Friday, November 30, 2007

Art Overload, Almost

Come to think of it, I saw a LOT of art today.

It started in the morning, when I went to Sotheby's to hear a talk given by the director of their 20th Century Design department. He gave a fascinating slide lecture on the state of the market for 20th century furniture. I didn't really know anything about the subject, so it was an eye opener to learn some names like Paul Kjaerholm, Arne Jacobsen, and Jean Prouve, and see how cool their stuff is. Basically, anything old that looks futuristic, organic, and sculptural is worth the big bucks, as well as new strange pieces handmade by artists in small quantities, like one person who made a chair out of teddy bears. Have you heard about this? It looks kind of comfortable, but it would get old quick.

After that, I went up to the 10th floor of Sotheby's, where they have their best pre-auction art on exhibition. There I saw the Guennol Lioness, a tiny bit of limestone carved 5000 years ago. Half lion, half human, it was talisman supposedly used in ancient Mesopotamia to evoke power and strength. The posters of it are enormous, so I wasn't prepared for how tiny it was, all alone in a darkened room with a dramatic spotlight. Nobody really knows what it was used for, and articles have made a huge fuss out of its shamanistic connotations, but for all we know it might have just been used as a button.

I also took a look at the "Magnificent Jewels" on display at Sotheby's. Some of them are pearls once owned by the Duchess of Windsor, but those weren't what caught my eye. There was a particularly stunning bracelet by William Goldberg made to look like a string of little flowers with petals of white diamonds, and yellow diamond centers, set in white gold and platinum. Santa, are you listening to me?

My next stop was Questroyal, a hidden art gallery gem on the 3rd floor of a Park Avenue building full of discreet doctors' offices. Browsing their collection of fine early American landscape paintings, I felt like I was in someone's comfortable home, with familiar friends: Asher Durand, Blakelock, and--hey! There was the Inness I admired from yesterday's Christie's sale! But most exciting of all: I discoverd the piece I'm going to write my next paper on: an unfinished view of Lake Mohonk by Thomas Cole! I'm very excited about this piece, so stay tuned for a future blog about it.

After that I headed over to Hirschl and Adler Gallery on the corner of 70th and (I think) Madison Avenue. They had a delightful mixture of old and new paintings, as well as a room of gorgeous 18th and 19th century decorative arts, including a Duncan Phyfe table and two Ammi Phillips portraits. I also saw a fantastic N.C. Wyeth of lumberjacks, that I think I love even better than the Indian Love Call. I stared at it for a really long time.

The Frick happened to be nearby, and I hadn't yet taken advantage of my membership card, so I went in and looked around. There, the combination of divine art and spectacular rooms (decadently furnished and crystal chandeliered) almost overwhelms, but to take a break I sat in the marble atrium, by a trickling fern-enclosed fountain. My favorites here were the portraits by Hans Holbein the Younger and the Fragonard Room.

Next stop was the Met, because I had to see their Studio Craft Movement exhibition, which ends in a few days. But while there, of course that's not the only thing I saw. The Christmas tree and creche display has been erected in the Medieval Galleries, and it is stunning. A tree covered in colorful and winged angels looms over a nativity scene that is surrounded by dozens of groups of figures from all nations and cultures. I'll have to go back and look at it again--too bad they don't allow pictures of it! I'm really glad I went to the Met today because some of the rooms in the American Wing which have been closed were open today, as part of an exhibition of silver by Fletcher & Gardiner. One of the rooms is the panorama by Vanderlyn, which he painted after visiting Europe. When he came back to America (this was in 1816 or thereabouts) he painted a 360 degree view of Versailles and its gardens, and built a rotunda in New York where visitors would enter and appear to be in the midst of the Versailles grounds. Basically, it was the first American art museum/amusement park/IMAX experience, and it's still pretty spectacular 200 years later.

As I was leaving the Met, walking through the Egyptian galleries, I overheard a little girl exclaim, "That's a mummy-case! I saw one of those on Scooby Doo!" Suddenly, I felt like going home and watching cartoons. So that's what I did.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Art Scandals

This week I've been to a lot of auctions, including the American painting sales at Sotheby's and Christie's. An auction can be very entertaining at times. And then again, after a few hours of it you might begin nodding off if you're not the one bidding a million dollars on a Winslow Homer watercolor.

The Sotheby's sale was interesting, but I must say that the auctioneer needed a few auctioneering lessons. He was boring and unfriendly. He tried to make a few jokes, but they didn't work, and he went so slow! No wonder there were a lot of pieces that didn't sell, including two Maxfield Parrish paintings. Then again, one of them I'm not surprised about, because it had been terribly over-cleaned and the sky was way too white. When you buy a Parrish, you expect a blue sky--otherwise, what's the point?

