SPARTANBURG, S.C. – With more than 1,200 pieces – paintings; prints, watercolors and sketches on paper; Chinese ink rubbings; and Asian, Middle Eastern and African artifacts and objects – Wofford College’s Fine Arts Collection has served as a valuable educational, historical and cultural treasure-trove throughout the college’s history.
Acquired from the college’s foundational days in the mid-19th century to today, the collection includes 300 works – almost a complete collection – by American Southern artist Julia Elizabeth Tolbert, some 200 pieces of Chinese ink rubbings, a collection of Hungarian paintings donated by the late Sandor Teszler and Drs. Francis and Livia Robicsek, and a variety of other artworks and objects.
Some 50 selections of this vast fine arts collection now are on display on both levels of the Richardson Family Art Museum in the Rosalind Sallenger Richardson Center for the Arts.
“In the Service of Teaching and Learning: An Inaugural Exhibition of the Wofford Fine Arts Collection” will be on display through Monday, Dec. 18. A gallery talk by Dr. Youmi Efurd, curator and cultural events coordinator at Wofford, will be presented at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19, in the museum as part of the Spartanburg ArtWalk.
“The Wofford Fine Arts Collection has served as a valuable educational resource that strengthens, supports and contributes to academic research on campus in a variety of disciplines,” Efurd says. “The primary focus in selecting the works for the exhibition was given to the mission of the collection – their use in teaching and facilitating learning.”
Dr. Karen Goodchild, professor and chair of the Department of Art and Art History, notes that Dr. David Efurd, associate professor of fine arts, is teaching a survey of Asian art, a course required for every art history major and one many non-majors take to fulfill their cultures and peoples or fine arts requirement. “The 48 students in his classes will be working with the objects on display in this exhibition, bringing their classroom-gained knowledge about Asian objects to shed light on actual works of art. Also, Dr. Peter Schmunk (professor of humanities) is teaching an upper-level course on 19th century art, and his students will work with the Impressionist paintings from the permanent collection being shown.”
Goodchild notes that descriptions for a number of the works will provide visitors with information about student research from past years into those works.
The works provide “a unique opportunity for students to work with artifacts and art objects – paintings, sculptures,, ceramics, tapestries – something that rarely happens with undergraduates, even at larger institutions,” Efurd adds. “Their employment enhances the level of students’ research as well as facilitates a deeper engagement of historical and cultural settings beyond what is stated in textbooks.”
Many of the works in the college’s Fine Arts Collection were donated by benefactors, art lovers and sometimes the artists themselves, Efurd says. “While the collection goes back to the college’s foundational days – collecting portraits of significant figures, such as our founder, Benjamin Wofford – as an art collection, the major landmark was during the early 1990s when the late Sandor Teszler donated a group of Hungarian impressionist and post-impressionist works,” she says. That collection inspired the donation in recent years of additional Hungarian paintings by the Robicsek family of Charlotte, N.C.
Wofford became the largest holder of Julia Tolbert’s art in 2011 when two generations of the family donated nearly the entire life-work corpus – including paintings in oil, watercolor and gouache as well as drawings, prints, jewelry and ceramics.
Chinese stone rubbings – 285 of them – collected by the late German diplomat Karl-August Balser in 1911 in Xian, China, were donated by his family to the Wofford permanent collection.
The exhibition includes a wide variety of the important works donated to the college, Efurd says. “I wanted to show the broad span of selected works the college has been collecting, and this exhibition is a great opportunity for us to show how the collection is being displayed and employed for the betterment of the college community and beyond,” she says. “I also wanted to emphasize how donated works of art facilitate education at a liberal arts college.”
Efurd says guided tours and children’s education programs can be arranged at the Richardson Family Art Museum on request; contact Miriam Thomas, arts administrator, at email@example.com.
The exhibition is open to visitors, free of charge, Tuesday through Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m., with extended hours to 9 p.m. on Thursday; the museum is closed Sunday and Monday. The museum and the Richardson Family Art Gallery are included in the Spartanburg ArtWalk on the third Thursday of each month.