Masterful Mentor

Thomas Connors Art, Exhibitions, Magazine

Fig. 1. Top of the Hill by Frank Vincent DuMond (1865–1951), c. 1906. Oil on academy board, 12 by 16 inches. Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme, Connecticut.

Almost invariably, the successful among us point to some teacher—whether that person held the title, or merely, and most importantly, had ability—whose guidance and inspiration made all the difference. As John Steinbeck once said, “I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists.”1 Some of these teachers—Thomas Eakins, Hans Hofmann— enjoyed a pedagogical reputation that rivaled their renown as practicing artists. But, as if to confirm that cutting adage, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach,” many remain as forgotten as their pupils. With The Prismatic Palette: Frank Vincent DuMond and his Students, Connecticut’s Lyman Allyn Art Museum celebrates an artist whose dedication to teaching may have eclipsed his own work, but whose career constituted a success not measured by fame.

Fig. 2. Self-Portrait, 1907. Signed and dated “Frank/ Vincent/ DuMond/ 1907” at lower right. Graphite on paper, 17 1/2 by 23 inches. Collection of Francesca and Carl Mellin; photograph by Greg Shea.

Born in Rochester, New York, in 1865, DuMond enrolled at the Art Students League of New York in 1884, studying with J. Carroll Beckwith and William Sartain. Eight years later, after a sojourn in Europe— which included study at the Académie Julian under Gustave Boulanger and Jules-Joseph Lefebvre and recognition at the Salon of 1890—he taught his first class at the Art Students League. Newly married in 1895, to his former student and fellow artist Helen Xavier, DuMond returned with his wife to France, painting and teaching there for the next five years. When the couple returned stateside, DuMond resumed his association with the Art Students League, where he continued to teach until his death at eighty-five in 1951.

Fig. 3. Garden Steps in Southern France, 1897. Signed and dated “F V DuMond ’97” at lower left. Oil on canvas, 24 ½ by 34 inches. Private collection.

Although DuMond was not as well known as such artist-teachers as William Merritt Chase or John Sloan (both of whom taught at the League), the school’s long-time administrator Stewart Klonis stated, “No other man in the League’s history had any comparable influence on the League’s evolution.”2 DuMond initiated changes to the school’s way of doing things, eliminating drawing from casts as a prerequisite for life drawing classes and allowing men and women to train together. But it was his pronounced ability to communicate ideas about art that mattered most. “Take John Marin,” Klonis told the New York Times, “who says that he learned a lot from many masters, but feels that from among his many teachers, DuMond was the only one.”3

DuMond was a working artist from the start. During his student days in New York, he contributed illustrations, first to the New York Daily Graphic and then for magazines and books from Harper and Brothers, work that he continued doing for a number of years. Later, he took on portrait commissions, producing likenesses of bank presidents and business executives. In 1913 DuMond began work (with an assist from Helen) on massive murals for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, which opened in San Francisco in 1915. Teaching, too, was part of his program early on; in the summers of 1893 and 1894 he took a group of Americans to paint in the French countryside. Although DuMond would come to delight in his vocation, he wasn’t thrilled with his first teaching experience, finding his students less serious about their work than he would wish.

Fig. 4. Autumn in Lyme, 1925. Signed “F.V.DuMond.” at lower left. Oil on canvas, 28 by 30 inches. Collection of N. Robert Cestone; Shea photograph.

DuMond first made his mark as an artist with The Holy Family, a painting that depicts Christ blessing a humble meal set before his parents. At the Salon of 1890, it was awarded a third-class medal. The canvas combines the conventionally academic with a hint of modernity, an almost streamlined imagining of the scene in which the figures dominate the un-fussily rendered interior. Before the end of the decade, an incipient naturalism began to appear in the artist’s work, especially after he and his wife started spending summers in Martigues, a fishing village not far from Marseille. In Garden Steps in Southern France, a seated figure practically disappears against the pervasive terracotta tone he used to conjure flower pots, wooden barrels, and a garden wall (Fig. 3). While clearly composed, the picture’s nearly non-hierarchical construction affords the viewer a certain freedom, a greater ability to enter the scene.

Fig. 5. Figures in a Landscape, 1902. Signed and dated “Frank Vincent Du- Mond-/ –1902” at lower left. Oil on canvas, 16 by 22 inches. Florence Griswold Museum; gift of Mrs. Roger Griswold.

Over time, DuMond made measured forays into other artistic styles, absorbing aspects of art nouveau, symbolism, and impressionism. But as Lyman Allyn Art Museum curator Tanya Pohrt says: “He held firm to traditional core principles about drawing and painting and stuck to his belief in the enduring value of the Old Masters and more contemporary figures, such as Winslow Homer. He seems to have been wary of some of the ‘isms’ that were passing through the art world, preferring the stability of time-tested ideals when it came to teaching.” Charles B. Ferguson, former director of the New Britain Museum of American Art, studied with DuMond in the 1940s. In an appreciation he penned for a 1990 exhibition of the artist’s work at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut, Ferguson recalled DuMond’s response when another student asked what he thought of Picasso. “After a pause, DuMond replied that he didn’t think about Picasso. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘he’s very popular,’ whereupon DuMond gently replied, ‘so is ignorance.’”4

Fig. 6. The Lady of the Birches, 1903. Signed and dated “Frank/ Vincent/ Du- Mond- 1903-” at lower left. Oil on canvas, 15 by 9 inches. Mellin collection; Shea photograph.

Arguably, DuMond’s work entered its most modern phase with his return to the United States in 1900, when he not only resumed his affiliation with the Art Students League, but joined the nascent artists’ colony at Old Lyme, where he offered his expertise in landscape painting. This creative sanctuary was a haven for tonalists (who included the colony’s founder, Henry Ward Ranger, and later, Carleton Wiggins and Bruce Crane, among others), and DuMond took a crack at generating his own dreamy scenes, including a seemingly ceremonial gathering entitled Figures in a Landscape, from 1902 (Fig. 5).

DuMond’s attachment to the countryside and the creative and companionable opportunities it afforded was cemented when he and his wife bought a colonial farmhouse in Connecticut in 1906. The couple’s hilltop digs proved an inspiration, as Du- Mond took to capturing the views that spread out before him. The moody, mystical curtain of color manifest in Figures in a Landscape now gave way to more keenly observed, yet loosely rendered depictions of the natural environment. “DuMond’s small Top of the Hill is a gem of a painting that shows the artist’s farm on Grassy Hill Road,” Pohrt says (Fig. 1). “This piece and several other small plein air scenes from the same period show the artist’s painting style shifting and brightening, with DuMond’s signature greens dominating the scene.” With Autumn in Lyme DuMond exercises his impressionistic muscles, capturing an outcropping of granite and leaf-covered earth (Fig. 4). Executed with flick-like strokes, the picture is as much a celebration of brushwork as it is an interpretation of nature.

Fig. 7. Christ and the Fishermen, 1891. Signed and dated “F V. DuMond/ Paris, ’91” at lower left. Oil on canvas, 51 by 62 inches. Collection of Douglas and Marcia DuMond; Shea photograph.

Tall and sociable, a father of two, a gardener and avid fly fisherman, DuMond was not terribly aggressive in promoting himself. But he was no naïf when it came to business, happy to accept illustration and mural work so that, among other things, he could invest in real estate. In 1901, with Henry Ward Ranger as ringleader, he had joined Childe Hassam, Allen Butler Talcott, and Louis Paul Dessar in building Central Park Studios, a cooperative at 27 West Sixty-Seventh Street in Manhattan intended for artists like themselves. The units featured well-lit, double-height studio spaces with ample living and sleeping areas. DuMond created a three-panel mural for the entrance hall. The property proved a success and the investors went on to expand their portfolio with several other residential buildings across the Upper West Side.

In addition to directing summer sessions at Old Lyme, over the years, DuMond led al fresco classes in Connecticut’s Litchfield and Middlesex counties, as well as in Vermont and Nova Scotia. “We all listened intently to DuMond’s critiques, sometimes with apprehension,” Ferguson noted in his memoir. “He never said an unkind word, but what he didn’t say was criticism enough and hard to take.”5

Fig. 8. Study for The Spirit of the Navy Leads the Way, a naval recruitment billboard, c. 1917. Inscribed with title at top. Oil on board, 9 ½ by 12 ½ inches. Mellin collection; Shea photograph.

Central to DuMond’s plein-air instruction was what came to be called the “prismatic palette.” “DuMond taught his students a method of premixing color strings in stepped values, moving from light to dark values by creating color ‘notes’ analogous to musical keys,” Pohrt says. “This approach helped his students identify value and saturation to better understand how color is affected by light and shadow.”