At Christie's, there was much more entertainment. They offer refreshments, for one thing. And Christopher Berg is just much more fun to watch. He relates to the bidders, engages them, and makes you want to join in. Besides, he has a great accent. But I don't know how he does it. At Sotheby's they divide the sale up into two sessions to give the auctioneer and the audience a break. At Christie's they start at 10 a.m. and continue until about 2 p.m. without stopping. He didn't quite make it the whole way through though. At about 1 o'clock he stepped down and a new auctioneer took over, who was pretty good too. But he made one bidder mad by not noticing his bid, and sold the piece to someone else. When the hammer went down, the guy yelled, "Hey, that was MY bid!" He refused to outbid the lady, though, so the auctioneer held firm, and the lady won the sale.

The real scandal at Christie's was the George Bellow's painting, "Men of the Docks," which was supposed to be sold by Randolph College (Lynchburg, VA) to raise money for the school, which is in trouble financially. It was the first painting the college bought, back in 1920, with $2500 scraped together by students and supporters of a college art collection. That collection has grown into a fine body of American paintings at the Maier Museum of Art, and the Bellows is now estimated to be worth about $32 million. So, for a college now struggling to pay its bills, why not capitalize on that nest egg and sell it, along with a Hicks, a Hennings, and a Tamayo?

The problem is that in the art world it's a huge no-no for a museum to sell art for purposes other than buying new art. This is Art we're talking about, not stocks or land, or any lowly commodity. So the students of the college are up in arms, and the Maier Museum has had people resign over the whole thing, and now the paintings are in limbo while the courts decide what should be done, and the poor people of Lynchburg scramble to find a million dollars to pay the bond on the paintings.

Meanwhile, Christie's is being blasted as the unscrupulous vultures making a profit from it all, while really they are just doing business. And not even that, any more, because the paintings had to be withdrawn from the sale while their future is decided.

So the sale at Christie's might have been much more exciting had there been a $32 million Bellows sale. Still, it was enough excitement for me just sitting behind the lady that bought a painting for $1 million.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Life is Like a Bag of Rocks

Today I applied for some part time jobs. I hope someone will hire me! New York is fabulous, but its so expensive to live here, and I'm running out of money, with no steady income. Luckily, there are so many fun free things to do here. And as long as I don't let myself get tempted by the food-vendors, (whose warm sizzling food smells so good on a cold winter day!) I can have lots of fun without spending the big bucks. One free activity that I think I might start doing is carrying my camera around so I can take pictures of all the amazing holiday displays.

Tonight when I was coming home from school, I stopped by Rockefeller Center, to see if the tree had been lit yet. There was a gigantic crowd of people, but the tree was still dark. I didn't know how long a wait it would be, so I left, but I'll definitely go back soon and see how it looks. I walked all over downtown today and everywhere I turned there was an amazing holiday display. I love it! It's as if the city is transforming before my eyes into a winter wonderland. Now all we need is snow, and rumor has it there might be some flakes on Sunday.

Someone told me over the Thanksgiving holiday that they prefer Los Angeles to New York, but I don't know how anyone could. Sure its warm and sunny there and everything is pretty, and there's Hollywood. But what about the history? The depth. How about a metaphor: If the world is a beach, then Los Angeles is seafoam--glittery, light, frothy, but full of air. New York is more like beach rocks. They are old, worn, weathered, and so unusual that you want to put them all in your pocket and take them home, even though you have no use for most of them.

I want to put New York in my pocket, and carry it around with me wherever I go. Of course, you can't keep all the agates and shells you find on the beach, so at the end of the day you sort through them and keep the most interesting and beautiful. That's pretty much what I try to do with New York. I jump in, gather it all to me, try to see it all, then sort out what fits with me, and leave the rest behind. No one can have all of New York--it's just too much.

Anyway, on a totally different note, I have an announcement: I think I was able to change my blog to allow comments from anyone, not just those elite google-account holders or whatever. So if you have stuff to say, say it! I think you can just check the anonymous box or something, but if you do that, then tell me who you are in your comment so I'm not confused. Thanks! Thanks for reading, too...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

How Many More Days?

It rained so much this weekend that a sinkhole opened up on our street! Its a pretty big one, too. This old block I live on is starting to scare me. Everything is so old--how much longer will it hold up? Today I finished covering up the windows in my room with plastic to help keep out the drafts. But no matter how much duct tape I used, I could still feel cold air coming in from somewhere. I think this house is just so old that air comes in through the wall.

