WENDY JOAN SHADWELL; CURATOR OF PRINTS, AUTHOR, AND LECTURER
Wendy Joan Shadwell, curator of prints emerita at the New-York Historical Society, died October 23, 2007, at the Cabrini Hospice in New York City after a long battle with cancer. Miss Shadwell was a native of New York City.
As Curator of prints at the New-York Historical Society from 1974 until her retirement in 2002, Miss Shadwell oversaw the Society’s approximately three million holdings of prints, photographs, architectural drawings, and ephemera. Always looking to add to the collection, she greatly expanded the society’s holdings. Among her important acquisitions were the architectural plans for the Grand Central Terminal.
Because of her knowledge of the Society’s large respository of John J. Audubon watercolors and prints of the Birds of America, Miss Shadwell was frequently called on to answer questions from people who believed they had a rare Audubon work. She usually warned them not to count on taking a world cruise or sending their children to college on any proceeds. Only once in 25 years did anyone have the real article. Over the years, she was a guide and mentor to the many assistants and interns who entered the department.
For Miss Shadwell it was important to reach out to the public, and she organized and mounted numerous exhibitions from her department’s collections, including circus posters, 1939 World’s Fair objects, advertisements in various fields, Civil War material, and even ones on pets, pests, and feathers. Through these wide and varied exhibits, New Yorkers could enjoy visually the cultural and social past of their city.
Miss Shadwell was acknowledged as an expert in the field of American prints and printmaking, and wrote and lectured extensively. She contributed to the works of other authors as well and wrote texts for many catalogues. She had a particular interest in ephemera, especially nineteenth-century trade cards and catalogues. As an author, she was instrumental in bringing early American printmaking to the view of a wide audience with her book American Printmaking: The First 150 Years, published in 1969, which is a valuable reference for historians and collectors. In her first years at the Society, Miss Shadwell co-authored the two-volume Catalogue Of American Portraits in the New-York Historical Society (1974).
She was a long-time member of several professional organizations, among them the American Historical Print Collectors Society on whose board she sat, the Grolier Club, the Archivists Round Table, and the Print Council of America.. Until her illness she served on the board and the collections committee of the Staten Island Historical Society. In keeping with her concern for historic preservation, she was a member of the Friends of the Alice Austen House Museum on Staten Island, where she assisted in educational and cultural programs. She was also an Associate of the Episcopalian Community of the Holy Spirit, St. Hilda’s House, in New York City.
An enthusiastic traveler, Miss Shadwell visited places as distant as Antarctica and New Zealand as well as Central America and across the United States. She was an avid whale watcher and bird watcher and supporter of environmental causes. She also enjoyed marshaling at numerous golf tournaments, including the 2000 US Amateur and 2005 PGA Championship at Baltustrol Golf Club in New Jersey.
THE SHADWELL LEGACY OF CARING
Background: Both of Wendy’s parents were born in Greenwich, England and lived through the chaos of World War One when they were quite young. Howard has only one sibling, a sister, who had only one child and Phyllis had only one sibling, a brother who had no children. When WWII was imminent, the British insurance company for whom Howard worked decided to send him to the United States to open a branch in NYC, to maintain secure office in case the home office in Britain was bombed out of existence. Howard came to the U.S. before Pearl Harbor propelled the U.S. into the war. Wendy, who was their only child, was born in 1942 in the United States. Wendy remained single and had no children; therefore, her carefully chosen charities became her “Children”.
The legacy of Wendy learning about benevolence began with her mother’s altruism and was then further developed by her father’s support St. George’s Society, among a few other carefully chosen charities of that post-war era.
Mother took on two tasks during and even after the war.
The first was for their two families back in England. Given that Great Britain was blocked from receiving supplies by ship from the Caribbean and Mid & South American Atlantic, Mother’s solution was to share their quota of U.S. rationed items by sending the English families nonperishable’s, especially canned goods, any food staple whose preparation required only adding water and also treats like candy and Jello which were pre-sweetened.
Mother’s second task was closer to home on Staten Island and laid the groundwork for Wendy’s recent benevolence in her estate planning. Mother believed that since she was not where she could do for ailing or lonely relatives, she was obliged to do for such folks here. She would routinely do essential shopping for neighborhood shut-ins and pick Wendy up from school at the end of the school day to take young Wendy to visit the shut-ins. Wendy cheerfully entertained the lonely person by relating the highlights of her school day while Mother put away the shopping which she had done and sometimes started the evening meal for that individual. Since Wendy loved everything about school, especially reading and music, she never ran out of stories or songs to share with her “audience” and became very comfortable around lonely or handicapped people. Wendy’s compassion for those living with misfortunes (whether widow, widower, physically or emotionally challenged) began with her mother’s example and was nurtured by her father’s choices of favorite charities.
