In 1978, sculptor Christopher Wilmarth was asked by poet Frederick Morgan to illustrate his translation of a group of seven poems by the French symbolist Stéphane Mallarmé. The resulting print series, known as Breath, is also connected to an elaborate group of works by Wilmarth—charcoal and pastel drawings, etchings, and wall sculptures—each titled after the first line of a Mallarmé poem. This exhibition is selected primarily from these paintings, drawings, sculptures, and prints; it focuses on the way that Wilmarth worked in a variety of media to deal with the themes of Mallarmé’s poems and to shape his project. The exhibition also includes related works on loan from two private collections, providing a sense of how the Mallarmé project continued to inform Wilmarth’s sculpture in the years that followed. While the exhibition largely features works related to or emerging from the Mallarmé project, it also highlights several other sculptures from the Harvard Art Museums collections—including two early, Brancusi-inspired wood sculptures (part of a recent gift of the Susan Wilmarth estate) and the recently acquired October Ladders—that have never previously been exhibited at the museums.
An online resource dedicated to the Christopher Wilmarth archives held by the Harvard Art Museums accompanies the exhibition. The Christopher Wilmarth Special Collection assembles many of the artist’s studio files given to the Fogg Museum over the last 16 years by the artist’s widow, Susan Wilmarth, and later by her estate. The materials in the online repository include technical specification sheets, diagrams, and maquettes for assembling many of the Wilmarth sculptures that can be found in collections worldwide, as well as installation shots of the works. Some of Wilmarth’s musical recordings are also available through the special collection.
Curated by Sarah Kianovsky, Curator of the Collection in the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art, Harvard Art Museums; and Laura Kenner, Ph.D. candidate in Harvard’s Department of History of Art and Architecture.
The exhibition and online special collection received support from the Rosenblatt Fund for Post-War American Art. Modern and contemporary art programs at the Harvard Art Museums are made possible in part by generous support from the Emily Rauh Pulitzer and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art. The Harvard Art Museums’ presentation of Reverie: Christopher Wilmarth, Before and After Mallarmé honors the memory of Susan Wilmarth.