The other frustrating thing is that for some reason my family thinks I'm fat! I am tall, and I admit that during middle school and high school I probably was a little chubby, but I've long since lost my baby fat and taken up running, and now I fit into smaller sizes than I wore ten yeares ago in high school. However, as my mom and sister were walking out the door to go shopping this morning, they asked if I wanted them to look for anything for me. I told her that I always need more black shirts. "What size," she asked, "large?" I said small, but my sister exclaimed, "what!? How is that possible?" It's possible! I wore small sizes before I moved here, and now I weigh even less than I did before from all the walking I do, not to mention the lack of money for groceries. But for some reason my family still thinks of me as that chubby high-schooler. Last year for my birthday I got some really cute clothes, but they were all too big. No doubt they also still think I like electric-blue wire-rimmed glasses and jelly shoes. Actually, jelly shoes aren't so bad...

I loved having my parents here for a few days though. My mom cooked us a whole chicken! And she made cinnamon rolls and bought us a ton of fruit. And cute scarves from one of those street-vendors. She tried in vain to convince my dad that they should stay longer, but maybe they will come back for Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas, its so fun to see all the holiday displays going up in store windows! Everywhere you look downtown there is a giant tree or an enormous wreath or stacks of oversized red Christmas balls. The Lincoln Center tree was lit last night, and today I walked past Rockefeller Center where they were setting up for Wednesday's tree lighting. So much festivity is contagious, and I find myself starting Christmas card lists and thinking of gifts to make for my loved ones. It's less than a month away! Can you believe it?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Rainy Days and Mondays

Hmmm, I wonder how many blogs I can name after Monday songs? Whenever I come back to New York, its always raining. But I love New York, and I can actually say I feel like I'm home today. Coming back from a long holiday weekend, I feel renewed and ready to turn over a new leaf. I'm going to forget about the past and just concentrate on living in the present and planning the future.

My family drove up with me yesterday, and we had a relatively uneventful trip, except for taking a wrong turn and driving through downtown Washington D.C.! It was our first time using the GPS trip planner. But we enjoyed driving through the mall and seeing the Capitol Building, watched over by an enormously full harvest moon.

We arrived in Harlem around 11 and took another hour looking for a suitable parking place. Then I stayed up for another hour working on my paper. I guess it was all too much excitement because I couldn't really sleep and ended up finishing my paper early in the morning, rushing out the door to class, only to arrive and be told that our teacher wasn't going to collect them until the afternoon.

But that left me free to take a look at the American paintings on display at Sotheby's. There is a gorgeous N.C. Wyeth, "Indian Love Call" (pictured above) and a heartbreakingly beautiful Maxfield Parrish painting of a farmer plowing a field below an enormous barren tree.

My Thanksgiving break was really nice, but I wish I would have spent more time with my family! I've finally realized that there is nothing more precious than my family, and I'm never going to waste time chasing imaginary dreams when I could be home with them, surrounded by love. I was able to spend a little bit of time with my brother, who is going through some really hard times in his life right now. He's made so many good choices lately, compared to his youth, that its hard to watch right now as his past catches up with him. But all debts must be paid eventually, and all I can do is pray for him.

Anyway, later this afternoon I spent a few hours looking at portrait miniatures with the leading American expert, Elle Shushan, who was just full of tantalizing stories about the artists lives. I'm going to have to read up on those people! As if painting a 1 inch portrait on ivory with watercolors and a 1-hair brush isn't crazy enough, apparently some of those artists lived some very colorful lives. Did Charles Willson Peale really poison his son slowly with arsenic because he was jealous of his miniature-painting skills? Yikes!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I just want to say to everyone: have a very happy Thanksgiving! Whether you are with family or friends, take the time to enjoy the moments you spend together. Savor the delicious food. Count your blessings. Here's what I'm thankful for:

A wonderfully quirky but caring family.

Friends that inspire me to be a better person.

New York, and the chance of a lifetime to learn and grow there.


A warm weather break from the Northern winter.

Cinnamon rolls with raisins.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Manic Monday

Ugh! I've been in North Carolina all weekend: catching up with friends, working at my old job, hanging out with my parents, salvaging a friendship with an ex boyfriend... It was a very eventful couple of days! And I was supposed to get back to the big city in time for my 10 a.m. class, but of course because I was a passenger, my flight was delayed and now I've missed class. It's cold and rainy here and I'm tired and hungry, but I think maybe I should just jump right in and start writing the ten-page paper I have due next Monday. Because with Thanksgiving coming up, when am I going to have time to write it? Maybe in a minute I'll begin a writing marathon and see how many pages I can type before I go insane. Or maybe I'll procrastinate for a little longer...