With colors premixed, painters could avoid blending hues afresh outdoors when light and weather conditions changed. “DuMond likely first learned to premix colors in sequence during his studies in France, as it was an element of nineteenth-century art practice,” Pohrt adds. “His own success with this technique, combined with his long career as an instructor, meant that he distilled and presented painting techniques and ideas about color theory in new ways. These ideas, gleaned from a long career in painting and refined over his decades of teaching, resonated deeply with his students.” After DuMond’s death, his former student Frank Mason took over his classes at the Art Students League, where he promulgated DuMond’s color strategy. Arthur F. Maynard, who also studied with DuMond, carried those ideas to the Ridgewood Art Institute in New Jersey, where he taught for decades.

Fig. 9. The Year at the Play, 1903, for Town Topics: The Journal of Society. Ink on paper, 12 by 18 inches. Mellin collection; Shea photograph.

Although DuMond enjoyed a respectable professional status—membership in the National Academy of Design; institutional recognition from the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Art Institute of Chicago— he took special satisfaction in teaching, helping his students to achieve the “mental habit of reading nature understandingly and grasping its artistic significance.”6 Writing in American Artist magazine in 1974, artist Herbert Abrams noted: “Frank Vincent DuMond left his students with a working knowledge of the action of light as it reveals form in nature. Through this he led them to understand and approach the world with a view to expressing the beauty found in visual truth. The force of his personality gave greater meaning to the principles he taught.”7 While not one to mince words, DuMond assessed his pedagogical ability in a self-effacing way, saying: “We are all in a strange forest, and because I have been here longer, I am here to guide you part of the way. Reaching that, I will tell you what I think is ahead. From there, it is yours to go on.”8 

Fig. 10. Autumn, Grassy Hill, undated. Signed “Frank V Dumond” at lower left. Oil on panel, 10 by 14 inches. Private collection; photograph by Ted Hendrickson.

1John Steinbeck, “Like Captured Fireflies,” California Teachers Association Journal, vol. 51, no. 11 (November 1955), p. 7. 2 Stewart Klonis, A Memorial Exhibition of Paintings by Frank Vincent DuMond (New York: Art Students League of New York, 1952), p. 4. 3 Quoted in DuMond’s obituary, “Frank DuMond, 86, Painter, Teacher,” New York Times, February 7, 1951. 4 Charles B. Ferguson, “Frank Vincent DuMond: Recollections by a Former Student,” in Florence Griswold Museum, DuMond: The Harmony of Nature: The Art and Life of Frank Vincent DuMond (Old Lyme, CT: Florence Griswold Museum, 1990), p. 23. 5 Charles B. Ferguson, A Path Less Traveled: The Memoirs of Charlie Ferguson (Falls Church, VA: n. p., 2014), p. 28. 6 Frank Vincent Dumond, “The Lyme Summer School and its Theory of Art,” The Lamp, vol. 27, no. 1 (August 1903), p. 8. 7 Herbert E. Abrams, “The Teachings of Frank Vincent DuMond: Penetrating Light,” American Artist, vol. 38 (March 1974), p. 67. 8 Quoted in Klonis, A Memorial Exhibition, p. 4.


THOMAS CONNORS is a Chicago-based arts writer. 

On books: May/June 2021

Ellenor Alcorn Books

Marking Time: Objects, People, and Their Lives, 1500–1800, ed. Edward Town and Angela McShane, with contributions from Glenn Adamson, et al. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2020). 512 pp., color and b/w illus.

Marking Time: Objects, People, and Their Lives, 1500–1800 is an ambitious exploration of a subject that has rarely—perhaps never—been addressed by design historians: how was time experienced by Britons in the early modern period? In an entirely original and satisfying way, the authors seek the answer in a collection of nearly five hundred objects, most of which are relatively unassuming quotidian pieces. A brass alms dish, a bone and boxwood apple corer, a tortoiseshell comb, and a silver inlay-decorated cutlery set are representative of the broad range of useful goods included. All bear a date and many are further decorated with initials, inscriptions, and occasionally a place name. They were not chosen as exemplars of elite taste, innovative style, or luxurious materials, and many are works that might traditionally have been considered curiosities. Scholars and collectors more recently have brought such pieces into discussions of social and economic history, but they certainly have never been considered in as broad a context as time and its meaning. The book invites historians of decorative arts into a new arena that lies beyond the purely aesthetic, technological, or genealogical, though it does not discount any of those. It demonstrates how we might ask big questions of small things, allowing them to lead us into the lived experience of their owners and their makers.

It’s not a surprise that there is a backstory to such an original undertaking. The prime mover was the late John H. Bryan II, and nearly all of the works published here are part of the vast collection he assembled over the course of more than thirty years at his Lake Bluff, Illinois, farm. Bryan delighted in sharing his many interests with a wide-ranging cast of scholars, dealers, artists, and architects. He set out initially to acquire outstanding examples from across all categories of objects, but when a curator visiting the farm made the neutral observation that many of the pieces were inscribed with dates, Bryan became characteristically curious. Why and for whose benefit were these pieces dated? What events were worthy of commemoration? The inquiry expanded, and, working with scholars Angela McShane and Jenny Saunt, Bryan began to focus on acquiring dated objects. The present volume, edited by Ed Town and McShane, has emerged eight years after that initial conversation, and was intended to accompany an exhibition at the Yale Center for British Art. Though that installation had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is books, after all, that can make a more lasting impact on the way we think about objects. This one will do exactly that.

At the core of the project are 460 dated objects spanning the years 1549 to 1804. Nearly all are drawn from Bryan’s diverse collection. They are mainly modest, functional pieces from upper-middle, middle, or working-class homes and workplaces, both rural and urban. They are individually catalogued with essential apparatus relating to materials and provenance and the brief entries are often devoted to the function of an entirely unfamiliar form. A porter’s tally of 1765, one learns, is a badge worn by a member of the Fellowship Porters, who unloaded and transported goods such as coal, fish, and corn. The crimped leather panel was worn on the waist, and wooden pegs were slotted into the grooves to allow an accounting at the end of the work period of the loads carried. The engraved brass mount bears the name of its wearer, Samuel Harris, which allowed the team of researchers to establish his London parish and the date of his (clandestine) marriage. It is an odd and unfamiliar survival, and the simple explication of its function is full of information about valuing and compensating labor. A pair of covered glass goblets of 1709 is among the grander pieces included. Engraved with a coat of arms and clusters of grapes, the goblets were likely decorated to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the marriage of Percival and Sarah Hart. To the authors’ credit, the individual entries are disciplined and spare, and they do not wander off their path of inquiry. The works are organized not by date or medium or style, but clustered into eight chapters that follow the span of life from “Childhood and Youth” to “Death and Legacy.”

These nearly random slivers of evidence are proven meaningful when the authors turn the telescope around, and, in seven essays, reveal their expansive ambitions. Town and McShane were joined by contributors Keith Wrightson, Glenn Adamson, Justin M. Brown, Gavi Levy Haskell, Edward S. Cooke, and Nathan Flis. They wrestle gracefully with a subject that is purely conceptual, exploring ways that the experience of time is embodied in the modest objects of everyday life. In his introduction, Wrightson establishes a narrative that traces an increasingly secular awareness of time over the course of three centuries. Traditionally, the year was tied to repeating cycles of planting and harvest, and, at least until the Reformation era, to the sacred calendar. With growing prosperity and global trade, the culture of record-keeping expanded accordingly. The development and distribution of precise timepieces caused the meaning of time to shift inexorably to a more structured day and year. Glenn Adamson acknowledges that the experience of time must have differed for the elite and the lower classes; parsing its meaning demands an awareness of time as a commodity. He raises the provocative question: could some of the dates on these objects have been intended to suggest their future obsolescence? Justin M. Brown makes an important calibration to the narrative with a foundational truth: for the enslaved workers of the colonies, who generated so much wealth for Britons in this period, time was ruthlessly stolen.

The book is a deft and engaging exemplar for future scholars. To be clear: this is not purely intellectual history; that is, the contributors did not come from disciplines with established literature on the experience of time, such as physics or philosophy, hoping to add a little visual spice to their narrative. The authors—art historians and social historians—stay close to their primary sources, establishing a useful precedent for a coming generation. In addition to the objects themselves, they have analyzed documentary evidence such as court depositions, household manuals, and wills. They constantly circle back to the central question: how does material culture embody the lived experience in this period? How and why did the experience of the hours, days, months, and years shift over the course of the period covered?

