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Henri Ehrsam, Alexandria, Virginia letter to Gene Davis, Washington, D.C.

Archives of American Art
Letter : 1 p. : handwritten

One handwritten letter on Henri Gallery letterhead, dated June 29, 1965. Henri Ehrsam writes to Gene Davis to confirm the possibility of the delivery of Davis's paintings to the gallery.

Photograph of Gene Davis' studio

Archives of American Art
1 photographic print : b&w ; 20 x 25 cm. Photograph of used paint cans, the spattered floor, and rolled canvas in the corner of Gene Davis's studio.
Inscription (handwritten) on verso: Gene Davis' studio; MS 97

Photograph of Gene Davis in his studio

Archives of American Art
1 photographic print : b&w ; 20 x 25 cm. Black and white photograph printed on Kodak photo paper depicting Gene Davis standing in front of his work in his studio.
Inscription (handwritten) on verso: REG

Portrait of Gene Davis with his artwork

Archives of American Art
1 photographic print : b&w

Glossy, black and white full length portrait of Gene Davis posed with one of his vertical stripe paintings.

Gene Davis, Douglas Davis, and others drawing up plans for Giveaway exhibition at Mayflower Hotel, Washington, D.C.

Archives of American Art
1 photographic print : b&w ; 25 x 20 cm. Black and white photograph of Gene Davis (seated), Douglas Davis and others planning for the Giveaway exhibition at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Hard-edged, Bright Color: The Washington Color School.

Smithsonian Libraries
With the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s upcoming exhibition, Gene Davis: Hot Beat, the American Art and Portrait Gallery (AA/PG) Library is hosting a complementary exhibition of ephemera showcasing a group known as the Washington Color Painters, or perhaps better recognized by their more dubious title, the Washington Color School. The “so-called school” (as Gene Davis more »

Color Line

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Hard-edged, Bright Color: Generations of Color

Smithsonian Libraries
In conjunction with the exhibition “Hard-edged, Bright Color: The Washington Color School” at the American Art and Portrait Gallery (AA/PG) Library, the blog will be exploring the group of color artists to accompany the exhibit running until late spring. We’ll be exploring three of the “first generation” Washington Color School artists: Thomas Downing, Howard Mehring, more »

Orchestration of Color

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Group portrait of a jazz band at high school prom

National Museum of African American History and Culture
A large band consisting mostly of young men stand in front of the "Moonlight and Roses" prom banner with instruments in hand. An elderly man in black tie sits in a chair in front of the musicians. White/light colored linoleum dominates the foreground of the image.

Phenomena Field Of Color

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Group of Convicts, Coiba Island

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
The image was taken by Smithsonian Secretary and ornithologist Alexander Wetmore while on a scientific expedition in Panama and Coiba Island. Wetmore Negative Number 6081.

From 1919 to 1991, Coiba Island was a penal colony. Fear of the prison and its inmates deterred visitors from the island. As such, about 80% of the natural areas on the island remain undisturbed. The island is also host to many endemic species. Both of these factors made the island ideal for Wetmore's scientific expedition. The officers and convicts pictured in Wetmore's images from the expedition were part of the penal colony. Some even assisted the expedition through labor. Today, the island is no longer a penal colony. Instead, it is one of 38 islands composing Coiba National Park, a World Heritage Site.

A group of three convicts on a boat near Coiba Island on January 23, 1956. One convict is standing at the rear of the boat, holding a long pole, while the other two are seated.

Hard-edged, Bright Color: Pure Color

Smithsonian Libraries
In conjunction with the exhibition “Hard-edged, Bright Color: The Washington Color School” at the American Art and Portrait Gallery (AA/PG) Library, the blog will be exploring the group of color artists to accompany the exhibit running until late spring. We’ll be exploring three of the “first generation” Washington Color School artists: Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, more »

School Children in Front of NMNH

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
On the National Mall in front of the National Museum of Natural History, school children sit on the grass having their lunch. Their school bus from Loudoun County Public Schools is parked behind them. Cars are parked along Washington Drive, N.W. and Madison Drive, N.W.

