Browse Exhibits (13 total)

Our Own Melodies

This is a book of children's music with original melodies written by students in the Danbury Normal School's class of 1925.  Each piece of music, most of which are based on Mother Goose rhymes, is accompanied by an original woodcut illustration.  Renderings of the melody lines were created by our special projects adjunct archivist, Ann Victor.

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In its Time - A Fresh Water: Explorations in Form and Space by Herbert Hofmann-Ysenbourg


The title of this exhibit comes from México en el mundo de las colecciónes de arte: México contemporáneo. 1, Volume 6, 1994, pg 132. 

"Su obra mexicana fue claramente en su momento un agua fresca que no dejaron
de percibir los artistas jóvenes (his Mexican work was clearly in its time a fresh water that inspired young artists)."

Herbert Hofmann-Ysenbourg (1907-1973) began his artistic journey in Frankfurt, Germany after the First World War.  His first training was in the Bauhaus workshops of Weimar Germany.  The young Jewish sculptor transplanted to Paris in the late 20s where he furthered his training under the guidance of Aristide Maillol who had come to Paris forty years earlier from Roussillon on the Spanish border with France.  From Paris, Hofmann-Ysenbourg was invited to the Museum of Modern Art in New York and was introduced to the works of the Mexican painter Jose Clemente Orozco.  Orozco’s mix of the visual traditions of Mexico with the minimal, geometric abstract forms that Hofmann-Ysenbourg had seen in contemporary European sculpture of the period led him to travel to Mexico City in 1939.  

According to a career survey by Antonio Luna Arroyo, Hofmann-Ysenbourg fell in love with the artistic tradition of Mexico and adopted it as his new home.  He also met and married a young art student, Kitzia Domenge, who also became a well-known artist, mostly for her stained glass work, and collaborated with Hoffmann-Ysenbourg - most notably on the Iglesia de San José del Altillo in Coyoacán, Mexico. 

Hoffmann-Ysenbourg’s own style eventually fell into a grouping similar to many of the ‘Generación de la Raptura’ who had rejected the dominant style of the Mexican muralists for a more minimal, primal, and modern aesthetic.  Generación de la Raptura would set the stylistic trend in Mexico through the 1950s into the 60s and Hoffmann-Ysenbourg’s work exemplified that trend. His most popular works combine new world and old world aesthetics. His sculpture can give the impression that one is viewing a piece unearthed from an undiscovered pre-Columbian civilization; at the same time, it is strikingly 1960s.  His art was also an expression of an ascendent Mexico and the modernity with which this societal progress was inextricably linked.  He admired Mexican colonial painting—and was a connoisseur of pre-Columbian archeology and mural painting—and remained inspired by traditional Latin American artists. The placement of Hofmann-Ysenbourg sculpture in public spaces around Mexico and South America such as the Nacional Financiera and the Corporate Offices of Supermercados SA in Mexico City are examples of his appeal to Mexicans in the early 1960s. Hofmann-Ysenbourg's combining of cultural influences to create his own 'immigrant aesthetic' worked well as a method of conveying the modernity of the corporate world while also demonstrating an embrace of Mexican culture.  

However, the appeal of his work outside Mexico is difficult to gauge.  A New York Times reviewer said of Hofmann-Ysenbourg’s one known U.S. exhibition at the Forum Gallery in New York:

In many of [his pieces] there are glimpses of an impulse that was frozen out in the finish.  Occasionally his club-headed people resist a numbing stylization to maintain some sort of formal vitality… a disappointing show.  (New York Times - May 4, 1963, pg L 22- Proquest, January 27, 2018)

Around the same time, Hofmann-Ysenbourg’s sculpture caught the eye of a young executive, Dr. Al Stewart, who had come to Mexico City from the U.S. in the early 1960s. Dr. Stewart had been one of the first African-Americans to become an officer in the U.S. Navy during World War II.  He then was able to earn a Ph.D. from the University of St. Louis, the first African-American to do so, only after prominent faculty at the University threatened resignation unless Stewart was admitted.  

Stewart was known to have spent time in Mexico in the early 1960s.  Hofmann-Ysenbourg’s works would have also been visible to Stewart around Mexico City where a number of Hofmann-Ysenbourg’s works had just been installed.  It is even possible that Stewart came into contact with Hofmann-Ysenbourg's work by way of his corporate commissions installed coincident with Stewart's time in Mexico. The art Stewart acquired in his life shows that he developed an enduring appreciation for Mexican art in particular.  Regardless of his reasons, Stewart acquired a significant number of Hofmann-Ysenbourg's works and brought them back to his home in Connecticut.

Hofmann-Ysenbourg stayed in Mexico for the rest of his life, eventually becoming a citizen. Kitzia Hofmann and Herbert Hofmann-Ysenbourg had a son, born in 1950 who is the renown cinematographer Henner Hofmann. Kitzia’s niece, Yvonne Domenge, who had received some training from her aunt, is a well-known sculptor.

The grouping in this online exhibit of Hofmann-Ysenboug pieces was bequeathed to WestConn by Dr. Al Stewart. Stewart had served as a dean of WestConn‘s School of Business and had spent much of his career prior at Union Carbide.  In addition to pieces by Hofmann-Ysenbourg, Stewart had also acquired pieces by Fernando Leal and Joesph Raskob (another European who emigrated to Mexico).  

It may be that Stewart saw in Hofmann-Ysenbourg‘s work a kindred spirit of another "outsider" who had forged a successful path to become an insider.  Now, these pieces have found a home at WestConn for which Dr. Stewart had developed an enduring bond in his time living near and his time working at the University.

The logo for this exhibit is Hofmann-Ysenbourg's mark - a scorpion.

