Fine Art

Grant Wood’s Shrine Quartet

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Shrine Quartet, 1939. Grant Wood (1891-1942). Special Acquisitions Fund, 84.16. Photograph by John Miller.

In 1937 Grant Wood (1891-1942) started making lithographs for the Associated American Artists, an art gallery in New York.  Living in Iowa, Wood planned his prints there, executed them on lithographic stones the gallery provided and then sent them to New York for printing. From 1937 through 1941 Wood created 19 lithographs. Associated American Arts sold Wood’s prints, along with others they had commissioned from well-known artists, by mail order and in their gallery. Their innovation was to offer work by popular fine artists to consumers at affordable prices—Wood’s black and white lithographs originally sold for $5 each. Wood lauded the gallery’s business model, writing:

I am very enthusiastic about the Associated American Artists organization. People who cannot afford to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for original paintings cannot afford to have original, signed works of the favorite contemporary American artists in their homes.  It is, in essence, a democratic experiment....

Most of Wood’s work for the firm treated rural scenes and agricultural activity. This 1939 lithograph, part of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library’s collection, portrays a different kind of subject. In it Wood showed four members of the Shrine as they sang. Dressed for a meeting, the singers' distinctive fezzes cast elongated shadows against a background of pyramids and camels. Wood's scene is evocative and sympathetic. Though a Mason, Wood is not thought to have joined the Shrine. He took his degrees at Mt. Hermon Lodge No. 263 in Cedar Rapids in 1921. Three years later he was suspended for not paying his dues. However, he was likely have been familiar with the Shrine through his involvement in Freemasonry and because a temple met in his hometown.

Wood explored Masonic themes in another work, The First Three Degrees of Freemasonry, a large tryptic commissioned for the National Masonic Research Society in 1921. The painting is now part of the collection of the Iowa Masonic Library at the Grand Lodge of Iowa. Though usually displayed at the library, the painting is currently featured in an exhibition about Grant Wood.  You can see the exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City where is is on view through June 10, 2018.

  

References:

Barbara Haskell, Grant Wood:  American Gothic and Other Fables (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 2018) 29, 180-181, 206-206, 236 and 239.

Bill Krueger “Grant Wood’s ‘The First Three Degrees of Freemasonry,’” Iowa Grand Lodge Bulletin, March, 2016.

Gail Windisch, Sylvan Cole Jr., and Karen J. Herbaug, Art for Every Home: An Illustrated Index of Associated American Artists Prints, Ceramics, and Textile Designs (Manhattan, Kansas: Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, Kansas State University, 2016) http://hdl.handle. net/2097/19686.

Theodore F. Wolff, “Grant Wood’s Lithographs,” The Christian Science Monitor, January 19, 1990.

 

Many thanks to Bill Kreuger of the Iowa Masonic Library at the Grand Lodge of Iowa.


A Freemason's Heart

2013_026_1DP1DBIn late 2013, when Supreme Council staff packed up to move down to their new offices inside the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library building, a number of treasures were found in storage spaces and were added to the Museum’s collection.  One of the oldest items discovered was this engraving titled “Freemasons Heart.”  Dating to about 1820, the engraving depicts a large heart under compasses and an all-seeing eye and flanked by allegorical figures of Liberty and Justice.  The heart is divided into sections, each labeled with a virtue central to Masonic teachings, such as fidelity, mercy and charity.  At the center of the heart is a space marked “Christianity” with a G and square and compasses emblem on a Bible.  A verse below the Bible reads “The Bible rules our faith without factions, the square and compass rules our lives and actions.”

When we add a new object to our collection, we catalog it into our database system so we can track it for use in our exhibitions, programs and publications.  We try to do as much research as we can, although that can be an ongoing process, as it will be for this print.  We have learned some history about it, but we still have a number of questions that require further study.  Unfortunately, we do not know much about who originally owned this particular example.  A handwritten inscription on the back of the frame reads “Cap. Joseph Burnett, Stowe, Vermont.”  Possibly, this is the Joseph Burnett born in 1816 who died in 1875, but additional research is needed to conclusively identify him.  It does make sense that the engraving would have been owned in Vermont because the engraver and publisher produced this print in that state.

