Birds of a Feather

Brian Allen  Art, Exhibitions

Fig. 1. East parlor of the main house at Olana State Historic Site, Hudson, New York. Orchid and Three Brazilian Hummingbirds from the series Pictures of Magazines 2 by Vik Muniz (1961–), 2013, hangs above the fireplace. Photograph © Peter Aaron/OTTO, courtesy of Olana State Historic Site, Hudson, New York; exhibition print © Vik Muniz / VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY, courtesy of the artist and Sikkema, Jenkins and Co. Gallery, New York.

Arriving this month at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, after a joint stop at Olana, the artist Frederic Edwin Church’s exquisite Moorish revival home in Hudson, New York, and, across the river, at the home of Church’s mentor, the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in the town of Catskill, Cross Pollination: Heade, Cole, Church, and Our Contemporary Moment is a new exhibition that does everything right. And in our unusually discordant contemporary moment, “doing everything right” is a salve. The show is calibrated to interest lovers of both traditional art and the cutting-edge art of today, and in doing so it gives the much-trodden Hudson River school a different, compelling look.

Fig. 2. View of Mount Etna by Thomas Cole (1801–1848), 1842. Inscribed “T. Cole./ 1842” at lower left. Oil on canvas, 32 by 48 inches. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas.

The exhibition is the work of curators from Crystal Bridges, Olana, and the Cole Historic Site, and it’s a smart collaboration, in large part funded by Art Bridges, Alice Walton’s new foundation that promotes hard-to-do collection sharing and partnerships. Anchoring the show are the sixteen canvases in Martin Johnson Heade’s Gems of Brazil, his ode to hummingbirds painted in 1863 and 1864. Both the paintings and their subjects are small, rarified, and riveting.

Fig. 3. View on the Magdalena River by Frederic Edwin Church (1826–1900), 1857. Oil on canvas, 23 3/4 by 36 inches. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond.

Heade was as much a naturalist as a painter. He traveled to Brazil to indulge his monomania for hummingbirds, their variety, setting, color, coupling, and parenting. The paintings are studies in iridescence, with sparkling moments of periwinkle, pineapple yellow, lime green, and ruby. Sinuous vines and wisps of moss enhance a sense of otherworldly, pre-Raphaelite composition.

Heade was inspired by John James Audubon’s mammoth Birds of America, published between 1827 and 1838, and hoped to produce his own sumptuously illustrated book on hummingbirds. Though the book never materialized, the paintings survived and became well known in Heade’s lifetime. Names like Frilled Coquette, Snowcap, and Black- throated Mango evoke an old-time fan dance. They’re the most fetching pageant around.

Hummingbirds are great pollinators, and this incisive, focused show looks at crosspollination of ideas as well as sex cells among plants. Ideas are, at their best, malleable creatures. Cross Pollination is an aesthetic delight, but it has a seriously academic side. That it has both is its real joy. Thomas Cole is represented by many good works in the show, among them View of Mount Etna from 1842 (Fig. 2). The painting is rooted in nature. Specificity is Cole’s guide. His ends, though, are a harmonious, even poetic, whole. Cole’s Italian subjects and his Hudson River scenes are moral allegories. These and his Voyage of Life and Course of Empire series aim for intellectual heights, as did the literary giants of Cole’s era.

Fig. 8. Hooded Visorbearer from the Gems of Brazil series by Heade, c. 1863–1864. Oil on canvas, 12 1/4 by 10 inches. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

Frederic Church was Cole’s brilliant student and his acolyte, but his work demonstrates that, while the ideas teachers convey can lead their students to emulation, they can also lead to dissent. His View on the Magdalena River from 1857 (Fig. 3) breaks with Cole. Church’s mature work is less poetic, uplifting, and moral. It’s frankly spectacular, even imperial. We’re carried to exotic places and become armchair explorers. Heade emulated both Church and Cole. Cole built the foundation of American landscape painting, presenting his paintings as the New World’s retort to Europe’s ruins, castles, and cathedrals. He extolled close looking at nature. Heade followed in these footsteps. Heade and Church were close friends, and in Gems of Brazil he gives us a microscopic view of the natural world that’s still every bit as majestic as Church’s. Heade’s Brazilian canvases combine landscape, still life, and even genre painting. Up close and personal, we’re treated to the private life of hummingbirds.

Fig. 9. Pink Forest with Stump by Patrick Jacobs (1971–), 2016. Styrene, acrylic, cast neoprene, paper, hair, polyurethane foam, ash, talc, starch, acrylite, vinyl film, copper, wood, steel, lighting, and BK7 glass diorama window; diameter 7 3/8 inches. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; photograph by Edward C. Robison III.

The elegiac mood of Cole’s late work signaled his concern that a swelling population and economic growth were destroying America’s forests and polluting its rivers. Heade, too, saw in the lives of hummingbirds nature’s exquisitely crafted interdependencies, and how easily they could be disrupted.

Fig. 10. View inside the main house at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. Chaplet by Nick Cave (1957–), 2020, hangs between Cole’s Autumn Landscape (View of Mount Chocorua), 1827– 1828 (on loan from the Jack Warner Foundation, Tuscaloosa, Alabama) and his Hunters in a Landscape, 1824–1825. Photograph © Peter Aaron/OTTO, courtesy of Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Catskill, New York; Nick Cave, courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Fast forward to today. Cross Pollination deftly mixes old and new, from the expressions of Cole and Heade to those of artists such as Nick Cave and Vic Muniz. The conversation is never forced, in part because Cross Pollination’s curators selected on target art from today. Many of the artists had Gems of Brazil in mind as they worked. Some didn’t, but their art shows the Hudson River school still has the juice to influence artists of the twenty-first century. Aside from showing the debt living artists owe the American Old Masters, Cole, Church, and Heade seem refreshed by the young company.

Fig. 11. White Brazilian Orchid after Martin Johnson Heade, by Muniz, c. 2010, on display in Olana’s main stair hall. Photograph © Peter Aaron/OTTO, courtesy of Olana State Historic Site, exhibition print © Vik Muniz / VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY, courtesy of the artist and Sikkema, Jenkins, and Co. Gallery.

Rachel Sussman’s series of photographs called The Oldest Loving Things in the World, like the work of Cole, Church, and Heade, are part art and part science. As intrepid as those artists, Sussman looked for resilience in nature and found it in a fifty-five-hundred-year-old moss in Antarctica and a spruce tree in Sweden nearly ten thousand years old. Their strange shapes and her deep-focus technique make for the look of science fiction.

Fig. 12. Feral Cakes by Dana Sherwood (1977–), 2017, installed in the historic privy at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. Photograph © Peter Aaron/OTTO, courtesy of Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

Cave is a performance artist and textile designer. His work is a new take on immersion in nature. It’s bright, bold, and joyful but signals that nature’s more than a cause for celebration (Figs. 10, 14). It’s our job to steward it. Muniz is a Brazilian photographer, painter, and collagist. Living in São Paolo, he knew as much about flora and fauna in the jungle as New Yorkers know about butterflies in the bayou. His riffs on Heade are chromatically supercharged (Figs. 1, 11). Crystal Bridges has a fine collection of American landscapes (though few seascapes), and a visit to its permanent collection gives Cross Pollination even more depth and breadth.

Fig. 13. Eclipse by Sayler/Morris (Susannah Sayler [1969–] and Edward Morris [1971–]), 2014, installed in Thomas and Maria Cole’s bedroom at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. Photograph © Peter Aaron/OTTO, courtesy of Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

The exhibition catalogue merits a mention. It is succinct, with three essays making key and refreshingly original points. Too many exhibition catalogues are packed with blather, and curators too often use them as ways to give their friends writing jobs, so tangents abound. The Cross Pollination book has too much front and back matter, but with so many institutions and founders involved, that’s hard to avoid. As at the Academy Awards, everyone gets to have a word. It’s fitting in a way, since this is a gem of a show. With so much good art and scholarship, bows are deserved all round.

Fig. 14. Soundsuit by Cave, 2006–2012, in Church’s studio in the main house at Olana State Historic Site. Photograph © Peter Aaron/OTTO, courtesy of Olana State Historic Site, collection of Carol McCranie and Javier Magri, © Nick Cave.

Cross Pollination: Heade, Cole, Church, and Our Contemporary Moment is on view at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, from November 20 to March 21, 2022. 

Openings and Closings: November 24 to November 30

Elizabeth Lanza Exhibitions

Untitled (Rat with Cookie) by Craig Hinshaw (b. 1950), 1977. Flint Institute of Art, Michigan.

Flint Institute of Art, Michigan

Although we here in NYC might be better known for our long-standing love affair with coffee, the morning beverage of choice for the greater part of human history is tea. But tea isn’t just a drink anymore; from custom teapots and sugar bowls to finger sandwiches and tea cakes, serving tea is an artform in and of itself. This development of this artform is exactly what the Flint Institute of Art seeks to explore in their exhibition Steeped in Tradition. The exhibition is home to an eclectic collection of teaware in designs from pseudo-traditional to my personal favorite, Rat with Cookie. To see this collection in person, check here to plan your trip.

Saint John the Baptist in the Desert by Benedetto di Bartolomeo Grazzini aka Benedetto da Rovezzano (1474–1552), c. 1510. Colnaghi, New York.

Colnaghi New York

As one of the oldest commercial art galleries in the world, Colnaghi is always home to some of the most extraordinary exhibitions. Currently, one of Colnaghi NYC’s exhibitions Renaissance: Six Italian Masterpieces Rediscovered features masterworks from artists including Donatello, Tintoretto, Antonio Lombardo, and Benedetto da Rovezzano. If these names aren’t enough to pique your interest, the exhibition is also home to San Lorenzo a Donatello terracotta – one of the only surviving works by the artist in that medium. Renaissance offers visitors an exclusive look at precious works so, don’t wait, check here to plan your trip!

The Parlor by Richard Yarde (1939–2011), 1980. Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, South Hadley, Massachusetts, photograph by Laura Shea; image courtesy of the Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland.

Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland

First generation American and Roxbury, Massachusetts native Richard Yarde made his name as a watercolor artist. Drawing inspiration from Black photographers, post-impressionists, and politics, Yarde is best known for his 1983 installation reviving New York’s Savoy Ballroom at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Last weekend, the BMA opened the doors to a new exhibition celebrating the artist, Richard Yarde: Beyond the Savoy. The exhibition is home to thirty of his works. To see it in person, check here to plan your trip.

The Warhol holograms by Jason Arthur Sapan aka Doctor Laser (b. 1950), 1977. © Andy Warhol Foundation of the Visual Arts.

Aspen Art Museum, Colorado

Next week, the Aspen Art Museum will become the temporary home to the traveling exhibition Andy Warhol: Lifetimes, which made its debut at the Tate Modern, London and made stops at the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, and the Art Gallery of Toronto. The exhibition looks at the artist not as the colossal figure of twentieth century art but instead as a man and a queer outsider in the American landscape. Looking at archival materials of the artist’s lived experience, source material, and early installations, Lifetimes also brings lesser-known works into the conversation. To visit the exhibition in person, check here to plan your trip.

Editor’s letter: November/December 2021

Gregory Cerio Magazine

Promotional thumbnail image for Why period films are suddenly SO colorful, one of our new #TMAexplains videos.

As I often say to writers, here at The Magazine ANTIQUES we are in the business of telling stories, the more vivid and engaging the better. Readers—present company excluded, of course—are as slippery as greased eels, and we don’t want to lose their attention.

Towards that end, we are always looking for new ways to tell our stories, and the mixed blessing that is the Digital Age offers many. We hope you already visit our website, follow us on Instagram and other social media platforms, and listen to our podcast, Curious Objects. But aside from a few clips from live events, there was one communications medium we hadn’t tried: video.