So my weekend was fun, but crazy. Working at the gallery was wierd, but kind of enjoyable. For some reason, the holiday show is when all the old people come back, like me, and the gallery closes for a Saturday to set up all the holiday decor. Then it opens on Sunday with a big party for the public. I worked there for 6.5 years as jewelry curator, so being there was as if I had never left. I just put on my party dress, got behind the counter, and sold jewelry right and left. And it was fun because all my old clients came up to me to say hi and ask about my new life. I felt very loved, and very pretty (a $6000 necklace does wonders for a girl's mood!).

On Saturday night I went out with all my fabulous friends for milkshakes at the Loop. It was so much fun to catch up and just be with them again. Howard came too, and later he told me, "You have nice friends." I said, "They're your friends too, Howard!" He forgets these things.

As for the ex-boyfriend, I was alternating between dread and excitement in anticipation of our reunion... It's hard to explain our relationship, but we've dated for most of the past 4 years, and he's really the first person I've ever been in love with. But now with me moved away things are changing, and we're both trying to figure it out. He's just started dating again, which I've been having a hard time with. But to see him doing so well, and have him explain to me that everything is okay, that this is for the best, that we can still love each other and be friends, was exactly what it took for me to snap out of my tailspin. He was tremendously kind, and cooked me food. We had a good talk, and while I still don't understand everything--maybe its impossible to--at least I'm not freaking out anymore. Maybe we'll get together again over Thanksgiving and see a movie or something, but I'm going to try and be good, and give him his space.

Meanwhile, I have the best moving-on mix to listen to. I'm adding a new feature to my blog, with my current music obsessions, so I'll post the best songs there.

Now, I guess I should go eat some lunch and then get busy with that paper...

Friday, November 16, 2007


"For there is no friend like a sister, in calm or in stormy weather..." Thus goes a poem by an author I've forgotten. Nevertheless, it's true. No matter what life brings, a sister is always there for you, to laugh with you, cry with you, or lecture you.

I have the immense fortune of being able to live with my sister. We are actual roommates! She came along for the adventure of living in a big city with me, on pure faith that she'd find a job and have a great time. Things haven't exactly worked out that way quite yet for her. So far no job. But I think she's having a good time, even though lately she's been kind of homesick.

Well, I'm a little homesick myself, but I get to go home this weekend, and E. has to stay behind. Next week she'll get to go home too, and we'll have a family Thanksgiving. I probably won't get a chance to blog for about a week or so, because I won't be in New York for most of the time, and I'll be seeing the few friends that do read this anyway.

Anyway, I've just been thinking about how great it is to have this experience with my sister. She's so much fun. And she's been such a friend to me through all of my ups and downs, especially my downs, doing little things to help me feel better. I was walking out the door to school the other day, and she told me to wear her legwarmers because they would look perfect with my outfit. So I did, and my legs were warm and cozy on a blustery cold day, but my heart was warmed too. Then, last night, she offered to do my nails. These are just simple little things, but it's wonderful to be on the receiving end of small sisterly kindnesses. She knows I'm going through a rough time, and she knows that the best way to help me through it is to just be there for me (and build back my confidence by helping me look as fabulous as I can!) She listens to me rant and rave, nods solemnly, says, "in-te-res-ting..." and hands me a cookie.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Ugh! The days are going by so slowly, and yet I dread the weekend, when I will have to confront my darkest fears... Meanwhile, I'm making a kick-a-- mix cd that will hopefully help me get out of my funk. I don't have time to be heartbroken! Let's get to the good stuff!

So anyway, I forgot I'm not supposed to be focusing on ME, but on this fabulous city that I live in. I love New York! I can just walk around on any street and I feel alive. Endless faces go by, so many people to watch, so many sights, sounds, and smells to take in. It's rejuvenating, even with winter coming on. And the gray skies and dirty streets are kind of soothing right now, actually.

A few mid-afternoon hours to kill, and I was at at the American Museum of Folk Art (MOMA's little brown neighbor) today, where I decided on a whim to see their research library. Do people realize they have access to this rich pocket of knowledge? Anyone who wants to can go research there, and I commend this library for its friendly people and lack of stuffiness that you find in other museum libraries such as the Frick and the Met. And as fate would have it, though it is normally open by appointment only, I was able to go in and find the book I've been searching for all over the ciy. Mennonite Arts. I've been doing research for my next paper, on Joseph Lehn, a Pennsylvania German craftsman of the mid-19th century. This book had the best information I've seen on him so far, and color pictures to boot. This week I'm doing all my research, and next week I'll write, because I'll be home and I'll have nothing else to do except pine, and I don't want to do that.

