MILWAUKEE, WIS.- The Haggerty Museum of Art
at Marquette University will open two exhibitions featuring the intersection of language and visual arts. For the Sake of a Single Verse is a body of work by artist Ben Shahn that was inspired by the writing of Rainer Maria Rilke, and The Ariel Poems is the result of a 20th-century collaboration between poets and artists.
For the Sake of a Single Verse is a portfolio of twenty-two lithographs from the Haggerty Museum of Arts collection created by artist Ben Shahn. The prints illustrate a passage from Rainer Maria Rilkes only novel, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910). This semi-autobiographic novel tells the story of a destitute college student from an aristocratic Danish family living in Paris in the early 1900s. The book made a profound and lasting impression on Shahn. Although Shahn first read the novel while visiting Paris in the 1920s, he didnt create the illustrations until 1968a year before his death.
Ben Shahn was born in Lithuania in 1898 to an Orthodox Jewish family. As a child he witnessed anti-Semitism and political persecution, including the arrest and imprisonment of his socialist father. In 1906 he immigrated with his family to New York, where he lived for most of the rest of his life. Shahn was a painter and printmaker whose work most often focused on social and political concerns. He is known as a leading figure of the Social Realist movement.
Rainer Maria Rilke was born in Prague in 1875. He is revered as one of the greatest German- language lyric poets of all time. Rilke published his first book of poetry at the age of nineteen. He traveled extensively and had numerous influences--from Leo Tolstoy, to Friedrich Nietzsche, to Charles Baudelaire. He was also strongly influenced by visual art and artists--particularly Paul Cézanne and August Rodin, whom he befriended while living in Paris between 1902 and 1914.
The Ariel Poems are a series of chapbooks (small booklets) published by Faber and Gwyer and later by Faber and Faber, an independent publishing house in Great Britain. The thirty-eight poems that constitute the First Series were published between 1927 and 1931. In 1954, eight poems were added as the Second Series. The chapbooks featured in this exhibition are part of the Raynor Memorial Libraries Special Collections and University Archives, which holds a complete collection of titles in the series. Conceived as a collaboration between poets and artists, each chapbook was authored and illustrated by different individuals. While many of the poets are well-known today, perhaps the most significant of these is T. S. Eliot. Eliot joined Faber and Gwyer as an editor in 1925, and remained there for the rest of his career. This exhibition was curated by Amy Cooper Cary, Head, Special Collections and University Archives, Raynor Memorial Libraries and Dr. Angela Sorby, Professor, Department of English.