Until now. Our last issue included a preview for our new #TMAexplains series on YouTube, and by the time you read this six of our videos will be available for viewing. (By the way, if you are unfamiliar with the conventions of social media—and, speaking as an Internet curmudgeon, I understand—all you need to know about the # symbol, or hashtag, is that it is an attention-getting device.) I recommend that you take a look via our website or via YouTube, and subscribe to our channel there (that’s important for web algorithmic voodoo reasons, and it’s free, no strings attached, and only requires a click).

“Explainer” videos that can tell you all about, say, the War of Spanish Succession or how to grow cucumbers, are a staple of the Internet. Our videos could be better described as “contextualizers.” For example, one video looks at recent films and TV shows set in the nineteenth century such as Emma and Little Women and demonstrates that, contrary to received wisdom, the rooms and clothing of the past were not drably colored but instead vibrant and shimmering. Our videos are bouncy, energetic, fun, and funny. And while they are admittedly aimed at a younger audience, we’re sure viewers of any age will enjoy and learn from them. So far, we’ve gotten a wonderfully and overwhelmingly positive response. One prominent journalist in our field described them as a “game changer.”

Here is where the credits roll. The launch of #TMAexplains is the culmination of a deliberately paced enterprise nearly two years in duration. The lion’s share of credit goes to our senior editor Sammy Dalati, who brings numerous qualities to bear on all he does at ANTIQUES, among them intelligence, an eagerness to learn and deploy new skills, and a perfectionist’s eye. A list of all his video-related tasks could fill another Editor’s Letter, but suffice it to say that Sammy was the project’s guiding light and in charge of overall production.

Sammy is given advice, encouragement, and help with animation by our art director, Martin Minerva. Our indefatigable managing editor and tech whiz, Jenamarie Boots, writes scripts and creates storyboards. She and editorial assistant Elizabeth Lanza also help find the myriad images that appear in the videos. Last but hardly least, there is Michael Diaz-Griffith, the executive director of the Soane Foundation and a longtime friend of our magazine. Michael co-produces the series, giving us the benefits of his wide-ranging knowledge and superlative taste. Among other things, he offers story ideas, edits scripts, and provides the narration for the videos. I’ve been told that Michael’s voice is “sexy,” so perhaps that’s another enticement to watch.

Family Saga

Brian Allen Art, Exhibitions, Magazine

Fig. 1. Recumbent hare with raised forepaw netsuke, signed by Masotoshi, Japanese, c. 1880. height 1, width 1 3/8, depth 1 1/8 inches. Ivory, buffalo horn. Jewish Museum, New York, collection of the De Waal family; photograph by Marcus Harvey.

Edmund de Waal’s elegant and much praised family memoir, The Hare with Amber Eyes, is now an art and antiques exhibition, crossing from the pages of literature to the walls of the Jewish Museum in New York. The show, which bears the same name as de Waal’s 2010 book, is grounded in the now-famous group of old netsuke—small ivory, wood, or lacquer Japanese sculptures—acquired in the 1870s by Charles Ephrussi (Fig. 7), de Waal’s great-great-uncle—a connoisseur, writer, patron of the arts, and man on the scene in the avant-garde Paris of the last decades of the nineteenth century.

Fig. 2. Young woman in ball gown (Jeune femme en toilette de bal) by Berthe Morisot (1841–1895), 1879. Oil on canvas, 28 by 21 ¼ inches. Musée d’Orsay, Paris; photograph by Stephane Marechalle, courtesy RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, New York.

The precious little netsuke propel the story of the immensely rich Ephrussi family from Odessa to Vienna, Paris, and Tokyo, through booms, busts, falls of empire, and the Holocaust, to a point where a hidden past meets the present. The more than four hundred objects in the New York show are arranged with a panache unusual for a museum by Diller Scofidio and Renfro, the architecture and design impresarios.

The exhibition The Hare with Amber Eyes is both scholarly and aesthetically rich. Chronologically, it covers more than 150 years, five generations, and half a dozen countries. It’s arranged in six galleries within what was once the Gilded Age mansion of New York’s Warburg family and is now the museum.

Fig. 3. Group of three ivory netsuke, including a nut form, Japanese. Jewish Museum, De Waal collection; Harvey photograph.

It starts with a wunderkammer. It’s a visually impressive way to introduce the scope of the art that different Ephrussis owned, and to present a family who’s who. They began to make their fortune in Odessa in the 1840s, when Ignaz Ephrussi cornered the market in Ukrainian wheat and became known as the King of Grain. Vienna, the capital of the empire at the heart of Europe, a city and a nation that looked both east and west, was soon seen by Ignaz as the place a conglomerate and a family of consequence ought to be. A wunderkammer is where a collector displays rarities and curiosities, usually from many places and assembled over time. De Waal, best known as an English ceramist before he wrote the book, knew both something and next-to-nothing about his Ephrussi family roots. Over two years of travel and deep research, he assembled a story that’s itself packed with rarities and curiosities.

Fig. 4. Ja Noh mask, signed by Gyokumin on back, Japanese. Wood, height 2 7/8, width 1 3/4, depth 1 inch. Jewish Museum, De Waal family collection.

A gallery titled “Paris” presents the life of Charles Ephrussi: smart, rich, a bon vivant, and the youngest male member of the branch of the family sent to Paris to run its business interests there. As a younger son, his comings and goings were unfettered by business. He was free to pursue his own interests. These were mostly cultural. Charles acquired the netsuke early in his collecting career when, smitten by the Japonisme craze, he bought in one fell swoop 264 exquisitely carved examples. They were once used as toggles for high-end kimonos (see “Small Wonders,” p. 91), but, in Charles’s time and place, were seen as freestanding sculptures and collectible.

Fig. 5. Group of twenty-six netsuke, including mouse, snail, skull, kindling, medlar, and rope forms, Japanese. Jewish Museum, De Waal family collection; photograph by Marcus Lyon.

Charles’s interest in Japonisme was hit-and-run, a youthful impulse and splurge. As a curious but unformed aesthete, wasn’t he supposed to go with the latest luxury flow? His real passion, we learn, was impressionism, and, soon, art criticism. There’s a lovely Claude Monet painting in the show and portraits by Berthe Morisot (Fig. 2) and Pierre- Auguste Renoir (Figs. 6, 9). Charles knew all of the major impressionists. His relationships are a big part of the exhibition. He collected Morisot’s work, and enthused about her paintings in the magazine he edited, the Gazette des Beaux-Arts. For Renoir, he was a patron who introduced him to other patrons, such as the composer Albert Cahen. For Charles, Renoir was part servant, part acolyte—the artist even depicted Ephrussi in his famed society painting Luncheon of the Boating Party (Fig. 6). (Charles is the overdressed gent wearing a top hat.) Degas was a buddy with whom Charles partied. The older Édouard Manet saw Charles, who became an Albrecht Dürer scholar, as an intellectual equal. Marcel Proust drew from Charles’s persona when he crafted the character Charles Swann in Remembrance of Things Past. Charles owned Gustave Moreau’s Jason from 1865, a great early symbolist painting that underscores how broadly his taste reached (Fig. 8).

Fig. 6. Luncheon of the Boating Party (Le déjeuner des canotiers) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919), 1880–1881. Signed and dated “Renoir./ 1881.” at lower right. Oil on canvas, 51 1/4 by 69 1/8 inches. Phillips Collection, Washington, DC.

From Gilded Age Paris, from flaneurs and aesthetes, we follow the netsuke to Vienna circa 1900. Charles gave the entire netsuke collection to his cousin Viktor and his new wife, Emmy, as a wedding present. Viktor’s and Charles’s worlds were different. Both men were very rich but Viktor was deeply involved in the family business. He and Emmy were establishment Viennese living in the Palais Ephrussi. We go from the milieu of the avant-garde to that of the grand bourgeoisie.

They and their lifestyle are metaphors for the Ringstrasse, the vast, bombastic redevelopment of central Vienna starting in the 1850s. Big money, much of it from prosperous Jewish families, spurred a new Vienna, with a new opera house, parliament building, museums the size of Roman temples, and palace-size homes for titans of commerce like the Ephrussis. The objects here focus on two architectural monuments: the Palais Ephrussi and the Stadttempel, the city’s main synagogue. There’s superb Judaica, mostly in the high Renaissance and Gothic revival styles that constituted establishment refinement. Viktor collected incunabula and other rare books, tapestries, and porcelain, too.

Fig. 7. Charles Ephrussi [1849–1905] by Jean Patricot (1865–1928), 1905. Signed “Jean Patricot” at lower left. Drypoint on paper, 10 5/8 by 7 inches. Phillips Collection, Washington, DC.

Hung salon-style, a group of paintings in the exhibition that were collected by the family in Vienna casts light on their own tastes in art. In contrast to Charles, the Vienna branch owned work by masters of the Austrian, German, and Netherlandish schools, dark and serious. Charles’s aesthetic tended toward the fresh and new, Viktor’s toward history, and history can be dim and heavy.

We learn about Vienna’s Jewish aristocracy, marriages among rich families, and an assimilation that was near-complete. Wedged in that gap between incomplete and complete was a ticking bomb.

Fig. 8. Jason by Gustave Moreau (1826–1898), 1865. Signed and dated “– Gustave – Moreau – 1865 -” at lower left. Oil on canvas, 80 3/8 by 47 1/2 inches. Musée d’Orsay; photograph by Hervé Lewandowski, courtesy RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, New York.

In 1938 the Nazis made a brutal, sudden raid on the Ephrussi home and confiscated nearly all its contents. Viktor and Emmy had chosen to stay in Vienna after that year’s Anschluss, which united Germany and Austria politically. The family business and their home were there, after all. Over centuries, rich and poor Jews developed a talent for hoping for the best as well as a nose for sensing the worst that could happen. But Viktor’s and Emmy’s nose was off. They were rich, assimilated patriots, and model citizens. How could they not be valued? How could they be so hated?

Fig. 9. Albert Cahen d’Anvers by Renoir, 1881. Inscribed “Renoir./ Wargemont. 9.S.bre – 81.” at lower right. Oil on canvas, 31 1/2 by 25 1/8 inches. J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California.

The Palais Ephrussi was emptied. Viktor’s business was sold at a bargain basement price. The Nazis, though, overlooked the netsuke. In the ostentatious palace, the little netsuke were the odd art out. They reposed in a large, veneered vitrine in Emmy’s dressing room. There, for a generation, they bore silent witness to Emmy’s indulgence of high fashion, and most of her quality time with her four children. Over time, the Ephrussis’ maid, who stayed in the house as a servant of her new masters, smuggled them out one by one. She loyally kept them safe and returned them to Viktor and Emmy’s daughter. Circuitously, they were taken to Los Angeles, then to Tokyo, then to de Waal. They’re in New York now. Before these sweet, often playful figures unfolded a multitude of stories of love, loss, growing up, growing old, transience, and continuity.

Fig. 10. Parochet (curtain of a Torah shrine), Vienna, 1833. Silk damask, metal threads, and cotton, 10 feet 4 inches by 8 feet 8 3/8 inches. Jüdisches Museum Wien, Vienna, on permanent loan from the Sammlung IKG (Collection Israelitische Kultusgemeinde), Vienna.

The exhibition retells the diaspora of Viktor’s and Emmy’s children and their families through photographs and artifacts but most movingly through de Waal’s voice. He recorded passages of The Hare with Amber Eyes to which visitors can listen on specially provided headsets as they move through the show.

The Ephrussis make for a large cast. Some of them we like, some we don’t. De Waal’s research and book gives them heart and soul. The exhibition, probing and wide-reaching, goes one step further. It creates people we seem to know, people asserting strong personalities and their own presence, even as they’re tossed by the sea of world events.


The Hare with Amber Eyes will be on view at the Jewish Museum in New York from November 19 to May 15, 2022.