Later today I found myself next to the projects in East Harlem, where Carswell Berlin has his warehouse. Berlin is the expert on American Empire furniture, which are pieces made between in 1805 and 1825, or thereabouts. Empire furniture comes after Federal, and it is a marked change from simple spare geometry to conglomerations of carved sphinxes, gilded bronze mounts, and all the greco-roman and Egyptian gaudiness you can imagine. Names such as Duncan Phyfe and Charles Honore Lannuier dominate this time, and New York was the center of it all.

Unfortunately most American furniture collectors focus only on 18th century furniture, and label 19th century work as tasteless and unrefined. There's certainly nothing subtle about a pier table with bare-breasted winged sphinx ladies supporting a marble top, with hairy lions paw feet, and every other surface gilded. However, there is an exuberant glory here that certainly cannot be ignored. Berlin has some fantastic pieces--worthy of museums. In fact, he pointed out several reasons why one particular French-influenced secretary, with every exquisite detail just perfect down to its original inkwells, is better than anything in a museum. It certainly was breathtaking. I just felt good because out of the three card tables he had, I guessed which one was worth the most. Maybe this education is paying off after all...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Harlem and the Hudson River School

Lately, I really don't know what to do with myself. I'm trying to keep busy, and keep my mind engaged, but it's hard when you're prone to daydreaming like me. And today was a great day for daydreaming. The weather was perfect. After a soft morning rain, the sun came out and was warm. I went for a walk around the west side, just to explore, in between classes, and was charmed by all the flower shops (one was selling cotton blossoms!) and cute restaurants. It didn't feel like New York--I kind of felt like I was just in any suburban neighborhood, kind of. At the post office I actually bumped into someone I knew, which added to the whole down home feeling.

My afternoon class was held at the New York Historical Society, where they are having an exhibition of artifacts from the 9/11 tragedy. As I stood in the lobby contemplating a section of airplane that was part so much destruction, I realized how insignificant my own little problems are. I guess I need to be reminded that there are people out there who have suffered more than me.

The Historic Society has a wonderful gallery full of Hudson River School painters, which include Thomas Cole, Asher Durand, and Thomas Moran, among others. They are called a "school" but that is just a term that has been applied to them by art historians. They didn't really study formally anywhere, or even together, but their work is considered the first major American contribution to the art world. Cole was the first, and he followed the Europeans Salvator Rosa, Claude Lorraine, and Constable, in depictions of the American landscape. While Europeans painted scenes that highlighted their classical past, or iconic landmarks, Americans went in a new direction. Not having classical ruins or any national traditions to depict, American landscape painters focused on the vast wilderness that was America in the early 19th century.

The American landscape took on moral and religious connotations as these artists sought to imbue it with symbolic meaning. Vast panoramic views of mountains, waterfalls, gorges, and plains dwarfed humans. Storm-blasted trees were constant reminders of the power of God, while the views themselves were evidence of the taming of the wilderness by industrialization and tourism. Native Americans were portrayed as living in harmony with nature, but dwindling because of their savage heathenism.

The story of America's expansion, and America's idyllic view of itself, is documented by these landscape artists, who were acclaimed for their craft, before falling out of favor when Impressionism came along in the 1870s. I had a teacher in college who was obsessed with the Hudson River School painters and made each of us students copy one of their works in our oil painting class. That taught me a lot about their technical skill, but I think their biggest talent is evident in the drama and beauty their paintings capture. I've pictured one of my favorites, and an appropriate illustration for my current state of mind: Twilight in the Wilderness by Frederic Church.

After class, I wandered around Harlem. I gave my sandwich to a homeless man (I wonder when my appetite will return? I've never felt this way in my life...) and I went into all the stores, most of which sell really hip, borderline trashy, urban clothing, that's all about flash. I love 125th street because there is such a unique community there. The people seem to spill out from the busy vibrant shops, and there are tables on the sidewalks, all the time, where people sell things from T-shirts to movies to body butter. Church groups hand out fliers, and passersby are encouraged to dance along to the music blaring from a boombox playing Marvin Gaye. Food vendors abound, and the smells are delicious, even as the gutters are full of litter and sludge from the recent rain. And its like this every day!

It's a great place to go if you're a girl like me, feeling down about herself. About a dozen guys whistled at me, I got two "Hey Beautiful"s from random strangers, and a "How was your day, lady?" from a guy selling shirts. I just smile at them all and it makes me feel a little better.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Yesterday at church I learned that I'm being pruned. Not literally, of course, but spiritually. It doesn't feel very good!

I don't want to go into a lot of detail, but I can't just pretend like everything is roses right now. My move to New York set in motion some changes in my life that I'm just now feeling the effects of. Things are changing, and I feel as if I'm standing in an earthquake sometimes, just trying to make everything stay in place the way it was, but I can't keep some things from falling away, or being broken.