This is, for all its somber modesty, an audacious, resolutely anti-elitist book, and it is a suitable tribute to the influential collector and patron who sponsored it. As Jenny Saunt explains in an afterword, John Bryan understood that to look at art is to be in active communication with the artist and with the past. He knew that works of art respond to their setting, to adjacencies, to lighting, and to sightlines. He himself was as creative as the many makers whose works he collected, and, as Saunt says, to visit him at Crab Tree Farm was to be transported. His installations at the farm were not an ersatz re-creation of the past, but rather the invention of a fresh new moment. Although he died in late 2018, the collaboration with Yale was carried on by his son and the members of his team at Crab Tree Farm. Bryan’s interest in understanding and enhancing the lived experience is thoughtfully embodied in this book.

ELLENOR ALCORN is the Chair and Eloise W. Martin Curator of European Decorative Arts at the Art Institute of Chicago.  

Openings and Closings: June 9 to June 15

Elizabeth Lanza Art, Exhibitions

Untitled by Agatha Wojciechowsky (1896–1986), 1963. Collection of Steven Day, Courtesy the Artist’s estate and Day Art Consulting LLC; photograph by Steven Day.

Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio

We can probably agree that every American enjoys a good story, and we’ve spun tales for every taste. A genre that seems to resonate particularly is the supernatural—from the Headless Horseman to rumors of UFOs. The Toledo Museum of Art recognizes this staple of American culture and will welcome the first museum exhibition to examine the relationship between American artists and the paranormal. Entitled Supernatural America: The Paranormal in American Art the exhibition boasts 160 objects spanning from the early nineteenth century to the present day. If you’re a fan of all things occult or otherworldly, this exhibition is an absolute must-see. Make sure to plan your visit here before the exhibit opens on June 12.

Half-gallon and three-gallon jugs attributed to the Collin Rhodes Factory, c. 1850. Courtesy of the SFO Museum, California; collection of Kenneth Fechtner.

SFO Museum, California

Whereas Southern potters often produced their wares in home-grown family operations, the nineteenth-century potteries of the Edgefield District in South Carolina were industrial giants in comparison. From sourcing to production to shipping, Edgefield stoneware production became an integral part of the local economy and culture. The SFO Museum is celebrating the history of Edgefield pottery in their new exhibition Stoneware Stories: Folk Pottery of Edgefield, South Carolina. Featured in this exhibition are works by potters such as Thomas Chandler and the great David Drake that are not to be missed. Make sure to check here before you go!

Hizen Ware Bowl with Plum Blossom Design and French Mount, c. 1690–1710 (bowl); c. 1710 (mount). Courtesy of the Portland Art Museum, Oregon; gift of Eric N. Shrubsole.

Portland Art Museum, Oregon

For three centuries between the 1630s and 1850s, Japan was a “closed” country in which no foreigners were welcome.  While Japanese culture was left to develop independently from the rest of the world, the economy boomed due to the influx of cash from a lively trade network. The objects in the Portland Art Museum’s exhibition Objects of Contact: Encounters between Japan and the West reflect this era of commerce. From gold screens to apothecary jars, the exhibition offers visitors a look at the impact of cultural dialogue in a rapidly changing world. The exhibition closes on June 13 so, make sure to check here to plan your trip before it does!

Still Life with Ginger Jar and Pound Cake by John Frederick Peto (1854–1907), c. 1890. Huntington Museum of Art, West Virginia.

Huntington Museum of Art, West Virginia

The still life has been a foundation of Western art since antiquity and reached levels of sublime achievement in the hands of Renaissance masters and later among Dutch artists in the 1600s. The still life remained popular with artists, particularly iconoclasts, into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Join the Huntington Museum of Art in their celebration of the versatile genre with their exhibition The Art of the Still Life. Featuring painters such as Georges Braque, Leslie Shiels, and Bartolommeo Bettera, this is a collection of prominent pieces. As you’re planning your trip here, make sure to visit before the exhibition closes on June 27.

Marriage à la Mode

Sarah D. Coffin Art, Exhibitions, Magazine

Fig. 1. Calling-card tray designed by Hector Guimard (1867– 1942), Paris, 1909. Gilt copper, diameter 18 1/2 inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, gift of Mme Hector Guimard.

French architect-designer Hector Guimard’s sensuous and organic forms—as seen in cast iron in his most famous works, the Paris Métro entryways—also appear in his buildings, interiors, decorative arts, and design objects in a variety of mediums. Commissioned for the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle, Guimard’s Métro designs, like his other creations, aimed to show the world a new style—art nouveau—which he promoted as “le style Guimard.” While many of his designs certainly bespeak the opulence for which art nouveau is celebrated, Guimard is also to be recognized for his large-scale production designs, in areas such as lighting, and in mass housing. Guimard’s legacy endures thanks in great part to the tireless efforts to preserve his work and memory made by his American-born wife, Adeline. Those efforts formed just one aspect of her multivalent relationship with Guimard, which saw her as not only his spouse, but also as his patron, his muse, his fellow artist, his business partner, and, ultimately, guardian of his posterity.

Fig. 2. Kanatrix lotion bottle designed by Hector Guimard for Félix Millot’s display at the Paris 1900 World’s Fair, Paris, 1899. Glass, partially gilded; height 15 3/4, width 4 7/8, depth 2 3/4 inches. Collection of Christie Mayer Lefkowith and Edwin Lefkowith; photograph by Skot Yobbagy, © Christie Mayer Lefkowith 2007.

The parsing of the complex relationship between Monsieur and Madame Hector Guimard is but one element in a reappraisal of the architect-designer’s work and life that is the subject of a newly published book from Yale University Press, Hector Guimard: Art Nouveau to Modernism. A related exhibition, co-organized by the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York and the Richard H. Driehaus Museum in Chicago, is planned; show dates will be announced later this year.

Fig. 3. Vase from the Hôtel Guimard designed by Hector Guimard, c. 1905. Gilt bronze; height 10 1/2, width 5, depth 5 inches. Except as noted, the objects illustrated are in the collection of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York, gift of Mme Hector Guimard; photograph by Matt Flynn.

Adeline Oppenheim Guimard was the daughter of financier Edouard L. Oppenheim (1841–1911), who had immigrated from Belgium to the United States in 1857. From childhood Adeline had traveled to Paris with her family and so was at ease when she moved to the city in the 1890s to become an artist, studying painting with Henri-Léopold Lévy (1840– 1904) and other artists.1 Her seriousness about art is clear from her first showing in 1899 of an oil, Mauresque, at the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris. A porcelain plate she painted in the manner of Rubens and signed “A. Oppenheim”—bequeathed by her sister to the Cooper Hewitt—gives an idea of her artistry, one without a trace of the le style Guimard (Fig. 12).2

Fig. 4. Hector Guimard and his wife Adeline Oppenheim Guimard (1872– 1965) in a photograph of c. 1910. Madame Guimard appears to be wearing a diamond-studded lorgnette designed by her husband. Wikimedia Commons photograph.

It is unclear how Adeline and Hector Guimard first met, though he was already a well-known architect and designer when they did. Edgar David, a jeweler and antiques dealer on the rue de la Paix whom both knew and who was one of three witnesses at their small wedding, seems their most likely connection.3 What is clear is that the union came about soon after Hector received a substantial sum of money from Adeline’s father, who, along with his daughter, appears to have considered the gift an investment, making his daughter Hector’s partner, and himself a backer.4 The couple’s engagement was short—just a month long. Adeline converted from Judaism to Catholicism, and their wedding on February 17, 1909, took place in the Church of Saint- Francis-de-Sales. Abbé Bellanger, who married them, was not the parish priest, but rather a friend of Hector’s. In his wedding sermon the abbé said of Hector, “you are the art nouveau,” expounding on the designs for Adeline’s engagement ring and the lace of her wedding dress—all of which suggests that the pre-wedding preparations might have focused less on religious instruction and more on style.5 Hector Guimard was almost forty-three years old at the time of the marriage, and Adeline was thirty-six (Fig. 4).

Fig. 5. Detail of a napkin showing the intertwined GO monogram designed by Hector Guimard, 1910. Linen, 28 1/8 by 27 inches overall. Flynn photograph.