Openings and Closings: November 17 to November 23

Elizabeth Lanza Art

Camille Monet and a Child in the Artist’s Garden in Argenteuil by Claude Monet (1840–1926), 1875. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts; image courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas.

Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Texas

Early this week, a new exhibition opened at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston entitled Incomparable Impressionism from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The exhibition is comprised of 100 works on loan from the Boston collection including paintings by artists ranging from Camille Pissarro and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot to Mary Cassatt and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. If these names weren’t alluring enough, the exhibition is also home to sixteen canvases by none other than Claude Monet. MFA Houston is the show’s US venue, so to see it in person, check here to plan your visit.

Disney Concert Hall, Final Exterior Study: Grand Avenue Entry, Los Angeles by Carlos Diniz (1928-2001), 1998. Figge Art Museum, Davenport, Iowa.

Figge Art Museum, Davenport, Iowa

Carlos Diniz was a man of many talents. As an architectural illustrator, artist, and graphic designer Diniz was a major player in the twentieth century world of art and architecture. This week, the Figge Art Museum will open the doors to a new exhibition: Carlos Diniz, Master of Architectural Illustration. The exhibition features nine charcoal drawings by Diniz of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A. designed by Frank Gehry. The hall opened in 2003, two years after Diniz himself passed away, and the exhibition offers visitors the opportunity to look at the artistic process behind an iconic building. This exhibition is a must-see so, check here to plan your trip.

Minuet by Frank Eugene (1865–1936), 1900. San Diego Museum of Art, California.

San Diego Museum of Art, California

Originally planned for a November of 2020 debut, the San Diego Museum of Art is finally able to welcome the exhibition Master of Photography: The Garner Collection on November 20. This long-awaited show features images captured by some of the most famous photographers of the 20th century and onwards. Organized in three parts – Reflections on Nature, Things as They Are, and Manipulating Reality – the exhibition is home to work by artists including Ansel Adams, Berenice Abbott, and Manuel Álvarez Bravo. The diverse array of works presented in Master of Photography should not be missed so check here to plan your trip in advance.

Sauceboat by Bing & Grøndahl c. 1888-1890. Flint Institute of Arts, Michigan.

Flint Institute of Arts, Michigan

In a few weeks, the Flint Institute of Arts will say goodbye to the exhibition Art Nouveau Innovation: Danish Porcelain from an American Collector. The exhibition is the temporary home for seventy-five ceramics in the art nouveau style of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During this era, Danish porcelain manufacturers and art nouveau artists alike were interested in depictions of the natural world and international cultures. To see the impressive collection, check here.

End notes: After the Fire: Notes on Notre-Dame

Eleanor H. Gustafson Books, Magazine

Gargoyles of Notre Dame by Winslow Homer (1836–1910), 1867. Private collection; photograph © Christie’s Images / Bridgeman Images.
Small but mighty. That’s how you might describe Kevin D. Murphy’s The Cathedral of Notre-Dame of Paris: A Quick Immersion, published late last year by Tibidabo. In fewer than two hundred five-by-eight-inch pages, Murphy, the Andrew W. Mellon Chair in the Humanities and professor and chair of the art history department at Vanderbilt University, brings to life the entire story of the renowned cathedral, including the devastating fire of April 2019. We asked him to update us on the current state of its restoration and to remind our readers of the place in American art of what is not only a landmark of French history and the Christian faith, but most importantly, Murphy says, is a “symbol of humanity.” He writes:  

On April 15, 2019, the world watched, horrified, as Notre-Dame of Paris was engulfed in flames, its medieval wood roof structure reduced to cinders, and its landmark spire toppled. Soon, news images appeared of the stone vaults that had been damaged when the burned roof structure crashed down on them. The floor of the nave was heaped with the charred remains of the massive timbers.

In the immediate aftermath of the fire, public agencies and private groups and corporations from around the world rushed to offer financial support for a restoration and together committed hundreds of millions of Euros. President Emmanuel Macron of France declared that Notre-Dame would be restored quickly, hopefully by the time Paris hosts the 2024 Olympic Games.

It was one thing to resolve to restore the building; it was another to decide exactly how to do so. While much of the building is original to the twelfth century when the Gothic structure was begun on the site of an earlier church, some parts reflect later alterations or the major restoration that was begun in the mid-1840s under the direction of architects Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc and Jean-Baptiste Lassus. The spire that fell in 2019 was part of that restoration and had been completed around 1860 to replace the original, demolished spire. After the fire, various proposals for rebuilding in a contemporary form were made, including one by the designer Mathieu Lehanneur, who conceived of the spire as a three-hundred-foot gilt flame made of carbon fiber. Eventually, however, President Macron decreed that the new spire will re-create the one designed by Viollet-le-Duc.

Notre Dame de Paris by Edward Hopper (1882–1967), 1907. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, bequest of Josephine N. Hopper, © Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper/Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; photograph by Irina Raquel on Flickr.

The spire was but one of the parts of the cathedral that captured the eyes of artists from around the world, including the United States. An early American arrival at Notre-Dame following the completion of its restoration was Winslow Homer, who painted the cathedral during his nearly yearlong stay in Paris in 1867. Most of Homer’s known paintings from this French period were of rural subjects that reflected his interest in plein-air painting; his Gargoyles of Notre Dame is an exception. It shows some of the chimeras (sculpted grotesques, like gargoyles, but that do not serve as downspouts for rainwater) that were part of the restoration.

The cathedral became a staple of paintings of Paris in the impressionist and other modern French styles by Americans abroad. Childe Hassam showed it in characteristic impressionist fashion, emphasizing the clouds moving across the sky above the facade towers. Edward Hopper highlighted the flying buttresses around the nave and apse.

Reconstructing the spire with the wood from oak trees now being harvested around France is still a ways off. The initial “safety” phase of the restoration was long and laborious, and interrupted by the pandemic. When the spire does rise again, Notre- Dame will regain the appearance that has long attracted artists, not to mention visitors from around the world, to a building that is synonymous with France and its capital—and a beacon of humanity.

Object lesson: The Revisionist Prints of William Baillie

Benjamin Davidson and Pippa Biddle Art, Magazine

Christ Healing the Sick (also known as the Hundred Guilder Print), by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669), c. 1649, reworked by William E. Baillie (1723–1810), c. 1775. Etching, drypoint, and engraving on blue-tone wove paper, 11 by 15 1/2 inches. Collection of Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, gift of George W. Davison.

Lightning splits a swollen sky. Small and powerless, the human figures below are all but engulfed in the swirling shadows of the tempest. The composition threatens to subsume the viewer in a world beset by storm.

The work is an engraving, and though it was derived from Rembrandt van Rijn’s 1643 etching The Three Trees, the stormy scene is no masterpiece. It is an eighteenth-century copy, executed by Captain William Baillie in 1758. Baillie was a collector, art connoisseur, and thoroughly amateur printmaker. Born in Kilbride, Ireland, he went to school in Dublin, studied law in London, and spent about two decades living the life of a soldier before deciding that he was, in fact, an artist. Nothing in his past foretold the impact Baillie would have on the art collecting world, both in his own time and ours.

Portrait of Captain William E. Baillie by Nathaniel Hone (1718–1784), c. 1783. Oil on canvas, 30 ¼ by 25 ¼ inches. Private collection; photograph courtesy of Christie’s, New York.

We first learned about Baillie when one of his etchings (Le Paysan sans Souci, 1775) appeared in a little country auction. The framing was nice enough to warrant raising our number, and we were able to scoop it up for a steal, around thirty dollars. The work, a copy after an Adriaen van Ostade original, is decently executed. Immediately, we wanted to know more about Baillie and his world.

Before peeling back Baillie’s layers, however, it’s necessary to begin with what producing and reproducing printed etchings entailed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as Rembrandt’s own peculiar practices helped set the stage for Baillie and his contemporaries. More than those of any artist before him, Rembrandt’s creations were constantly evolving. The 2015 exhibition Rembrandt’s Changing Impressions at Columbia University’s Wallach Art Gallery spotlighted how Rembrandt was the first artist to treat the print medium as a means of crafting visibly changing images. By manipulating his copperplate etchings, he achieved printed images that were effectively in flux.

Man Smoking and Drinking at a Window by Baillie after Adriaen van Ostade (1610– 1685), 1774. Mezzotint with etching, 11 ½ by 9 ¼ inches (plate). Metropolitan Museum of Art, gift of Bonnie and Manuel Schonhorn.

Rembrandt came to be celebrated for continually altering his etchings over the course of his life, creating various “states” of a given work by adding, removing, or altering the elements to produce what was believed to be an evermore compelling image. Deepening or widening the carved lines created more contrast; extensive reworkings—such as scraping off entire sections of plates—erased crowds, people, and even landscapes entirely from the printed product. These alterations were lauded as groundbreaking innovations and were readily welcomed by Rembrandt’s patrons and collectors— especially as any alteration to the original matrix meant that the older prints were now unreproducible, and values increased accordingly.

But Rembrandt did not necessarily make these changes purely to increase the value of his past work— many, as the 2015 exhibition showed, were the outcome of his “intense and restless search for results that satisfied his artistic sense”—and then he died in 1669, leaving the plates to be auctioned off or distributed to whomsoever had the wit, will, and wallet to obtain them, and the skills to maintain them for future use.

In the early eighteenth century, a passion for Rembrandt etchings in various “states” had caught on among Continental collectors. Arnold Houbraken (1660–1719), writing in 1718, stated that “the passion was so great at that time that people would not be taken for true connoisseurs who did not have the Juno with and without the crown, the Joseph with the white and the brown face, and other such things.” This widespread enthusiasm was not shared in Britain, where many art critics remained skeptical of the Dutch master’s genius well into the eighteenth century.

The British market for peculiar or rare etchings only came into its own with the transition of aristocrats into “connoisseurs.” As society’s enthusiasm for collecting, rather than merely decorating, came into its own, the purchasing of art pieces ceased to be solely about filling one’s walls. Having one or two very fine pieces of engraving work was no longer enough; one had to have one or two of each version of an engraving. With that, the British gentry threw themselves into a craze that was already reaching a fever pitch.

By the 1760s the passion for prints had British high society well in its grip. The “Madness to have [Rembrandt’s] Prints” was rued by the famed English writer and connoisseur Horace Walpole, who complained that the Dutch artist was “ so well known, and his works in such repute, that his scratches, with the difference only of a black horse or a white one, sell for thirty guineas.”

In this criticism, he was entirely correct. A significant driver in the market for Rembrandt’s engravings was the perceived scarcity of various “states” of prints. Those showing minor alterations created a true scarcity of otherwise reproducible images. This scarcity, and the increased value that came with it, was readily understood by collectors and criminals alike. Indeed, there is significant evidence that many attempted to create “newly discovered” pieces by Rembrandt by cobbling together elements from other prints a century after the artist’s death to feed the ever-expanding demand while, it was hoped, earning huge sums at the auction block. As swiftly as these fakes were created, guides describing how best to spot a fake were written, published, and distributed in collecting circles.

An Alchemist at His Furnace, Hunched Over Bellows by Baillie after an engraving by Jacques- Philippe Le Bas (1707–1783), after a painting by David Teniers the Younger (1610–1690), Mezzotint, watercolor, gum arabic, 7 1/2 by 8 7/8 inches. Wellcome Collection, London.

By the mid-eighteenth century, Baillie possessed three of Rembrandt’s original plates, though they were badly worn and in desperate need of restoration, having been used for the century since the artist’s death. To a degree, his efforts to maintain Rembrandt’s legacy were exemplary—even if also bungled a bit on occasion. When, in 1775, he purchased the plate for Rembrandt’s “Hundred Guilder Print” from the painter and engraver John Greenwood (1727–1792), it already showed considerable wear from repeated printings.