My family and friends are great comfort, as is the assurance I have within me that what I'm doing is right. However, it still doesn't mean I can turn off my emotions or stop myself from daydreaming about what might have been. I've had quite a few sleepless nights this week because all day I can distract myself with school and trips and projects, but when I lay down and try to sleep its as if my mind is a broken record of memories and thoughts. If only we had switches, like Bradbury's electric grandma, and could just shut ourselves off for the night.

I can't listen to music, because it all makes me sad, so I've been reading a lot of poetry lately. Edna St. Vincent Millay is my current favorite. As a woman, she obviously understands the kind of heartbreak I'm going through, and expresses it more beautifully that I could ever hope to:


Here is a wound that never will heal, I know,
Being wrought not of dearness and a death,
But of a love turned ashes and the breath
Gone out of beauty; never again will grow
The grass on that scarred acre, though I sow
Young seed there yearly and the sky bequeath
Its friendly weathers down, far underneath
Shall be such bitterness of an old woe.
That April should be shattered by a gust,
That August should be levelled by a rain,
I can endure, and that the lifted dust,
Of man should settle to the earth again;
But that a dream can die, will be a thrust
Between my ribs forever of hot pain.

Sorry if I'm depressing you! I know that Millay is being melodramatic. Who knows--maybe someday, despite all odds, grass will grow on "that sad acre." And even if not, my heart will heal, and I'll be able to eat and sleep again, and the birds will come out and sing, as the clouds part and a rainbow appears. This will happen eventually, because yesterday a wise man told me this: "Why are you crying over the end of Winter? It was so beautiful, but Spring will be even better."

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Winterthur and My Delaware Trip

In the 1920's Henry Francis DuPont inherited his family home and estate in the countryside of Delaware. Named for his ancestor's home town in Switzerland, Winterthur became DuPont's realization of an American version of the ancient old estates in the countryside of England, but instead of housing just one family's collection of heirlooms and art, DuPont sought to ensure the heritage of all of America's fine and decorative arts.

He was an avid collector of antique furniture and decorative arts, and in a time when most American's were focusing on modernization and technological advances, DuPont sought to preserve America's heritage in a great museum. Over the years he transformed Winterthur into a showcase of America's treasures. He filled rooms with gorgeous arrangements of furniture, textiles, ceramics, silver, and art, from the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries. When he ran out of rooms, he built more and more. As old buildings were being torn down in New York and elsewhere, DuPont bought entire rooms from those old houses and installed them in his house/musuem.

Not only did DuPont create an elaborately beautiful museum of interiors, he paid special attention to the hundreds of acres around his home. Today, oak forests and glades of conifers open up into lush meadows of rolling hills, which surround enchanted gardens of peonies, azaleas, and, depending on the season, multitudes of other flowers. A surprisingly stunning view can be seen around every corner, even in winter.

In the 1950s Winterthur became a museum in reality. DuPont lived nearby, overseeing things and collecting, right up until the end of his long life. Now, Winterthur is known as a leader in the preservation and scholarship of American antiques and decorative arts. It houses an extensive library, conservation lab, and even a graduate school.

My class spent three days there, learning and studying and soaking it all in. I learned so much! The rooms are amazing, full of incredible pieces in the most beautiful arrangements. I've never seen so many superb antique treasures in one place in my life. I learned about the conservation of textiles, paper, and paintings. I got to look through the library of rare books and ephemera, even leaf through paper dolls from the early 1800s, and I saw technicians busy at work restoring a badly damaged Charles Willson Peale painting.

Our trip coincided with the Delaware Winter Antiques Show, an annual event at which dealers from around the country get together to sell their wares to collectors. Though just students, we were able to gain admission to the opening night gala, and spent that night dressed to the nines, hobnobbing with big collectors and antiques experts, eating fancy appetizers and frantically trying to select an appropriately fine antique specimen to be the subject of a certain 10-page paper due in two weeks.

I chose a charming Lehn-ware cup and saucer, made by Joseph Lehn, a Pennsylvanian Mennonite farmer in the mid 19th century. His turned and painted wood pieces were made and sold just for fun, and now are highly collectible. I was charmed by the little strawberries painted on it, and its bright, rare, yellow color. During the upcoming week I'll research it as much as I can--my paper has to be an argument about why it would be a good purchase for a collector or museum.