Color Aquatint

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Chromogenic print of a Booker T. Washington High School reunion at Mayo Hotel

National Museum of African American History and Culture
A color photograph of women and men who were students at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa in the 1920s, the so-called "Class of the 20s." There are forty-one (41) women and eleven (11) men and women in the photograph, arranged in three (3) rows. The photograph was taken inside a large hall or ballroom in the Mayo Hotel in Tulsa. The women are wearing dresses, the men are wearing suits, and many members of the group are wearing name tags. The room has full-length curtains over three (3) windows and a matching valence in a boldly-patterned maroon and cream print, with olive green tassel trim along the edge of the valence. The wall-to-wall carpet has a base color of olive green with a repeating maroon geometric pattern.

Rudolph Schaeffer School of Design certificate of completion for course in interior design and color

Archives of American Art
1 diploma ; 22 x 30 cm.

Blank certificate (no recipient's name filled out).

School Children Visiting Hall of Gems & Minerals

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
A Junior League docent explains exhibits in The Hall of Gems and Minerals, National Museum of Natural History, to visiting school children.

Group of Men on Coiba Island, Panama

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
From 1919 to 1991, Coiba Island, Panama, was a penal colony. Fear of the prison and its inmates deterred visitors from the island; thus some 80% of the natural areas on the island remain undisturbed. The island is also host to many endemic species. Both of these factors made the island ideal for Wetmore's scientific expedition. The officers and convicts pictured in Alexander Wetmore's images from the expedition were part of the penal colony. Some even worked as laborers for the expedition. Today, the island is no longer a penal colony. Instead, it is one of 38 islands composing Coiba Island National Park, a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage site.

A group of men are waiting near a landing on Coiba Island, Panama. The men, some dressed in uniform, are associated with the penal colony located on the island. The image was taken by Smithsonian Secretary Alexander Wetmore while on a scientific expedition in Panama to Coiba Island, while completing field work for his four volume work, The Birds of Panama.

George Washington

National Museum of American History
By the 1840s a new technique [in the field] of needlepoint known as Berlin wool work was the rage. It arose in Germany at the beginning of the 19th century. New dyes became available and brightly colored wools could be worked in tent stitch on canvas. The patterns were painted by hand on “point paper,” which today would be called graph paper. Some of the patterns were copies of famous paintings.

This large Berlin wool work picture of George Washington is based on an original painting by Gilbert Stuart. The stitches used are half cross stitch and tent stitch with the face and hands worked in petit point. It is framed in a gold-leafed wooden frame with applied gold leaf corner decorations and an American eagle at the center of the top. The glass has a reverse-painted black mat with the embroiderer's name, school, and date and the subject of the picture in gold leaf across the bottom: "ELIZA J McCLENAHAN WASHINGTON St. JOHN'S ACADEMY." 1871.

The painting contains many symbols. The dress sword instead of a battle sword indicates a democratic form of government, and the pen and paper on the table signify the rule of law. The leg of the table is shaped like a fasces which is an ancient Roman symbol of power and authority.

Eliza was born November 1854, in Washington, District of Columbia, to James and Margaret Mc Clenahan. Her parents came to the United States from County Galway, Ireland, in a sailboat that took three weeks. Eliza was the oldest of five daughters and one son. She attended St. John’s Academy on Valley St. in Baltimore and studied canvas work and painting. Eliza taught school in Baltimore until her marriage to Michael J. Hook in 1882. They had five children: James, Robert, Margaret and Mary (twins), and Regina. Eliza died in July 1936.

Gregorian in Color

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Sculptor's New Show is a Riot of Color

Smithsonian Magazine

Delicate blown glass hangs suspended like an alluring collection of alien jellyfish casting shimmering patterns of color on the walls of sculptor Dale Chihuly's Persian Ceiling installation at the Royal Ontario Museum, in Toronto, Canada.

