Editor's note: The following essays were rekeyed and reprinted on April 8, 2009 in Resource Library with permission of the author from the catalogue Exquisite Miniatures by Wes & Rachelle Siegrist, published by Wes Siegrist 2008 (ISBN 978-0-9821278-0-3 0-9821278-0-4), Copyright © Wes and Rachelle Siegrist 2008. If you have questions or comments regarding the essays, please contact the author as follows:
The American Revival Period in Miniature Painting
By Wes Siegrist
The resulting changes and loss of the miniaturists' business market due to the competition of the less expensive and mass produced mechanical photograph forced American artists to follow the pattern of miniature painters around the globe. Generally, they focused their attention on large-scale works or adapted their business to cooperate with the photography studios by tinting photographs or painting over top of faint images photographically imposed on ivory. A few miniaturists were still afforded the luxury of creating traditional portrait miniatures for discerning wealthy clientele.
By the end of 19th century, the industrial revolution and the mechanical age sweeping the world brought about a reaction among artisans that came to be known as the Arts and Crafts Movement. These artists stressed a return to the tradition of handmade quality and the ability of man to create fine art vs. a mere copy. Among the ranks of these artists were a few miniaturists still practicing the declining miniature art form that perceived the need to organize together for their beloved genre to continue to survive.
Starting in London England in May of 1896 two Revival Period miniature art societies were formed. One was granted the Royal prerogative and exists today as the Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors & Gravers (RMS). The American Society of Miniature Painters in New York NY followed these in March of 1899. Societies dedicated to the promotion and preservation of miniature painting were soon founded in Philadelphia PA, Brooklyn NY, Los Angeles CA, Chicago IL and Washington DC respectively. These societies mounted public exhibitions of miniature art stressing the fine art qualities of their works through developing new techniques mirroring those of the popular trends. The artists adopted more varied new subjects and compositions. Despite the loss of many of these parent societies the revival in interest for miniature art among artists and patrons continued and a second wave of Revival Period societies began to blossom on the scene starting in the 1970's with the formation of two prominent groups in New Jersey and Florida. These societies stressed an importance upon size and scale to delineate miniature from competing art forms, and alongside the only remaining original American society in Washington DC, broadened their scope to emphasize miniature art vs. simply painting.
The formation of the Miniature Artists of America in 1985 marked the first and only organization dedicated to honoring outstanding artists in the field of miniature art in America. The development of the MAA's traveling exhibition featuring works from many of the signature members facilitated the public education about the revival in miniature art and helped spur on additional new societies.
Today, miniature art continues to grow around the globe with the assistance of the digital age and the coordination of the World Federation of Miniaturists, founded in 1995. The genre and the Revival movement still face the challenges of aging leaders and willing volunteers, but the public has clearly not lost its fascination with the spell binding awe of miniature art.
Thoughts on the Future of Miniature Art
By Wes Siegrist
The continuation of this endearing art form as more than a mere mention to art history hinges upon both the broader recognition of contemporary works among the institutions and scholars as well as the continued growth and development of the world's miniature art societies and exhibitions.
Practicing miniaturists and appreciative collectors will persist due to the enchantment of the genre. New artists pursuing miniatures as a career will continue to face the same taunt leveled at miniaturists in the mid 19th century when the movement initially declined -- "Why work so hard to achieve what could be done far easier another way?"
The digital age facilitates instant global communication, stimulates more cooperation and coordination among miniaturists and organizations, and the compilation of information pertaining to miniatures online contributes to new interest and participation.
The exhibition, Exquisite Miniatures by Wes and Rachelle Siegrist, heralds a benchmark in Revival Period history for the movement that we trust will stimulate further exhibits recognizing contemporary work in miniature.
Wes Siegrist, along with his wife, Rachelle, are American artists specializing in miniature paintings. They are actively involved in various miniature art societies and serve on the Board of the Miniature Artists of America.
Introducing Wes and Rachelle Siegrist
By David J. Wagner, Ph. D.
Although my education and work as a curator and tour director of museum exhibitions has been based in art history, my introduction to Wes and Rachelle Siegrist and their artwork has little to do with history per se. Instead, it is based on first-hand life experience.
