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In a better world we would all be thronging the doors of the Newark Museum; in the best of worlds Ulysses Grant Dietz would be there to meet us, taking us through the galleries with fellow curators Christa Clarke and Katherine Anne Paul
Specializing in American and European paintings of the eighteenth through twentieth centuries and best known for its expertise in Philadelphia artists, the Schwarz Gallery on Chestnut Street is one of the city’s most esteemed art galleries. The success of the family-owned and family-run firm is all the more remarkable for the fact that its history has been so marked by contingency. Consider, for example, that not one of the members of the three generations of Schwarzes to operate the gallery actually planned to become a dealer. “My grandfather Frank Schwarz, who founded the company, had been studying to be a lawyer; and my dad was a pre-med student,” says Robert D. Schwarz Jr., who manages the gallery with his wife, Deepali Schwarz. “I graduated from college with a degree in computer science.”
The fruits of extensive research on Benjamin Henry Latrobe’s 1808 house and furniture for William and Mary Waln begin with their impact on the aesthetic of the city itself.
Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun was the most sought-after portraitist of the ancien régime. A retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art rightly calls attention to her extraordinary talent rather than her gender.
The story goes that the Dutch, sailing up the Delaware River, missed the marshy entrance to its largest tributary. Upon discovering their mistake, the Europeans dubbed the waterway the Schuyl Kill, or “Hidden River.” The Dutch were soon squeezed out of Pennsylvania by the Swedes and then the English, but the name somehow stuck, showing up as the “Scool Kill River” on Thomas Holmes’s 1683 Portraiture of the City of Philadelphia, the idealized plan for William Penn’s city imagined as a grid of streets and squares set between two rivers.
Nestled along the luxuriant cliff-side banks of the Mekong River, Luang Prabang, the former royal capital of Laos, is a city of stately palaces, villas, and bungalows left from the French colonial period, as well as many golden temples (vats) alive with the Buddhist culture of their attendant monasteries. While its local textile industry is renowned, what seduces the visitor to Luang Prabang is the tranquil pace of life, where time is marked by the gongs and drums that signal the daily rituals of the monks. These begin at daybreak with Tak Bat, when the monks, from sixty-four monasteries, process down the main street, Sakkaline Road, to receive alms in the form of nourishment placed in their ample tin-lidded bowls by residents who kneel curbside.
Despite its dainty name the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association is not an outfit to be trifled with. Nor is it one to do anything by half measures. Founded in 1858, it is comprised of twenty-seven members, each representing a state in the union at that time, who approached and still approach the project of preserving George Washington’s estate with an almost military rigor. Mount Vernon was virtually empty when the association was formed; the members set about furnishing it by having the representa- tive from each state adopt a room. In 1858 these representatives were the wives and daughters of powerful politicians, jurists, and cultural figures, and thus well positioned to locate and donate important objects. Alice Mary Longfellow, for instance, daughter of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, located George Washington’s desk and brought it back to the estate, where it remains today.
At the moment, Philadelphia’s Fabric Workshop and Museum has a national reputation though it is less well known around town. In one respect it is a little like its founder, the late Marion “Kippy” Boulton Stroud, who was both bold (and bossy) but surprisingly self-effacing. Unlike the Rosenbach or the Barnes, to name two of the city’s other idiosyncratic museums, FWM is something of a high-wire act, an ongoing experiment in the very definition of what this institution is and can be.
Over the past ten years Wade Lege has rescued some of the disappearing landmarks of his native Louisiana, beginning with a group of Acadian cottages and culminating in the ongoing restoration of a Greek revival house originally from Kismet plantation.