Good luck, Jayhawks, in today’s tournament game against Northeastern. We hope the fun continues with a second-round game this weekend!
Phog Allen with the KU men’s basketball team, 1935-1936. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 66/13 1935/1936 Team: Athletic Department: Basketball (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
In honor of the centennial of World War I, this is the second series in which we follow the experiences of one American soldier: twenty-five year old Milo H. Main, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. On Mondays we’ll post a new entry featuring selected letters from Milo to his family from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.
Milo Hugh Main was born in or near Pittsfield, Illinois, on November 21, 1892 to William and Rose Ella Henry Main. The family moved to Argonia, Sumner County, Kansas, in 1901. After his mother died in 1906, Milo remained in Argonia with his father and his two sisters Gladys (b. 1890) and June (b. 1899). His youngest sister Fern (b. 1905) was sent to live with relatives in
As Milo reported to the Kansas State Historical Society in 1919, after graduating from high school he worked as a store clerk. He resigned in July 1917 and took a position at Standard Oil Company, possibly co-managing a gas station in Argonia.
Milo entered into military service on September 21, 1917. He served as a wagoner – a person who drives a wagon or transports goods by wagon – in Battery F, 130th Field Artillery. He was stationed at Camp Funston (September-October 1917) and Camp Doniphan (October 1917-May 1918). On May 19, 1918, he boarded the ship Ceramic in New York City and departed for Europe.
In his letter of March 16th, Milo writes about having “a light touch of the” flu, driving across France to his new post, and “renting a furnished room with two big feather beds and a stove.”
Have recieved four letters from you during the past week.
Well, we are here in southern France, but have not gone thru the classification camp at Le Mons yet. It will probably be our next move as it is only 40 kilometers from here.
Will be at least 30 days before we get out of this Frog eating Land of France.
Yes, I had a light touch of the “Flu” but, I took the champagne in time to prevent any serious illness. Sure am feeling fine now. Have seen all the boys here recently and all are well.
I was quite fortunate in my trip from Ernecourt to Bonnetable. Came overland in the 130 F.A. Auto Convoy. Four days in making the trip. Sure saw all the best wheat and wine districts of France. We ate and slept in good hotels thru-out the journey. Four days making the trip, always stopped in a good city for the nite. Saw more keen women those four days than ever before except in Paris.
Have the Col.’s mess, (10 officers, staff) in a French home here. The madam is cooking. The best mess ever. I am a there on putting away this real food. I even serve it Frog style now. Sure a fine home we have mess in. Also a fair daughter of 22 yrs.
Will enclose a card of one of the better lookers.
Three of we O.M. boys rented a furnished room with two big feather beds and a stove in it. Gas light too. Col. ordered all men in Bat. [Battalion] not to room out like this. But we are not under the direct command of anyone so are keeping it quiet. The officers wanted me to wait table everyday, but no, I convinced them that I would not be able to care for everything properly alone so they retained my side pal from Texas who takes it day about yet with me. Not much to do in dining room for 10, but I don’t like to work any more. My day off, I lie in the feathers, (not hay), until 10:A.M.
That painting, housed at the National Gallery of Ireland, draws its theme from a medieval Danish ballad. As the museum’s label explains, the ballad tells the story of “Hellelil, who fell in love with her personal guard Hildebrand, Prince of Engelland. Her father disapproved of the relationship and ordered her seven brothers to kill the young prince.” Burton’s painting captures a moment of longing: a final fleeting meeting between the ill-fated couple.
One of the more astonishing aspects of the painting is that it is a watercolor (Burton always worked in watercolors rather than oils). To protect the painting from light damage, the National Gallery of Ireland has it on display for just two hours a week, keeping it behind protective panels the remainder of the time.
A more modest example of Burton’s artistry in watercolors resides at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library in a series of costume designs he made for a play by the writer Theodore Martin (more on this soon).