The ceiling first appeared this past weekend, and it will be on display through January 2, 2017 as part of CHIHULY, 11 site-specific installations of the artist's work including a few created especially for the museum's 17,000 square-foot exhibition.

"I want people to be overwhelmed with light and color in a way they've never experienced before," Chihuly says, according to a press release from the museum.

The Chihuly name is synonymous with a revolution in the art of glassblowing. For more than 50 years, the glass sculptor has pushed the fragile material to its limits to create intricate, large-scale pieces. His fascination with light and transparent materials has also led him to incorporate neon, argon, ice and plastic into his work. 

The sculptor, who was born in 1941 in Tacoma, Washington, first learned how to blow glass while studying interior design at the University of Washington. He continued studying the art form at the University of Wisconsin, at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and then during a Fulbright Fellowship in 1968 that took him to Venice, Italy, where he watched the traditional process of a team working together to blow glass. 

The Italian artists' process would heavily influence Chihuly. After he dislocated his shoulder during a body surfing accident in 1979, Chihuly became unable to hold a glassblowing pipe. He now relies on a team of glassblowers to create the beautiful works bearing the Chihuly studio name, as the website for a permanent display of "Chihuly Garden and Glass," a large installation adjacent to the Space Needle at Seattle Center, notes.

In a 2011 article for MIT's The Tech, Kathryn Dere reports that Chihuly "classifies his role as 'more choreographer than dancer, more supervisor than participant, more director than actor.'" That team approach allows Chihuly and the studio to create the kind of massive, immersive installations now on view at the Royal Ontario Museum.

One of the first pieces viewers will encounter at the CHIHULY exhibition is "Lime Crystal Tower," a momentous pinnacle of crystals gracing the front entrance. The 118 spires of green aren't made of glass but of solid Polyvitro, a word the Chihuly uses for plastic. The material has many of the transparent, color-holding properties that glass does but the 14-foot-tall tower weighs much less than it would if it were crafted of glass. Still, it tips the scale at 3,000 pounds, the museum's press release details.

"As with glass, it is really light that makes the Polyvitro crystals come alive," Chihuly says.

Other installations to watch out for in CHIHULY include boats filled with glass sculptors and a garden of glass through which visitors can stroll.

High School Students in Rotunda of A&I Bldg

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
See Neg. #s SIA2010-3260 and SIA2010-3259 for other pictures of patrols at A&I.

A group of high school students in band/color guard uniforms pose as they stand in front of the Statue of Freedom in the Rotunda of the Arts and Industries Building. Only the lower part of the statue is visible.

The Colors of Childhood

Smithsonian Magazine

Bother, no pen. deep at the bottom of my purse, I snag a purple crayon. Hey, I'm a mom, and I scrawl big waxy letters on the back of an envelope. Thank heaven for the ubiquitous crayon.

The object at hand is one of only a few known to exist. It is an original box of 64 Crayola crayons from 1958. It's the rare baby boomer who doesn't remember one like it — the first box with the built-in sharpener. It was given to the National Museum of American History (NMAH) last year at a celebration in Manhattan's Rainbow Room to honor the 40th anniversary of the package. Bob Keeshan — Captain Kangaroo — was there, and press accounts appeared for days. Reporters waxed nostalgic over the box with its classic green and yellow chevrons.

"Can a brand-new crayon color, Boomer Gray, be far behind?" asked a New York Times headline. We boomers: like everything else, we think we own the crayon. But the truth is, nearly everybody alive today probably made their first colorful squiggles with a Binney & Smith Crayola.

It was 1903 when the crayon made its debut. Before that a child's crayon was just a stick of colored clay or chalk. It looked nice but when put to paper, nothing much happened — not a pretty picture. Binney & Smith was a small, 21-year-old firm, owned by Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith. They were already in the business of making color. They owned the rights to a line of red oxides of iron for the red paint used by most farmers on their barns. And they were also sellers of lamp black and white chalk.