Their subsequent artistic and financial involvements show that the Guimards’ lives became as entwined as the G and O monogram—for Guimard and Oppenheim—designed by Hector for their wedding invitation and their table napkins (Figs. 5, 9). Attention to details like the monogram reflects Hector Guimard’s holistic approach to design— that he create complete environments, each design element a part of a Gesamtkunstwerk, or total artwork. While Adeline may or may not have been a muse for Hector’s designs for her, her presence provided the opportunity for him to design new types of personal objects. He designed her accessories, items of her clothing, and frames for her artworks. Along with her engagement ring, he designed other jewelry for her—including a brooch, hatpin, lorgnette, and pendant (Figs. 14, 19)—that was effectively a wearable promotion of le Style Guimard. The sinuous curvilinear forms of the jewelry complimented the owner, while complementing Guimard-designed furnishings and architecture of the rooms surrounding her. Adeline showed her own inclination to live as a work of art within one in a statement she made at the pre-wedding meeting with Bellanger: “We must make of our life a work of art.”6

Fig. 6. Hôtel Guimard in 2019. Photograph by CVB on Wikimedia Commons.

Soon after their wedding, the Guimards set out to create such exemplary environments. Within three months, they purchased a building site and began construction of the Hôtel Guimard. The structure was completed in 1910 (Fig. 6)—Hector proudly incised his signature into an exterior wall— and when the interior architecture and furnishings were finished in 1913, the place became as much a showroom for le style Guimard as a home. Hector designed an artist’s studio with northern light for Adeline on the top floor, and her aesthetic became integral to the house’s entire ambience. In the Hôtel Guimard, Adeline found a setting for her paintings, drawings, and collected objects set within the envelope of Hector’s architecture and decor. Her touches personalized the Hôtel Guimard.

Fig. 7. Detail of Guimard’s signature inscribed on the wall near the entrance of the Hôtel Guimard, 2019. CVB photograph on Wikimedia Commons.

The Guimards’ careful arrangements of art and design can be seen in photographs of the interiors of the Hôtel Guimard probably taken around 1913 (Figs. 11, 15, 16).7 (Adeline later gave the photos to the Cooper Hewitt—an invaluable resource as the only known period images of Guimard interiors.) The photos show numerous examples of Hector’s lighting designs, chiefly his lustres lumières chandeliers (Fig. 18). Wired for electricity, they show that the Guimards did not shy away from new technologies in an elegant setting. These designs were published in a catalogue and produced commercially for purchase by a broad audience, much as Guimard did later with his designs for cast-iron balconies and other architectural elements.8

Fig. 8. Portrait of a Lady with Red Hair by Adeline Guimard, c. 1912, set in its frame designed by Hector Guimard, c. 1905–1913. Graphite and crayon on illustration board, 17 3/8 by 15 inches (drawing); partially gilded pearwood frame. Flynn photograph.

A photo detail of the dining room shows a chair next to lace curtains that look quite like the lace panel of Adeline’s wedding dress (Figs. 10, 15). The room’s metalwork resembles the Métro designs, and the flowing patterns in the upholstery fabrics are reminiscent of the form and label of a bottle Hector designed for parfumier Félix Millot’s Kantirix Lotion, intended for display at the Paris Exposition of 1900 (Fig. 2).9 A photo of Adeline’s bedroom shows how Hector integrated organic wood framing into the wall surrounding one of Adeline’s most prominent paintings: a large nude female figure transformed into a graceful presence by the curvilinear surround (Fig. 11).

Fig. 9. Hector Guimard and Adeline Oppenheim’s wedding invitation, 1909. Private collection; photograph by Alain Blondel, courtesy of Le Cercle Guimard.

The view of the salon/parlor shows a variety of pieces that later found their way into museum collections (Fig. 16). Adeline gave the large calling card tray in gilt copper—seen on the lower shelf of a table—to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Fig. 1). That tray was the model for the only Guimard piece purchased by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in his lifetime. Hector showed the design in gilt bronze at the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs in 1911, from which the museum purchased it. The salon includes several Guimard metal picture frames, one cast with a replica of his signature. The signature’s prominence suggests the frame was a pre-existing design, part of Hector’s le style Guimard branding program. The frame later came to the Cooper Hewitt holding its photo of Hector (Fig. 13). Embroidered curtains conforming to the curved windows appear to be some also now at the Cooper Hewitt.

Fig. 10. Panel from the wedding dress of Adeline Oppenheim Guimard, designed by Hector Guimard and made by Maison Coudyser, French, 1909. Silk, 45 1/4 by 15 3/8 inches. Flynn photograph.

The completed Hôtel Guimard was inaugurated as the couple’s residence with a house-warming party in May 1913, but the good times did not last long.10 With the start of World War I, Hector’s relationships with high-end modelers, such as Philippon, which produced Adeline’s swirling writing seal (Fig. 17), and foundries like Maison Cottin, which produced the opulent doorbell pull for the front door (Fig. 20), could not be maintained, and orders dwindled.

Fig. 11. Madame Guimard’s bedroom in the Hôtel Guimard, in a photograph of c. 1913. Photographic print on sensitized paper, 8 7/8 x 6 1/2 inches. Flynn photograph.

During World War I, Hector’s socialist and pacifist activities took precedence. While he became more involved in politics, Adeline organized charitable efforts for the aid of wounded soldiers, among them drawing portraits that she sold for the cause. After the war, Hector designed mass housing, while Adeline continued making art. She exhibited her portraits in a 1922 show she advertised with posters.11 In 1930 the Guimards moved into a Hector-designed apartment building in which they invested, but there are no interior photos. Although they continued to house the business effects at Hôtel Guimard, it seems clear they were rarely there.

Fig. 12. Plate painted by Adeline Guimard after a work by Peter Paul Rubens, probably Vienna, late nineteenth century. Signed “A. Oppenheim.” at lower right and inscribed “‘Spielende Kinder’ nach dem Gemälde von P. P. Rubens, in der K. K. Gemälde-gallerie in Wien” in blue underglaze on the underside. Painted and glazed porcelain. Bequest of Cornelie J. Oppenheim; photograph by Ellen McDermott.

Later in the decade, as the rise of the Nazis clouded Europe’s horizons, Adeline took bold action. She reinstated her American citizenship, listing herself on documents as “Hebrew” and Hector as an ailing “refugee.” The couple fled Europe, sailing in 1938 to New York. They took a few of their more treasured possessions, leaving others in storage.12

Fig. 13. Picture frame designed by Hector Guimard, produced by Paul Philippon, Paris, 1907. Inscribed “Hector Guimard/ 1907” at lower right. Gilt bronze and plate glass; height 9 ¾, width 6 ½ inches. It contains a reproduction of its original photo of Guimard. Flynn photograph.

Hector did not revive his professional life in New York, and he died there in May 1942 at age seventy-five. Adeline continued to draw. In November 1943 she had an exhibition at the Arthur U. Newton Galleries of her portrait drawings, including those of eminent sitters such as Ruggero Leoncavallo and Ignacy Jan Paderewski. But as the war was ending in 1945, her correspondence with Museum of Modern Art director Alfred H. Barr Jr. shows Adeline turned her attention to the quest to secure her husband’s legacy in earnest.

Fig. 14. Pendant designed by Hector Guimard, c. 1907– 1912. Gold and diamonds, 2 1/8 by 1 5/8 inches. Museum of Modern Art, New York, gift of Laurent Oppenheim Jr; photograph © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY.

In both the US and later France, Adeline’s modus operandi in the search for suitable museum homes for Guimard works was to find one contact and get his referrals to others. Fortunately, in the US, she had Barr as her first sympathetic ally. Hector Guimard himself had initiated the connection, having written from France in 1936 about an exhibition at MoMA that included his works.13 Barr appreciated Guimard’s impact on modern art and design. His good will had encouraged Madame Guimard to resume relations. After Barr directed her to a couple of curators, notably Calvin Hathaway at the Cooper Hewitt (then known as the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration), Adeline made commitments to specific donations to MoMA and Cooper Hewitt before traveling to France in 1948.14 Her intention to bring items to the US is validated by a 1938 inventory of objects intended for shipment from France to the US that year, but which remained in storage until after the war.15

Fig. 15. Detail of a photograph of the dining room of the Hôtel Guimard, c. 1913, with chair, lace curtain, and wall decoration by Hector Guimard. Photographic print on sensitized paper, 8 7/8 by 6 1/2 inches overall. Flynn photograph.

In France, Adeline had hoped to fulfill the couple’s fondest desire to see the creation of a Musée Guimard there, but with interest in art nouveau still at a nadir, her petitions to French government officials were rejected.16 However, she succeeded when she wrote to the director of the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lyon, city of Hector’s birth. He accepted a gift of the suite of furnishings from her bedroom at the Hôtel Guimard, complete with her painting of the female nude, to re-install there.17 Yves Bizardel, director of the Beaux-Arts Museum of the City of Paris, was able to accept the Guimards’ dining room suite, now installed in the Petit Palais.

