ART | Sorting out an heirloom by Arthur Parton

PartonThis oil by Arthur Parton has been in my mother’s family for 80 years or so.

Though they aren’t serious about it any way, shape or form, my parents have amassed a nice little collection of art that includes watercolors, oils, sculpture, pastels and prints — none all that expensive or valuable.

Since my maternal grandfather’s death in 1984, a nice little oil has hung in the front hall of my parents’ house. He’d inherited the painting from some distant cousins in the late 1920s or early 1930s and my mother, his only daughter, kept it after she broke up his house. We’ve never given it much notice. Earlier this summer, spurred by the appearance of a Jasper Cropsey painting on “Antiques Roadshow,” I decided to check our painting out.

Before I share the results of my query, let me also say that my parents are also avid Hudson River School fans who’ve probably been to every major art museum in this country. For my own part, there are days when I wish I’d pursued a career as an art historian — my St. Lawrence thesis explored Frederic Remington’s various depictions of Canada.

It turns out our little oil was painted by Arthur Parton in 1872. Parton, born in Hudson, N.Y. in 1842, was a member of the Hudson River School. Here’s a biography, courtesy of the Pierce Galleries:

Arthur Parton was born in Hudson, N.Y. and along with his brothers Ernets (1845-1933) and Henry (1858-1933), he wanted to become a painter from an early age. Arthur Parton became a prominent 19th century landscape painter after studying with William Trost Richards in Philadelphia and at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and after a trip to Europe where he was highly influenced by the Barbizon painters (1869). In 1872, his view of the Shenandoah River (Virginia) was published in Bryant’s Picturesque America and that publication gave him instantaneous recognition.

During the reign of the Hudson River School Parton became an Associate of the National Academy of Design (1871) and a full National Academician (1884). He was a leading member of the American Water Color Society and the Artist’s Fund Society. He exhibited at the National Academy (1862-1914), winning a prize at the NAD in 1896; the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC (1907, 1908, 1910); Brooklyn Art Association (1866-1885); Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, 1876; Boston Art Club (1882-1909) and more. Awards include one in New York City (gold, 1886); Temple Gold Medal at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (1889); a medal at the St. Louis Exposition (1904) and more. His work is represented in the Brooklyn Institute Museum; the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, NYC.

Parton painted throughout New York state and is known for his paintings of the Catskill and Adirondack mountains. He was a well-known artist and well-liked, having exhibited for over a half-century at the National Academy, and moving from a tight academic Hudson River School palette into Impressionism.

From 1874-1893, he maintained a Tenth Street Studio at 51 West 10th Street, alongside William Merritt Chase in New York City, and he probably was highly influenced by Chase’s impressionistic canvases of Shinnecock.

We’re in the process of having the piece appraised. Stay tuned!

ART | Remington’s ‘A Grey Day at Ralphs’ (updated)

AGreyDatatRalphs“A Grey Day at Ralphs,” an 1896 pastel of a northern New York scene by Frederic Remington. Image courtesy of the Frederic Remington Museum, Ogdensburg, N.Y.

The Frederic Remington Museum, a fantastic cultural institution in northern New York is opening a new exhibit on Saturday, Sept. 25. The show, titled “Frederic Remington Favorites,” features Remington works selected by people with various connections to the museum.

I was one of the selectors. Laura Foster, the museum’s curator, reached out to me this summer and asked me to participate. Laura and I worked closely together in 2001 and 2002, when I was researching my senior thesis at St. Lawrence. “Frederic Remington’s Canada,” which earned me honors in the History Department, explored how Remington brought images of Canada — mounties, Blackfeet traders, French pioneers and other archetypes — to wide American cultural awareness.

Here’s exhibit label I wrote for the piece I selected:

“A Grey Day at Ralphs,” pastel on grey paper, circa 1896

Though Frederic Remington traveled widely across the American and Canadian wests — journeys he documented ad infinitum — the North Country never escaped his imagination.