They had been among the first to solve the centuries-old problem of how to manufacture a really black black. The answer was expensive carbon black. Binney & Smith likes to credit itself for figuring out how to make it inexpensively. At the 1900 Paris Exposition, the company won a gold medal for its carbon black display.

In 1902, they cleared the dust from America's classrooms with the invention of the then-famous An-Du-Septic Dustless Blackboard Chalk. The new chalk won Binney & Smith another gold medal, at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.

By this time, they were doing a brisk business selling their products in America's classrooms. Besides chalk, they made slate pencils. But schools couldn't afford artist's crayons. The Easton, Pennsylvania, plant was already making an inexpensive industrial marking crayon out of carbon black and a durable paraffin.

Well, the rest is history. Color came to the classroom. It was Alice Binney, a former schoolteacher, who came up with the name Crayola. She combined the French word craie, meaning "chalk" with "ola," derived from "oleaginous," or "oily."

One of the first customers was the United States government, which began shipping crayons to schools on Indian reservations. Today the formulation of the nontoxic pigments and the wax, as well as how they give the crayons their distinctive smell, is a closely guarded secret. But some basics are clear.

Pigments, produced from natural sources — slate yields gray; metals, such as iron, yield reds; various types of earth yield yellows and browns — start off as powders that are pounded, ground, sieved, then refined and heated. The temperature determines the shade of color. Since 1903, more than 600 shades of Crayola crayons have been produced.

In June 1990 Binney & Smith decided to retire eight of its old colors to make some of the more modern, brighter colors that children seemed to be searching for in their artistic palettes. Not so fast, said a few of Crayola's veteran fans. One morning, a few weeks later, Binney & Smith executives arrived at their headquarters to find picketers protesting the decision. The RUMPs, or Raw Umber and Maise Preservation Society, and the CRAYONs, or Committee to Reestablish All Your Old Norms, had quickly mobilized their constituents. When the old colors were re-released later that year in a special holiday commemorative collection, the groups were mollified. Not too long ago, "indian red" became the third Crayola color ever to be renamed, when Binney & Smith decided that even though the name referred to the pigment from India, sensitivity required a new name. The new name, "chestnut," selected by Crayola customers, seems rather dull when you compare it with the names that came in as close seconds — "baseball-mitt brown" and "the crayon formerly known as indian red." In 1958 "Prussian blue" was renamed "midnight blue," since most children had never heard of Prussia. And in 1962, "flesh" was renamed "peach."

Back at the National Museum of American History, a large storage-room drawer reveals the museum's extensive crayon collection, ranging from the very old to some of the more recent, even including fruit-scented versions. There's a box, dated 1912, with a picture of Peter Paul Rubens. "Unequaled for outdoor sketching," it says on the side, reflecting Impressionism's emerging popularity. Binney & Smith first marketed in two directions: to artists and to schoolchildren. Here's the schoolroom version: "Good in any climate, certified non-toxic."

Here is a beautiful round wooden container that looks like a toothpick holder, full of crayons. And here is a beautifully crafted wooden box, its dovetail construction giving it the look of a treasure chest. The curator says that it is a treasure. It's filled with the 1941-57 factory standards — the master crayons, if you will. And there next to the standards is a box of today's "Multicultural My World Colors Crayons." The smell of paraffin bombards me. The olfactory system engages. The hypothalamus clicks on. Look out! Here they come — childhood memories!

That familiar smell — a Yale University study on scent recognition once ranked crayons as number 18 of the 20 most recognizable scents to American adults. When I visit Binney & Smith's seven-acre plant in Fork's Township, near Easton, that smell is making me feel like I'm 8 years old again. The plant is running full tilt to produce for the back-to-school season. Three billion crayons are made here each year. Wooden pallets, each piled with cases of crayons waiting to be packaged, line the walls. Outside the factory is a row of two-story storage tanks holding liquid paraffin, which will be pumped into vats and mixed with colored powdery pigment.