Fig. 16. Salon in the Hôtel Guimard in a photograph of c. 1913. Gelatin silver print, 7 7/8 by 10 1/4 inches. Stamped “J.E. BULLOZ / EDITEUR – PARIS” in purple ink on back. Flynn photograph.

Adeline left Paris in mid-July 1948, never to return. She continued making donations to US museums until the late 1950s. Starting in 1965, when the taste for art nouveau was again on the rise, her nephew Laurent Oppenheim Jr., to whom she had bequeathed most of her Guimarddesigned jewelry, gave it to MoMA over time. This ultimate symbol of the Guimards’ personal partnership thus became the final gifts from their possessions in le style Guimard.

Fig. 17. Seal of Adeline Guimard designed by Hector Guimard and produced by Philippon, Paris, c. 1909–1913. Gilt bronze; height 3 1/2, width 2 3/8, depth 2 3/8 inches. Flynn photograph.

Madame Hector Guimard, as she preferred to be called when she gave works, was more than a donor. She was a true and persistent champion for Hector’s genius. Her impact is still being felt: her gifts demonstrate that Guimard was the most fluid of all French art nouveau designers and document his progressive interest in design reform that connects him to modern architecture. She knew how important both his lavish custom designs and his designs for massproduction were to him, and thus to his legacy. These designs now co-mingle in museums to inform the story of a designer committed to new styles and ways of thinking, making for a much wider understanding of Hector as an early modern architect, and of Adeline as the woman who enabled us to see that.

Fig. 18. Lustre lumière hanging lamp designed by Hector Guimard, made by Langlois et Cie, Paris, c. 1912. Gilt bronze, glass; height 19 1/4, diameter 13 inches. Richard H. Driehaus Museum, Chicago; photograph by James Caulfield.
Fig. 19. Brooch designed by Hector Guimard, c. 1909. Gold, agate, pearls, and moonstones; 1 5/8 by 3 ¾ inches. Museum of Modern Art, Laurent Oppenheim Jr. gift; photograph © The Museum of Modern Art/ Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY.

1After Lévy ’s death, she studied with Albert Maignan (1845– 1908) and with Joseph Bail (1862–1921). 2 The original painting is in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, as indicated by an inscription in German on the back of the plate. 3 Bruno Montemat, “Adeline Oppenheim Guimard (1872–1965), artiste et mécène,” Généalo-J: Revue française de généalogie juive, no. 131 (Fall 2017), p. 4. This article is a key source, based on private archives, about the wedding and Adeline Oppenheim Guimard’s family and family relationships. it cites the marriage contract, drawn up chez M. Moreau on February 12, 1909, just five days before the couple’s wedding. 4 Ibid., p. 5, which cites the sum in the contract as being 250,000 French francs in gold. 5 Ibid., p. 4. The embroidered collar from the wedding coat and lace panel from the wedding dress are now at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, and the engagement ring is at the Museum of Modern Art. 6 Sermon of the Abbeé Bellanger, Adeline Oppenheim Guimard Papers, MSS Coll 1264, New York Public Library, cited in Montemat, “Adeline Oppenheim Guimard (1872–1965), artiste et mécène,” p. 4. 7 Adeline and Hector made a brief trip to New York around the time of her father’s death in 1912. It appears likely that there may have been some additional funds that came from Edouard Oppenheim’s estate at this time, that could have provided more funds for additional decorative projects in the house. 8 A copy of the catalogue, Lustre Lumière: Nouvel Appareil Electrique, Brévété et à l’Étranger, published by Langlois et Cie, Paris, c. 1900, is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas J. Watson Library, gift of Mrs. Hector Guimard. 9 Millot’s display at the 1900 Paris World’s Fair included stands designed by Guimard that may be his earliest example of a specifically feminine design, something he came back to in his jewelry and accessories for Adeline. 10 Georges Vigne, Hector Guimard: Architect Designer, 1867–1942 (New York: Delano Greenidge Editions, 2003), p. 251. 11 The exhibition was at Lewis and Simmons gallery in the Place Vendôme. 12 Montemat, “Adeline Oppenheim Guimard (1872–1965), artiste et mécène,” p. 12. 13 Hector Guimard to Alfred H. Barr Jr., March 10, 1936, MoMA Exh. 55.4, Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York. Some photos and architectural drawings by Guimard had been included in the 1936 exhibition Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism. See Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism, ed. Alfred H. Barr Jr. (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1936), p. 240, and illus. nos. 661 and 662. 14 Alfred H. Barr Jr. to Adeline Guimard, May 1, 1945, Adeline Oppenheim Guimard Papers. In this letter Barr lists Cooper Union, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Avery Library, Columbia University as possible donation institutions. The contact with Philadelphia was not made until later. 15 The inventory is in the Adeline Oppenheim Guimard Papers. 16 Ironically, this year, there is a proposal by le Cercle Guimard and Fabien Choné for a Guimard museum to be created in the Hôtel Mezzara, a house of about the same date as the Hôtel Guimard, and not far away from it. 17 Curator René Julien to Adeline Guimard, June 9, 1949, Adeline Oppenheim Guimard Papers. He thanks her for the donation and lets her know about the intended installation at the Lyon museum.

Fig. 20. Doorbell pull from the Hôtel Guimard designed by Hector Guimard, produced by la Maison Cottin, Paris, c. 1909–1913. Gilt bronze; height 7 3/4, width 4 ¾, depth 4 ¾ inches.

SARAH D. COFFIN is an independent decorative arts and design consultant, curator, and lecturer. She was formerly a senior curator and the head of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. She contributed to the book Hector Guimard: Art Nouveau to Modernism, and, with independent curator David Hanks, initiated plans for the related exhibition.   

Wandering Eye: “Scissors-Minerva,” a Warhol mystery, and more

Editorial Staff Opinion

What the editors of The Magazine ANTIQUES are looking at this week

Subscribe to the Wandering Eye for more.

Maude Smith’s kitchen. House and Garden; photograph by Owen Gale.

HISTORIES AND LIVES, LOST AND OBSCURED

New Yorkers may remember an exhibition at the Morgan Library in 2010 that explored the development of the romantic garden in England and the United States. Printed books and bindings department head John Bidwell, who contributed to the catalogue for that exhibition, furnishes an intriguing postscript here, in which he poses a partial solution to the age-old puzzler: “What are the origins of the English style of landscape design?” (Morgan Library and Museum)

The unusually named Jacob (né Meyer) Philadelphia was an eighteenth-century physicist, mechanic, and kabbalist who once read the mind of the king of Prussia. His theosophical lineage connected him with millennarian groups in Pennsylvania and Germany, and, conveniently, with several curious objects in the collection of the American Philosophical Society. Here’s that history, in objects. (American Philosophical Society)

On the evening of May 31, 1921, mobs of white people attacked Black residents and burned the homes and businesses of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma—aka Black Wall Street. The  hundredth anniversary is being marked by a slew of articles, books, and documentary films that tell the story of that horror. One scholar, Karlos K. Hill, has devoted his life to teaching the history of segregation and anti-Black racism, and just published The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre: A Photographic History. Here’s an excerpt of this important book. (Public Domain Review)

As with most seventeenth century artists who were women you probably don’t know her name, but Joanna Koerten, or “Scissors-Minerva,” is especially obscure because of her choice of a humble medium: cut paper. Discover her work together with us. (Jstor Daily)

Have a look at the upholstery fabrics produced by the Scottish firm Donald Brothers, which churned out designs by well known artists including Marion Dorn, Eva Crofts, Marian Mahler, and Mary Oliver during the twentieth century. Information is limited due to lost company records, but this collection of some three hundred designs gives some idea of the firm’s beautiful work. (Jstor Daily)


ART FOR THE PEOPLE

After a year of painstaking restoration, the Tiffany Studios stained glass Hartwell Memorial Window is now on view at its new home in the Art Institute of Chicago. This monumentally scaled century-old artwork is well worth a visit to the Windy City. Look out for more in our July/August issue, too. (Smithsonian Magazine

Head north along the shores of Lake Michigan to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where the Art Preserve is opening on June 26. The newly built, experimental museum will be the first of its kind to display environments built by artists—whether gardens of concrete people and animals, rhinestone-studded interiors, or entire sheds fitted out with whatsits and thingamabobs to focus the healing powers of the earth—rather than just single works of art. An extension of the nearby John Michael Kohler Arts Center, the Art Preserve will showcase a collection built over forty years, and serve as a study center for works in this emerging category. Look for our more thorough coverage of the Art Preserve in the coming July/August folk art issue. (New York Times)