A native of Co. Clare, Frederic William Burton was born to a wealthy land-owning family. He moved to Dublin at ten and by sixteen had exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy. His early career was as a miniaturist and portraitist, always working in watercolors.
Through his friendship with the Irish antiquarian, George Petrie, Burton was inspired to turn to the Irish landscape and consider Irish subjects in his paintings, as in his 1841 watercolor The Aran Fisherman’s Drowned Child.
Burton’s connection to another friend, Thomas Davis, a leader of the nationalist Young Ireland movement, resulted in his contribution of the illustrated title page for The Spirit of the Nation (1845), an anthology of ballads and songs by Davis and other writers associated with periodical The Nation. At the time, however, Burton kept his contribution anonymous, reluctant to enter into the fray of politics. In a memorial tribute, Lady Gregory would recall that Burton had been in favor of Ireland’s union with England and did not share Davis’s nationalist politics, but that he had undertaken the title page to please his friend, “ there was nothing in the world he would not have done for Davis” . Spencer Research Library’s multiple copies of The Spirit of the Nation deserve a St. Patrick’s Day post of their own. The copy pictured below contains two inserted leaves of inscriptions of Young Irelanders Terence Bellew MacManus, Thomas Francis Meagher, Patrick O’Donohoe, and William Smith O’Brien, signed from Clonmel Gaol in Tipperary, following their 1848 attempted nationalist rising. The signature of O’Brien, is visible on the leaf tipped in next to Burton’s illustrated title page.
As noted earlier, Spencer Library’s collections also reveal another dimension of Burton’s career as an artist. We hold a copy of a special volume belonging to the attorney and writer Sir Theodore Martin (with his bookplate). It comprises pages of the 1860 privately printed second edition of Martin’s play Madonna Pia: A Tragedy juxtaposed with 11 original watercolors of costume designs. Though the sketches are not signed, Martin included in his special volume a manuscript letter from the artist signed “FWB” alongside a portrait of Burton, signaling his identity as the artist. The letter was sent in November 1855, the date of the first edition of Martin’s play, from Munich, where Burton was serving as curator of the Royal collection for Maximilian II of Bavaria.
In the letter, likely addressed to Martin’s wife, the actress Helena Faucit, Burton apologizes for the quality of his watercolors. He self-deprecatingly explains:
These hasty sketches are not indeed what I had intended – but just as I was engaged about them the Fine Arts were under a cloud from weather such as ever you Londoners need not have envied us. They are very scribbly & coarse — & I fear none of them will answer, – but you will gratify me by giving them to any little relatives you may have under five years of age to amuse themselves by sticking pins through them.
Burton’s watercolor and gouache painting and sketch of the costumes for “Madonna Pia / 2d dress” and “Pia 3d dress” and “Count Nello” [Munich, 1855], bound with Theodore Martin’s Madonna Pia (1860, second edition). Sir Theodore Martin Collection. Call #: MS E184. Click images to enlarge.
Frederic William Burton’s watercolor and gouache painting for the costume of “Nello della Pietra,” bound with Theodore Martin’s Madonna Pia (1860, second edition). Sir Theodore Martin Collection. Call #: MS E184. Click image to enlarge.
Fortunately for us, Martin preserved the watercolors and bound them together with a later edition of his play. Madonna Pia takes its inspiration from a passage in Dante’s Purgatorio to tell the story of Pia’s imprisonment and poisoning by her jealous husband, Count Nello della Pietra. It was a popular subject during the Victorian era; KU’s Spencer Museum of Art holds a later painting, Pia de’ Tolomei, by pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti that references the same tale from Dante.
Three years after Frederic William Burton executed his “hasty sketches,” he took up residence in London. There, he was part of the circle of Rossetti and other Pre-Raphaelite artists, and it was during this time that he painted “Hellelil and Hildebrand, the Meeting on the Turret Stairs.” In 1874, Burton was made director of London’s National Gallery, and he retired from painting. Though he died in London on the day before St. Patrick’s Day in 1900, Burton returned Ireland in death. He was buried in Dublin’s Mount Jerome Cemetery, and his work was exhibited at Dublin’s National Gallery later that same year. In her remembrance, Lady Gregory wrote that despite his years spent abroad, which left him “almost forgotten” in Dublin, Burton’s “heart was Irish to the last” .