Engraver Moody Morse Peabody (1789-1866) and publisher Ebenezer Hutchinson worked together in the Quechee area of Vermont, near the New Hampshire border.  As early as 1819, the two men produced a map of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.  Additional research is ongoing about the lives of these two men.  Scholars George R. Dalphin and Marcus A. McCorison were able to track Peabody, who was born in Peterborough, New Hampshire, to Vermont and then to Whitehall, New York, in 1826.  Later he moved to Utica, New York, where he was listed in city directories from 1828 to 1840 as an engraver and copperplate printer.  He died in Ontario, Canada, in 1866.  Less information is currently known about Hutchinson; there are a couple of men with this name in the same general area around the time he was active, so it is difficult to know which one he was.

It seems likely that Hutchinson and Peabody were Freemasons.  The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts collection, on extended loan to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, includes an engraved Royal Arch apron that is signed “Printed and Sold by E. Hutchinson Hartford Queechy Village VT.”  Masonic scholar Kent Walgren found an 1820 advertisement in the Vermont Republican newspaper for Peabody who was selling Masonic aprons and diplomas through Hutchinson.  Walgren also suggests that the inclusion of the motto “Supporters of Government” at the top of the print may allude to the Illuminati scare of the late 1790s.  In an attempt to win back public approval and explain that American Freemasons were not part of the alleged Illuminati plot, the printmakers noted that they backed government.  If you know of other Masonic prints by Ebenezer Hutchinson or Moody Morse Peabody, please let us know by writing a comment below!

Freemasons Heart, ca. 1820, Moody Morse Peabody, engraver, Ebenezer Hutchinson, publisher, Hartford, Vermont.  Gift of the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A., 2013.026.1.  Photograph by David Bohl.

 


Drawing a Fraternal Identity

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While “Masonic” is in our name and we often focus on American Masonic history, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library also actively collects, studies and presents fraternal history – stories, objects and people associated with the history of non-Masonic fraternal organizations, like the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. 

At its center, this drawing shows an arrangement of symbols used in Odd Fellows rituals.  Unfortunately, we do not know who the artist or original owner of the drawing was.  “Boquet Valley Lodge No. 681” is written along the top, so presumably the drawing was produced by or for a member of the lodge, or for the lodge itself.  Boquet Valley Lodge No. 681 met in Wadhams, New York, a hamlet, or unincorporated settlement, located along the Boquet River in the Adirondack Mountains, near Westport.  By the end of 1920, Boquet Valley Lodge counted 73 members, although other details about its history and activities are proving elusive.

Originally founded in England in 1745, the American branch of the Odd Fellows was organized in Baltimore in 1819 by Thomas Wildey (1782-1861).  The group took several cues from Freemasonry – they share a three-degree structure for initiation, although the specific rituals are different.  They also share some symbols, like the all-seeing eye, winged hourglass and the scales of justice on the drawing.  However, the three-link chain with the initials “FLT” (for Friendship, Love and Truth), also seen on the drawing, is a symbol unique to the Odd Fellows.

This drawing could have been framed and hung on the wall at the lodge or in a member’s home.  In a home, it would serve to identify the owner as a member, and in a home or a lodge, it would help members to learn and remember the lessons taught during ritual work.  To see examples of similar Masonic drawings, visit our current [December 2014] exhibition, “Every Variety of Painting for Lodges”: Decorated Furniture, Paintings and Ritual Objects from the Collection, which features over fifty paintings, aprons, furniture and other decorative and illustrated items, exploring the ways that Freemasons have expressed their involvement with the fraternity.  Visit our website for more information and leave us a comment below if you have seen similar drawings or know more about Boquet Lodge No. 681!

Independent Order of Odd Fellows Drawing, 1875-1900, Wadhams, New York, Special Acquisitions Fund, 82.3.1


Register Now! April 11, 2014 Symposium - Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism

UN2000_0131_49DS1Don't miss out!  Register now for the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library symposium on Friday, April 11, 2014 - Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism.  This day-long symposium seeks to present the newest research on American fraternal groups.  By 1900, over 250 American fraternal groups existed, numbering six million members.  The study of their activities and influence in the United States, past and present, offers the potential for new interpretations of American society and culture.