This trip was short but extremely packed. I feel like I learned an incredible amount in such a short time. But my favorite part, by far, was the free time I had to just stroll around the grounds of Winterthur on my own, breathing in the clean fresh country air, and admiring the colorful fall foliage. No flowers, save a few late lilies, were in bloom, but the gardens were still enchantingly beautiful. I wandered through the Pinetum, where little brown birds clucked inside bushes covered in red berries. Old twisted cherry trees contrasted with enormously tall straight pines, and everywhere I looked I found a secluded nook with a bench, or a sundial, or a terrace overlooking a spacious meadow. Behind the huge house/museum I caught a view of myself in a deep leaf-covered reflecting pool, and, walking over a Japanese bridge, a dozen gigantic silver and gold carp rose from muddy depths to follow me along the edge of their pond.

Reluctantly, I returned to New York, on a cold rainy, traffic-filled Friday evening, with the peace and still beauty of Winterthur in my heart.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Crazy Busy

I didn't mean to go for two whole days without posting to my blog! Somehow I just got really busy. And tomorrow I'm going to Delaware for three days, so it looks like there will be a few more blogless days. Yeah, so you better find some other blogs to read in the meantime. Some of my favorites are The Blog of Unnecessary Quotation Marks (, and Crummy Church Signs ( There's also a blog devoted to pictures of badly parked cars, but--and I'm only speaking for myself here--there's a point where even I must say that's boring.

So what have I been so busy with? Well, on Sunday I had church of course, and it was also New York Marathon day, so I fell in with a group of fun people having a marathon party. We celebrated by eating really unhealthy food and watching a slide show of pictures of people we know who ran the marathon, as well as lots of random strangers. It's amazing how many really old people can run a marathon!

I had to leave early to go home and finish my two papers, due the next morning. I don't know how they turned out... by midnight I had done all I could do and forced myself to stop before I ruined them. And of course the next day, after turning them in, I suddenly thought of a few more interesting points I could have added. Doh!

Yesterday I had class all day, and then spent a few hours afterward in the library catching up on readings. By six I was all ready to go home and get some dinner, but on my way out I was sidetracked by a friend who introduced me to a woman who was going to give a talk at 7 about her humanitarian efforts in Nepal. So I stayed to listen, and even though she didn't speak very good English, it was a delightful story and truly inpspired me. She is a woman who has worked in France for several major fashion houses including Chanel and Christian Dior, but in her spare time she has devoted herself to starting and running an orphanage in Nepal. With just her own hard-earned money and a willingness to be of service to people less fortunate than herself, she has created a tremendous legacy of good, and changed a lot of people's lives for the better.

When I got home, my sister and I worked on our resumes until she got a call from a boy! Yes, she finally has a date! It's just funny because lately she's been saying how she wishes she would get asked out on dates. I didn't get a good look at him on Sunday, but he's some kind of stock broker, and he seems pretty nice.

Anyway, today I don't have class, but I need to get packed for Delaware. And I need to go back to school and do the rest of my reading. And check out a book for the long bus-ride! I'll post on Saturday, with details of my next adventure...

Saturday, November 3, 2007

It's Cool

Winter is here! It's getting really cold in New York. Cold and windy. And dry. I've been sleeping with two pairs of pajamas on and three quilts. Finally the landlady turned on the heat for our house, and the radiator has been making sounds, but so far no noticeable warmth has come out of it. As soon as I get some free time I'm going to cover our drafty old windows in plastic to help with insulation.

I try to spend most of my day in places that are warm, like libraries and museums. Class is usually cold, and my school library is really cold. Church is sometimes cold and sometimes warm. Stores are warm, but they are too tempting. The subways and buses are generally warm, especially when they are packed, which they often are now that the weather is cold.

My new ritual is to drink a cup of hot chocolate after dinner. It makes a nice dessert, and it fills my whole body with warmth. I envy coffee drinkers because they get to walk around all day holding hot steamy cups of drink. Maybe I'll get a thermos and walk around with something hot in it. Like soup. Or herbal tea.

Stores are starting to fill their windows with winter displays. Anthropologie's windows are especially cute, with knitted covers on candlesticks and marshmallow snowflakes. Rockefeller Square has lights on all their trees already. I saw some suspiciously Christmas-looking candy at the grocery store. I guess it feels good to think that Christmas is just around the corner, because it kind of makes the winter seem not so bad, and not so long.

But who am I kidding? Its going to be cold in New York for a long long time! I'd better get used to it.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Print Heaven

After a morning spent working on my paper, I headed over to the Park Avenue Armory for a fantastic treat! I was able to attend the IFPDA Print Fair. This is a trade show, basically, run by the International Fine Print Dealers Association, and it is comprised of a huge room filled with booths rented by galleries and art dealers who specialize in fine art prints. There, buyers can stroll around and pick things out for their homes, their business, their museum, or whatever. I talked to Joe Goddu of Hirschl & Adler Gallery, which sells prints among other antiques. He said that half his sales are to museums. In his booth he had some fantastic prints by Max Weber, carved from cigar boxes and printed by sandwiching the paper between the inked-up cigar box carving and a telephone book, and standing on it!