Bits and pieces of Northern New York — be they snowshoes, canoes, hunting scenes or landscape details — transcend his oeuvre. As a St. Lawrence University senior, I combed through reams of the artist’s illustrative studies from every point in his career. While the North Country was omnipresent, I was particularly drawn to the artist’s interpretations of
the region’s landscapes.

And so I settled on the simple pastel, “A Grey Day at Ralphs,” which the artist created around 1896. An hour of cursory research leads me to believe that the scene was discovered on property either rented or owned by the artist’s good friend, journalist Julian Ralph. Regardless, the image is certainly a North Country scene. We know that Remington was in the region for the better part of the summer of 1896. In May of that year, he took a two-week canoe trip on Lake Champlain. Later in the summer, he traveled the region making pastels.

“A Grey Day at Ralphs” is an interesting bridge between the charming “Small Oaks” of 1887 and Remington’s later impressionistic studies. Among my favorite of these are the Pontiac series of 1909 and “Boat House at Ingleneuk,” a 1907 work.

While I didn’t grow up in the North Country as Remington did, I feel a similar affection for the region. I spent my collegiate life in Canton and then spent five years as a journalist in the Tri-Lakes area. Though my career has taken me south to Westchester County — Remington lived in New Rochelle, a mere three miles from my current home — I catch myself dreaming of North Country scenes, like “A Grey Day at Ralphs,” nearly every day.

Steve Hann of Saranac Lake, an reader we’ve featured before, wrote me over the weekend to suggest “A Gray Day at Ralphs” may have been created during a visit by Remington to Ralph’s on Upper Chateaugay Lake.

I consulted “Frederick Remington, Selected Letters,” a collection of the artist’s correspondence assembled by Allen and Marilyn Splete. None of the letters the Spletes appended would support Hann’s theory, but I’m going to do my best to check it out.

The exhibition runs through Sept. 10, 2011.

Frederic Remington Art Museum
303 Washington Street
Ogdensburg, New York 13669
Phone: (315) 393-2425
Fax: (315) 393-4464

COCKTAILS | Gin Daisy nods to Prohibition

GinDaisyThe Gin Daisy, a Depression-era cocktail featured in Al Hirschfeld’s ‘The Speakeasies of 1932.’

A favorite book of recent years is the fabulous reissue of illustrator Al Hirschfeld’s “The Speakeasies of 1932.”

Speakeasiesof1932First published by E.P. Dutton and Co. as “Manhattan Oases,” the book captures Old New York in one of its darkest hours: the waning days of the Noble Experiment and the depths of the Great Depression. Hirschfeld and his collaborator, screenwriter Gordon Kahn, travel up and down Manhattan, profiling the great speakeasies that defined the Roaring 20s and then dressed the wounds of deep financial crisis. Hirschfeld illustrates a bartender and Kahn offers a few pithy paragraphs describing the patrons, the drinks, the food and the general despair of New York’s speakesies.

The book was rereleased in 2003 by Glenn Young Books.

Among the establishments they visited — and the only one still remaining so far as I can tell — is ‘21.’ Still known as Jack and Charlie’s in 1932, the place was rated the second-best speak on the Island by Hirschfeld and Kahn. The latter writes:

Frequented by writers of the better order; the cosmopolite; the men who go to the nearby picture galleries; understand Matisse, Ravel and Ernest Bloch; who know “canarad a la presse,” drink hock, and call for the whiskey by name. …

… The bar is spacious, comfortable, and meticulously operated. The back-bar is sightly with statuettes of the White Horse whiskey steed himself ad the Nicolas porter you’ve seen on the Continent The beer steins on the mantel weren’t turned out in gross lots either.

Probably the only place on the island where you can call for Dewar’s, Teacher’s, Walker’s Black Label or any other brand of whiskey and get just that.

Thank me.

Bill, the bartender, recommended the Gin Daisy, a sour that’s has a bit of a sweet spot. It’s a terrific cooler for these waning warm weather nights. We’ve had them a couple of times in the last few weeks and have been delighted again and again.