The day will include:

"Mid-Nineteenth Century Lodges: Middle-Class Families in the Absence of Women," Kristen M. Jeschke, DeVry University

"Bragging Brethren and Solid Sisters? Contrasting Mobilization Patterns Among Male and Female Orders During the Spanish-American War," Jeffrey Tyssens, Vrije Universiteit Brussels

"Painted Ambition: Notes on Some Early Masonic Wall Painting," Margaret Goehring, New Mexico State University

"Pilgrimage and Procession: The Knights Templar Triennial Conclaves and the Dream of the American West," Adam G. Kendall, Henry Wilson Coil Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Grand Lodge of California

"The Colored Knights of Pythias," Stephen Hill Sr., Phylaxis Society

"'The Farmer Feeds Us All': The Origins and Evolution of a Grange Anthem," Stephen Canner, Independent Scholar

Participants will also have their choice of a tour of our exhibition, "A Sublime Brotherhood: 200 Years of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction," a behind-the-scenes tour of the Museum collection, or a tour of highlights in the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives.

Registration is $65 ($60 for museum members) and includes morning refreshments, lunch and a closing reception.  The day runs from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.  To register - BY MARCH 21 - visit our website and complete a registration form.

The symposium is funded in part by the Supreme Council, N.M.J., U.S.A.

 


Benjamin Franklin's Favorite Likeness

86_12TBenjamin Franklin’s (1706-1790) lifelong commitment to Freemasonry is well known.  After becoming a Freemason in Philadelphia in 1731, he was active in the fraternity for over fifty years.  He served as Grand Master of Pennsylvania in 1734 and Provincial Grand Master of Pennsylvania in 1749.  In addition to some of the more common prints depicting Franklin as a Freemason, we are also fortunate to have this terra cotta medallion in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection.


Created in 1777 by Jean-Baptiste Nini (1717-1786), it shows Franklin wearing a fur cap and dates to the time he spent in France as an American diplomat.  Franklin felt that this portrait was an accurate likeness of himself and by 1779 wrote to his daughter that it helped make his face “as well known as that of the moon.”


These medallions continue to be popular today – they are offered at auctions around the United States on a regular basis.  Nini, an Italian sculptor working in Paris, created the medallions using drawings by other artists.  Eventually, five versions of the Franklin medallion were made.  Nini used terra cotta cast from a wax mold, allowing him to make a large number from one mold.


Medallion, 1777, Jean-Baptiste Nini (1717-1786), France, Special Acquisitions Fund, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, 86.12a.  Photograph by David Bohl.


Sources Consulted:


Charles Coleman Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1962).


William B. Willcox, ed., The Papers of Benjamin Franklin Volume 24 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1984).


“Jean Baptiste Nini,” www.benfranklin300.org/frankliniana/people.php?id=34.


“Nini Medallion,” www.fi.edu/learn/sci-tech/nini-medallion/nini-medallion.php?cts=benfranklin.


New Book: Curiosities of the Craft Available Now!

Curiosities CoverThe Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts and the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library have partnered to produce Curiosities of the Craft: Treasures from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts Collection.

On July 30, 1733, Henry Price (1697-1780), appointed by the Grand Lodge of England, gathered his Masonic brothers at a Boston tavern and formed what would become known as the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts.  Over the following 280 years, the Grand Lodge withstood wars, anti-Masonic sentiment and fires.  At the same time, the Grand Lodge amassed a collection of Masonic and historic objects, mementos and documents that tell not only its story, but also the story of Boston, New England and the United States.

Drawing on new research by authors Aimee E. Newell, Hilary Anderson Stelling and Catherine Compton Swanson, the book includes over 130 highlights from the Grand Lodge collection of more than 10,000 items acquired since 1733.  These objects represent the rich heritage of Freemasonry in Massachusetts and tell stories of life in the fraternity, in the state and around the world.  Some items were made or used by Massachusetts Masons, while others have associations with famous American Freemasons, such as George Washington (1732-1799) and Paul Revere (1734-1818).

Introduced with a history of the Grand Lodge collection, the catalog treats the themes of Traditions and Roots, Ritual and Ceremony, Gifts and Charity, Brotherhood and Community, and Memory and Commemoration.  Through the treasures of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts collection, this publication explores the ordinary men, craftsmen and extraordinary leaders who built and sustained Freemasonry in Massachusetts for centuries.

