Saturday, June 03, 2006


Ivy-League Art--Part II

Dashing across the Arts Quad from the Native American exhibition at Cornell's Olin Library to its Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, I took in Rembrandt at 400, devoted to his etchings. The museum's director, Frank Robinson, is a Rembrandt specialist who can always be counted upon to elucidate issues of connoisseurship---different states, early and late impressions, copies, fakes, influences on other artists.

Both Cornell's art museum and the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections of its library make a point of encouraging the public to savor close encounters with a wide range of treasures---those on view and those in storage. Last summer, for example, I enjoyed a week of hands-on print perusals led by curator Nancy Green, under the auspices of Cornell Adult University (courses and travel programs open to all, not just alums). Pulling out impressions from Dürer to Kushner, Nancy armed us with magnifiers and sharpened our eyes.

The Johnson will provide even greater public access to its collections in its planned new study center, designed by the firm of I.M. Pei, who designed the original building. The new center will feature an open storage facility, permitting visitors "to gain access to hundreds of pieces of art that previously were inaccessible," Robinson says.

As for the Cornell Library's new Native American trove (discussed in yesterday's post), some 1,300 rare books and 100,000 pages of manuscripts will be digitized and posted on the Web. So, although the scholarly material has now been separated from the panoply of objects held and displayed by the National Museum of the American Indian, it will probably gain wider digital dissemination and more intense, serious scrutiny in its university setting.

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