• 2 1/2 ounces gin
• 1 ounce Cointreau
• 1 ounce Lemon juice
• Dashes grenadine
• Lemon garnish

Pour the gin, Cointreau and lemon juice over ice in shaker. Shake vigorously and serve over ice in a low tumbler. Add the grenadine and the garnish. Serve and enjoy.

MAPS | A cartographic artifact of Lake Placid in 1980

SchweitzMapA detail of the famous map of Lake Placid drawn by Pittsford, N.Y. artist Duane A. Schweitz in 1980.

There are more coveted Lake Placid relics: The poster created for the 1980 Games that shows mascot Roni Racoon clinging to the Olympic Rings, an image that had to be altered after a dustup with the IOC; tickets to the Miracle on Ice; and even original china from the Lake Placid Club.

Still, the elaborate pen-and-ink map created by Pittsford, N.Y. artist Duane A. Schweitz is a rare and valuable find. Schweitz’s map, which he billed as a cartographic artifact, shows every major structure that was standing in Lake Placid in 1979 and 1980. Schweitz gives us a view of each house, hotel, church, school and commercial building from the most modest houses of Averyville Road to the grand, hipped-roof wonders of Signal Hill.

I splurged and bought myself a copy to honor my recent 30th birthday. Its frame was shattered in shipping and I’ve just agreed to spend a little more to right that wrong. It’ll be well-worth the expense, but I already miss having the piece in the house. We had it propped up on the kitchen table the last few weeks and after checking the day’s papers every morning, I’d look at the map. It’s remarkable how little my adopted hometown has changed since 1980. Good friends’ houses all appear. The home I rented while living up there, a little raised ranch that overlooked Mill Pond, is present. Most of the Main Street corridor is accounted for. Some icons, of course, are gone: the Lake Placid Club, the Brewster Building parts of the harbor complex and a few others.

Schweitz, for his part, is still practicing his craft in Pittsford, focusing on the seasonal beauty of that village.

Here’s a gallery of images from his Lake Placid map:

ART | Paintings in the Kennedy Oval Office

KennedyOvalOfficePresident John F. Kennedy, left, confers with McGeorge Bundy while Ken O’Donnell talks with an aide during the 1962 Steel Crisis.

Guierre‘Naval Battle Between the United States & The Macedonian on Oct. 25, 1812′ by Thomas Birch, 1813, which hung in the Oval Office during the Kennedy presidency.

Images of the Oval Office, as it was decorated during the presidency of John F. Kennedy, are etched indelibly on the American mind. The president’s rocking chair, the photo of John F. Kennedy Jr. peering through the opened front panel of the Resolute Desk, the scrimshaw, the Harvard captain’s chair and the plaque that read, “O God, Thy Sea is So Great and My Boat so Small,” are all iconic relics of the abbreviated Kennedy presidency.

Few of those images, however, pay much tribute to the art Kennedy selected to hang in his office. Largely comprised of images that depict important naval battles of early American history, the collection also included two paintings by George Catlin.

CatlinGeorge Catlin’s “Buffalo Bull, Grazing on the Prairie.”

In college, I spent part of a summer as a fellow at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo., studying American art of the West, in particular the work of Frederic Remington. Among the BBHC’s collection is a good amount of George Catlin’s work, which fascinated then as now.

Catlin, born in Wilkes-Barre, Penn. in 1796, left the law to take up travel writing and painting in the American west after observing an Indian Delegation in Philadelphia. His first trip was with Capt. William Clark in 1830. At least five more followed and when he returned east in 1838, he assembled his paintings in a collection he called his Indian Gallery. The works are iconic and are considered the foundation of a long tradition of Western art that carried forward through Thomas Moran, Alfred Bierstadt, Remington and Charles Spielvogel.

Two of Catlin’s Indian Gallery works were hung in Kennedy’s Oval: “Buffalo Bull, Grazing on the Prairie” painted in 1832-33 and “Buffalo Hunt under the Wolf-skin Mask,” also painted in 1832-33. Both are now in the collection of the Smithsonian.

