First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare (an eyewitness account)

As some of you may know, the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. has taken several of its 82 copies of the First Folio on tour this year, bringing one to each of the fifty U.S. states and Puerto Rico to honor the four-hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Drew University, my alma mater, was the tour’s only stop in New Jersey, most likely due to the award-winning Shakespeare Theatre on our campus. First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare was at Drew from October 6-30, and I stopped by last week to see it for myself.


Behold. The First Folio. So exciting!

It was pretty cool to see one of these famous books with my own eyes. I was surprised by its excellent condition. I guess was expecting something much more worn and older looking. The First Folio was published in 1623.



“To be, or not to be, that is the Question” – Hamlet

The exhibition display (presumably provided by the Folger) was excellent. Large wall texts discussed Shakespeare’s influence throughout time. For example, one panel talked about all the commonly-used phrases coined by Shakespeare, while another listed some of the famous actors to take on Shakespearean roles during their careers. I was surprised to learn that half of the works included in the First Folio were never published during Shakespeare’s lifetime, meaning that they probably would have been lost if not for the First Folio. Imagine a world without As You Like It or Twelfth Night! The curators did a great job of contextualizing the First Folio’s importance and why it’s worthy of all this fuss. Several adjunct exhibitions set up by Drew (including one curated by my former professor) were excellent as well. I particularly enjoyed the display showing how books were made in the seventeenth century. Both the Drew Theatre Department and the Shakespeare Theatre produced Shakespeare plays this month (Hamlet and Richard III respectively), but unfortunately I didn’t get to see either one.

For anyone wanting to learn more the First Folio or hoping to catch a future stop on the tour, you can’t go wrong visiting the Folger’s website.

Halloween Creatures in Five Centuries of Art – just published on HeadStuff


Witches’ Sabbath (The Great He-Goat) by Francisco Goya, 1821-3. [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.

It wouldn’t be Halloween if I didn’t write at least once about creepy creatures in art. (Did you really think I wasn’t going to do it this year?) Well, HeadStuff just posted my article “Halloween Creatures in Five Centuries of Art”, in which I take a look at how imaginings of witches, vampires, demons, and other Halloween characters have evolved throughout Western art history. Check it out!

Thank you so much to HeadStuff  for publishing me again after I took some time off from writing for them. It’s nice to be back. If you love HeadStuff as much as I do, please consider supporting their endeavors on Patreon.

An Exciting Announcement


She’s heralding my awesome news. The All Angels’ Church (NYC) pulpit by Karl Bitter, 1900, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by me.

I’m so excited to announce that I have recently started writing for Artips, a French company dedicated to bringing art historical goodness to the public via short articles emailed to subscribers several times each week. Their articles are witty, engaging, and completely accessible for any interested reader, even one without an art background. I’m all for sharing my love of art history with as many people as I can, so I’m very happy to have the opportunity to work on this project.

For my first article, Artips has given me a challenging, yet totally awesome assignment that I’m really looking forward to sharing. Once it’s published, I’ll link to it here, (as I also will with all subsequent articles), but I would strongly encourage all of you to sign up for all of Artips’s updates by visiting their website. They’re fun, educational, and totally free. I’m sure that all my blog’s readers will absolutely love them.

Gargoyle of the Day: City Museum, St. Louis, Missouri


Photo by Tojosan via flickr (Creative Commons). A gargoyle from the City Museum in Saint Louis.

According to the photographer’s caption on flickr, this grotesque can be found at the City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri. Not being familiar with that particular institution but assuming it was an art museum, I searched online to figure out if this carving is a feature of the building or part of its collection. Instead, I learned that the City Museum is a “an eclectic mixture of children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel made out of unique, found objects”.* In other words, it seems to be a big kids’ version of a children’s museum. How cool is that? I’ve never been to St. Louis, but this place will certainly be on my agenda if I ever decide to visit.



An Art Quote for the Quote Challenge

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls. – Pablo Picasso

Thanks to Belinda O. and her excellent taste in quotations, I was inspired to find and post a meaningful quote relating to the theme of my blog. This one is both relevant and true.  No matter your preferred medium or form of expression, the acts of making and enjoying art truly have a cleansing effect on the mind and the soul. Taking in a beautiful creative work transports you from your ordinary life into a richer world where emotions are stronger and ideas are more meaningful. It’s not always a fun or happy place, but you always feel better when the experience is over. This is equally true for music, theatre, dance, and even ice skating as it is for painting, sculpture, and photography. I’m pretty sure it’s why we all enjoy the arts, whether we chose to make them, observe them, or both.

If my quote has inspired you, maybe consider finding and posting one (or more) of your own. I would love to read them!

Gargoyle of the Day: City College of New York


CCNY grotesque. Photo by Peter Burka via flickr (Creative Commons).

I freely admit that I haven’t been great about posting gargoyles over the past few months, but I recently found a reader grotesque that I hadn’t seen before, and it seems to have snapped me back into action. This scholarly fellow attends the City College of New York. I believe that he resides on the turn-of-the-century Harris Hall, which houses the college’s medical school, or another building in the so-called “Gothic Quadrangle” of its northern Manhattan campus.* I love his position on the keystone of the arch, and I also enjoy the strange little man on the base of the arch, shown below. I have no idea what he’s doing, but I can’t help feeling that he looks like he’s applying deodorant.


CCNY gargoyle. Photo by Peter Burka via flickr (Creative Commons).

Happy Hobbit Day! (an article)

Bilbo Baggins, the titular protagonist of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and his nephew Frodo Baggins, hero of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, shared a September 22nd birthdate. Accordingly, that day is annually celebrated as Hobbit Day, and the entire week is deemed to be “Tolkien Week”. In honor of this year’s festivities, just published my article “Beyond the Hobbit and the Rings – Five Other Works by Tolkien”. It was difficult to pick just five, because Tolkien wrote so many brilliant and quirky articles and essays during his lifetime. Does anyone have any other favorites that I had to leave out?