The “Hundred Guilder Print,” so named for the price allegedly once paid for a particularly fine example at auction, was considered the masterpiece of Rembrandt’s engravings and was lauded by Houbraken as “the finest print Rembrandt ever made,” on account of the excellence of the chiaroscuro it showcased. Eager to restore the plate to its former glory, and to realize a profit from the prints that would result, Baillie “restored” the plate with what, in 1797, was identified as “such care and intelligence that it takes the eye of an experienced connoisseur not to mistake the impressions from the retouching for those from the untouched plate.” Following its restoration, Baillie proceeded to produce around a hundred copies from the retouched plate—a feasible endeavor, as the copperplates of the seventeenth century were cold-hammered, a process that produces harder plates than the rolled plates used today.

Equestrian portrait of William II, prince of Orange by Baillie after Gerard ter Borch II (1617–1681), 1771. Etching, 11 by 10 inches. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands, gift of D. Franken.

After printing the restored plate, Baillie stepped outside of the realm of restoration and began taking creative liberties that would render any restorer today a persona non grata. In short, he cut the original plate into four pieces, reworked them further, and continued to print these smaller fragments as their own pieces. As we said, he kind of bungled it at the end with that one.

While Baillie played with the plates of many Dutch masters, art historian Andrea Morgan told us that Baillie is elevated from solely an amateur to someone worthy of examination through his contribution to the spread and popularization of reprints and reinterpretations of Rembrandt’s works in the British art market. “Such reprints,” even when poorly executed, “made renowned compositions accessible to modest consumers,” remarks C. Tico Seifert, a senior curator at the National Galleries of Scotland, “while the price for early impressions continued to climb.”

Figures Leaning on a Wall, fragment of the Hundred Guilder Print by Rembrandt, reworked by Baillie, c. 1775–1800. Etching and drypoint on Oriental paper, 4 1/2 by 5 3/4 inches. Rijksmuseum.

Once Baillie got a taste for his own artistic touch, he did not confine himself to simply reworking plates he could get his hands on. When he wished to produce copies of works without access to the plates, he reproduced the carved matrices out of whole cloth— the best-known example of this is Baillie’s version of Rembrandt’s Three Trees. Baillie’s efforts were amply rewarded. As Seifert attests, Baillie “was able to charge the highest prices ever recorded for an engraver during the period for the various stages of his imitation of The Three Trees.” Yet, Baillie managed to spike his own wheel with posterity when he returned again and again to this plate, altering it in an effort to ramp up the drama and sublime moodiness.

Which returns us to the wild tempest with which this piece began. Baillie began work on his plate of The Three Trees in 1758, and executed six different iterations in the years that followed, each darker and more doom-laden than the last. Parallel to each new print showcasing an ever-more dramatic scene, disapproval of his efforts grew. In time, Baillie would be remembered by many only for the critique of his works levelled by John Thomas Smith (1766–1833), keeper of prints in the British Museum in the early nineteenth century, who, in his Book for a Rainy Day, published posthumously in 1846, called Baillie’s prints of The Three Trees “execrable.”

The Preaching Christ, fragment of the Hundred Guilder Print by Rembrandt, reworked by Baillie, c. 1775–1800. Etching and drypoint on Oriental paper, 11 by 7 ½ inches (image). Rijksmuseum, bequest of Mr. and Mrs. De Bruijn-van der Leeuw.

In the first and second states, the sky retained the pent-up energy of the original—which has been noted as the first time an artist sought to depict the instant of an atmospheric change in an engraving. In the third printing, Baillie added more clouds. Evidently this did not achieve the desired level of dread so, in the fourth, he scratched in a lightning bolt. In the fifth, he doubled down, adding another bolt to the sky. The Rijksmuseum holds yet another, sixth, state with even more lightning bolts. Apparently, when it came to carving cool lightning bolts, too much was never enough for Baillie. The gradual build-up of dramatic elements over the course of many successive printings was financially lucrative. Artistically, it left a lot to be desired and the whole affair leaves one with a somewhat inescapable conclusion: it’s all a bit amateurish.

The Donkey, the Camel and the Wheelbarrow, fragment of the Hundred Guilder Print by Rembrandt, reworked by Baillie, c. 1775–1800. Etching and drypoint on Oriental paper, 7 1/2 by 4 3/4 inches. Rijksmuseum.

In producing acceptable imitations on a large scale, Baillie successfully rode a wave of interest that dominated the world of prints and engravings. That wave no longer carries us, and, as Morgan notes, while many large museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the British Museum, have Baillie’s work in their collections, “you’re going to be hardpressed to find many museums that have a William Baillie hanging on their walls.” Original prints from Baillie’s lifetime can often be purchased online, with prices for individual, unframed prints ranging from an accessible $200 to $600. Why, though, should anyone collect pieces by someone museums refrain from displaying and whom we have glowingly recommended as “amateurish”? Because Baillie offers something different. Perhaps if Baillie’s copies are assessed only when held next to a facsimile of Rembrandt’s original, his work does not fare well. Yet, saying Baillie was not as masterful an artist as Rembrandt is hardly fair—who is? Viewed on their own terms, many of Baillie’s works possess an enthusiasm that is palpable and endearingly earnest. Like a traveller’s hard-worn sheets of brass rubbings, they are the scrapbook of a man who has seen beautiful sights and, perhaps over hastily, wished to bring a reflection of them back to others.

Openings and Closings: November 10 to November 16

Elizabeth Lanza Art

Work from the Same House, Photographs and Etchings by Jim Dine, (b. 1935) and Lee Friedlander (b. 1934), 1969. Figge Art Museum; Images © Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco and Luhring Augustine, New York. © 1969, Jim Dine.

Figge Art Museum, Davenport, Iowa

This week, the Figge Art Museum is preparing to bid adieu to the exhibition Jim Dine and Lee Friedlander: Work from the Same House. Created in 1969, Same House is a portfolio of the collaborative work of photographer Lee Friedlander and painter Jim Dine. Although the two artists have visually distinct styles, they share an attention to detail that unites their works harmoniously. To see the works of Same House before the exhibition closes on November 14, check here!

Vigilant in last days Race against Valkyrie by William Formby Halsall (1841–1919), 1893. Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts; courtesy of the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, Bentonville, Arkansas.

Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, Bentonville, Arkansas

From Plymouth Rock to Ellis Island, the American consciousness is shaped, in many ways, by a long journey across the sea. As our nation grew, so too did our ties to the ocean. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art honors this legacy in an exhibition, which debuted earlier this year at the Peabody Essex Museum, entitled In American Waters: The Sea in American Painting. Including the work of a wide range of artists from Georgia O’Keeffe to Norman Rockwell to Jacob Lawrence, In American Waters reflects on American culture and the marine environment and highlights the importance of maritime symbols across the nation. This exhibition is an absolute must see so, check here to plan your trip!

Roses by Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890), 1890. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; courtesy of the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio.

Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio

Opening this week at the Columbus Museum of Art is the exhibition Through Vincent’s Eyes: Van Gogh and His Sources. The work of Van Gogh is so vibrant and ethereal that it can often feel separate from time itself but, we would be remiss to ignore the context in which the art was created. This reaffirmation of context is exactly what Through Vincent’s Eyes—an exhibition co-organized with the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, where it will arrive next year—seeks to do. Composed of fifteen works by the artist himself, the exhibition also boasts more than 100 artworks that would have served as his inspiration. Through Vincent’s Eyes offers museum-goers a brand new way to look at the art of one of the most famous artists in the world – and it is not to be missed. Check here to plan your trip.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning by Harriet Goodhue Hosmer (1830–1908), 1853. National Portrait Gallery, London; courtesy of the Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts.

Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts

We may be entering winter here in the northern hemisphere and not, in fact, the season of love but, as the Worcester Art Museum curatorial staff will tell you, humans love Love. This is the foundation upon which the exhibition Love Stories from the National Portrait Gallery, London was built. The exhibition presents some of the greatest artistic labors of love from the late sixteenth century to the present day including works from a range of artists that includes David Hockney and Sir Joshua Reynolds. Focusing on portraiture, the exhibition highlights the real-life love stories of sitters through the ages, with notable mentions including John Lennon and Yoko Ono and Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. This celebration of love will warm your hearts through the coming winter so, check here to plan your trip!

Dressed for Success

Brian Ehrlich Art, Exhibitions, Magazine

Fig. 1. Polly (or Molly) Carew [1771 or 1772–1818], attributed to Mary Way (1769–1833) or possibly Elizabeth “Betsey” Way (Champlain after 1794; 1771– 1825), c. 1787–1788. Inscribed “Polly Carew/ Born in/ 1771” and “Married/ Simon/ Tracy/ Rudd.” on the back. Watercolor and fabric applied to dark fabric applied to paper, 2 7/8 by 2 1/8 inches. Private collection.

Portrait miniaturists Mary Way and Elizabeth “Betsey” Way Champlain, at times indistinguishable in technique and equivalent in expertise, developed their shared talent and originality in New London, Connecticut, during the early years of the American republic.1 Living far from larger centers for academic artistic training, they established their vocation without a formal apprentice-teacher relationship, as revealed in a contemporary account about Mary Way by a New York City acquaintance, which is also applicable to her sister Betsey: “Those who retain specimens of her painting will be able to appreciate her genius more correctly, when they hear that she was entirely self-taught, never having had one hour’s regular instruction.”2 Recognition of their creativity, Mary’s in New London and then in New York City after 1811 and Betsey’s until her death in New London at age fifty-four, was highly unusual for women in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in America. To be considered here is how the recognition and appreciation for their accomplishments evolved from their productive period to the twenty-first century.

Fig. 2. Mary Dobbs Holt [1769– 1833] attributed to Mary Way, c. 1811. Watercolor on ivory, 2 ½ by 2 inches. She was the wife of Charles Holt (Fig. 12). Private collection.

For the most part, the Way sisters’ patrons were local to New London County, with their earliest style, the distinctive “dressed” miniature, attracting family members and others interconnected through mercantile and religious associations. Probably the earliest example of this charming technique is the portrait of Polly (Molly) Carew from Norwich, Connecticut, likely dating from about 1787 or 1788 (Fig. 1).

Fig. 3. Portrait of Captain Shubael Smith [1775–1823] attributed to Way or Champlain, c. 1796. Watercolor on paper and fabric applied to fabric, 1 7/8 by 1 3/8 inches. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, gift of Mrs. Howard B. Haylett in memory of Mary Emily (Noble) Bosworth.

Many of the sisters’ patrons came from the New London elite, the local blue bloods of Federalist America—from four generations of descendants of Connecticut governor Gurdon Saltonstall marrying into the General Jedediah Huntington family, to the influential Mumford family, the Starr clan (early settlers in New London County), and the Deshon and Prince kinsfolk, whose wealth derived from New London’s maritime trade. These patrons cherished the resultant miniatures and handed them down through the generations.

Fig. 4. Portrait of Sarah Raymond Smith [1777–1865] attributed to Way or Champlain, c. 1796. Watercolor on paper and fabric applied to fabric, 1 7/8 by 1 3/8 inches. Connecticut Historical Society, Haylett gift in memory of Mary Emily (Noble) Bosworth.

At age forty-one, Mary Way went to New York City to refine her technique and promote her artistry. She exhibited at least two works at the American Academy of Fine Arts, Portrait of a Man and A Child, in 1818.3 In an 1813 letter to Betsey, she expressed her personal assessment of her own talents: “I have seen but few equal, and none superior to my own—concluding therefore I had nearly arrived at perfection, [I] very modestly set myself down as a first rate genius.”4 When Mary returned to New London in 1820 due to progressive blindness caused by glaucoma, the American Academy of Fine Arts honored her by opening its doors for a benefit exhibition in her name. Academy president John Trumbull wrote to her on June 19, 1820:

In the name of the Directors of the Academy of the fine Arts, I have to beg your acceptance of $141.35, being the amount received on Saturday last at their Exhibition. It must afford you some consolation in the deep calamity which it has pleased Providence to afflict you, to receive this testimony of the interest which so many of the inhabitants of the city take in your unfortunate situation. Heartily wishing the restoration of your health, or, if that may not be, patience to endure your privation.