Other paintings also hanging or on display in the Oval were, according to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library:

• “The White House Long Ago” – Watercolor of the White House by Jacqueline B. Kennedy (on table and desk) now in Jacqueline Kennedy exhibit in the Museum.
• “Constitution – Guerriere” (Left over mantel) Loaned by the National Gallery
• “Bonhomme Richard” (Center over mantel) Loaned by the National Gallery
• “United States versus the Macedonia” – Loaned to John F. Kennedy by J. Welles Henderson (Philadelphia Lawyer; Chairman of the Philadelphia Maritime Museum) (Right over mantel)
• “Buffalo Bull” – by George Catlin – Loaned by the Smithsonian Museum of American Art (next to door)
• “Buffalo Hunt under Wolf Skin Masks” – by George Catlin – Loaned by the Smithsonian Museum of American Art (next to door)

Here’s a gallery:

CLIP | John Lindsay on the arts, 1978

ROOMS| Yale dormitories of the late 19th century delight

YaleA student room at Yale’s Lawrance Hall, photographed during the 1880s.

In my Canton days, I was more than a little obsessed with making our accommodations there both comfortable and interesting. We had a huge collection of furniture, flags, banners, prints and even taxidermy on the walls of 33 E. Main St. when Lavin, Leifer, Furnary, Johnny and I were renting the place. We joked at the time that it had the feel of an upscale Bennigan’s. But we loved it all the same.

Clarke, who departed Canton before the advent of 33, still visited us and his memory was apparently jogged when he came across an interactive for “There’s No Place Like Home: Student Rooms at Yale, 1870—1910,” an online exhibit at the Yale Art Gallery.

“Between 1869 and 1894, new dormitories, monumental in scale and lavish in design, were built along the New Haven Green on College Street in the area known today as Old Campus, gradually creating a self-contained quadrangle that quickly became the psychological center of the campus,” a precis for the exhibit states. “Amid this growth, the distinctiveness of Yale College and campus life asserted itself.”

That distinctiveness is evident in five photographs of student rooms taken in the latter half of the 19th Century. These are hardly the humble cells one might imagine. Austerity is nowhere to be found. In its place are beautiful bookcases and desks, heavy formal drapes, framed prints and photographs, taxidermy, musical instruments and sporting accouterments. Though I often find Victorian furnishings to be a bit over the top, I want to spend time in these rooms. They each convey a sense of comfortable, lived-in warmth.

Coupled with the photographs, which come from the Sterling Memorial Library’s Department of Manuscripts and Archives at Yale, are images of pieces from the Yale Art Gallery’s Department of American Decorative Arts. These objects correspond to pieces on view in each photograph.

Remarkable find, Clarke. Thanks for passing it on.

ART| John Held, Jr. illustrations define the Jazz Age

Held1The cover of the Dec. 17, 1925 number of Life is graced with a John Held Jr. illustration of an athletic flapper.

I first became aware of the illustrative genius of John Held Jr. while researching a paper on “The Great Gatsby” in 1995 or 1996. His images of twiggy, angular young women gave life to the image of the Flapper, those charming, hard-drinking, hard-smoking and liberated women of the glorious Jazz Age.

Born Jan. 10, 1889 in Salt Lake City Utah, Held sold his first illustration to Life at age 15. At 16, he joined the staff of the Salt Lake Tribune as a sports cartoonist and by 1912, he had come east to the capital of American culture, New York. After the interruption of World War I, Held began successfully placing his work in a range of magazines, but his covers for Life, depicting the glories, foibles and evolving mores of the decade. Held’s subjects drink, they smoke, they play sports, drive cars and generally carouse. Simply put, they are icons of 20th-century illustration and graphic design.

When not drawing illustrations, Held occupied himself with woodcuts, creating cartoons for The New Yorker, which was edited by Harold Ross, an old pal from Salt Lake City.

After the crash, Held returned to newspaper work. Two strips, “Margie” and “Rah Rah Rosalie” had brief broadsheet runs in the early 1930s. Though his work is identified almost exclusively with the 1920s, he continued to work as an illustrator until his death in 1958.