A partial list of additional sources:

  • "Al Stewart: Still a champion of education after 50 years." News-Times. Accessed February 1, 2018.
  • Canaday, John. "Housing Moderns In Mexico." New York Times (New York), April 18, 1965. Accessed February 1, 2018.
  • Goldman, Shifra Meyerowitz. "Nueva presencia: the human image in contemporary Mexican art." Ph.D. diss., 1977.
  • Luna Arroyo, Antonio. "El escultor Herbert Hofmann Isenbourg." Cuadernos de bellas artes. no. 3 (March 1961): 44-52. Accessed February 1, 2018
  • Nelken, Margarita. "Nuevos Aspectos de la Plastica Mexicana / New Aspects Of Mexican Plastic Arts." Artes De México, no. 33 (1961): 1-10.
  • Olson, Emily. "Transcending "Insider" Art: Enrique Chavarría, Surrealism, and Outsider Art." Ph.D. diss., Thesis / Dissertation ETD, 2011.

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World War II in Life Magazine Advertisements


The entry of the United States into WWII demanded the mobilization of virtually all of American society and civilian support for the war effort was crucial to achieving victory. This exhibit demonstrates the role of corporate advertising toward that end using advertisements which appeared in LIFE Magazine *, perhaps the most popular magazine of the time.

The exhibit also highlights some of the artists whose work formed a crucial part of the advertisements’ messages.

* LIFE Magazine (ISSN 0024-3019) was published bY Time Inc.  The following are scans from the physical copies owned by Western Connecticut State University (WCSU) and are displayed here in compliance with fair use restrictions.  WCSU claims no rights to the materials; reproduction of these items and other uses must be obtained from the rights holder and not WCSU.

Plumbing the Depths: Candlewood Lake


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Turning over a New Leaf: Identification of a Medieval Manuscript Leaf


Manuscripts started to become popular in Europe beginning, roughly, in the 8th century AD. (An example of an 8th century Irish manuscript, courtesy of the Bodleian Library, is available below). 

Used mostly for religous purposes by the church and its adherents, the most common types of manuscripts were bibles, books of hours, and other liturgical texts.

Due to several factors, not all manuscripts survive intact into the present day; sometimes only a page survives, as is the case here at WestConn.

But how much can we learn from a single page from a medieval manuscript? 

The short answer: more than I thought.

The long answer: There are some basic methods that can be utilized for document identification in general.  To investigate our specific leaf, we knew that there were some things the physical object could tell us, other things that we could infer or suppose, and other things we may never know for sure.




Danbury Redevelopment Appraisals

Robert Noce photo.jpg

The redevelopment of downtown area in the late 1950’s began as a direct result of the disastrous floods that struck the city in August and October 1955 and the subsequent efforts at flood control and revitalization.

This exhibit concentrates on one specific focus of those redevelopment efforts, the appraisal of the residential and commercial properties in the proposed area of redevelopment. It also highlights the life and career of one of the two experts selected to perform those appraisals, Robert N. Noce, a long time Danbury resident and business, political and community leader.

The Hidden Old Main


While "Old Main" is WestConn's oldest and probably most iconic building, its interior and uses have changed considerably over the last century.  For many years it was the college's only or main building (hence the name Old Main) and its original design answered the multiple needs that had to be met by a single facility.

This exhibit aims to bring to light some aspects of this building now no longer visible to most visitors.

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Phrenologists, Pseudoscience & The Danbury Octagon House


The city of Danbury’s quest to preserve a singular architectural landmark of the city’s mid-19th century history will be celebrated when Western Connecticut State University presents a special exhibit highlighting the 160-year-old Octagon House and Orson Squire Fowler, whose 1848 book inspired its construction.

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100 Years Since the First World War


This exhibit features three cases of material from the archives’ collection.  From political cartoons to memorials, the pieces included in this exhibit provide a fascinating glimpse into America during the First World War.

Woodrow Wilson in August of 1914:

  • “The effect of the war upon the United States will depend upon what American citizens say and do. Every man who really loves America will act and speak in the true spirit of neutrality, which is the spirit of impartiality and fairness and friendliness to all concerned. The spirit of the Nation in this critical matter will be determined largely by what individuals and society and those gathered in public meetings do and say, upon what newspapers and magazines contain, upon what ministers utter in their pulpits, and men proclaim as their opinions on the street… The people of the United States are drawn from many nations, and chiefly from the nations now at war. It is natural and inevitable that there should be the utmost variety of sympathy and desire among them with regard to the issues and circumstances of the conflict.” *

This battle for the hearts and minds used the printed word, cartoons, illustrations and photographs as the tools to attempt sway public opinion toward militarily and materially supporting the Allies. 

Many of Danbury’s own were swayed to support the war including, George Bennett Hawley.

Through these materials, we have a unique glimpse of the period; 100 Years Since the First World War commemorates the efforts of American soldiers and their experiences in war.


WestConn's First African-American Students


It would not be until the late 1960s that the composition of college and university student body populations began to numerically reflect the African-American populations around them in the U.S.  In a 1969 photograph, members of the then newly-formed Afro-American Club can be seen giving the “Black Power” fist salute for their yearbook photo signaling an overt change in the culture at WestConn; however,  earlier in the century, the educational possibilities were quite different for those Afro-American Club members’ parents and grandparents.  The population of African-Americans was small in Danbury in the early 1900s; in 1895, there were only 14 registered births in the City of Danbury of persons considered to be “black.” Furthermore, based on photographic evidence, there was a very small number in the community that entered Danbury High School in that period.   Yet, standing in the back row of the 1906 senior class picture for the Danbury Normal School (first graduating class of the precursor to WestConn), there is a lone young African-American woman.