How to Look at a Painting

Have you ever really looked at a painting?

Cornell art professors Norman Daly and Kenneth Evett present a spontaneous pictorial analysis of Johannes Vermeer’s mid-17th century painting “Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window.” As accomplished artists themselves, as well as educators, Evett and Daly’s presentation weaves together keen technical observations with expressions of admiration for Vermeer’s artistry. While the two enthusiastically guide us in how to see a painting, consideration of symbolism or content is generally left to each viewer.

The original painting of “Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window” included a painting-within-a-painting of cupid on the wall behind the girl. This image was later over-painted leaving the mottled light-splashed wall we see in this video. A decade after the deaths of Daly and Evett, a conservator discovered the over-painted image of cupid while x-raying the painting. During the period from 2018-2021, the painting was cleaned and restored to its original composition.

“Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window” by Johannes Vermeer has been in the collection of Gemäldegalerie in Dresden, Germany since 1742.

Gemaelde Galerie:

Norman Daly Art:
Civilization of Llhuros:
Cornell University Archives (RMC):

Kenneth Evett:

A path-breaking engagement of classroom and archives

The first formal connection between the Norman Daly Collection, held by the Cornell University Archives, and a university graduate course has recently taken place.

Student class at Archives investigates contents of  boxes.

In the Spring of 2023, Professor Poppy McLeod had planned to take her Advanced Communication Theory class, a requirement for first-year PhD students, on a field trip to a physical environment that would illustrate a particular theory the class was studying from an interdisciplinary approach.

“At first I was thinking of taking them to a zoo,” McLeod said, “until I read the announcement that the Archives had acquired the Norman Daly collection, at the heart of which was ‘The Civilization of Llhuros.’ I thought ‘Wow, that’s it. That’s what I’m going to do!’”


Student class at Archives investigates contents of boxes.

Acquisition of Norman Daly’s “Bull and Cow”

Norman Daly's Painting 'Bull and Cow' with Rollins Museum of Art in Winter Lake, Florida.
Bull and Cow’ pictured with an architectural rendering of the new and highly-anticipated Rollins Museum of Art set to open in 2023 in downtown Winter Park (photo of future museum by Orlando Weekly)

We are delighted to announce that Daly’s modernist painting ‘Bull and Cow’ (1949), from his Mythical Animal Series, has been acquired by the Rollins Museum of Art in Winter Park, Florida. The 24 x 36 inch oil painting was conserved by the esteemed West Lake Conservators in Mottsville, New York. Subsequently, the painting was crated and shipped to Florida by our long-standing partner in the storage and handling of Norman Daly’s work-—Naglee Fine Arts. Accompanying the painting was a small, exquisite preparatory study done by Daly while planning the execution of ‘Bull and Cow.’ Gisela Carbonell, curator at the Rollins Museum writes, “We are so thrilled to receive ‘Bull and Cow’ and look forward to integrating it into our collection, website and teaching.”

In the 1940s, several decades before the “Civilization of Llhuros” was ‘discovered’, Norman Daly was creating his Southwest Series and Mythical Animal Series of paintings. In the 1950s he wrote of his deep reverence for the art of the American Indian and the Spanish southwest, lamenting the fact that few universities had the courage to offer courses in these essential subjects. His remarkable paintings, in which we clearly see many of the themes later developed in “Llhuros”, are now available for acquisition by qualified museums in the United States.

To facilitate acquisitions of Daly’s paintings, we are a registered donor in partnership with the online Museum Exchange where donors are matched with museums who subscribe to the quarterly online catalogs. “Bull and Cow” was acquired during the Winter 2022 quarter.

Detail of Norman Daly's 'Bull and Cow' painting (1949) acquired by Rollins Museum of Art in 2022

Llhuros in today’s university classroom

thumbs_cornell-asmith-3Beginning in 2012, Norman Daly’s Civilization of Llhuros has played a starring role in two Cornell University courses. During the spring semesters (2012 and 2013), as part of Prof. Adam Smith’s anthropology course “The Rise and Fall of ‘Civilization’”, students were confronted with and worked with Llhurocian objects. Then, this past summer, Llhuros played a role during the anthropology course, “Art in the Modern World”,  which challenged students (many from the College of Engineering) to explore and directly experience the arts.

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