It's a doll world after all at the Baltimore Museum of Art

February 08, 1991|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

Dolls indeed.

Dolls dolls dolls dolls dolls dolls dolls.

There are great big dolls and little teeny dolls, white dolls and black dolls, commercial dolls and homemade dolls, people dolls and animal dolls, English and Russian and Native American and Amish and Mexican and Ukrainian and Italian and German dolls, just about every kind of doll you can think of, but all of them are fabric dolls.

"Warm Remembrances: The Fabric of Childhood" is a charming exhibit that will appeal to anybody this side of Scrooge on Christmas Eve.

About 100 fabric or "rag" dolls dating from the late 18th to the mid-20th century, from the museum's and private collections, are gathered together here. But rather than rows of dolls in chronological order, these are grouped in a series of subject presentations and combined with related objects: doll and crib quilts, doll carriages, beds, a high chair, a chest of drawers and I don't know what all.

There are the Amish dolls, faceless because "the Amish thought that to capture one's likeness . . . was contrary to the Biblical commandment against the making of 'graven images,' " according to one of the (as always) enlightening texts by curator Anita Jones.

In the section on primitives vs. "art" dolls, the small, simple examples are ultimately more appealing, though they can't compete for finery with the lace dress of "Lady Doll" or "Madame Recamier," modeled on the portrait of Madame Recamier by Jacques Louis David.

Among commercially made dolls, there is everything from "Venus," a French product with an elaborate mohair wig who looks like she's just the sassiest thing in town, to an Italian doll who appears disagreeable enough to hit her best friend over the head with the broom she's carrying, to a plain but pert doll made in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration's Handicraft Project in Milwaukee. And, of course, there's a "Raggedy Ann" doll.

Among the homemade versions are twin boy and girl dolls made about 1910 by Clara Wechter Wiest for her twin children Victor and Margaret, who are shown in a photograph over the mantel in the small roomlike setting in which the dolls have been placed.

And then, if you didn't have enough money to buy a commercial doll and weren't skillful enough to make one, you could always get an inexpensive cut-out doll, a front and back printed on cloth that may be cut out, sewn together and stuffed at home. The show includes quite a number of these, including a cat, a dog, Santa Claus, Uncle Sam, a policeman and a dressed-up character called "Dude."

Fun. All fun.


When: Tuesdays through Fridays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Thursday evenings until 7), Saturdays and Sundays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., through July 21.

Where: The Baltimore Museum of Art, Art Museum Drive near Charles and 31st streets.

Call: 396-7101.

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