Betsey Way, who stayed in New London, married George Champlain, and raised a family, was likewise lauded for her talent. In the 1813 letter to Betsey, Mary also reveals her admiration for her sister’s local success: “There [in New London] you are the Painter General.” Confirmation of her talent also came from outside the New London community. In 1799 Reverend John Murray (1741–1815) had his portrait painted by Betsey while traveling from New York to his home in Boston. Murray emigrated from England in 1770 and founded the first Universalist congregation in the United States after being excommunicated from Calvinistic Methodist minister George Whitefield’s evangelical movement. In a letter of appreciation to Betsey, he wrote of his wife, Judith Sargent Murray (1751–1820), and his daughter: “They are both beyond measure delighted with the likeness Mrs. Champlin took of me. Mrs. Murray thinks this alone is sufficient compensation for the toils of the journey.” In a follow-up correspondence he added, “I want to send my mother [in London] my miniature. This I have is so well liked by Mrs. M. and every acquaintance that I am not permitted to part with it.” Judith Sargent Murray was a prominent early American advocate for women’s rights, an essay writer, playwright, and poet. Certainly her prestige as a feminist would have been in concert with the gender-equal ambitions of the Way sisters.

Fig. 5. Elizabeth Way Champlain, unfinished self-portrait intended as a gift to Mary Way, c. 1816–1819. Watercolor on paper, 1 ¾ by 1 ¼ inches. Collection of Ramsay MacMullen.

By the late nineteenth century and into the first decade of the twentieth, appreciation for the Way sisters’ portrait miniatures continued, but attributions of works to the two women disappeared. One exception is found in the 1919 publication Ancestry and Descendants of Nancy Allyn (Foote) Webb, Rev. Edward Webb, and Joseph Wilkins Cooch, in which a reproduction of a dressed miniature of Rebecca Winthrop (Saltonstall) Mumford is pictured with the notation: “Copy of a miniature painted by Mrs. Champlin of New London, Conn. The peculiarity of this picture is that the muslin and brown satin are the real fabrics laid upon the background, and the folds, shadows and ribbons are painted on them.”5 As well as being the first known published description of the Ways’ “dressed” miniature process, it is the key to identifying Betsey Way Champlain as a co-equal participant in the production of this form of miniature portraiture in America. After 1800 the sisters appear to have shifted away from this technique, adopting a more conventional full profile style both on paper and ivory. They also developed expertise in the three-quarter-profile view favored by the more academically trained miniaturists of the period (Figs. 2, 5).

Fig. 6. Sarah Hamlin Sage [1730–1799] attributed to Way or Champlain, c. 1798. Watercolor on paper and fabric applied to dark fabric applied to paper; 5 ¼ by 4 3/8 inches with frame. Collection of a direct descendant.

In 1895 local New London author Mary Elizabeth Perkins, in Old Houses of the Antient [sic] Town of Norwich, 1660–1800, unknowingly honored a miniature by either Mary or Betsey by including a full-page reproduction of the image of Diah Manning (1760–1815) with the notation: “Copied from one of those old miniatures, in which the face alone is painted, the coat is of cloth, and fitted to the figure, and the hair is made of wool or flax, and tied into a queue”6—an appreciation for the image without an artist’s identification.

Fig. 7. General Comfort Sage [1731–1799] attributed to Way or Champlain, c. 1798. Watercolor on paper and fabric applied to dark fabric applied to paper; 5 ¼ by 4 3/8 inches with frame. Collection of a direct descendant.

The 1908 edition of Middletown Upper Houses by Charles Collard Adams contains a biographical sketch of the local Sage family, including reproductions of dressed miniatures of General Comfort Sage (Fig. 7) and his wife Hannah Hamlin (Fig. 6). He was a prominent Middletown, Connecticut, merchant, she, an independently wealthy descendent of one of Middletown’s first settler families. Although no artist was credited at the time of the book’s publication, the portraits were certainly taken by either Betsey Way Champlain or Mary Way, presumably just prior to the Sages’ deaths on the same day in 1799. In addition, but not pictured in the book, eldest son Ebenezer Sage (1754–1834) was painted by one of the Way sisters, and his younger sister Hannah Sage Saltonstall (1769–1853) also sat for her portrait, now attributed to Betsey.7

Fig. 8. Mary Mumford Perkins [1774–1830], attributed to Way or Champlain, late eighteenth century. Probably watercolor on paper. The daughter of John and Lucretia Mumford, she was the second wife of Elias Perkins (1767–1845) of New London, Connecticut. Whereabouts unknown; photograph courtesy of the Connecticut Historical Society.

Full-page reproductions of portrait miniatures of John Mumford (Fig. 9), wife Lucretia Christophers Mumford (Fig. 10), and daughter Mary Mumford Perkins (Fig. 8), by either Mary Way or Betsey Way Champlain, are featured in Chronicles of a Connecticut Farm, 1769–1905 by Mary Elizabeth Perkins, published in 1905, again without artist attribution.8

Fig. 9. John Mumford [1740– 1825] attributed to Way or Champlain, late eighteenth century. Probably watercolor on paper. Whereabouts unknown; Connecticut Historical Society photograph.

By the mid-twentieth century, the “anonymous” work of Mary Way and Betsey Way Champlain was included in museum exhibitions featuring private American decorative arts collections, and a pair of dressed miniature portraits sparked research at the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford. In 1957 the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in conjunction with the National Society of the Colonial Dames in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, held an exhibition, New England Miniatures, 1750–1850, in which “some two hundred miniatures from private collections [were] selected on the basis of two criteria, artistic merit and the importance of the sitters in American history.”9 The select company of artists included John Singleton Copley, Edward G. Malbone, and John Trumbull; miniature number thirty- seven in the show catalogue was labeled “Mrs. Timothy Green, artist unknown.” The portrait (Fig. 11) is that of an elderly Rebecca Spooner Green, wife of the publisher of the New-London Gazette (later the Connecticut Gazette). It is certainly by one of the Way sisters. The exhibition catalogue included a checklist of miniatures considered for exhibition but not shown, among them a portrait of William Poole Green that appears stylistically to be by Betsey, although an inscription on the back suggests his sister was the artist. The miniatures descended in the Starr family of New London before being acquired by the Connecticut Historical Society.

Fig. 10. Lucretia Christophers Mumford [Mrs. John Mumford; 1749–1825] attributed to Way or Champlain, late eighteenth century. Probably watercolor on paper. Whereabouts unknown; Connecticut Historical Society photograph.

Six years later, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City produced an exhibition with accompanying catalogue, American Art from American Collections. Within the section on “Miniatures” was a Group of Profile Miniatures of Members of the Schuyler-Colfax Family of Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, “artist unknown.”10 The sitters are unidentified, although my research suggests the younger woman with circular earring (Fig. 17) is Lucy Colfax, then in her early thirties, the daughter of Lieutenant William Colfax (1756–1838) of New London and Hester Schuyler (1757–1839) of New Jersey. This piece, currently at the Yale University Art Gallery, is attributed by Yale to Mary Way, though it could also be by Betsey Way Champlain. The older woman and child are classical, beautifully rendered dressed miniatures by either Mary or Betsey (Figs. 15, 16).

In 1980 the “Schuyler-Colfax” child’s miniature was pictured in Small Folk: A Celebration of Childhood in America by Sandra Brant and Elissa Cullman. The piece is incorrectly attributed to miniaturist Ellen Sharples, and for the first time is identified as depicting “Theodosia Burr,” but without supporting documentation of the identification process.11

Fig. 11. Rebecca Spooner Green [Mrs. Timothy Green; 1743– 1806] attributed to Betsey Way Champlain, possibly by Mary Way, c. 1800. Watercolor on ivory, 3 by 2 ½ inches (sight). Connecticut Historical Society.

In 1966 a reversible locket containing a pair of “dressed” miniature portraits of Captain Shubael and Sarah Raymond Smith was given to the Connecticut Historical Society by Mrs. Howard B. (Marie Mitchell Bosworth) Haylett in memory of her mother Mary Emily (Noble) Bosworth (Figs. 3, 4). The locket had descended through the Noble family. It was the first Way-sister example to enter the historical society’s collection, although without artist attribution. Intrigued by the images, Phyllis Kihn, longtime editor of the Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin, wrote to New London County Historical Society curator Elizabeth Knox on March 9, 1967: “We were wondering if, among your miniatures, you had any that fit the description of an ‘habille.’ This type of miniature has the face painted on paper, and all the rest in cloth sewn on to make the clothing. . . Mrs Nina Fletcher Little calls them ‘dressed miniatures.’ . . . We have had a pair given to us recently and have since heard of others. In almost every case, they seem to be of people of the Norwich-New London area. . . we are beginning to feel one artist used this technique, working in your area and at that particular time. Nothing that we can find has been written about this type of miniature painting.”12

Figs. 12a, b. Charles Holt [1774–1852] by Mary Way. Inscribed “Mary Way,/ fecit /New London,/ Feb. 18th,/ 1800” on the back. Watercolor and fabric on paper applied to brown fabric, 2 ½ by 2 inches. Private collection.

Thus, Kihn was the first to link a location to the Way sisters’ work. Pioneer early American decorative arts author and collector Nina Fletcher Little appears to have originated the term “dressed” miniature after her 1952 purchase of a pair of portraits, now identified as General Jedediah Huntington and his wife, Ann Moore. In Elizabeth Knox’s reply describing her society’s ownership of two dressed miniatures, now identified as Deborah Dennis Truman (b. 1720) and either son Benjamin (b. 1768) or Daniel (b. 1766), she appears to recognize the same hand in a non-dressed pair in the collection: “I thought we had another pair of them, but on closer look, I think that pair is just paint. The miniatures, darling as they are, drive me absolutely crazy. Either I can’t tell what they are painted on, or I can’t tell if they are wearing real cloth. . . I don’t know who the heck they are.” Knox inadvertently recognized that Mary Way and Betsey Way Champlain worked in a variety of mediums in the years prior to 1800.

The 1990s heralded rediscovery of the names Mary Way and Betsey Way Champlain. This initially occurred when Israel “Zeke” Liverant, a prominent Colchester, Connecticut, antiques dealer, discovered a signed and dated partially dressed miniature—the portrait of Charles Holt, Mary Way’s second cousin (Fig. 12).13 He subsequently shared the information with William Lamson Warren. Formerly the director of the Index of American Design WPA project, Warren served as assistant director of the Connecticut Historical Society from 1956 through April 1964.

Fig. 13. Mary H. Huntington [1813–1820], attributed to Champlain, c. 1814, in paperboard box. Inscribed “Mary H Huntington/ oldest daughter of Rev. Daniel Huntington/ Born on June 20th 1813/ Died Feb 20, 1820 H.S. Chappell” on underside of the box. Watercolor and gouache on paper in embossed wallpaper covered paperboard box; (portrait) 3 by 2 ½ inches, (box) height 3, width 2 ½, depth 2 ¾ inches. Private collection; photograph courtesy of Sotheby’s, New York.

Warren’s article, “Mary Way’s Dressed Miniatures” published in The Magazine ANTIQUES in October 1992, was the first recognition of a Way sister’s name in more than a century and a half. “Mary Way was an astonishingly original and versatile miniaturist who created charming portraits that have recently become possible to identify,” Warren wrote.14 At the conclusion of his article, he gives thanks to “Marie Haylett, who stimulated my interest in dressed miniatures, Phyllis Kihn, Elizabeth B. Knox” previously mentioned as the earliest twentiethcentury proponents of the dressed miniature. However, it was Liverant’s discovery of the signed locket that was the key that allowed Warren to trace Mary Way’s artistic career through contemporary newspaper advertisements, recount a brief family history, and discuss her technique for both dressed miniatures and her work on ivory—as exemplified by a portrait of Charles Holt’s wife, Mary Dobbs Holt, from around 1811 (Fig. 2). Unfortunately, there is no reference in this seminal article to Mary’s sister, Betsey.

