws in three distinct styles. The first is a naïvely realistic method of painting ceremonies and dances, the second symbolic landscapes, the third strange, esoteric drawings of composite monsters, forms that normally live in the twilight zones of religious usage but by this form are brought forth into the light of the modern day.
Due to the success of the artists at San Ildefonso, two other schools have sprung up, one of which is in the village of Cochiti and the other at Sia.
The paintings by members of the Kiowa tribe are sophisticated in the drawing of the human figure in difficult perspective and some have been made very much under the influence of the white man's art schools. This tribe has a cultural background quite different from that of the Pueblo Indians but the Indian's love of color and a primitive sense of pose pervades the Kiowa work.
The woodcuts and linoleum cuts are principally by Juan Pina of Tesuque, New Mexico. His subjects are village scenes and conventional designs.