Having exhibited some 50 works by Wes and Rachelle Siegrist in a dozen exhibitions over the course of the first decade of the new Millennium gives me an unparalleled view of their development and their achievements. (See list in appendix A.)
In my opinion, the most significant thing that has distinguished Wes and Rachelle throughout these exhibitions has been their consistency, in terms of both quality and scale. No other artists that I have worked with have dedicated themselves exclusively to miniature format, while fewer yet have attained the degree of exquisite excellence attained by Wes and Rachelle Siegrist.
With that in mind, the thought occurred to me in the summer of 2008 that the time had come for a one-man/one-woman museum exhibition. No sooner had I sent out a prospectus announcing the exhibition, than I received an enthusiastic email from my colleague, Jerry Bloomer, Secretary of the Board and Director of Public Relations at the prestigious R.W. Norton Art Gallery, in Shreveport, LA. In a follow-up phone call, Jerry confided in me that he had had the same revelation just days before he received my exhibition prospectus. As Jerry recounted, not only had he displayed many of my exhibitions that contained the Siegrists' work, but also The R.W. Norton Art Gallery houses one of the great permanent collections of historic miniatures in the nation. Insomuch as the Norton had not had a temporary exhibition of miniatures since its 1976 Bicentennial historic miniature exhibition, the time had come for a sequel. Like me, though totally unbeknownst to me, Jerry had also concluded that the time had come for a one-man/one-woman museum exhibition of artwork by Wes and Rachelle Siegrist.
Few artists enjoy recognition of their work by museums in solo (or in this case, one-man/one-woman) exhibitions during their own lifetimes, much less by their early forties. Fewer yet enjoy such recognition as specialists in miniatures. Given that Wes and Rachelle produce miniatures of consistent exquisite quality, and that they are tremendously prolific (not to mention wonderful to work with), I foresee this book and the forthcoming premiere of their exhibition of the same title, Exquisite Miniatures by Wes and Rachelle Siegrist at The R.W. Norton Art Gallery as harbingers of many more accomplishments to come.
Dr. David J. Wagner is president of a limited liability corporation that produces traveling exhibitions and provides curatorial, educational, and museum management services nationwide. In addition to the group exhibitions and tours mentioned in Appendix A, he has also organized important one-man museum exhibitions by select artists including The Art of Robert Bateman, Biodiversity In The Art of Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen, Leroy Neiman: On Safari, and Kent Ullberg; A Retrospective. His book American Wildlife Art, which was released by Marquand Books in 2008, has been recognized as the definitive reference source on the subject. (http://www.american-wildlife-art.com)
Catalogue Appendix A
List of Museum Exhibitions that have included miniatures by Wes and Rachelle Siegrist
2001 Society of Animal Artists Annual Exhibition
2002 Society of Animal Artists Annual Exhibition
Anybody Home? by Wes
2003 Society of Animal Artists Annual Exhibition
2004 Society of Animal Artists Annual Exhibition
2005 Society of Animal Artists Annual Exhibition
2006 Society of Animal Artists Annual Exhibition
2007 Society of Animal Artists Annual Exhibition
2008 Society of Animal Artists Annual Exhibition
Blossom - Art of Flowers (Premiere and Tour)
Sponsored by The Susan K. Black Foundation
Endangered Species: Flora and Fauna in Peril (Premiere and Tour)
Sponsored by The Wildling Art Museum
Art of the Rainforest
Paws and Reflect: Art of Canines
Art of the Dive / Portraits of the Deep
(above: front cover of the catalogue Exquisite Miniatures by Wes & Rachelle Siegrist, published by Wes Siegrist 2008 (ISBN 978-0-9821278-0-3 0-9821278-0-4), Copyright © Wes and Rachelle Siegrist 2008)
About the Siegrists
Rachelle Siegrist, born 1970 in Florida, and Wes Siegrist, born 1966 in Indiana, are American artists specializing in miniature paintings primarily of wildlife. They began their career path as miniaturists in 1997 serendipitously after receiving an application for the Miniature Art Society of Florida's annual international exhibition of miniature art. The following year, after their works were again accepted into the show, Rachelle's painting received an award and was purchased for the Society's permanent collection. The Siegrists attended the exhibition in person and were instantly swept up in the fervor surrounding these charming, diminutive works. Thereafter they devoted an increasing amount of their output to miniatures and never looked back to the world of large-scale paintings.