Fig. 14. Dressed miniature of a little girl standing on a patterned rug, attributed to Way or Champlain, c. 1800. Watercolor and fabric on cutout paper, glued to silk; 3 ¼ by 2 ½ inches. Private collection; photograph courtesy of Freeman’s, Philadelphia.

In the same year Warren published his Mary Way article, Ramsay MacMullen, Dunham Profes sor Emeritus of History and Classics at Yale University as well as a descendent of Betsey Way Champlain, discovered family letters and artwork attributable to Betsey and her daughter Eliza, stored in the recesses of his late mother’s desk. According to MacMullen, the contents had been poorly wrapped, secured as a package with twine and “probably had not been looked at since 1905.”15 This was his first introduction to the Way sisters’ artistic legacy and that of Betsey’s daughter, Eliza.

Eliza Champlain Riley (1797–1886) was Mac- Mullen’s great-grandmother through his father, Charles W. MacMullen’s, side of the family. The Yale scholar studied the letters and artwork enclosed in the package, transcribed the documents, then donated the originals and his transcription to the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts. He studied Warren’s Mary Way article, contacted the firm of Nathan Liverant and Son to gain further insights, and visited institutions holding other works said to be by Mary Way. He subsequently attributed a number of these to Betsey Way Champlain, his great-great-grandmother, on the basis of sitters identified in the family letters, artistic style, and dates. “The idea of making a book out of the letters arose naturally from their dramatic focus,” MacMullen stated in his introduction to his publication Sisters of the Brush in 1997. The title came from a salutation used by Eliza in letters to her mother while Eliza was in New York City. The book expanded information about Mary Way’s New York City years, her subsequent blindness and return home to New London, as well as Eliza’s early adult life. More importantly, it serves as a touchstone for introducing Betsey Way Champlain, revealing her playful personality and home life in New London, and her own expertise as an artist. Subsequently, my 2014 article for Antiques and Fine Art, “Evaluating the Shared Artistry: Mary Way and Betsy Way Champlain,” further expands knowledge of the artistic accomplishments of both sisters.

Fig. 15. Portrait reputedly of Theodosia Bartow Prevost Burr (Mrs. Aaron Burr; 1746–1794), attributed to Way or Champlain, late eighteenth century. Watercolor on paper with silk and lace appliqué on black silk ground, 3 by 2 ¼ inches. Private collection; Sotheby’s photograph.

Appreciation of the Way sisters’ talents has continued to flourish in the folk art market into the twenty-first century. On June 3, 2000, in Austin, Texas, the PBS program Antiques Roadshow presented an appraisal by Dean F. Failey of a pair of “1796 and 1799 Mary Way dressed miniatures.” A noted expert on American furniture and folk art and founder and head of Sotheby’s American Furniture, Decorative Arts, and Folk Art Department, Failey enthusiastically described the pair of portraits of Frederick Seymour and Prudence Miner as an “example of wonderful things coming in a small package,” ascribing an auction estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. During a repeat broadcast of the Austin segment in July 2017, the pair’s estimated value was updated to $25,000 to $35,000.

American folk art collectors’ desire to acquire works by Mary Way and Betsey Way Champlain has deepened since, prompting increasingly impressive sales prices. In the Sotheby’s January 2014 auction Visual Grace: Important American Folk Art from the Collection of Ralph O. Esmerian, a “Rare watercolor portrait of Mary H. Huntington” (Fig. 13) by Betsey Way Champlain, in a miniature wallpaper- covered box sold for an inclusive price of $43,750 (Esmerian had purchased this piece in 1994 for $37,950). At Freeman’s American Furniture, Folk and Decorative Arts Auction in May 2014, a dressed miniature of a “little girl standing on a patterned rug, circa 1800” by either Mary Way or Betsey Way Champlain (Fig. 14) sold for the inclusive price of $37,500. In Sotheby’s January 2018 Americana auction, the “Miniature full length portrait of Theodosia Burr Alston” (Fig. 16) and miniature of “Theodosia Bartow Prevost Burr (Mrs. Aaron Burr)” (Fig. 15) reappeared and were correctly attributed to Mary Way or Betsey Way Champlain. The pair fetched an inclusive auction price of $43,750. And at John McInnis Auctioneers in March of this year, a new price record was achieved of $48,000 inclusive for a rare form by one of the Way sisters in pristine condition; a full length “likeness of a woman holding a book” (Fig. 18).

Fig. 16. Portrait reputedly of Theodosia Burr Alston (1783–1813), attributed to Way or Champlain, late eighteenth century. Watercolor on paper with silk and lace appliqué on black silk ground, 4 by 3 inches. Private collection; Sotheby’s photograph.

Interest in the sisters has also risen in the museum world. From July 2019 through January 2020, the Winterthur Museum presented the exhibition Hamilton and Burr: Who Wrote Their Stories? which included the portrait reportedly of Theodosia Burr Alston. This fall the first exhibition dedicated to Mary Way and Betsey Way Champlain, The Way Sisters: Miniaturists of the Early Republic, will debut at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London.

Fig. 17. Woman of the Schuyler/ Colfax Family attributed to Way or Champlain, c. 1800. Watercolor and pen and ink on paper with gilt paper appliqué, 3 ¼ by 2 ½ inches. Recent research suggests the sitter is Lucy Colfax (1756–1823), whose father, Lieutenant William Colfax (1756–1838), was from New London. Yale University Art Gallery, purchased with a gift from Davida Tenenbaum Deutsch and Alvin Deutsch.

The recognition and appreciation of the Way sisters’ talent has come full circle from acknowledgment during their lifetime, to a period of continued appreciation but loss of name recognition, to a revival of both attributes from the mid-twentieth century to the present. To expand Dean Failey’s parting assessment of Mary Way’s work on the Antiques Roadshow to include Betsey’s—both Mary Way and Betsey Way Champlain deserve their newfound fame as two of the great women artists and American miniaturists of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Fig. 18. Portrait of a Woman Holding a Book attributed to Way or Champlain, c. 1800. Watercolor on paper applied to a blue paper backing, 12 1/2 by 9 7/8 inches framed. Private collection; photograph courtesy of the Lyman Allyn Museum, New London, Connecticut.

The Way Sisters: Miniaturists of the Early Republic will be on view at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, Connecticut, from October 30 to January 23, 2022.


1The primary sources on the Way sisters are William L. Warren, “Mary Way’s Dressed Miniatures,” The Magazine ANTIQUES, vol. 142, no. 4 (October 1992), pp. 540–549; and Brian Ehrlich, “Evaluating the Shared Artistry: Mary Way and Betsy Way Champlain,” Antiques and Fine Art, vol. 13, no. 3 (Autumn 2014), pp. 130–139. 2 New York Commercial Advertiser, Monday, March 17, 1834. 3 Ramsay MacMullen, Sisters of the Brush: Their Family, Art, Lives, and Letters, 1797–1833 (New Haven, CT: PastTimes Press, 1997), p. 23. 4 The Way-Champlain Family Correspondence at the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts, is the source for all Way family letters quoted in this article, unless noted otherwise. 5 Mary Evarts (Webb) Cooch, Ancestry and Descendants of Nancy Allyn (Foote) Webb, Rev. Edward Webb, and Joseph Wilkins Cooch (Wilmington, DE: Star Publishing, 1919), p. 40. 6 Mary Elizabeth Perkins, Old Houses of the Antient [sic] Town of Norwich 1660–1800 (Norwich, CT: Press of the Bulletin Co., 1895), unnumbered p. between pp. 92, 93. 7 Ehrlich, “Evaluating the Shared Artistry,” p. 137. 8 Mary E. Perkins, Chronicles of a Connecticut Farm, 1769–1905 (Boston: privately printed, 1905), pp. 152, 154, 158. 9 New England Miniatures, 1750–1850 (Boston: T. O. Metcalf Co., 1957), p. 6. 10 James Biddle, American Art from American Collections (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1963), p. 110. 11 Sandra Brant and Elissa Cullman, Small Folk: A Celebration of Childhood in America (New York: E. P. Dutton with the Museum of American Folk Art, 1980), p. 39. There is no evidence for a strong connection between the Colfax-Schuyler and the Burr-Bartow families to link the mother-child pair pictured as depicting Theodosia Bartow Burr, wife of Aaron Burr, and their daughter Theodosia Burr. Despite a lack of documenting evidence, this Burr identification has persisted, including in Sotheby’s January 2018 Important Americana catalogue. That said, somewhat tenuous genealogical connections do exist for both Aaron Burr and Theodosia Bartow Burr in the New London, Connecticut, area, which links the works to the Way sisters. The family of Aaron Burr’s mother, Esther Edwards (1732–1758), interconnected with the Huntington family of Norwich and New London as well as the prominent Perkins family of New London. Theodosia Bartow Burr’s lineage includes her uncle, Rev. Basil Bartow, who married Clarina Punderson, of the New London County Punderson family. 12 The quoted 1967 correspondence between Phyliss Kiln and Elizabeth Knox is in the files of the New London County Historical Society, New London, Connecticut, supplied by curatorial assistant Patricia Schaefer. 13 For more on the portrait, see Brian Ehrlich, “Freedom in Miniature: Mary Way’s coded portrait of Charles Holt,” The Magazine ANTIQUES, vol. 182, no. 4 (July/August 2015), pp. 108–111. 14 Warren, “Mary Way’s Dressed Miniatures,” p. 540. 15 MacMullen, Sisters of the Brush, preface.


BRIAN EHRLICH is an independent researcher and writer living in Connecticut. He is special advisor for of the upcoming Lyman Allyn Art Museum exhibition on the Way sisters.

Connoisseur’s Eye: “Cloud at sunrise…iridescent vapor”

Joseph Cunningham Art, Magazine

Fig. 1. Artus Van Briggle (1869–1904) with the carved wood template for the Toasting Cup, William C. Holmes, and dog “Curly” in a photograph by Agnes Holmes, c. 1900.

Despite the brevity of his life, Artus Van Briggle, and his Van Briggle Pottery in Colorado, created some of the finest art pottery in the United States during the first four years of the twentieth century (Fig. 1). Van Briggle’s designs were linked by their monochromatic matte glazes, straightforward shapes, and quiet sophistication to arts and crafts movement makers such as Grueby and Teco. However, unlike most American makers, Van Briggle’s forms were closely tied to European design, especially the art nouveau style, which he sometimes specifically mimicked.

Born in Felicity, Ohio, Artus Van Briggle first pursued painting—including study with Frank Duveneck at the Cincinnati Art Academy—but quickly chose ceramics as his mode of expression.1 He attended the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, where he exhibited a painting, but, more importantly, it was there that he discovered the extraordinary avant-garde art of the French potters. While working for the Avon and Rookwood potteries, Van Briggle’s exceptional talent became apparent. The latter sponsored him for further training in Paris, where he returned to the study of painting under Jean-Paul Laurens and Jean-Joseph Benjamin Constant at the Académie Julian and embraced the imagery and styles of orientalism, symbolism, and art nouveau.

Fig. 2. Toasting Cup (design no. 1) made by the Van Briggle Pottery, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1901. This and all the vases pictured are incised with the conjoined As mark, “Van Briggle,” and the year of manufacture. Glazed earthenware; height 11 ½ inches. Private collection; photograph by Robert Lorenzson.