ICONS| 2010 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival pin unveiled

PinThe 2009 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Pin, designed by Saranac Lake native Garry Trudeau. Image courtesy of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Committee.

Cartoonist Garry Trudeau’s design for the 2010 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival pin has been released, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise reports. Featuring Doonesbury character Zonker riding a snowmobile in cowboy gear, the pin celebrates the 2010 Carnival theme: Adirondack Cowboy.

The pin is Trudeau’s 29th design for the annual estival.

A native of the Little City, Trudeau is a faithful supporter of its annual Winter Carnival, a week-long festival that celebrates the longest season. The pin is Trudeau’s 29th design for the annual estival.

Held annually since 1897 in the first week of February, the Carnival features an ice palace, competitions in every winter sport imaginable, as well as woodsmens’ demonstrations, the coronation of a King, Queen and royal court, copious parties and an unrivaled parade. Does your little town have a female dance troupe whose moves are choreographed with folding lawn-chairs? I don’t think so.

Take a look:

It’s basically “Waiting for Guffman” on ice. People speculate that Christopher Guest is working on a script. It’s that American.

Each year, the Carnival is themed. When I was an editor at the Enterprise, my favorite themes were 2003’s Mardi Gras and 2005’s Adirondack Aloha. Both were rollicking good times. Highlights included the annual parade party held by my good friend, Ned, and later, in the same apartment by’s favorite children’s author, Maxwell Eaton III and his fiancee, Kristin Sadue. These events were always deeply and hilariously strange.

For much more on the 2010 Winter Carnival, which runs from Feb. 5 to Feb. 14, 2010, visit the Carnival Committee’s official site.

LIVES| Thomas P.F. Hoving, retired director of the Met, 1931-2009

HovingThomas P.F. Hoving chats with Mayor John Lindsay during a walking tour of one of New York’s parks in 1966. Hoving erved briefly as Lindsay’s parks chief before assuming the reins of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Thomas Pearsall Field Hoving, the groundbreaking director of the Metropolitan Museum whose reign secured its place as the nation’s greatest museum, has died. He was 78 and suffered from lung cancer.

Born in Manhattan Jan. 15, 1931, Mr. Hoving was educated at Buckley, Eaglebrook, Exeter and Hotchkiss. After Hotchkiss, he worked as a copy boy for the late Daily Mirror. He was graduated from Princeton in 1953 and he later earned both a master’s degree and a doctorate in art history.

From Hoving’s Times obituary:

He earned a master’s, then a doctorate, in art history at Princeton. Then, in 1958, after a lecture he gave at the Frick Collection on the Annibale Carracci frescoes at the Farnese Palace in Rome, a man he didn’t recognize and who didn’t introduce himself invited Mr. Hoving to take a walk up Fifth Avenue to the Met to see a marble table that had once graced the palace. The man turned out to be James J. Rorimer, the Met’s director, who offered Mr. Hoving a job.

Mr. Hoving remained at the Met until 1965 when, upon the election of John V. Lindsay as the city’s mayor, he was named parks commissioner. His stint at Parks was short — when Met director James Rorimer died in 1966, Hoving was named his replacement.

Hoving’s run at the top of America’s greatest art institution was transformational.

A character whose existence could only have been possible in the lost New York he inhabited, Hoving vastly expanded the collections of the museum. He landed the Temple of Dendur, an entire prairie-style house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, expanded the American wing, added collections of Islamic, African and Pacific art and more.

Hoving was a hero for all of this in my household, wherein my mother never ceased to sing his praises. “King of Confessors,” the director’s 1981 memoir about the museum’s acquisition of the Bury St. Edmunds cross, a Medieval ivory masterpiece and other treasures, was required reading for her son.

A hero of Old New York, he will be greatly missed.

UPDATE: Here’s Hoving with Barbaralee Diamonstein in the 1970s:

Next Page » on Facebook