organisation
Gallery
Puppets for <em>Oedipus Rex</em> (1931), built and operated by American puppeteer Remo Bufano (1894-1948), based on the “Opera-oratorio after Sophocles” by Igor Stravinsky, design: Robert Edmund Jones. Puppets, height: 3.0 m. First presented in Philadelphia with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski and later at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York. Collection: Detroit Institute of Arts. Photo: Alan Cook

Detroit Institute of Arts

Country

United States

American museum in Detroit, Michigan, with a significant puppet collection. In 1952, to honour the memory and contributions of Paul McPharlin, his family donated 274 puppets to the Detroit Institute of Arts (www.dia.org). This collection now includes over 1,000 puppets, plus many props, backdrops, stages, and puppet heads.

Artists represented in the collection include: Marjorie Batchelder, Pauline Benton, Remo Bufano, Ralph Chessé, Arlyn Coad (see Coad Canada Puppets), Walter Deaves, Perry Dilley, Jim Henson, Helen Haiman Joseph, George Latshaw, Lewis Mahlmann, Paul McPharlin, Daniel Meader, George Merten, Basil Milovsoroff, Frank Paris, Romain Proctor, Lotte Reiniger, Rufus and Margo Rose, Tony Sarg, Martin and Olga Stevens, Burr Tillstrom. There are traditional puppets from China, Great Britain, India, Italy, Japan, Indonesia (Java), Mexico, Thailand, and Turkey.

The museum also holds Paul McPharlin’s papers as well as puppetry films and posters.

Among the most celebrated pieces are the three large puppets by Remo Bufano for Igor Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex, the early American marionettes (string puppets) by Daniel Meader and Walter Deaves, Marjorie Batchelder’s rod puppets for Death of Tintagiles of Maurice Maeterlinck, Michael Carmichael Carr’s early innovative string marionettes, Ralph Chessé’s marionettes of Eugene O’Neill’s Emperor Jones, George Latshaw’s large bunraku-style figures for Aaron Copland’s Billy the Kid, and a large costume-like puppet by Joan Miró.  

Few puppets are on exhibit. The collection gets excellent care in state-of-the-art storage. To accompany an exhibit in 2000, the catalogue by John Bell, Stings, Hands, Shadows, has over 150 full-colour photographs of puppets in the collection.

The first curator of the puppet collection was Adolph Cavallo, followed by Gil Oden and Dr Audley Grossman. The current curator (2012) is Larry Baranski.

(See United States of America.)

Bibliography

  • Bell, John. Strings, Hands, Shadows: A Modern Puppet History. Detroit: Detroit Institute of Arts, 2000.
  • Puppets Past & Present: A Picture Book of the Puppetry Collection in the Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit: The Detroit Institute of Arts, 1960.