Details of his time in Paris are not well documented, but unlike most American ceramists, Van Briggle enjoyed an opportunity to study sculpture and clay modeling at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in addition to his study of painting. Perhaps more importantly, he gained intimate knowledge of French ceramics, especially the internationally admired pottery emerging from the kilns of Pierre-Adrien Dalpayrat, Auguste Delaherche, Ernest Chaplet, and Jean-Joseph Carriès. Returning to Rookwood in 1896, Van Briggle began experimenting with matte glaze formulations and innovative forms directly influenced by his study and experiences in Paris.

Fig. 3. Lorelei vase (design no. 17) by Van Briggle, 1902. Glazed earthenware; height 9 ¾ inches. Metropolitan Museum of Art, gift of Martin Eidelberg.

Van Briggle resigned from Rookwood in March 1899. He had contracted tuberculosis, and moved to Colorado Springs in hopes that the dry desert air would improve his condition. There, he set himself up initially to work on pottery in “a corner of the [chemistry] laboratory” at Colorado College, “thanks to the interest and kindly assistance of Professor [William] Strieby.”2 In August 1901 he fired his first pieces at the Van Briggle Pottery on North Nevada Avenue. The international praise Van Briggle had enjoyed for his displays at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900 followed him to his new enterprise and garnered him considerable attention in the design press. Van Briggle Pottery vases were offered for sale in a variety of major American cities, including Boston, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. The firm showed at the Salon in Paris in 1902 and won two gold, one silver, and twelve bronze medals at the Salon of 1903. But tuberculosis finally won out: the artist’s career was cut short when he died in 1904, at age thirty-five.

Fig. 4. Van Briggle (left of center) with various early vases, potter Harry Bangs (in kiln window), and unidentified assistants in a photograph of c. 1902. Photograph courtesy of the Penrose Public Library, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The small pottery Van Briggle established in Colorado Springs was located in a modest workshop building manned by a small staff, including Harry Bangs, another potter from Rookwood (Fig. 4). “Equipped with the most convenient of apparatus and a commodious brickkiln,” Van Briggle could finally “devote himself entirely to the production of his ware.”3 In the fall of 1901, he hosted a small fête to commemorate the initial firings, at which pottery-marked souvenirs were distributed to the assembled guests. As 1902 arrived, more than forty distinct designs were being molded, glazed, and fired, and stock on hand had been built to more than three hundred vases for display and sale to the public.4 There was no question that Van Briggle was the artistic director of the atelier and intimately involved in the execution of the work. Assistants created molds, cast and glazed works, and fired them in the kiln. The pottery had more than ten employees by 1903, with a few more joining in 1904.5 Van Briggle’s workshop functioned as a school for ceramics as well, due to his inability to entice trained potters from the East Coast or Midwest to go to Colorado.6 Van Briggle acted as the primary vase designer but other artists contributed models, notably his fiancée and later wife, Anne Lawrence Gregory (Fig. 12).7 They met when both were students in Paris in 1894, but did not marry until summer 1902. For their Colorado pottery, they developed a mark consistently used on the vases: conjoined As (for Artus and Anne).

Fig. 5. “Examples of Van Briggle Pottery,” in Art Interchange, vol. I, no. 4 (April 1903), p. 88.

European art nouveau clearly shaped certain aspects of Van Briggle’s style, but his connections to the American arts and crafts movement are more complicated. That movement was closely associated with individual artisans and their personal artistic vision, which was at odds with Van Briggle’s commitment to molded ceramics. Glazing and finishing became the key mode of individual expression for Van Briggle, and he went to great effort to rationalize this aspect of his work when he explained in 1903: “It is far more satisfactory to spend unlimited time and thought in carrying out an idea which may be worthy of repetition, each reproduction being different in color and glaze effect, than to attempt for every vase a new design which must of necessity often be careless and hasty in thought and execution.”8 The noted critic Irene Sargent furthered the argument, stating: “the craftsman idea, as carried to its logical conclusion by Mr. Van Briggle, is sound, practical, and altogether free from extravagance.”9

Fig. 6. Despondency vase (design no. 70) by Van Briggle, 1902. Incised “III,” indicating clay type, on the bottom. Glazed earthenware; height 14 ¼ inches. Collection of the Leeds Art Foundation, Philadelphia.

Van Briggle produced molded wares in significant numbers even during his short tenure as head of the pottery from 1901 until his death. (His wife led the enterprise for nearly a decade thereafter.) The firm’s amazing productivity—which extends to the present day—has created a ubiquity in the market that does not enhance understanding of or connoisseurship for Van Briggle vases. Public collections offer little guidance for appreciating the best works, as many feature only typical models—ranging from floral-ornamented designs to the Lorelei and Dos Cabezas vases, both decorated with alluring art nouveau women.10 But in-depth discernment has arguably been scant in many cases in the formation of museum holdings. Here, we will establish an aesthetic framework for evaluating the finest ceramics made at the Van Briggle Pottery.

Fig. 7. Poppies and Pods vase (design no. 2) by Van Briggle, 1902. Incised “III” and impressed with model number “2D” on the bottom. Glazed earthenware; height 8 5/8 inches. Leeds Art Foundation collection.

Van Briggle used a simple system for numbering the designs made at the pottery. The very first design, number 1, was a remarkable chalice form developed in 1900. The “Toasting Cup,” as it is known, presents a scene utterly unusual in American and European ceramics (Fig. 2). A long-haired mermaid reaches out toward fishes through a phantasm of underwater vegetation and sea creatures. Her body, hair, fishes and other creatures, and seaweed swirl about the bowl of the chalice forming its shape, and all is set atop a stem and foot shaped as undergrowth and waves. The comprehensive integration from foot to rim of the sensualized symbolist imagery connects this Van Briggle work to contemporaneous candlesticks by Jessie Preston, pieces such as the well-known Squash lamp by Tiffany Studios, and related expressionist European ceramics. It stands as a superb sculptural effort and perhaps the finest expression of Van Briggle’s interpretations of European design. In another series of early figural vases, Van Briggle took on the challenge (virtually unprecedented in American ceramics) of presenting women and men as symbolist motifs more directly. Design number 4 presented the “Lady of the Lilly,” a design featured in critic George Galloway’s October 1901 article in Brush and Pencil. The popular Dos Cabezas vase (design no. 16) incorporated two conventionalized women, and the very next design, number 17, presented a siren in the form of a dramatic but gently sculpted figure gazing down into the vessel around which she and her streaming hair are wrapped (Fig. 3). The Lorelei, as this vase is known, was inspired by the German story of the Lorelei rock. Clemens Brentano created the tale around 1800 in his novel Godwi, and poet Heinrich Heine interpreted the dangerous siren in 1824, spinning a legend of a golden-maned lady of the Loreley on the Rhine River who enticed sailors to their deaths. The tale re-emerged in the 1890s, inspiring musical and theatrical versions that may have been the spark for Van Briggle’s interpretation. The example shown stands out for its fine molding and gorgeous flowing glaze colors and textures. The almost wax-like finish and ethereal atomized—that is, sprayed-on—detailing is an exceptional example of the effect Van Briggle sought at his Colorado pottery and what House and Garden called “finer and richer than the one worked out in Cincinnati.”11

Fig. 8. Poppy Pod vase (design no. 18) by Van Briggle, 1902. Incised “III” and impressed “18” on the bottom. Glazed earthenware; height 9 1/8 inches. Leeds Art Foundation collection.

The boldest of Van Briggle’s experiments with figural motifs is surely the Despondency vase—model number 70 (Fig. 6). The Lorelei models expend relatively little detail on the encircling female form; here Van Briggle presents a naked man wrapped around the mouth of an otherwise unornamented form, the figure seeming to peer despairingly into the abyss. The model presented here was made in 1902 and features goldenrod-over-green atomized glaze that, like the previous Lorelei vase, imparts a mysterious sense of time and place. The perfectly controlled glazes diverge from the Lorelei though, with a flawless thoroughgoing evenness in the surface.

Fig. 9. Columbine vase (design no. 25) by Van Briggle, 1902. Incised “III” and impressed “25” on the bottom. Glazed earthenware; height 10 ¼ inches. Leeds Art Foundation collection.

Irene Sargent wrote of Van Briggle’s glaze experiments in the Craftsman in September 1903 (Fig. 13). She cited the “examination and thought” spent by the artist and his glaze consultant, the chemist Strieby, and argued that Van Briggle had “reached the conclusion that in principle the modern highly vitrified and bright glazes were inartistic and that, through experiment,” a return “might be made to the soft dull surfaces of early oriental fictiles, to reproduce which would be to restore a lost art.” Sargent pointed to “those pieces coated with the enamel, more or less opaque, known to connoisseurs as céladon, which varies from reddish gray to a sea green ranging from dark to light, and a dull blue of great charm.”12

Fig. 10. Large Poppy and Pods vase (design no. 143) by Van Briggle, 1903. Incised “III” and impressed “143” on the bottom. Glazed earthenware; height 10 ¼ inches. Leeds Art Foundation collection.

This range of surfaces was ideally suited to some of the early floral vases developed by Van Briggle. Floral themes are certainly common in period pottery, but Van Briggle’s notably diverge from those of other makers. Rather than naturalism, or even conventionalized approaches to flora, he chose to accentuate formal qualities of plants and flowers—a mode similar to that of European art nouveau design. Like the ceramists at Newcomb Pottery in New Orleans and George Ohr in Biloxi, Mississippi, he tested and experimented with local clays for his early vases. A critic for the Clay-Worker stated plainly that “the clay is Colorado clay, and the decoration in low relief is taken largely from native wild flowers conventionalized.”13 As with the other potteries mentioned, this was likely a conscious expression of the romantic ideal of regionalism. In addition to assistance with glaze chemistry, Strieby was key to Van Briggle’s molding process, helping the artist to understand the properties of indigenous clays and minerals. Strieby and Van Briggle also collaborated with Frank Riddle, another chemist at the pottery, in developing a growing variety of glaze colors and textures.

Fig. 11. Lotus Pad vase (design no. 106) by Van Briggle, 1903. Incised “III” and impressed with the model number “106A” on the bottom. Glazed earthenware; height 15 ½ inches. Leeds Art Foundation collection.

Though he used various wildflowers, Van Briggle also chose more remote classes of plants and flowers, including some that were more closely tied to East or West Coast expressions of the arts and crafts movement. The role of poppy motifs lies somewhere between these options. The artist’s own publicity called attention to the presence of poppies in the western landscape, but of course they are also ubiquitous in European and American design around 1900. The artist created design number 2 in 1900, featuring opened poppy flowers and pods, their serpentine stems elegantly fused to a modest form (Fig. 7). The 1902 version shown here is a perfectly molded example with robust detailing in the flowers and pods and impeccably glazed in vibrant atomized hues of cobalt, azure, and indigo gradated to a powdery green at the rim.14

Fig. 12. Anne Lawrence Gregory (later Van Briggle; 1868–1929) in a photograph from 1900. Colorado College, Colorado Springs, Tutt Library, Special Collections.

Another vase with poppy decoration, featured on the title page of Clay-Worker in May 1905, stands as the finest floral vase of the early period. Eschewing open flowers entirely, model number 18 shows only poppy pods, each standing with individuated personalities atop meandering stems (Fig. 8). Rather than composed, the pods seem swept up by wind, but are ideally fitted to the shape, which swells toward the top where the pods congregate. The example shown is glazed in a deeply suffused range of atomized black, blue, and green, which rivals the yawningly expansive swaths of matte greens on Grueby pottery. The non-reflective surface texture, rich flat color, and meticulously molded detailing unify the vase, which seems almost like a single carved piece of honed stone. It stands as a high-water mark for matte pottery around 1900. It would be hard to imagine a better example of what critic George Galloway called “quiet and simple effects rather than the loud and garish.”15

For Irene Sargent, the vessel also exemplifies two of the crucial aspects of Van Briggle’s success. She called his decorations “structural,” never “applied or foreign” and emphasized the “lines and contours of the vase,” which the ornament “beautifies.” Sargent also suggested that “beauty resident outside the contour of the piece is provided in part by the glaze; great care being taken to insure an interesting surface, texture and color; the texture varying from a substance ‘fat’ and velvet-like beneath the touch to something approaching a gloss, accented by crystalline or curdled effects.”16 This vase represented Van Briggle Pottery in the exhibition Arts and Crafts Movement in Europe and America, 1880–1920 that toured the United States from 2004 into 2006.