After six months of pandemic-induced closure, the National Gallery of Art has reopened, and it features a new brand identity designed by Michael Gericke and Michael Bierut of Pentagram. Museum officials hope that the bright logo and other visual elements, as well as improved messaging, will signal a more vibrant, welcoming, and inclusive institution. (Creative Boom)

Writer Hannah Baker can’t like the move. One of her recent editorials called for the abolition of old museums as part of an “ethical reorientation from our old ways of thinking, a divestment from a conservationist and capitalist ideology, and a centering of voices previously silenced by the colonial project.” (Hyperallergic)

With Joe Biden proposinga major funding increase for the National Endowment for the Arts, we’d certainly like to see some new initiatives that move us closer to equity. According to the NEA, it will use funds for “advancing racial equity, civil rights, racial justice, and equal opportunity by extended outreach.” (Art Newspaper)


ZOOMERS AND MILLENNIALS

The younger generation has a lot to say about cultural issues, and specific creators have wide followings on social media, which helps them get their (sometimes quite fun) messages out. Check out _theIconoclass, whose TikTok videos focus on art historical topics in succinct and surprising ways. (Bored Panda)

A “crypto media incubator and culture accelerator” (hmmm) called “TRiPTYCH” is being used to help identify the photographer behind a mysterious photo of Andy Warhol. It’s another case of “who shot Andy Warhol?” (OpenSea Blog)

Meet Maude Smith, who shuns minimalism in favor of a kind of DIY hand-crafted “cheerfully cluttered” living environment. As you’re probably aware, we feel encouraged by young people who salvage old things, and anybody who considers the Edwardian-era painter and interior decorator Vanessa Bell an inspiration is A-ok in our book. (Messy Nessy Chic)

New light: Hidden in Plain Sight

Matthew Webster Magazine

The front elevation of what was then the Dudley Digges House, at its original location on Prince George Street, Williamsburg, Virginia, in a photograph by Earl Gregg Swem, 1921. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, Virginia, John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library, Special Collections.

On September 29, 1760, a school for enslaved and free Black children opened in Williamsburg, Virginia. The school was the result of an educational initiative begun decades earlier in Great Britain by the Reverend Dr. Thomas Bray and his associates, who sought to establish multiple schools for individuals of African descent in British North America. Their aim was to convert Black attendees to Christianity while educating them and instilling notions of obedience.

The Reverend Thomas Dawson and printer William Hunter of Williamsburg worked to launch the city’s school, securing both a location and a teacher. This became the most successful “Bray School” in Virginia. A single teacher, Ann Wager, would instruct an estimated four hundred enslaved and free Black children there between 1760 and 1774, when the school closed.

The Williamsburg Bray School’s first location was across the street from a large carpenter’s yard near the College of William and Mary. Bray School trustee Robert Carter Nicholas wrote to London that the school remained in the rented building “as long as it was tenantable.” Some have assumed that it was in disrepair since it served for only five years before the school moved to a new location in 1765.

What became of the first Bray School building? By 1926 a small frame house stood on the site where the Bray School was thought to have operated. The structure had seen multiple changes and additions, and was then a women’s dormitory for students at William and Mary. To make way for a new residence hall, the structure and its additions were moved a block away in 1930. Decades later, extensive research by William and Mary professor Terry Meyers confirmed that the Bray School was first operated on the site now occupied by the dormitory built in the 1930s, suggesting that the small, relocated house might be the first Bray School. So, over several years, researchers, architectural historians, and material analysts sought to determine if the building contained the remnants of the school.

Bray-Digges House as it appears today. Courtesy of the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia.

Architectural historians believed the heavily altered building might date anywhere from themed-eighteenth century to the early nineteenth. Dendrochronology, the scientific method of dating tree rings, was attempted on exposed framing in the attic, but the fast-grown lumber found there could not be dated. (Fast growth occurs when optimal regional environmental conditions cause trees to grow unusually quickly.) Moreover, fast-grown lumber is typically seen in construction toward the end of the eighteenth century in Williamsburg, well after the Bray School closed. And the few early paint layers that could be found in the structure contained components first used in the early nineteenth century. The house was beginning to look like a later structure based on the physical evidence.

In 2020 Colonial Williamsburg’s Department of Architectural Preservation and Research was asked to look at the house and determine if there were any further ways to discover a date. As a result, in concert with our associates at William and Mary, we opened select areas of the wall, exposing principal framing members for further dendrochronological analysis. Working with the Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory, new samples were taken. Four of them could be dated with high confidence and three of those were intact enough to give specific felling dates and seasons. The study showed that the trees used to construct the frame were felled in the winter of 1759–1760 and the spring of 1760. This gave concrete evidence that the small building was, in fact, the Bray School, and thus the earliest surviving building in the United States dedicated to Black education. Our understanding of the building is just beginning. There are several years of research, preservation, and interpretive work ahead. This story, once hidden in plain sight, can now begin to be told.


MATTHEW WEBSTER is the executive director of the Grainger Department of Architectural Preservation and Research at Colonial Williamsburg.

Openings and Closings: June 2 to June 8

Elizabeth Lanza Art, Exhibitions

La Divina Commedia di Dante (Dante and His Poem) by Domenico di Michelino (1417–1491), 1465. Via Wikimedia Commons.

British Library, London, UK

If you’re a history lover but you’d prefer to stay home and get your museum fix, the British Library has you covered. Thanks to the library’s Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts Section, we can now look at a digitized three-dimensional view of images in illuminated manuscripts. Today, we’re looking at the demo of a digitized scene from an early copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy. As we eagerly await the completion of the full digitization project, check here to browse the library’s other digital holdings as well as here to check out the Dante demo.

Hooded Visorbearer by Martin Johnson Heade (1819–1904), c. 1863–1864. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas; Photograph by Dwight Primiano.

Thomas Cole Historic Site, Catskill, NY and Olana, Hudson, NY

As summer weather comes to the northeast, the Thomas Cole House and Frederic Church’s estate Olana renew their collaborative Hudson River Skywalk exhibition series. The latest installment, opening June 12, is Cross Pollination: Heade, Cole, Church, & Our Contemporary Moment. The exhibition explores interconnections between art and environmental science from the 19th century to the present day. The show was inspired by Martin Johnson Heade’s famed series of paintings of hummingbirds in their native habitat, The Gems of Brazil. Sixteen paintings from this series will make their first public appearance in more than twenty years, joined by works from artists ranging from Cole to contemporary painters such as Nick Cave and Dana Sherwood. This exhibition is a must-see if you’re in the Hudson Valley this summer. Make sure to check here or here to plan your trip in advance.

Anti-slavery flag ca. 1861 featuring 13 black and white stripes and 23 stars, which excluded the Confederate states from its star count. The flag reads “No Union With Slavery.” Jeff R. Bridgman, American Antiques, York, Pennsylvania.

Museum of the American Revolution, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

With Flag Day around the corner, the Museum of the American Revolution is preparing to celebrate with a new exhibition opening on June 12: Flags and Founding Documents, 1776–Today. The exhibition will feature rare American flags as well as early state constitutions and the first printing of the U.S. Constitution as it was sent out for ratification in 1787. Many of the flags on view have never been exhibited and their stars and stripes trace the evolution of the country through wars and statehood. As we celebrate Flag Day, the Museum of the American Revolution reminds us to continue to strive to fulfill the promise of the American Revolution. As always, make sure to check here to plan your trip ahead of time.

Discovery by Thomas Hart Benton (1889–1975), 1920. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri; © T.H. Benton and R.P. Benton Testamentary Trusts/UMB Bank, Trustee/Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska

One hundred years ago, the United States went through a period of massive economic, social, and artistic change that resulted in new forms of expression including American Art Deco design. This week, the Joslyn Art Museum is welcoming a new exhibition entitled American Art Deco: Designing for the People, 1918–1939. The exhibition examines the dynamic style of American Art Deco in ten thematic sections, tracing its origins in Paris to its interpretation by influential American artists. Boasting more than 140 works, the exhibition offers museumgoers a glimpse of what “modern” once was. As you’re making your way over to the museum, check here to plan your trip in advance.

Curious Objects: Chatting about Museum Health and Georgian Glass

Sammy Dalati Curious Objects, Magazine

Despite how difficult it can sometimes be for museums to keep the lights on—especially during a global pandemic—they’re generally prohibited from spending money from deaccessioned art on anything except new acquisitions. As Curious Objects’ host Benjamin Miller points out, the predicament is like that of Tantalus from Greek mythology, who, standing in a pool of water and desperately thirsty, must watch the water shrink from his hand every time he reaches down to cup it.

The Foreign Factories (hongs or warehouses) of Canton, Chinese export, c. 1784–1785. Reverse-painted glass, 15 by 21 1/8 inches. Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York.

