So many moments out of a day, people tend to carry on with their worries and never take the time to enjoy the little treasures that have jeweled their lives. They just move from one task to another, never really seeing or appreciating what is sometimes resting directly before them, like a book on a shelf. But every now and then, those books have to be taken out of their slumber and in those instances, history awakens to allow one a glimpse into its depths. And today, history awoke to show me a gem of the University Archives that had long been forgotten, a collection of drawings for Dante’s Inferno by famous American artist Robert Rauschenberg.
At first, I had no idea what I had stumbled across on the shelves of the Special Collections in the University Archives. But as I began researching Dante’s Inferno (in light of the Halloween holiday) and researching the massive body of drawings and the artist Robert Rauschenberg, I realized Eastern has something in common with the Museum of Modern Art: this collection (though ours is number 260 out of 300 sets distributed with 1 of 43 signed lithographs).
Rauschenberg was a leading artist in the movement of Pop Art in the 1950s and 60s and this collection for Dante’s Inferno is among his most popular works. He was famous for his non-traditional style of mixing techniques and in these particular works, for layering various pieces of art forms (magazines, newspapers, paintings, etc.) and using water to manipulate the ink, paints, charcoal, etc. Not only are his techniques unique, but the works themselves and more importantly, the concepts are key elements in Rauschenberg’s style.
These breakthrough styles allowed him to win several awards during his lifetime from 1925 to 2008, including: the Grand Prize, 32nd Venice Biennale (1964); Creative Arts Award, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts (1978); Grand Prix d’Honneur, International Exhibition of Graphic Art, Ljubljana, Yugoslavia (1979); Gold Medal for Graphics, Oslo (1979); Skowhegan Medal for Painting, Skowhegan College, Maine (1982); Grammy Award for the best album design for the pop group Talking Heads (1984); Jerusalem Prize for Arts and Letters, Friends of Bezalel Academy of Jerusalem, Philadelphia Chapter (1984); Golden Plate Award, 25th Anniversary Salute to Excellence, American Academy of Achievement (1986); International Center of Photography Art Award (1987); The Algur H. Meadows Award of Excellence in the Arts, Meadows School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University, Dallas (1989); Federal Design Achievement Award (1992); National Medal of Arts Award presented by the U.S. President and First Lady (1993); Second Hiroshima Art Prize, Hiroshima Museum of Contemporary Art (1993); “Leonardo da Vinci” World Award of Arts, World Cultural Council, Mexico City (1995); Lifetime Achievement Award in Contemporary Sculpture, International Sculpture Center, Washington, D.C. (1996); First Prize in Contemporary Arts Awards, ARCO and Fundación Argentaria, Madrid (1997); The Eighth Wexner Prize, Wexner Center, Ohio State University (2000); The Harbourfront Centre World Leaders Prize, Toronto, Ontario (2001); Medal Award, The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2002).
Obviously, Rauschenberg was and still is a huge artistic icon (though he passed away in 2008 from heart failure). He changed the entire perception of art and created a revolution that swept the entire nation, much like the literary classic of Dante’s Inferno itself, which is what originally led me to the discovery of the drawings for Dante's Inferno by Robert Rauschenberg.
Although there are many various versions of Dante's Inferno, Eastern's Archives holds a version printed by P.F. Collier in 1861 and translated by the Rev. Henry Francis Cary with illustrations by M. Gustave Dore. The beautiful bound cover features an embossed gold and black etching. Though little is known about this particular version, Dore first published his illustrations in 1861 and Cary is one of the well-known translators for Dane's Inferno. Nonetheless, the book is beautiful to examine and a true original that's available at a moment's notice.
So I write this blog in hopes that you'll take the time to notice what's right before your eyes. Whether it be a good book, a beautiful piece of art, or your own personal collection of memorabilia, take a moment to really see what's around you. Make a discovery. Absorb some new knowledge. Take advantage of today's opportunities. =)