In addition to the annual miniature art exhibitions the husband and wife team are perennial exhibitors in the major wildlife art shows and shows in the United States where they delight in sharing with the public their love of their minute genre.
(above: photo of Rachelle Siegrist. Copyright © Wes and Rachelle Siegrist 2008)
(above: photo of Wes Siegrist. Copyright © Wes and Rachelle Siegrist 2008)
About the exhibition Exquisite Miniatures by Wes and Rachelle Siegrist
Wes and Rachelle Siegrist are a husband and wife team who capture the attention of viewers not with outstretched canvas but with miniature paintings so exquisitely crafted that they are often mistaken for tiny photographs. Miniature art has been in existence for centuries and the current revival in its popularity has given rise to miniature art societies which in turn have given the Siegrists a platform for international recognition among peers and collectors. Their tiny treasures, as collectors often refer to them, typically measure less than 9 square inches and appear even more detailed when viewed under magnification!
Consequently, Wes and Rachelle Siegrist enjoy a dimension of interactivity with viewers that few painters of standard easel-size paintings enjoy. The Siegrists engage and draw their viewers ever closer to the point where they often become lost within the miniature world of the Siegrists. Even so, theirs are not merely miniaturist paintings but replete works of fine art capable of standing along side conventionally sized works and competing in color, composition, and value, in spite of the fact that their exquisite detail is presented on a greatly reduced scale. A hallmark of their work is the ability to convey the feel of larger canvasses or the essence of the natural world in miniature. Small wonder, therefore, that the Siegrists have been referred to as "World Ambassadors for Miniature Art." Their continuing efforts have contributed to recognition and understanding of miniatures as a bona fide part of art history. Their compositions reflect broad and diverse encounters with nature and often stress biodiversity and the ecology of humans as well as wildlife.
Wes and Rachelle Siegrist are members of The Miniature
Artists of America, the Miniature Art Society of Florida, The Miniature
Painters, Sculptors & Gravers Society of Washington, D.C., Cider Painters
of America, and The Hilliard Society of England. Miniatures by the Siegrists
have been routinely displayed in exhibitions organized by miniature societies
and they have been selected for display in museum exhibitions such as Art
and The Animal, Art of the Rainforest, Blossom - Art of Flowers,
and Endangered Species: Flora and Fauna in Peril. Exquisite Miniatures
is comprised in equal parts of nature subjects, portraits, landscapes,
and sill lifes. The Siegrists have won countless awards at major exhibitions.
In addition, they are the authors of the world's first standard definition
of miniature art adopted by the Association of Miniaturist Artists. Exquisite
Miniatures by Wes and Rachelle Siegrist consists of fifty signature
paintings accompanied by information about the Siegrists, their craft,and
miniatures in general. A new book about Wes and Rachelle Siegrist and their
art, with an introduction by Curator, Dr. David J. Wagner, accompanies the
exhibition. (above text concerning Exquisite Miniatures by Wes
and Rachelle Siegrist is courtesy of David J. Wagner, Ph.D. Exquisite
Miniatures is a traveling exhibition curated by Dr. Wagner, who is also
tour director for the exhibition. Exquisite Miniatures will be presented
at May 4 - July 25, 2010 at the R. W. Norton Art Gallery, Shreveport, Louisiana)
The above essays were rekeyed and reprinted on April 8, 2009 in Resource Library with permission of the author, granted to TFAO on April 4, 2009. If you have questions or comments regarding the texts, please contact the author as follows:
Resource Library wishes to extend appreciation to Dr. David J. Wagner, for his help concerning permission for reprinting the above text. Dr. Wagner may be reached as follows:
Resource Library has requested permission from The R.W. Norton Art Gallery to reprint "A Brief History of Portrait Painting in Miniature" from the introduction to The R.W. Norton Art Gallery's Bi-Centennial exhibition catalogue, Portrait Miniatures in Early American History, 1750-1840.
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