Last year, the Association of Art Museum Directors issued a resolution that lifts some restrictions on the use of such funds until April 2022. While the measure does provide financially insecure institutions with desperately needed maneuvering room, it also opens a Pandora’s box of sorts. For instance, if museums start to see deaccessioning as a cure-all, will damage be done to the scope and significance of their collections? And will it remain possible to convince donors to contribute to less sexy museum needs if they know that funds can be raised simply by selling underexhibited or even unexamined works taking up room in the basement?

On the occasion of this year’s virtual Philadelphia Show art and antiques fair, organized in part by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Miller asks the museum’s director and CEO Timothy Rub about his institution’s response to the AAMD’s ruling, and about how it might affect the museum world generally. In a wide-ranging conversation that explores institutional collecting and deaccessioning habits and procedures, as well as fundraising niceties, Rub makes a strong case for continuing to keep the departments of a museum—and their fundraising efforts—firmly separated. It’s a sober and important addition to the conversation surrounding the AAMD’s decision, from one of the most thoughtful and articulate executives in the museum world. Don’t miss it.

Coming up, Miller will speak with Corning Museum of Glass curator Christopher Maxwell about the museum’s exhibition In Sparkling Company: Glass and the Costs of Social Life in Britain during the 1700s. (Readers may remember previous podcast guest John Stuart Gordon’s article about the show in ANTIQUES’ September/October 2020 issue.) The eighteenth century saw a cultural blossoming in the British Empire, with William Kent and Robert Adam lending their genius to architecture, Hogarth and Gainsborough to painting, Chippendale to furniture, and countless others to the fields of metalworking and ceramics. The contributions of glassworkers, and particularly those manipulating a newly invented compound called lead glass, represent an overlooked facet of that fascinating century.

Timothy Rub, George D. Widener Director and chief executive officer at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photograph courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Choosing from among the many noteworthy objects comprising In Sparkling Company—which range from brilliant-cut paste jewelry to goblets with colored twists of enamel baked into their stems—Miller and Maxwell select as their focus an object relevant to the eighteenth century’s global trade network: a Chinese export reverse painting on glass, from about 1784–1785. The technique of reverse painting was introduced to China in the late 1600s by European traders, who manufactured and shipped the plate glass used for its support. By the middle of the following century, artists specializing in producing images for foreign markets were well-established at China’s primary international port—Guangzhou, then commonly known as Canton—as well as the capital of Beijing. The work in question depicts a bullish scene on the Zhujiang River, with junks and sampans crowding the wharf in front of “hongs”—trading houses—flying the flags of Denmark, Sweden, Great Britain, and the Netherlands, at a time when the opium troubles that would eventually bring everything crashing down were still only a distant possibility.

Tune in to Curious Objects on Spotify, iTunes, or wherever you listen to podcasts, or check here.

Wandering Eye: A Stitch in Time

Editorial Staff Opinion

What the editors of The Magazine ANTIQUES are looking at this week

Subscribe to the Wandering Eye for more.

Pair of “Harlequin” earrings, probably English, c. 1760. Cut glass and silver; height of each 3 3/8 inches. Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York.

ART ALL OVER

A two-part exhibition of sixteen quilts, made over the course of seventy years by women from the same family and recently given to the Columbus Museum in Georgia, is underway in that state. The gift was presented by Dr. Paul M. Goggans, whose quilting grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-aunt intended these showstoppers for—get this—functional purposes. (Antiques and the Arts Weekly

What’s in a name? A lot. So should we use women artists’ first or last (or first and last) when referencing them in academic discussions of their work? First names are frequently employed, as in the case of Alexander Nemerov’s new book on Helen Frankenthaler. This essay brings to light the complicated issues at play for some writers of biographical scholarship: “Yes, it’s hard to have a name when you’re a woman. But it shouldn’t have to be.” (Hyperallergic)

A new exhibition currently on view at the Pitti Palace (Palazzo Pitti) in Florence showcases the sophisticated still life paintings of Giovanna Garzoni, the seventeenth-century artist who in her work walked a line between scientific observational studies and artful expression. Along with a group of other women working during the period, including Artemisia Gentileschi, Garzoni is enjoying a well-deserved moment in the sun. (Apollo)

Another Italian artist who has fallen into obscurity in the centuries since her death is Marietta Robusti, a sixteenth-century portraitist highly regarded during the Renaissance. As it is noted in this article (whose author calls her “Marietta”), attributing paintings to her with certainty is difficult to do. Problem 1: Few verified works exist. Problem 2: Her father was the master Tintoretto, and many of the portraits possibly by Robusti were painted under the aegis of his workshop. (Apollo)

The distinction between mainstream and outsider art—increasingly porous as it is—is probably strengthened by critics continuously referring to it. After all, like much in art history, it has no concrete reality: once upon a time (namely the 1930s), everything produced here was simply “American art.” Katherine Jentleson’s Gatecrashers: The Rise of the Self-Taught Artist in America, reviewed here, decries the cultural impoverishment that began when the art world forgot that fact. (Interesting Ideas


MINERAL RESOURCES

A fascinating new show at the Corning Museum of Glass—In Sparkling Company: Glass and the Costs of Social Life in Britain during the 1700s—is on view now through January 2022. Take a brief tour of the show with the Bee’s Karla Klein Albertson, and read Yale scholar John Stuart Gordon’s assessment of the show in our pages, then listen in with Corning’s curator and show organizer Christopher Maxwell, who sat down with Benjamin Miller for our (new, shiny) episode of Curious Objects. (Antiques and the Arts Weekly/TMA Podcast/TMA Review)

Ben was delighted to do an episode on glass, but, as a dealer, his heart is in silver. Our friend Spencer Gordon (of Spencer Marks, Ltd.) let us know that he was recently interviewed for the three-part docuseries Chasing Silver: The Story of Gorham which is being presented on Rhode Island PBS and can be streamed on demand. The film aims to trace the impact of one of America’s most storied silver manufacturers from its roots as a small company in Providence in the mid-nineteenth century. (RIPBS)

Apparently, the gold antiquities market has seen a considerable increase in fakes, much of it owing to technological advancements in 3-D printing. This development has collecting institutions very concerned. (Guardian)

Speaking of gold, the Women’s Jewelry Association has joined with Ethical Metalsmiths and Amazon Aid Foundation to offer a free private online screening of the documentary River of Gold on June 3. Learn about responsible sourcing and sustainability with Sissy Spacek and Herbie Hancock, who help you navigate through the murky waters of illicit gold mining. The film has been on our radar thanks to a month-long series of talks produced by Initiatives in Art and Culture, called All that Glitters.  (River of Gold)


HISTORY LESSONS

Reviewer A. S. H. Smyth builds a convincing case for Edmund Richardson’s new book Alexandria: The Quest for the Lost City, calling it the most rollicking thing he’s read in years. Recounted is the life story of one “Charles Masson” (born James Lewis), a mercenary for the British East India Company turned archaeologist, who stumbled upon the Buddhas of Bamiyan and the ruins of Harappa, then had all his research stolen. (Spectator)

Here’s a history of the Irish keen, a sustained, high-pitched wail produced by mourners (sometimes hired) at funerals on the isle for more than a millennium, and source of almost as many interpretations as there are social commentariats. (Lapham’s Quarterly)

In between ogling Anna Wintour’s dress and imbibing liquid courage (in anticipation of chatting up Tom Ford, perhaps) at this year’s Met Gala, we hope you’ll take a moment to admire the Temple of Dendur. A monument to ancient masonry, as well as for modern logistics, the stone building was relocated from Egypt to New York in 1967 as part of a massive project led by UNESCO. (Messy Nessy Chic)

From the Archives: OMG Indeed!

Susan L. Talbott Art, Exhibitions

The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut, recently celebrated the completion of an eight-year renovation overseen by Susan L. Talbott. Photographs by Allen Phillips.

It was quiet in the galleries last September as I took a final walk through the Wadsworth Atheneum before the grand unveiling of our eight-year project to bring back its glories. I wondered how our members, patrons, the press, and the public would respond to all that we have done here. It has been a long haul, full of ups and downs in the economically stressed city of Hartford, Connecticut, as we renovated and upgraded the museum’s aged buildings so that its world-class collections could be reinstalled.

The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut.

With a day to go before the opening, I was already assured of one achievement. Throughout the five years of cranes poised above our five-building complex, workers hauling materials in and out, painters and plasterers teetering on ladders and climbing up scaffolding, we kept the museum’s doors open and retained our historic position as the oldest continuously operating public art museum in the nation.