To purchase the catalogue for $44.95 (plus sales tax and shipping), contact the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts at 617-426-6040 or order online at www.massfreemasonry.org.

 


George Washington Welcomes You!

Museum_Washington_CloseUp for portalIf you have visited the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library since 1979, you have been greeted by a statue of George Washington (1732-1799) outside the building.  As you may know, Washington was a Freemason.  Initiated in 1753 in Fredericksburg, Virginia, he became the first Master of Alexandria Lodge No. 22, in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1788.  That lodge was later named Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 to honor the first President.  (For more posts related to George Washington, click here.)

The statue that greets our visitors today is pictured at left.  In 1784 the Commonwealth of Virginia commissioned the well-known French artist, Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828), to make a sculpture of George Washington.  Houdon traveled to Mount Vernon in October 1785, where he took measurements of Washington and made plaster casts of the man's face and limbs (check out this link for more on Houdon's process).  In 1791 Houdon completed the work and in 1796 it was installed in the Virginia State House.  The statue, which is 81 inches high, combines elements representing aspects of Washington's life.  In it he holds the cane of a gentleman, wears a soldier's uniform, stands in front of a farmer's plow, and rests his arm on an ancient Roman "fasces" or bundle of thirteen sticks - signifying his authority and the unity of the thirteen original states.  In 1910 the General Assembly of Virginia authorized the Gorman Company to make bronze replicas.  The one on view in front of the Museum is one of twenty-two made in the 1910s and 1920s.Library GW resized

Prior to the installation of the Gorman Company statue in front of the Museum in 2006, a statue of Washington by sculptor Donald DeLue (1897-1988) welcomed visitors.  Recently, that statue has been reinstalled in the reading room of the Museum's Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives (at right).  This is a half-size replica of the original statue, which the Grand Lodge of Louisiana commissioned from DeLue in 1959.  That nine-foot-tall statue was erected in front of the Public Library in New Orleans.  According to DeLue, the museum's sculpture is the "original model from which the large one was made."  It depicts Washington wearing his Masonic apron and holding a gavel as he stands next to an column-shaped altar.  The statue was a gift of the Stichter family in memory of Wayne E. Stichter, the Grand Lieutenant Commander of the Supreme Council and the Scottish Rite Deputy for Ohio.  Brother Stichter had served as Vice President of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library prior to his death in 1977.

Top: George Washington, 1924, from original by Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828), Gorman Company, Providence, Rhode Island, loaned by the Scottish Rite Valley of Columbus, Ohio, EL2004.001.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Bottom: George Washington as Master Mason, 1959, Donald DeLue (1897-1988), United States, gift of the Stichter Family, 2010.042.1.

 


"We Have Met the Enemy and They Are Ours": Perry's Victory on Lake Erie

Perry, 74_3_2DI1 This print depicts a signal moment in the career of Oliver Hazard Perry (1785–1819), the commander of the U.S. naval fleet on Lake Erie during the War of 1812, a conflict which ended in 1815. On the morning of September 10, 1813, British Naval Commander Robert Barclay fired the first shots of what would become one of the most important naval battles in the war. The confrontation took place on the western end of Lake Erie, near what is now Sandusky, Ohio. You can see a map of its location here. After hours of fighting, Perry abandoned his badly damaged flagship, the USS Lawrence, and took command of a relatively unscathed vessel, the Niagara, from her less-experienced commander, Lieutenant Jesse Elliott. The battle began anew, and the British ships—whose senior officers had been wounded or killed—soon surrendered. Perry informed U.S. General William Henry Harrison (1773–1841) of the victory with the now-famous words, “We have met the enemy and they are ours.” This strategic triumph ensured American control of the Great Lakes and secured Perry the name, “The Hero of Lake Erie.”

Although publishers Kurz and Allison did not identify the original painting that inspired this print, two monumental paintings by William Henry Powell (1823–1879) clearly served as a jumping-off point for the engraver. The legislature in Ohio, Powell’s home state, commissioned one in 1857. Completed in 1865, it now hangs in rotunda of the State House. The U.S. Senate's Joint Committee on the Library commissioned the other, larger version in the months after the first painting went on view. It has hung in the Senate wing of the U.S. Capitol since 1873.