I saw just one print (pictured) by one of my favorite printmakers, Elizabeth Catlett. I also saw prints by favorites Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, Wayne Thiebaud, and Marie Cassatt--and a William Blake! There were some gorgeous Japanese woodblock prints, too, of course. And I discovered the work of Erik Desmazieres, a contemporary printmaker living in Paris, who had some exquisite aquatint & roulette images of print-shop interiors, and the view out his window. Thomas French, whose gallery represents the estate of artist George Bellows, had some fantastic Bellows prints, and he talked to me about the collaboration between Bellows and his printers. Bellows is very well known for his images of boxing matches, which he painted and rendered in lithographs.

Three hours of wandering around looking at prints and I still didn't want to go, but I had so many other things to do that I forced myself away. I had to go visit The Flower Girl at the Met one more time before finishing my paper this weekend. While I was looking at it, a man came up and started exclaiming about how realistic the flowers were. It really is pretty amazing, and what I'm curious about is why so few of Ingham's other paintings are like The Flower Girl. This is something that I may have to look into further, beyond this assignment for school.

After that, I headed downtown to the American Museum of Folk Art, because it was Free Music Friday! That is when they let you in for free and you get to listen to live music while you look at the art. The MOMA was free tonight too, but I wasn't up for big crowds. At the Folk Art museum, which is one of my favorite museums in New York, they have an exhibition of work by Jewish immigrants of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A whole room is full of carved lions, which are used in the synagogue to flank the decalogue--I think. My brain was really full by that time, and I was more into just looking than reading the labels. Anyway, most of the lions had glass eyes, but one pair made in the 1920s had little red lightbulb eyes! Can you imagine seeing those in church, looking at you?

Apparently, the Jewish immigrants brought over an amazing tradition of paper-cut pictures, which are mind-bogglingly intricate. And, most of the fantastically carved and decorated carousel animals at Coney Island and other permanent carnivals were carved by Jewish immigrants, and the museum has some amazing ones on view.

Such a great day, full of so much amazing art! Now I'm ready to close my eyes and just rest.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Flower Girl

This is the painting that I'm trying to write a paper on right now, and it is proving to be quite frustrating! At the same time, I'm writing a paper on three of the places I visited on my trip last week. That paper is done, I think, but I continue to revise until the moment I have to print it out and turn it in. I'm the same way with painting--I don't think I've ever actually completed a painting, because I constantly feel like there's something that can be improved.

Anyway, "The Flower Girl" is by a man named Charles Cromwell Ingham, who came to America from Ireland in the early 19th century and set up business as a portrait painter in New York. He was quite successful because he developed a highly original and distinctive technique of layering glazes to create an ethereal, romantic quality to his paintings. When you see "The Flower Girl" in real life, it's incredible detail is heightened by these glazes, which give the hyper-realistic flowers an eerie three-dimensional appearance.

I'm not usually attracted to such saccharine images of girls in art, but I had to choose something from what is currently on display at the Met. After wandering around for about an hour, half toying with and half frightened by the idea of writing about the huge Trumbull battle scene, something led me to the Ingham. Then, I think the technicolor flowers hypnotized me.

Nobody is really sure who The Flower Girl is--she is commonly referred to as a "fancy painting" or genre scene--a type of artwork still relatively new in American during the 1840s, but gaining in popularity. As art-collecting gained respectability and popularity, people needed something to collect besides just portraits of their family. So they borrowed on the European tradition of painting landscapes, anonymous people at work, scenes of everyday life, still-lives, and trompe l'oiel (did I spell that right?) scenes. And who doesn't love a painting of a pretty girl with flowers?

Some people say that The Flower Girl is selling more than just flowers, but I tend to disagree. Like I said, nobody really knows for sure what the artist intended by this piece. so its open to interpretation. I think she's respectable, because she is wearing a black hood, which is in my view a symbol of mourning and purity in the covering of the hair. Her mouth is closed demurely, and there is no overtly sexual aspect to her dress. Everything is simple and plain except the flowers, which dominate the piece with their intense color and meticulous depiction. Next in intensity are the girls blue eyes, which stare out hauntingly. With one hand she proffers a potted fuchsia plant, a symbol of affection.

She's a mystery, and a study in contrasts. I have a lot to write about, but its more fun to write about it in my blog, where I'm not graded, than in my paper!