By: Carolyn Hauk
After a summer of extensive research, hard work, and boundless dedication, the Schmucker Art Gallery team celebrated this past week with the opening of two new exhibitions: The Plains of Mars: European War Prints, 1500-1825 and Face to Face: Carl Beam and Andy Warhol. Both exhibitions were student-curated through the art-loving aptitudes of Gettysburg College seniors Bailey Harper and Melissa Casale on The Plains of Mars exhibition and senior Keira Koch on Face to Face. Needless to say, it was a big week for the Gallery with a big turnout at the opening reception on Tuesday evening and at the guided tour through The Plains of Mars exhibition led by Harper and Casale Thursday afternoon.
The Plains of Mars exhibition features authentic warfare prints on loan that were created anywhere between 193 and 500 years ago by famous artists such as Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Fransisco de Goya, and many more. The tour attracted a wide mix of art-lovers and history buffs enthralled to see these works of art. Throughout the hour, Harper and Casale highlighted specific prints that capture themes of warfare that have endured the test of time. From pageantry to tragedy, violence to peace, gallant propaganda to political caricatures, nothing is left out of the mix. Just seeing the prints would be a wonderful opportunity, but the insight provided by Harper and Casale made it an even more rewarding experience. Along with sharing bits of information about their select pieces, both of the students conveyed the historical background and mentality of warfare of each era and how that has shifted through the centuries.
I had the opportunity to talk with Harper about her experience assembling this beautiful exhibition. Admittedly, 325 years is a large window of history that is hard to capture in fifty-five prints. She was relieved to split up the work into two periods between her and Casale: Casale researched the Renaissance and Harper covered Early Modern Art. In addition to conducting weeks of research, the time it took to plan, set up, and create plaques for each piece varied greatly. Harper noted that writing the plaques was the most time-consuming part of putting together the exhibition, apart from the vast research she conducted on nineteenth century warfare. But the work paid off!
At the end of the tour, Harper and Casale took a moment to respond to any questions. “You have prints displayed in the gallery here that cover every theme of warfare from pageantry to carnage and destruction. What do you believe is the ultimate takeaway from the prints?” I asked. Casale replied that warfare is “timeless” and that it “transcends the decades”. Harper added, “War is human.”
And with that, I urge everyone to take a moment to visit the exhibitions at the Schmucker Art Gallery. Admire the prints created many ages ago, but keep Casale and Harper’s wise words in mind. There are many opportunities this semester to learn more about the prints and warfare between 1500 and 1825 including a lecture by James Clifton, the Director of the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation from the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston on October 16th as well as a gallery talk led by our own Professor Peter Carmichael of the Civil War Institute on October 25th.