GW Crossing the Delaware, 74_2_13DI1 Like many historic prints, this image reflects the era in which it was made as much as the event it depicts. For example, both Perry’s heroic stance in the boat and the flag behind him recall Emanuel Leutze's iconic 1851 painting George Washington Crossing the Delaware, an image that a far-reaching audience found familiar, thanks to a widely available 1853 print. In addition, although a number of the sailors in Perry’s fleet were African American, Powell may have included the black sailor in his 1857 painting to highlight the issues of slavery and race during the years leading up to the Civil War. Several decades later, during the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, Kurz and Allison followed suit when making their copy of the image.

You can see both Perry’s Victory on Lake Erie and Washington Crossing the Delaware in the exhibition, “The Art of American History: Prints from the Collection,” now on view in the Museum’s newly renovated lobby area.

Photos:

Perry’s Victory on Lake Erie, late 1800s. Kurz and Allison (1880–1903), publishers, Chicago, Illinois. Special Acquisitions Fund, 74.3.2.

Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1853. Emanuel Leutze (1816–1868), artist; Paul Girardet (1821–1893), engraver; M. Knoedler (1823–1878), publisher, New York, New York. Special Acquisitions Fund, 74.2.13.


The Conflagration of the Pennsylvania Masonic Hall in 1819

79_42_2T1 The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania secured its first building in 1802. Located on Filbert Street in Philadelphia, members dedicated it on St. John’s Day (December 27) in 1802. However, membership in Freemasonry grew at such a rate over the succeeding years that the building soon was too small.  By 1807, the search was on for new quarters. Later that year, the Grand Lodge purchased a vacant lot on Chestnut Street and began building according to a plan that architect William Strickland (1787-1854) submitted to their design competition. The new Masonic Hall was completed in 1809.

Unfortunately, the Grand Lodge would experience a relatively short tenure in this building. On March 9, 1819, a chimney fire spread rapidly, consuming the building. An engraving from the National Heritage Museum's collection, entitled The Conflagration of the Masonic Hall, Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, and created by John Lewis Krimmel (1786-1821) and John Hill (1770-1850), depicts the scene. The Grand Lodge history explains that “so great was the interest taken by the general public in this great calamity which overtook the Brethren,” that a painting was done “for the purpose of having an engraving made of the conflagration.”

According to the Franklin Gazette, the fire could be seen from New Castle, Delaware, thirty-two miles away. Washington Lodge No. 59 was meeting in the building at the time, but all the men in attendance were able to get out without any deaths or injuries. The print provides an accurate depiction of the fire companies.  It also shows the Secretary of Washington Lodge No. 59 carrying some of the Lodge’s property to safety – its Bible and the key to the hall.

The Conflagration of the Masonic Hall, Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 1819, John Hill, engraver, S. Kennedy and S.S. West, publishers, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, National Heritage Museum collection, Special Acquisitions Fund, 79.42.2. Photograph by David Bohl.


Is This a Masonic Painting?

90_14T1 Can you tell what makes this ship painting a “Masonic painting”? Look very closely at the flags it is flying and you’ll be able to make out the square and compasses symbol on the blue one atop the ship’s mizzenmast (third from the left - if you click on the picture, you can see a larger version of the image). One of the most well-known Masonic symbols, the square and compasses signify reason and faith.

The painting depicts the bark Isaac Rich as it entered the port of Leghorn, Italy, in 1876. The artist, Luigi Renault (1845-ca. 1910), was active in Leghorn from 1858 to 1880 and was appointed marine painter to King Victor Emanuel.

Ships might fly a Masonic flag if the owner or the captain were Freemasons. In the case of the Isaac Rich, the ship’s captain, William Bartlett Sheldon (d. 1903), joined New Jersey’s Burlington Lodge No. 32 in 1863. Sheldon served in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War. While Acting Master of the gunboat steamer U.S.S. Flambeau in South Carolina, he was captured in May 1863, but was exchanged in June 1863 and continued serving until October 1865. See our previous post about the preferential treatment that some Masonic prisoners received during that conflict.

If you would like to see the painting in person, please visit our current exhibition, Curators’ Choice: Favorites from the Collection.

The Bark Isaac Rich, 1876, Luigi Renault (1845-ca. 1910), Leghorn, Italy, National Heritage Museum collection, Special Acquisitions Fund, 90.14.