Wholecloth Pheasant and Palm Tree Printed Quilt, 1815-1820
Gift of Electra Havemeyer Webb, 1952-5
The production of cotton wholecloth quilts in the early nineteenth century—such as this Pheasant and Palm Tree quilt—took advantage of the technological innovations ushered in by “the printing revolution” of the late 1810s to 1820s. In the decades prior to the revolution, woodblock printing, hand painting, engraved copperplate printing, or a combination of the three techniques provided the most common means of transferring complicated visual designs onto textiles.
With the invention of roller printing or the mechanization of copperplate printing, in the late eighteenth-century, however, textile producers gained the ability to block-print yards of finely detailed chintz (printed multicolored cotton fabric) at a far greater speed and lower price. This innovation meant that more Americans could afford highly stylized materials for domestic quilt production in a range of new colors and designs.
This screen-print, entitled “Clay Point,”, by Vermont artist, Bill Davison (1941—) is the only remaining available work from a past collaborative project between the Shelburne Museum and Burlington’s Webb and Parson’s Gallery called Traditional Sources: Contemporary Visions, arranged and supervised by Meg Walker and Pat Parsons in the winter of 1991. Mr. Davison, born in Vermont in 1941 and educated at Albion College and the University of Michigan (MFA; 1966), is a professor emeritus at the University of Vermont, who helped establish their printmaking program in the late 1960s, where he taught until his retirement in 2003.
Davison has participated in numerous national and international invitational print exhibitions throughout North America, Europe, and Asia, receiving attention for his pioneering efforts and experimentation with, as Burlington City Arts writes, “the mechanized, rotary printing presses used in commercial off-set lithography to achieve visual art on paper by means of contemporary ink transfer technology in the late 60s and 70s were seminal in the U.S., and acknowledged by a nationwide traveling exhibition, entitled Thirty Years of Print-Making, curated by Richard Field, the curator of prints at Yale University.” Davison was the recipient of various grants and fellowships including the prestigious National Endowment for the Arts Artist’s Fellowship, Prix ARS Electronica Award of distinction in Linz, Austria, and the MacDowell Colony Fellowship. His prints are included in forty-five museum, university, and private collections at institutions ranging from the MOMA to the Library of Congress.
The purpose of Traditional Sources: Contemporary Visions, an invitational exhibition of contemporary Vermont artists and craftspeople, was to use the museum’s bicentennial checklist of 200 objects as a traditional source of artistic inspiration for a contemporary work within each selected artist’s respective medium. As Shelburne’s collection is best known for conjuring impressions of New England’s rural past, the objects therein would, as Eloise Beil suggests (the Director of Collections in 1991), “serve not merely as patterns to be explicitly copied, but as rich sources for new artistic directions.” Thus, Traditional Sources: Contemporary Visions served as an opportunity for the museum to forge closer relationships with local artists, to showcase the excellent contemporary works of art and craft being created in state, and as an invitation for future collaborative initiatives.
Davison’s novel artistic direction began with a selection of an American goldeneye decoy (chosen with respect for Davison’s personal relationship with duck hunting in VT). An innovating printmaker, Davison used a complex photomanipulation technique to combine a photograph of the decoy with a magazine reproduction of a canvasback decoy to make the film positive halftone required to complete the screen printing process. The work was then created using thirteen stencils and an application of rayon fibers, printed by hand on 30” x 42” Arches 88 paper.
This screen-print is both highly professional in its interpretation and late 20th century sophistication and holds an exceptional historical connection to the Shelburne Museum itself. The work directly relates to the mission of the Shelburne Museum and represents the Webb family’s focus upon the Lake Champlain Basin’s legacy including duck decoy collections, duck hunting, and of course, the lake itself. The duck blind situated on Clay Point, Lake Champlain, Colchester, VT belonged to Bill’s father, Robert Davison, a life-long career member of the University of Vermont’s Extension Service. This piece would serve as both an artefact of pertinent muselogical history at the Shelburne and a fine contemporary addition to the print collection from a world renown local Vermont artist, fulfilling the original mission of the work’s preliminary exhibition in 1991.
Litchfield County is home to an abundance of masterfully
constructed religious structures. With steeples punctuating
the skyline of the soft, rolling hills of the Northwest
Corner, these centers of worship and community have
left an indelible mark upon the architectural landscape
of Connecticut. Through their diverse architectural styles
and constructions, these models of ecclesiastical architecture
express the individual religious and cultural identity
of congregations and religious communities across
Curated in partnership with master draftsman and
architect, Steven M. Goldberg, FAIA, Steeples of Litchfield
County, explores the plurality of architectural elements
and steeple archetypes of Litchfield County’s churches.
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in
1965, Goldberg traveled extensively across Europe and
the Middle East sketching masterpieces of religious architecture
before settling in Litchfield County in 1982. Over
the past five years he has produced architectural illustrations
of more than twenty churches across Litchfield
County and this exhibition serves as a celebration of the
masterworks located only a few miles from our homes.