Fig. 13. Photograph of Van Briggle vases published in Irene Sargent, “Chinese Pots and Modern Faience,” Craftsman, vol. 4, no. 6 (September 1903), p. 414.

Galloway’s understanding of Van Briggle’s matte glazes is instructive to this day. He called attention to “the difference between the dead finish and the dead glaze,” explaining the dead finish this way: “the biscuit ware is soused in a vessel of glaze, and after withdrawing it, all the glaze which can be removed is taken off with a brush of stiff bristles.” The dead glaze, on the other hand, he wrote, was a “’fat’ solution of glass, which, when applied to the biscuit ware, undergoes a devitrification in the second firing, and the result is a finish which seems to possess the depth and softness of velvet, and which is a constant rest and delight to the eye.” It was “subdued and restful, and at the same time arouses one’s keenest instinct of beauty.”17

Fig. 14. Vase with handles (design no. 82) by Van Briggle, 1902. Incised “III” and impressed “82” on the bottom. Glazed earthenware; height 7 7/8 inches. Leeds Art Foundation collection.

A third poppy model (number 143) diverged significantly from models 2 and 18 in its bold presentation of a swirling tangle of poppies, pods, and stems encircling a large form (Fig. 10). Fitting to the shape and multifaceted ornamental scheme, the example shown here was given a quite atypical surface treatment. Rather than individuating certain aspects of the design with applied colors, Van Briggle chose to give the vase an all-over set of hues and textures. The effect is exquisite as undulations of mauve, purple, and magenta give way to blues and greens. Shape, line, decoration, color, and texture seamlessly interweave in a reverie wild with creative volatility, yet unified in total effect. The colors and textures achieved in this example display the boundaries of atomized glazing. They unite with and hover above the surface of the clay “like a cloud at sunrise [when] the spray issues, and in this iridescent vapor the vase is bathed.” Period accounts describe the ways in which colors were applied, layered one over the other, sometimes as the artist held “the article at an angle to the spray.” One color could be used as a “vignette into another in exquisite blending.” Galloway recounted how even after initial firings, it might be desired “that certain lines be accentuated with darker or lighter tones” so “the glaze is rubbed off in those places and the desired color put in with a brush, but always employing the glaze itself.”18

This remarkable effect of highlighting certain features is put to excellent use on a richly polychromed example of model number 25, in which columbines encircle a simple shape with a swollen shoulder (Fig. 9). Here the layering is fascinating: deep rusty reds and pinks effervesce through powdery lime-yellow hues on the blossoms, while the stems are dramatically hand-brushed with vibrant sea or forest green coloration. This important form was illustrated in Keramic Studio in June 1903 and the Craftsman in September 1903.19

Fig. 15. Spiderwort vase with handles (design no. 172) by Van Briggle, 1904. Incised “III” and impressed “172” on the bottom. Private collection, on long-term loan to the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Van Briggle explored leaf and stem imagery rather than flowers in an exceptional design, number 106, which, like the last vase, was twice published in 1903 (Fig. 11).20 One exquisite 1902 version (in a private collection) features a perfect dead matte glaze with deeply suffused greens that rivals the best early vases. The 1903 version shown takes a polychrome track instead, with a complex fusion of brown and yellow coloration for lotus pad stems submerged in water. Atop the tapering form, the lotus pads are a dramatic mauve, orange, and purple. The sophisticated shape of the vase is stylishly fitted with the watery vegetation, but naturalism is secondary as the whiplash curves of the stems and deeply molded edges of the lotus pads directly recall art nouveau designs. Galloway articulated the care taken by Van Briggle in modeling “the formal designs and flowers.” He suggested that each line was “drawn with regard to the contour of the vase as much as to the completion of the design.” Galloway argued that Van Briggle was singularly able to maintain design balance: “the contour of the vase must contribute to the grace of outline, but must not interfere with the harmony of the pattern itself.” 21

Fig. 16. Vase with stylized leaves (design no. unknown) by Van Briggle, c. 1904. Impressed “8” on the bottom. Glazed earthenware; height 9 ¾ inches. Private collection; photograph courtesy of Rago Auctions, Lambertville, New Jersey.

The whiplash effect is perhaps even stronger on a handled vase, design number 82, with similarly exaggerated swirling curvilinear stems seemingly descending into water (Fig. 14). The complexity of the molded detail is remarkable, with concentric wave patterns echoing the stem shapes and horizontal striations throughout. The high relief in which the flowers are presented near the rim is nearly without parallel in Van Briggle’s work. The intricacy and refinement of the decoration is paired with strangely crude, almost archaically shaped handles. The combination is resolved only in the angle at which each handle fuses into the curve of a stem. The boldness of the design stands up brilliantly to the audacious lime-chartreuse hues on the 1902 version shown. The flawlessly even color and texture give the vase a sense of being carved from a single piece of stone, or from clay with embedded pigment. Such a multifaceted design is perfectly suited to a single courageous glaze color and texture.

One highly unusual vase of about 1904 features a chic design and intrepid decoration of leaves, stems, and trefoils (Fig. 16). It is unclear whether the motif is to be read as a specific flower form, since the stylization of the elements is so thorough as to obscure direct associations. The detailing is beautifully rendered in the clay, but the glazes steal the show: alternating sumptuous deep purple and aubergine hues with rich earthy greens and browns and gemlike burgundy and iridescent sapphire coloration.

Figs. 17a. View of the Dos Cabezas (Two Heads) vase (design no. 16) by Van Briggle, 1905. Impressed “16” on the bottom. Glazed earthenware; height 7 7/8 inches. Leeds Art Foundation collection.

Trefoils are used to very different effect on a tall vase, model number 172, with delicate diminutive handles (Figs. 15, 18). From the front, this shape is decorated only with voluptuous curves that outline the belly of the vase and swirl upward to the breast, where the lines blend into the arcs of the handles. The abdomen features layers and layers of green, brown, and gray atomized onto the clay in a way that mimics polished stone. The sides however, reveal the resolution of the swirling curves flanking a stem-and-two-leaf formation topped with a subtle, fastidiously molded trefoil (likely spiderwort). Underglazes of goldenrod show through the highpoints giving clarity to the molded decoration, but brilliant emerald and intensely suffused pine greens, sometimes pooled in microcrystal formations, give the work a singular unity.

Artus Van Briggle died while his exhibition of pottery at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis was still open to the public. The company draped its display in black fabric until the close of the exposition as a gesture of respect and sadness over the loss of the pottery’s founder. In the fall of 1904, Anne Van Briggle assumed control of the pottery and reorganized the company. She submitted just one vase (of her own design) to the 1905 exhibition at the New York Society of Keramic Arts.22 She continued to lead the Van Briggle pottery operation for several years including oversight of a new building to house the company in 1908.

Figs. 17b. View of the Dos Cabezas (Two Heads) vase (design no. 16) by Van Briggle, 1905. Impressed “16” on the bottom. Glazed earthenware; height 7 7/8 inches. Leeds Art Foundation collection.

Having mentioned this form earlier, we can return to one of the first designs originated by Artus Van Briggle at his Colorado Springs pottery as a denouement. Model 16, the Dos Cabezas vase, received gorgeous treatment in the first year Anne led the firm (Figs. 17a, b).23 The molding is meticulously articulated down to the individual fingers on the ladies’ hands, and adorned with a frothy lavender glaze with just the right amount of texture to add interest while still revealing every detail of the design. The boldness of the form with its dramatic open-breasted figures returns us to the figural works with which we commenced, but the gentler palette perhaps indicated that a woman was now in charge. As the vision of Artus Van Briggle became more remote from the operation after his death, the quality of forms and glazes fell off. Yet in the space of just four short, glorious years, he created something remarkable in Colorado Springs.

Fig. 18. Another view of the Spiderwort vase with handles.

1 For historical information on Artus Van Briggle and the pottery, see Van Briggle Pottery: The Early Years, ed. Barbara M. Arnest (Colorado Springs, CO: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 1975); and George D. Galloway, “The Van Briggle Pottery,” Brush and Pencil, vol. 9, no. 1 (October 1901), pp. 1–8, 11. 2 “Van Briggle Pottery: One of the Latest American Ceramic Products to Gain World-Wide Fame,” The Clay-Worker, vol. 43, no. 5 (May 1905), p. 646. 3 Galloway, “The Van Briggle Pottery,” p. 2. 4 See Scott H. Nelson, et al., A Collector’s Guide to Van Briggle Pottery (Indiana, PA: Halldin, 1986), pp. 145–146. Information on number of works available in late 1901 can be found in Van Briggle Pottery, The Early Years, p. 16. 5 “A Colorado Industry,” House and Garden, vol. 4, no. 4 (October 1903), p. 166; see also Irene Sargent, “Chinese Pots and Modern Faience,” Craftsman, vol. 4, no. 6 (September 1903), p. 423. 6 A Colorado Industry,” p. 166. 7 Anne Gregory and George Bowyer Young were both mentioned as designers in the early period before Artus Van Briggle’s death in 1904; see ibid., p. 168; Klara Ruge, “Kunst und Kunstgewerbe auf der Weltausstellung zu St. Louis (II.),” Kunst und Kunsthandwerk, vol. 7 (1904), p. 634. 8 “A Colorado Industry,” p. 168; see also Sargent, “Chinese Pots and Modern Faience,” pp. 421–424. 9 Ibid., pp., 422–423. 10 One exception is the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has a fine collection of Van Briggle works. 11 “A Colorado Industry,” p. 165; see also Van Briggle Pottery, The Early Years. 12 Sargent, “Chinese Pots and Modern Faience,” pp. 418–419. 13 “Van Briggle Pottery: One of the Latest American Ceramic Products to Gain World-Wide Fame,” p. 645. 14 Another exceptional version of this model, also made in 1902 and in a private collection, features a bold polychrome set of glazes. The texture of those colors is milky bordering on opaque and though they are carefully applied, the viscosity obscures some of the details in the molding. Similarly the naturalism of the three-color approach creates an odd effect where neither the green of the stems nor the purple of the flowers rings true with nature. 15 Galloway, “The Van Briggle Pottery,” p. 2. 16 Sargent, “Chinese Pots and Modern Faience,” p. 424. 17 Galloway, “The Van Briggle Pottery,” pp. 2–4. 18 Ibid., pp. 5, 7, 8. 19 “Pottery at the Arts and Crafts Exhibit: Craftsman Building, Syracuse,” Keramic Studio, vol. 5, no. 2 (June 1903), p. 37; Sargent, “Chinese Pots and Modern Faience,” facing p. 415. A superb other example of this form, also executed in 1902, featuring an overall even glaze of brilliant lime green and fine powdery dead glaze texture is in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. 20 Sargent, “Chinese Pots and Modern Faience,” facing p. 415; I. H. W. “General Arts Notes,” Fine Arts Journal, vol. 14, no. 6 (June 1903), pp. 236–237. 21 Galloway, “The Van Briggle Pottery,” pp. 5–6. 22 The Arts of the Fire: Exhibition at the National Arts Club, April 19 to May 10, 1905 (New York: New York Society of Keramic Arts, 1905), p. 24, no. 139. 23 It is widely acknowledged that the Dos Cabezas (Two Heads) vase was designed by Artus Van Briggle, based directly on a nearly identical metal vase likely made in France; see Martin Eidelberg, “Myths of Style and Nationalism: American Art Pottery at the Turn of the Century,” Journal of Propaganda Arts, vol. 20 (1994), pp. 103–104.