At the end of the last century, Oliver Wendell Holmes reminded us that, A mind that is stretched to a new idea never returns to its original dimensions. At the end of our present century, the wisdom of this insight holds particular currency in that each new year sees radical change in the scenographer's art.
The decade from 1985 to 1995 was an exciting one, albeit a challenging one, for most scenographers. During that time, however, the settled ideas as to what skills and knowledge are necessary for many scenographers to practice their art came into question. And in no area of scenographic craft have changes become more apparent than in the gathering of visual and factual information for scenographic design projects.
Since the middle of the nineteenth century, theater designers have mainly depended on public and academic libraries, along with museums and galleries, for much of their visual research. Most scenographers also resort to personal collection of research images and information to augment what they find in outside sources. Now, along with these traditional resources, computer technology has begun to provide important new ways to accomplish scenographic image research; increasingly it is possible to gather digital information for use in computer scenographic projects over network connections and from CD-ROM archives.
Some years back a television advertisement for The Yellow Pages portion of telephone directories counseled viewers to let you fingers do the walking. Today scenographers, without leaving the studio can do just that: let their fingers walk to vast image resources that may be continents apart but are just minutes, sometimes only seconds, away. Scenographers who are connected to the Internet, are finding, in fact, that they have a research resource unlike any available before.
It is very important that when a valuable site is found, that it be bookmarked immediately. A word of warning: the Internet is a mutable thing; that is, it is a moving target and always in a state of flux. Without an orderly procedure to the gathering of research sites, Chaos is come again, as Macbeth so aptly observed concerning the flow of time and events. Regularly checking the validity of your bookmarks or updating old links with new addresses is a recommended on-going practice.
The Thinker: The San Francisco Fine Art MuseumsThis is quite probably the most extensive collection of art images on the Internet today. This site has more than 60,000 images online. There is a search engine that allows for detailed searches for specific categories of art works or artists.
Vatican MuseumA wide range of paintings, sculpture, architecture, and art objects are found at the various museums and galleries at this site. One entire gallery is devoted to the Sistine Chapel. The image below was downloaded from this site.
WebMuseumThis an extremely valuable site for finding a vast collection of paintings along with individual histories of artists. Historical context of the works of art shown is also available at this site. Each artists usually has a number of representative works on view. Below is a typical image by Dürer:
Glossary of Painting Styles
This is a subheading on the WebMuseum page useful to those needing basic information on historical painting movements and styles. Along with brief histories of each are pertinent links to artists who exemplified or are identified with particular schools or groups of artists.
ReNATssance ArtA very personal art history website by Natale Williams ranging from the Renaissance to Impressionism. The range of art available on this site, along with extensive notes and links to related museum sites makes it a valuable site to research bookmark.
The Web Gallery of ArtThis following Internet museum is currently the best overall resource available for artworks falling within the dates given below. This notice occurs on the first page of the site:
The Web Gallery of Art contains over 5,000 digital reproductions of European paintings and sculptures created between the years 1200 and 1700. A considerable number of the pictures are commented and biographies of the significant artists are given. A versatile search engine allows you to find pictures in the collection using various search criteria. A number of guided tours make it easier to visit the Gallery and to understand the artistic and historical relationship between different artworks and artists included in the collection
Leonardo MuseumA number of Leonardo da Vinci images are available at this site. Below is one of his famous drawings of hands. There is even another Leonardo da Vinci gallery in addition to this one.
The Institute of Egyptian Art and ArcheologyThis site is maintained by The Institute of Egyptian Art & Archaeology, founded in 1984, and is a component of the Department of Art of The University of Memphis, in Memphis, Tennessee (USA). It is dedicated to the study of the art and culture of ancient Egypt through teaching, research, exhibition, and community education. The Institute's collection of antiquities resides in the Art Museum of The University of Memphis. Over 150 objects range in date from 3500 B.C.E. to 700 C.E. There are mummies, religious and funerary items, jewelry, and objects from everyday life. Also available at this site is a color tour of Egypt.
Folger's Library ExhibitionsThe Folger's Library site has on-going exhibitions of text and visual materials that relate to Shakespeare's period. Many useful research items and leads are to be found at the site. The image below is part of an exhibition on Renaissance Festivals.
Smithsonian Photographs OnlineLike the Library of Congress, The Smithsonian has many collections of photographs and other graphic files. At this site Internet users can search and retrieve these images from The Smithsonian Photographic Services Data Base.The topics range from Air and Space, to science, nature, technology, history, and people and places. These images are stored in approximately 1,000 gif files. A few of the exhibitions currently on line are: Publication Illustrations by Smithsonian Photographers. A continuing series, featuring selections of photographs by the staff of the Office of Printing and Photographic Services used to illustrate various books, magazines and articles. Magic Lanterns Magic Mirrors - A Centennial Salute to Cinema. From an exhibition produced by the Photographic History Collection at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. A slide show of award-winning photographs by Smithsonian photographers Photographs from the Dinosaur Hall of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
LACMAweb:This Los Angeles museum has several on-line exhibitions that include selections from their permanent collection. The categories available at this site are: American Art, Ancient and Islamic Art, Costumes and Textiles, Decorative Arts, European Painting and Sculpture, Far Eastern Art, Indian and Southeast Asian Art, Photography, Prints and Drawings, and Twentieth Century Art. Approximately 12 images are included under each of these headings and available for downloading.