Father’s daily weekday commute into Manhattan and weekend of doing chores around the Staten Island house and gardens left him no time for good deeds in the neighborhood. He more than made up for this by choosing a few very worthy causes. He was as scrupulous as Wendy was about selecting only the most creditable charities. Being British, when Father learned about St. George’s mission of caring for the British girls who married American soldiers, moved to this country, and then became widows without any financial benefits from a husband’s past military duty, he became a loyal supporter.
Howard’s attitude that those who have been fortunate are compelled to help others and Phyllis’s example provided the stimuli for Wendy’s suggested “Shadwell Buddy System”. The ultimate goal would be for able-bodied beneficiaries, whether students on scholarship or elderly, to offer companionship to shut-ins among your beneficiaries. Considering that putting the kettle on for tea the was the first step for the Shadwells when entertaining guests in their home, St. George’s teas which are designed to encourage friendships among the beneficiaries are befitting the British tradition of hospitality and serve as a significant first step toward Wendy’s intention.
WENDY JOAN SHADWELL (1942-2007)
The Staten Island Historical Society honors the memory of Wendy Shadwell, a longtime friend and enthusiastic supporter of the Society. Her generosity made the Bringing Up Baby: Children’s Furniture and Family Life exhibit possible.
A native Staten Islander, Miss Shadwell attended Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia in Fredericksburg Virginia, from which she graduated in 1963 with honors in English and induction into Phi Beta Kappa. She then undertook graduate studies in art history at Columbia University.
In 1974, Miss Shadwell joined the staff of the New-York Historical Society as Curator of Prints, and she served in that capacity until her retirement in 2002. In her position, Miss Shadwell oversaw the Society’s approximately three million holdings of prints, photographs, architectural drawings, and ephemera. Always looking to add to the collection, she greatly expanded the Society’s holdings. Among her important acquisitions were the architectural plans for Grand Central Terminal.
For Miss Shadwell it was important to reach out to the general public, and she organized and mounted numerous exhibitions from her department’s collections, including circus posters, 1939 World’s Fair objects, advertisements, and Civil War material. Through these varied exhibits, New Yorkers could enjoy their city’s cultural and social past.
Miss Shadwell was acknowledged as an expert in the field of American prints and printmaking, and she wrote and lectured extensively. She contributed to the works of other authors as well and wrote texts for many catalogues. She had a particular interest in ephemera, especially nineteenth-century trade cards and catalogues. As an author, she was instrumental in bringing early American printmaking to the view of a wide audience with her book American Printmaking: The First 150 Years, published in 1969, which is a valuable reference for historians and collectors. Miss Shadwell also co-authored the two-volume Catalogue of American Portraits in the New-York Historical Society(1974).
An enthusiastic traveler, Miss Shadwell visited places as distant as Antarctica and New Zealand as well as Central America and across the United States. She was a avid whale watcher and bird watcher and supporter of environmental causes.
For more than 20 years, Miss Shadwell was actively involved in supporting the work of the Staten Island Historical Society. She was particularly interested in the activities of the Curatorial Department, and served on the Society’s Collection Committee from its formation in 1983 until her passing. Miss Shadwell was also a valued member of the Society’s Board of Directors. Throughout her years with the Staten Island Historical Society, Miss Shadwell willingly shared her professional expertise, her fondness for Staten Island, and her love of history. Wendy Shadwell was a friend, a mentor, and a generous supporter, and all of her colleagues at the Staten Island Historical Society are honored to have known her.
Resolved by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Mary Washington that the Wendy Shadwell ’63 Program Endowment in Art History is established. The endowment shall be guided by the following criteria:
The endowment earnings shall be used by the Department of Art and Art History for such purposes as guest speakers, special workshops or conferences hosted by the department, focused on and working toward a long-term goal of curriculum enhancement promoting classical Greek Art and Architecture, classical Roman Art and Architecture, European Art History pre-1910, British Art History pre-1910 and American Art History pre-1935.
It was the benefactor’s wish to promote collaboration between the Department of Art and Art History and the Department of English, Linguistics and Communication, using its companion endowment funded through the same bequest, on joint projects including Literature and Visual Arts, Literature and Arts with Religion, and Literature in the art of Printmaking and Ephemera, all from the 18th and 19th century.
Spending authorization and the determination of specific uses of these funds shall reside with the chair of the Department of Art and Art History with the approval of the University’s chief academic officer.
Should the purpose of this endowment become impossible or impractical, the University shall be permitted to establish an endowed scholarship for a rising junior who is in good overall academic standing at the end of the first term of the sophomore year and majoring in British Literature. Upon graduation, the student will be expected to have completed at least five of the six specified courses of Shakespeare, British Literature pre-1700, British Literature between 1700 and 1800, American Literature pre-1900 and British or American Literature pre-1940. An honors project in any of these areas would count as two of the five required courses. Should neither option be possible or practical, the University shall be permitted to award the earnings to the Department of Art and Art History or its successors to most closely meet the spirit of the criteria.