"Emily Dickinson-Her True Colors": A New Oil Portrait of the Poet

November 24, 2004
Director of Media Relations
413/542-8417

AMHERST, Mass.-A new color portrait in oil of Amherst poet Emily Dickinson will be on display during a special reception in the Special Collections Department at the Jones Library in Amherst on Thursday, Dec. 9. Sunderland artist Guillermo Cuéllar painted the portrait. The Jones Library, the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections, the Emily Dickinson Museum and the Friends of the Jones Library are sponsors of the reception, which will begin at 5 p.m. with a formal unveiling of the portrait and remarks by Cuéllar, Dickinson scholar Polly Longsworth and Daria D'Arienzo, the head of Archives and Special Collections at Amherst College. The reception also marks the beginning of an exhibit about Dickinson's image that will run through Thursday, Feb. 10 at the Jones Library, located at 43 Amity Street in Amherst.

Cuéllar used all three local Dickinson institutions to research his Emily Dickinson oil portrait, which is based on the poet's well-known daguerreotype in the collection of the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections. In addition to using local resources, Cuéllar traveled to museums and consulted historians of the 19th century to research every aspect of the elements captured by the photograph: the hair, skin, dress, jewelry and even the original photographer's props, such as the tablecloth and waxed orange blossom flowers.

Cuéllar's goal with his portrait was to render the poet in her true colors: "Most people have a color-blind image of Emily Dickinson since there was only one daguerreotype that portrays the poet in varying shades of gray," he said. "For example, I did not know that she was a redhead." He made the painting "as if I were a portrait artist living in the 1840s." He was intrigued by the fact that the poet was a teenager in the daguerreotype, and wanted to show "not only who she was, but also who she was becoming."

In addition to pursuing an avocation in portraiture, Cuéllar is the president of the Center for Creative Consciousness in Sunderland, Mass., and the co-founder of the New England Art Therapy Institute. He is a private consultant in many areas of organizational development, such as managing diversity, addressing organizational culture change and innovation.

The Special Collections Department of the Jones Library houses extensive collections in the fields of local and regional history, genealogy and Amherst authors. Its large collection of Emily Dickinson materials was begun in 1921 by Charles R. Green and helps to place the poet within the context of her community in the mid-19th century. The Amherst College Archives and Special Collections houses the college's rare books, literary manuscripts, written materials of unique value, and those that relate to the college and its history. The collection includes one of the two major holdings of Emily Dickinson's manuscripts, along with several personal items, including her daguerreotype. The Emily Dickinson Museum at 280 Main Street in Amherst was formed last year when the Dickinson Homestead, the poet's birthplace and home, merged with The Evergreens, home of the poet's brother and sister-in-law. The Museum offers guided tours of the two houses from March through mid-December.

The exhibit "Emily Dickinson - Her True Colors" will run from Dec. 9 through Feb. 10, in the Special Collections Department at the Jones Library. The Department is open Tuesdays through Fridays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Mondays and Saturdays from 2 to 5 p.m.; closed Sundays and some holidays (call for more information). For more information, please contact Tevis Kimball, Curator of Special Collections at the Jones Library, at 413/256-4090.

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