The entry format for the Community Collection database has evolved, because some of what it records is fact, but much of it is fiction used to reinforce the story line. Consider the entry for Prof Karl Reinhardt’s portrait:
KNOX, Susan Ricker [1874-1959]
Gentleman in Spectacles / Portrait of Dr Wilhelm Reinhardt
oil on canvas / 14.25 inches by 10.25 inches
Wilhelm August Karl Ernst Reinhardt, first president of the Northwest Iowa Normal School, was born in Hildesheim, Germany, in 1874 and received his doctorate from Göttingen University at the age of twenty-seven. His emigration to North America in 1904—facilitated by family already living in St. Louis and the German exhibit at the World’s Fair that year—brought him to a faculty position at Washington University. He taught history there for ten years until his appointment as first president of the new Normal College at Agincourt, Iowa. Susan Ricker Knox’s portrait, commissioned by the college Board of Trustees as part of his investiture in the Fall of 1915, hung in the Board Room until it was put on permanent loan to the Community Collection in 1970—a place where more people can see it.
Susan Ricker Knox was born in New Hampshire and evidenced artistic ability from an early age. At the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia and the Cooper Union in Brooklyn, she studied with Howard Pyle and Douglas Volk, and continued her education in Spain, Italy, Paris and London. With studios in both New York City and York Harbor, Maine, Knox specialized in portraits, especially of mothers and children. One critic noted: “Her special attention to the sitter’s character, or the spiritual, was a trademark of her work.” It’s not known whether Professor Reinhardt sat for this portrait in Iowa, New York or some intermediate point or whether she may have worked form a photograph.
The portrait was restored by Anthony Moore Paintings Conservation in 2008.
As one of the more fully developed entries, there is a wide variety of information here. Without actually telling the reader what they can “take to the bank”, I’ve crafted a sort of graphic code which, hopefully, won’t get in the way.
- The artist Susan Ricker Knox is an actual person; her dates are accurate (or as accurate as the internet has been willing to provide). Alternate spellings or variations in a name are so identified. Were Knox an invented person, as some of the artists are—particularly when artworks are unsigned but could still be useful in telling a story—her name would have appeared in bold italics.
- Works sometimes arrived with a title on or attached to the piece: prints are often titled in pencil on the front; paintings, sometimes of the reverse. If the title was given, it appears in “quotes”; if we’ve invented one, without quotes, as it appears here. The subject of Ricker’s portrait remains unidentified, sadly, but that omission allowed us to repurpose the portrait to enhance the story.
- A date for its creation is sometimes provided, but in this case we’ve bracketed it (i.e., guessed) based on the style of clothing. Again, italics indicate the date has been manufactured—admittedly a subtle distinction.
- The medium and size are accurate, determined from the piece itself and true. Height precedes width.
- The story of the subject and/or of the artist we’ve left uncoded, rather than allowing formatting to get in the way of narrative. In this case, Dr. Wilhelm A.K.E. Reinhardt is an invented character for the Northwest Iowa Normal School story. Ms Knox’s information is as truthful as limited research can make it.
- REMEMBER: Italicized information is fictional or uncertain.
Many of the early entries were more fully developed as parts of contributing stories. But I must confess to increasing laziness recently, with the intent to come back at a later date.