Sunday, September 21, 2008

Field Trip: The Wilcox Museum at KU


Last week I was reading a post in the Gurney Journey blog (currently my favorite art blog!) about the plaster cast collections that art schools used to have. I knew they were used in ateliers, but I didn't know that art schools or universities used to have relatively extensive collections of them, or that many of them were destroyed in protest against ideas that were deemed outdated. For a while now I have been coveting a cast of my own (a small one, of course, preferably a bust) and have a cast of a hand and/or a foot on my wish list as well. I was therefore understandably excited to find out this collection of casts is practically in my own back yard! A trip to Lawrence was added to my to-do list at once.

To me, a trip to Lawrence also means a trip to The Mad Greek. This time it just happened to fit the theme of the day! They also have a collection of casts, but they are small and located way up near the ceiling. No good for drawing, but good to look at none-the-less. After stuffing myself with yummy Greek food, I dragged my husband along to admire some [copies of] Greek art.
The collection is contained in two adjoining rooms at the Wilcox Museum, though the second room is primarily dedicated to coins and other artifacts. As mentioned on the Gurney Journey blog, the one drawback in the museum setting is lighting. There are lots of spotlights pointing in every direction, which would make getting a good range of values difficult. However, the cast of Hermes, above, is nicely lit for value drawing if viewed from the front.

While this sort of lighting is not conducive to drawing with a full value range, it would still be great to do line drawings from.

They have a pretty good collection of busts, as well. I think there were a couple more behind that wall that I forgot to photograph... I seem to remember two of Athena, one with a helmet, but I could be wrong.

Poor Homer is alone in a corner.

I had to. I know, I am silly and immature, but isn't the lighting great? I was wondering about the differences in texture here. If you look at the calfs, they are completely smooth. You start to see some marks on the buttocks, and then if you look at the top of the picture by the ribs you see a lot of texture. I want to find out if this texture was on the original and if it was common to have the various textures or if this was an artifact of repairs or related to the casting process.

This is one of the smaller casts. They ranged in size from about 18" to, well, larger than life. The following pictures are to give you an idea of the scale of some of the full-sized copies.

I read on the museum's website that the room can be reserved for events or classes, and immediately thought that it would be fun to lead a class there myself. Perhaps I can even get them to let me alter the lighting a little just for the class, or to bring in my own special lighting.

If you are local, you really should visit this collection. If you are elsewhere, visit to find a collection near you.

1 comment:

Bethany said...

I never take advantage of all the cool stuff KU has. I'm usually to busy running to class because I am late or walking straight back to my car because I need a nap to explore. I didn't even know there was a thing called the Wilcox Museum *facepalm*