History of Art and Architecture

History of Art and Architecture

The breadth of the History of Art and Architecture concentration is not lost at Houghton. From theory to practice and covering a wide variety of media and time periods, the library’s collection can help art and architecture history concentrators with almost any research project—and even inspire new academic endeavors. Once more, it is key to note that, because of the library’s historical association to Western civilization and history, students seeking non-Western perspectives might not find the wealth of materials that concentrators focusing on Western Europe and the United States will, but there are still a multitude of items that can serve their interests. Students are also always welcome to pair up material found at Houghton with items in other Harvard special collections such as Yenching or Schlesinger.

First and foremost, Houghton owns a variety of artists’ papers. It contains, for instance, more than 10,000 pages of notes from the annals of Stuart Davis (1892-1964) (69M-153, 009708204), an American modernist painter influenced by cubism, which can be studied in conjunction with some of his drawings, which are at the Fogg Museum but have been digitized. William Dean Howells’ papers (85M-49, 012630779) are also at the library, and researchers can access a variety of materials linked to the writer, which include photographs, daguerreotypes, glass slides, negatives, and watercolors. This collection can provide concentrators with valuable examples of early photography, an important area of art history. One of Houghton’s most notable collections, the Walter Gropius papers (MS Ger 208-208.3) are also available to students, who can delve into the personal history of the founder of the Bauhaus.

Though focused on the West, Houghton’s collection holds some remarkable examples of non-Western art. One of them is a Jesuit publication from seventeenth-century China illustrating the life of Christ with accompanying texts in Mandarin (52-1049, 010022984). The blending of Eastern and Western artistic elements in the work is fascinating, and students pursuing interdisciplinary studies in Eastern and Western art should most certainly peruse it. Another opportunity to juxtapose Eastern and Western art arises through items that can be paired up with the South Asian Studies concentration: Mughal drawings spanning the period 1400-1850 (MS Typ 406, 009318016) as well as drawings of India by Thomas and William Daniell covering the years 1789-1836 (TypDr 805.D316.00m, 007483970) and Edward Lear’s drawings of Central India (MS Typ 55.5, 007483066). These three materials can be compared for differences in style and theme, but they can also lead to a more general comparative cultural analysis through art.

Even scientific art is well-represented at Houghton through exquisite, large-scale volumes such as Maria Sibylla Merian’s Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium (Typ 732.05.567, 002860975), an entomology treatise with a plethora of detailed illustrations of the fauna and flora of Suriname that were hand colored by Merian and her daughters, and John James Audubon’s meter-long Birds of America (*AC8.Au292.827b, 004352714), whose vivacious, polychromatic plates revolutionized scientific depictions of animals and became artistic icons. The two items can be studied on their scientific and artistic merits; most importantly, they are proof of Houghton’s expansive and diverse collection of materials related to the history of art.

The library also contains a variety of materials related to architecture and architectural history, including many early architectural treatises in its Printing and Graphic Arts division. Houghton also owns the papers (MS Typ 1097, 009317824), drawings (MS Typ 1096, 000602445), and photographs (MS Typ 1070, 010080111) of Henry Hobson Richardson, one of the most important American architects of the nineteenth century and a Harvard alumnus. A more modern approach to architecture and urbanism can be observed in W. V. Quine’s correspondence with architect Clive Entwistle (MS Am 2587 [333], 008937558), in which the latter discourses on his views on urbanism and the city.

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