2009-09-24 / About Town

Small to speak at CIAA quarterly members’ meeting features talk

The Conanicut Island Art Association will hold its first quarterly members’ meeting on Thursday, Oct. 8, at 7 p.m. in the meeting room at the Jamestown Philomenian Library.

The meeting will feature a talk by Jonathan Small of Middletown.

Imagine the thrill of a 50-year-old artist becoming aware that one of his own ancestors was also an accomplished artist. Small will discuss his discovery that his great-great-grandfather, Stephen Alonzo Schoff (1818-1904), was a master engraver and etcher.

Small became aware of Schoff’s importance in American art about five years ago. He has since been researching Schoff’s life and work, following a trail that has led him into the archives and print collections of the Smithsonian Institution, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the New York Public Library and the Frick Museum.

Largely forgotten today, Schoff’s career spanned the introduction of photography, which had a profound impact on the role of the artist printmaker. Attendees will see examples of how Schoff adapted to the changes then taking place. While the technology of photography improved, allowing it to become more and more the accepted means of reproducing published images, printmaking was freed from its ties to reproducing art and was allowed to blossom as an artistic category of its own during the etching revival of the 1880s.

Schoff’s career as an engraver/etcher was fascinating as he came in contact with, and befriended so many prominent 19thcentury artists, such as Washington Allston, Asher B. Durand, John F. Kensett, John W. Casilear, Paul Delaroche, William Morris Hunt and Edmund C. Tarbell.

Schoff was best known for his published portraits of authors and poets, including Hawthorne, Emerson, Longfellow, Whitman and many more. He also found steady work as a bank note engraver.

The meeting is open to the public; there is no charge to attend.

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