Throughout these turbulent years visitors came—braving the construction to see special exhibitions on Caravaggio and his followers, Monet’s water lilies, Rembrandt’s portraits, and my own show of Patti Smith’s photography. Yes, we had to close galleries but we soldiered on, reviving our MATRIX series of contemporary art and artists, staging lectures, and introducing new pro- grams. And then in February of 2015 our blockbuster show, Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland celebrated the completion of the first phase of the renovation—the special exhibition and contemporary and postwar galleries that had just opened.

The reinstalled European Art galleries in the renovated Morgan Memorial Building combine paintings and sculpture, as well as decorative arts. Phillips photograph.

I thought back to the first time I climbed the stairs of the castle Daniel Wadsworth opened in 1844 full of enthusiasm about the new audiences I envisioned bringing through its doors. The folding tables and handmade signs on rickety easels in the lobby and the worn, neglected galleries did not strike me as an auspicious or welcoming environment for what I hoped to do. I’d just been offered the director’s position, but as I was not yet a familiar face I was almost turned away by a disgruntled greeter. I entered the vaulted Beaux Arts Morgan Great Hall, erected a hundred years ago by Hartford-born J. Pierpont Morgan, and encountered its chipped and fading red walls. Of course there was worse to come with setbacks and emergencies over the next few years, including late night calls to alert me that rain, snow, and leaking pipes were endangering the art and that some of it would have to be moved into storage for safekeeping..

Vitrines in the Baroque Art: Looking Abroad gallery contain a pair of seventeenth-century Chinese porcelain vases and a Kangxi baluster vase. Among the paintings is a portrait of Giovanni Lodovico Americi, Italian, mid-seventeenth century. Phillips photograph.

As the construction project loomed, I faced another challenge that was equally important to me: Few residents of Harford’s low-income communities ever visited the galleries. Many of them didn’t evenrealize that the imposing castle in their downtown was an art museum meant for everyone. I wanted to find a way to attract those inner city neighbors as well as the young people who commute to and from downtown each day. As a child from a low- income household in New York City my eyes had been opened on school trips to museums and by the free art programs offered to us there. That is what I wanted for the citizens of Hartford.

In the Late Baroque Art gallery a porcelain basket of flowers made by Meissen and Vincennes, c. 1740s and 1751, complements Giovanni Battista Piazzetta’s Boy with a Pear and Girl with a Ring Biscuit, c. 1740. Phillips photograph.

As we embarked on the vast construction project, our education department helped me create a community engagement initiative that grew to encompass numerous partnerships with the city and suburban public schools as well as with local social service organizations. Visiting artists were paired with students on projects in their neighborhoods. Museum educators developed an art and writing curriculum for neighborhood schools and docents worked with teachers to hone skills in the classroom and then bring the students to the museum. A Hartford Public Schools executive took our project even further, surprising us one Saturday by busing in nearly a thousand inner-city children and their families. That program continues today. One Saturday, a boy turned to me and said, “It must be great to be a museum director.” I had to agree.

The reinstalled Contemporary Art galleries opened in January 2015. Prominent in this view are Duane Hanson’s Sunbather, 1971; Andy Warhol’s, Early Colored Jackie, 1964; Tom Wesselmann’s Great American Nude #69, 1965; and Robert Rauschenberg’s Retroactive I, 1964. Phillips photograph.

It was not all smooth sailing because support for this kind of community engagement was initially mixed. There had been too many false starts by past administrations so our neighbors were skeptical. Even some of our trustees who supported the concept were a bit leery. After all, we were about to launch a major renovation and funds were tight. Fortunately, foundations and corporations came forward to support our community work. They took their lead from the savvy Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, which supplied seed money and continues to help. In the end, the skeptics were won over when they saw what could be accomplished.

Edward Burne-Jones’s Saint George, 1873–1877, and William Holman Hunt’s The Lady of Shalott, c. 1890–1905, are juxtaposed with a vase or umbrella stand, probably 1886, by the Doulton Ceramic Factory in the gallery titled Late Nineteenth-Century Art: Unifying Art and Craft. Phillips photograph.

Connecticut is known as the land of steady habits and Hartford is a conservative town. Its residents cherish its history but are wary of change. Not all of my ideas went over easily. Then, too, the institution had been destabilized in recent years. Before me, a string of short-term directors, acting directors, interim directors, and, for a time, no director, had stalled its momentum. When I arrived, there was only a scant exhibition schedule and a number of key staff vacancies that had to be filled. It was 2008, not a good year financially, making some staff layoffs inevitable.

Still, I found allies on the board, in the business community, and in government. Governor Dannel P. Malloy came through, supplying the majority of funds needed to complete the $33 million renovation project. We ran a tight ship. With close oversight by the board’s finance committee, I balanced the museum budget every year of the renovation. We kept costs down. And we even built our own power plant to free us from exorbitant yearly fees.

Johann Zoffany’s Plundering the King’s Cellar at Paris, 1794, and Mather Brown’s Louis XVI Saying Farewell to His Family, c. 1793, provide fitting drama in the Eighteenth-Century Art: The French Revolution gallery. Phillips photograph.

It is now nearly eight years since that first day on the steps of the museum and the end of five years of renovation. I wore my walking shoes on the final walk through because there was much ground to cover on the polished terrazzo floors of the Morgan building as I surveyed its makeover. The Great Hall is pristine; scarred and weathered clerestory windows replaced and ornate decorative moldings brought back to life. New LED lighting bathes the blue walls lined floor to ceiling with paintings. European and American masterworks along with quirkier works brought out from storage hang together, arranged salon style as they would have been in Morgan’s day.

All five buildings are now restored; the “weeping walls” and leaking roofs are history. More than a thousand works are on display in the Morgan building—the last to be finished—in new and dynamic arrangements created by our curator of European art Oliver Tostmann and our curator of European decorative art Linda Roth. Paintings, sculpture, and the decorative arts are now shown in concert to tell stories of the cultures that created them.

Eighteenth-century Meissen porcelain figures are seen in this view of the Late Baroque gallery. Phillips photograph.

I am especially proud of having brought five hundred more artworks into the collection in these past eight years, including gifts of major works by Richard Tuttle, George Segal, and a key bequest of arts and crafts furniture and decorative art by collector Stephen Gray. Purchases of works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Reginald Marsh, Sean Scully, and Kara Walker (among many others) enhanced our holdings of modern and contemporary art while Artemisia Gentileschi’s masterpiece, Self Portrait as a Lute Player—a 2014 purchase—is shown for the first time in our new galleries flanked by her father Orazio’s Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes and Caravaggio’s Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy. 

Among our recent acquisitions is one that has created a stir, even among our own ranks— three blinking antique letters mounted over the 1842 castle door on Main Street: OMG. Jack Pierson’s work, commissioned by curator of contemporary art, Patricia Hickson, to enliven a once foreboding entry to the museum, spurred a lively debate. Was it suitable for a historic building?

As I took my walk and prepared to retire from the museum at the end of the year, I wondered about the reception of all of this, including our decision to use interactive technology sparingly so that we continue to honor the primacy of the art. The collection is what brought me to Hartford and the vision of a fitting home for these superlative works is what has driven me through the vast physical and cultural changes at the Wadsworth Atheneum during my tenure.

The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut, recently celebrated the completion of an eight-year renovation overseen by Susan L. Talbott, shown at the preview with David W. Dangremond, president of the board of trustees, and Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy. Photographs by Allen Phillips and © The Defining Photo.

I am pleased to say that the verdict on the renovation came quickly and decisively. On the eve of our opening the New York Times critic Roberta Smith started her review with, “Hurrah” and the headline called the renovation a “masterpiece.” The Hartford Courant called the transformation “a triumph.” The Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe followed suit as did many others.

By the end of our opening weekend, almost five thousand people had come through the doors with smiles, wondrous gazes, and even a few tears of relief and gratification. Families of all backgrounds roamed the fifty-four galleries and our drawing boards and activity stations were in full use throughout the day. A seventy-five-piece orchestra from the local Hartt School captured the moment when it filled the Morgan Great Hall with a thunderous performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

Governor Malloy addresses the crowd in the Great Hall of the renovated Junius Spencer Morgan Memorial Building at the reopening. © The Defining Photo.

The Internet lit up with pictures of the opening. One photo featured OMG blinking on the castle facade and the caption, “Hartford’s new skyline.” Of the many congratulatory notes I received, one stood out. The writer quoted Booker T. Washington: “You measure the size of the accomplishment by the obstacles you had to overcome to reach your goals.” As I look forward to what I will do in the future, I can’t help appreciating the incredible opportunity afforded me and our team to overcome every obstacle and transform this storied museum.