The following sites are Internet site where information may be obtained from computer software companies. Often demonstration programs can be downloaded in order to try out an application before purchase. In some cases, these companies will allow web users to try a beta version of a coming upgrade to their product before it is released to the general public. This helps the company to pin-point bugs and other flaws in the program. These beta versions always have a time code in them that makes them expire on a certain date. Still, using these beta versions gives present users of the software a good idea as to how the new version will work. It also gives prospective buyers hands-on experience in how the program works.
Direct ImaginationAlthough this site is a commercial one, the products they offer have great value for all theatrical designers. This publisher's main focus is reproducing in digital form important historical graphic arts books that are not easily found currently in publication. These books are recorded on CD-ROM disks and come with hard copy materials that duplicate in miniature the contents of the disk. Their main offering is The Grammar of Ornament, by Owen Jones, first published in 1856. The main color plates are bit-mapped graphics and can be opened in several image-editing programs.
The Milieux Costume PageThis is one of the most complete costume pages now on the Internet. It lists itself as an online costuming source for historical, science fiction, and fantasy costumers. This site brings together a vast list of costume page locations. It also includes mail order resources.
The History of Costume by Braun and Schnieder-c.1861-1880This deals with only one subject: a nineteenth century book of costume plates. The images are in both small and large format for study or downloading.
Paris Music Hall Collection at the Hargrett LibraryThe Paris Music Hall Collection comprises over 6,000 original renderings of costume designs and 1,000 original renderings of curtain designs for the music halls of Paris from 1920-1938. The Collection, acquired in 1968 by the Library, was originally the property of Max Weldy who provided the elaborate costumes and curtains to the Folies Bergere, Moulin Rouge and other popular cabarets and music halls. Weldy maintained a stable of young, extraordinarily imaginative designers who flocked to Paris from all over Europe to establish a name for themselves. Among the designers represented in this collection are: George Barbier, Jean Le Seyeaux, Ladislas Czettel, Jose de Zamora, Alec Shanks, Freddy Wittop, Ranson, Hugh Willoughby, Cedric White, Zig, Edouard Halouze, Dany Barry, Paul Seltenhammer, and Louis Curti.
All images in these collections are either protected by copyright law, or are the property of the University of Georgia Libraries, Hargrett Library. Permission to publish MUST be obtained from both the Hargrett Library, and/or the legal copyright holder.
The Costume PageThis is a good all-purpose site that maintains many links with other costume pages and related research materials, suppliers museums, and various organizations.
History of Greek CostumeThis site has a good collection of historical data on Greek costume and related cultures including those of Minoan, Ancient Greece, Roman, and Byzantium. It also has 18th and 19th century materials.
The Art Deco-Erte MuseumThis site is for fashion and theater designers. It maintain a very good collection of Art Deco costume designs and related arts materials.
HeraldicaThis site provides a large number of sources for both graphic and text information as to how heraldic images are devised and categorized. The sources listed from this location are especially valuable for costume and property designers as well as for scenographers.
The Regency Fashion PageThis is a site with a large number of categories with many images in each. The images are largely contemporary fashion plates like the one shown below.
Afternoon Dress (Half Mourning Dress) 1794 -1804
Antique Costumes for SaleThis is actually a site that has antique costumes for sale. The images are useful as research.
The Mucha Poster SiteThis site has a number of Alphonse Mucha posters. These are useful to scenographers as well as to costume designers.
A Roman Palace in DalmatiaiaThis is an architecture reconstruction of a late Roman palace.
Renaissance and Baroque ArchitectureThis is an excellent site for good images of Renaissance and Baroque architecture and scenic vistas. The materials cover most of Europe and the British Isles. There is a thumbnail view of each image in each category that opens to a larger downloadable image. Not only are there long views of buildings and vistas, but also a large number of close-up images of details.
BomarzoThis site shows many images from the famed phantasmagoric statues in the garden of Vicino Orsini, the Duke of Bomarzo, 1528-1588. It is a place where scenographers can find many evocative images for use in scenographic designs.
The Ancient City of AthensThis is a site that has a number of materials and links dealing with the historical city of Athens. In has a number of color photographs of ruins.
The Thorn Cathedral ImagesThis is part of the Vatican Museums Sites, but is unique enough to have a citation of its own. Several good views of a particular cathedral in Thorn, Netherlands reside at this site. It is a good example of the kinds of materials available on the Internet.
New Orleans Cemeteries: Tinted PhotosAgain, this is a small site that deals with a limited subject. Again, it shows how particular and detailed that information can be found and brought into the scenographers studio.
Amiens Cathedral Slide CollectionThe screen below shows only a small part of the images available at this site. In addition to interior and exterior views of the cathedral, there are also drawings and close-up architectural detail images.
The sites listed above represents only a tiny fraction of those available to theater artists who use the World Wide Web on the Internet. Although I will progressively add sites to this research library, it is the responsibility of individual artists to take upon themselves the task of building a good bookmark library. Only by assiduously netsurfing can one become proficient in using the Internet as a productive tool and gain an idea of what it will do and what it will not.