Crayon molder Michael Hunt, from Bangor, Pennsylvania, is showing me how it's been done since the very early days. Besides the paraffin and the pigment, Hunt tells me, the crayon also contains talc. "It's like the flour in a cake mix, gives it texture." His leather workman's boots are mottled with orange wax. Both of us are wearing protective goggles because the wax that he is pumping from his vat into a 40-pound pail is at 240 degrees Fahrenheit. "Sometimes a little of it splashes onto my face," he tells me. "Stings a little, but it cools off pretty quickly." He deftly lifts the bucket out from under the vat and spills the wax out across the cooling table, a gentle wave rolling across the top as the wax settles into the molds — 74 rows of eight. We're making the giant "My First Crayons" that fit easily into the hands of preschoolers.

We wait the 7 1/2 minutes for the wax to cool. When a timer chimes, Hunt announces the crayons are ready. He runs a cutting device over the top of the molding table and shaves away the extra wax. Then he lays the collecting tray carefully over the top, lining up the holes. He touches a button, activating a press from below, and the crayons gently rise up into the collecting tray. With ease, Hunt hoists the 31/2-foot-long tray of crayons around to the sorting table behind him and dumps the crayons there. On inspection, he pulls a couple of pointless runts from the rows and, with a wooden paddle, starts moving crayons from the table to a wrapping device. The whole old-fashioned process takes about 15 minutes.

Not too far away, a more modern, continuous-production operation is under way as a rotary molding table does all of Hunt's handwork mechanically. The machine is making the standard-size crayons. Materials go in one end, and operator Elizabeth Kimminour receives dozens of the thin, paper-wrapped products at the other end. She lays them neatly into cartons to be sent to the packaging plant. And that's where I get a glimpse of the celebrated box of 64 being produced. Clicking and whirring, factory machines are endlessly fascinating for those of us who rarely see them in action. Grabbers mysteriously turn flat sheets of printed cardboard into boxes while plastic sharpeners, lined up like soldiers on parade, drop precisely onto a wheel that injects them into passing boxes, which somehow along the way end up with crayons in them.

Binney & Smith is owned today by Hallmark Cards. And that company closely guards the Crayola trademark. (Ms. Crayola Walker of Bellow Falls, Vermont, and Ms. Crayola Collins of Pulaski County, Virginia, however, were graciously allowed to "borrow" the name.) Many companies, particularly foreign ones, would like to capitalize on the Crayola fame, and copycatters try to steal all the time. In the NMAH collection, there's an example of one such attempt — a party bag made to look very Crayola, but it isn't. Licensing of the trademark is common, however, with products ranging from software videos, sheets and bedding, to backpacks, wallpaper and wall paints, and even shoes that look like a box of crayons.

Back home again with my kids and a neighbor's child, I announce that we are going to color. I pull three boxes of 64 from a bag and hand one to each child. In no time at all, their industrious minds — their entire bodies — are completely engrossed in their work.

I remember reading in the Binney & Smith literature a claim that as a youngster, Grant Wood, who later painted the iconic American Gothic, entered a Crayola coloring contest in the early 1900s and won. The sunlight pours in through the window, translating color to vision. Claire is making a rainbow. She picks up a crayon. "This is ‘thistle.' It's what Eeyore eats." Next she chooses "dandelion," "forest green," "sky blue wisteria" and "tickle me pink." Patsy is drawing a portrait of Jessie, and Jessie is drawing the flower vase on the teacart. I try to imagine the inner workings of their creativity. Optical images register on the tiny retinas at the backs of their eyes, electronic signals travel the optic nerves to their brains, the signals are interpreted and messages sent back. Suddenly I snap out of my reverie as Jessie, pondering the red crayon in her hand, says, "I wonder who decided red should be 'red,' anyway?" And then she thinks a minute and says, "Do you think it was George Washington?"

1-24 of 1,868 Resources