Come examine Frederic William Burton’s watercolor sketches for Madonna Pia at Spencer Research Library, and then continue on to explore other materials in our Irish Collections. Not certain where to start? Take a glance at some past blog posts or explore our Irish Collections LibGuide.
Elspeth Healey Special Collections Librarian
 Gregory, Lady Augusta. “Sir Frederic Burton.” The Leader: A Review of Current Affairs, Politics, Literature, Art and Industry. Vol 1, no. 15 (8 December 1900): 231. Call #: O’Hegarty E98
Happy Spring Break, Jayhawks! We hope your time off next week is fun and relaxing.
A KU student boarding a train, 1944-1945. Note the Jayhawk on her suitcase.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/0 1944/1945 Negatives:
Student Activities (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
There is a
hashtag – #todayinthelab – that conservation
and preservation professionals on social media attach to posts that allow
followers to look over the conservator’s shoulder at what they are working on
at the moment. My post today is in this vein, taking a look at and around my
workbench to see the materials from Spencer’s collections that are currently
awaiting or undergoing treatment. I hope to make this a semi-regular feature,
since the supply of wonderful Spencer materials crossing my bench is constantly
A few times a week, I will make the rounds of Spencer to collect items that have been identified as needing conservation treatment or assessment. Spencer staff will deposit fragile or damaged materials in a designated area, along with a slip on which they will note each item’s condition issue. Sometimes staff will email conservators with information about materials that need attention, or they will hand-deliver them to the lab. In any case, I record basic information about all items that come to my bench on a paper log. We have a number of spreadsheets and databases where we document our treatments, but for my day-to-day purposes, I love my low-tech list!
Behind my workbench I keep my brand-new but already-beloved green truck. It is rarely empty! Today its top shelf holds recently treated materials, beautifully boxed and labeled by our student employees, that I need to check off my log and return to either Processing or the stacks, as the case may be. Below are some materials I am preparing for a small but delicate rehousing project – I am making flat, safe enclosures for a group of medieval parchment documents with large seals. After working out some logistics with the curators and manuscripts processing coordinator, I have begun to pre-cut and stage as many of the components as can be prepared ahead of time in order to streamline assembly of the enclosures.
There is so much to love about our new lab space, but I am especially fond of our big workbench cabinets. These feature shelves on the top half, and an assortment of shallow and deep drawers below. Most of the drawers in my cabinet hold supplies, but I keep two in reserve for materials that I am treating. I am in the midst of a months-long project to mitigate (old, not active!) mold on a large archival collection. As I treat each box, I am replacing the old boxes and folders, so I keep a stock of fresh folders available. The folders are sharing the drawer with a scrapbook (made by a KU student prior to her time at KU) that awaits treatment.
Next to my
workbench I have a beautiful press table, with two spacious shelves below.
These currently hold six boxes of material from the recently acquired John
C. Tibbetts Portraits Collection. The gouache paintings in this
collection had been matted and framed, and I have been working to remove the
mats prior to processing. I have just about completed the work on this third
phase of the acquisition and look forward to having clear shelves again, if
only until the next treatment comes along.
Finally, here are the upper shelves of my cabinet. Among the materials currently under my care, there are items from Special Collections (rare books, artists’ books, parchment manuscript documents), Kansas Collection (a Socialist newspaper from the Wilcox collection, a rolled and torn certificate), and University Archives (so many student scrapbooks!). There are also a few enclosure models that I’ve been working on (I’m in the process of writing up instructions for an enclosure I’ve modified, so that I can share it with other conservators), as well as diagrams and notes on other enclosures that I haven’t made often enough to have memorized yet.