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.

Norman Daly and the Oneida Stone

In 1958, Norman Daly, a Cornell art professor, entered a contest sponsored by the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in Utica, NY. The assignment was to create a mural design for a new bank in Utica. It is likely that Daly, who had a deep regard for the art of native peoples, chose the mural’s theme –The Legend of the Oneida Stone. Daly’s entry was the winning design for which he received two cash prizes. No documentation has been found concerning a proposed size for the completed mural, but since a commission from the bank did not come through the mural was never executed.

Daly’s demo mural consisted of five contiguous panels, forming a 16 inch by 8 foot-4-inch long modello. The panels, stored in Daly’s residence, were recently found while archival preparations were undertaken. Efforts are underway to find a permanent home for the mural design.

Painting by Norman Daly consisting of three colorful 'panels' with mythical human and animal figures
‘Rain Prayers’ by Norman Daly | Oil on Canvas | 1947

Looking back over Daly’s life and work, it is significant that he chose a theme that represents the Oneida Nation and the Travels of the Oneida Stone. As an art student at the University of Colorado he had immersed himself in and acquired a life-long reverence for the art of the Native Americans of the Southwest, particularly the Pueblo Nations. Daly’s striking Southwest series of paintings (1945-48) is a substantial homage to the arts of Native peoples which Daly described as having made “splendid artistic contributions.” It seems perfectly fitting that through his mural design Norman Daly would honor one of New York State’s Native American Nations.


Rollins Museum to Exhibit ‘Bull and Cow’

EARLIER THIS YEAR, the Rollins Museum of Art in Winter Park, Florida acquired Norman Daly’s 1949 painting “Bull and Cow”. The donation was facilitated by Museum Exchange. Conservation of the painting was undertaken by West Lake Conservators. Crating and shipment arrangements were handled by Naglee Fine Arts.

Norman Daly's 'Bull and Cow' painting (1949) acquired by Rollins Museum of Art in 2022
“Bull and Cow” from the Mythical Animal series (1949)

We are happy to announce that the current Rollins Museum e-Newsletter announces an exhibition (January 14-April 2, 2023) of five new acquisitions which includes “Bull and Cow”, boldly featured on the newsletter’s front page. Aside from its use in educational programs at Rollins, the painting will likely be shown in context as part of themed exhibitions in the future.

Rollins Museum of Art displays a sustained commitment to acquiring works in various media and time periods, and by artists of diverse backgrounds, in alignment with their teaching mission and the curriculum of a liberal arts education.

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

Fictional Civilization Leaves Behind Lasting Legacy

Logo for the Cornell Chronicle
Graphic from video banner in original news story showing Norman Daly and Llhuroscian imagery.

By David Nutt
December 7, 2022

This fall, Cornell University Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections acquired a trove of archival materials documenting the creation of this fictional society, giving researchers and historians a detailed view into a unique project that is both an absurdist critique of academic anthropology and an attempt to draw crucial connections between the past and the present, highlighting the challenges – spiritual, political and environmental – that all societies struggle to address.

“As an archivist, and someone who’s in charge of preserving the legacy of Cornell faculty, I saw right away that this was a collection that would be wonderful to have,” said Evan Earle ’02, M.S. ’14, the Dr. Peter J. Thaler ‘56 University Archivist. “It documents just one tiny little sliver of Cornell’s history. But it’s a fascinating one.”

Illustration of Llhuroscian landscape

Fragment of a Cave Painting

Fragment of a Cave Painting by Norman Daly c. 1947

We recently discovered this one-of-its-kind painting by Daly, named it and included it with his Southwest Series collection. For his vast work of fictive art, “The Civilization of Llhuros” (1972), Daly created many such fragments said to be from one of the five Llhuroscian archaeological periods. Most likely created around 1946 as a spin-off of a traditionally framed painting by Daly entitled “Composition” (whereabouts unknown) The fragment was found in Daly’s residence in 2022 while preparing materials for the new Norman Daly Collection at the Cornell University Archives. There is a distinct possibility that Daly turned the painting itself into this object.

Posted: 3 December 2022

Detail of Facsimile of a Cave Painting by Norman Daly c. 1947

The Llhuros Symposium Gets Real

Beauvais Lyons
Beauvais Lyons

On September 28, 2022, University of Tennessee Chancellor’s Professor Beauvais Lyons, coordinator of the upcoming Llhuros Symposium (October 8th) spoke to Todd Steed of station WUOT (University of Tennessee Public Radio) to discuss Norman Daly’s “Civilization of Llhuros”, as well as his own work. The interview lasts about 23 minutes and is well worth listening to.

The University of Tennessee School of Art hosted the very successful all-day virtual Llhuros Symposium on Saturday, October 8th to mark the the 50th anniversary of Norman Daly’s “Civilization of Llhuros.” Fifteen artists and scholars discussed this pioneering multimedia work of archaeological fiction.

L I S T E N  (23:00)

Note: The virtual symposium was recorded and will soon be available at the University of Tennessee School of Art Vimeo Site very soon. We’ll announce the availability.

UTK Prof. Beauvais Lyons

50 years ago, an artist convincingly exhibited a fake Iron Age civilization

Trallib (oil container) from the Middle Period of Llhuros, 1971. Photo by Marilyn Rivchin

Invented civilizations are usually thought of as the stuff of sci-fi novels and video games, not museums.

Yet in 1972, the Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art at Cornell University exhibited “The Civilization of Llhuros,” an imaginary Iron Age civilization. Created by Cornell Professor of Art Norman Daly, who died in 2008, the show resembled a real archaeological exhibition with more than 150 objects on display.

With scams, deceptions and lies flourishing in our digital age, an art exhibition that convincingly presents fiction as fact has particular currency.

Extracted from an extended article published by the Llhuros Symposium director, Beauvais Lyons for The Conversation, September 14, 2022.

We’re now looking ahead to the Llhuros (virtual) Symposium 2022. All are invited to attend.

An archival artifact--Trallib oil container -- from the Civilization of Llhuros

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

Furthering the Acquisition of Daly Paintings

Norman Daly had an illustrious career as a painter during the 1940s with his Southwest Series and Mythical Animal Series. Several works from that period are now offered for donation through Museum Exchange, the first digital platform for art donations that matches approved donors with subscribed museums. Three paintings will be available in the summer catalog from July 1 through September 2022.

We are always happy to discuss aquisition of a work, included in the galleries, to a qualified museum or organization. Please contact us if you are interested.

Three small images of the summer catalog offerings
Three paintings are being offered in the summer catalog.

Wolf by Norman Daly