The Slave Owner, the Cook, His Sister, and Her Lover

Posted in anniversaries, books by Editor on July 4, 2013

Published last September, Craughwell’s book underscores Jefferson’s complicated attitudes and debts to slavery. On, this, the day of the United State’s birth and Jefferson’s death, that strikes me as useful. It’s certainly fascinating to see the American introduction of macaroni and cheese as part of a trans-Atlantic story involving both Europe and Africa. Happy Independence Day.CH

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From Quirk Books:

Thomas J. Craughwell, Thomas Jefferson’s Crème Brûlée: How a Founding Father and His Slave James Hemings Introduced French Cuisine to America (Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2012), 256 pages, ISBN: 978-1594745782, $20.

Book Review Thomas Jeffersons Creme BruleeThis culinary biography recounts the 1784 deal that Thomas Jefferson struck with his slaves, James Hemings [brother of Sally Hemings]. The founding father was traveling to Paris and wanted to bring James along “for a particular purpose”— to master the art of French cooking. In exchange for James’s cooperation, Jefferson would grant his freedom.

Thus began one of the strangest partnerships in United States history. As Hemings apprenticed under master French chefs, Jefferson studied the cultivation of French crops (especially grapes for winemaking) so the might be replicated in American agriculture. The two men returned home with such marvels as pasta, French fries, Champagne, macaroni and cheese, crème brûlée, and a host of other treats. This narrative history tells the story of their remarkable adventure—and even includes a few of their favorite recipes.

Abram Barkshian reviewed the book for The Wall Street Journal (14 September 2012).

Exhibition | From Colony to Nation: 200 Years of American Painting

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on July 4, 2013

Press release (6 June 2013) from the New-York Historical Society:

From Colony to Nation: 200 Years of American Painting
New-York Historical Society, New York, 7 June — 8 September 2013

Curated by Linda S. Ferber


Charles Peale, The Peale Family, 1773–1809, 57 x 90 inches
(New York-Historical Society)

Capturing the spirit of the United States through two centuries of artistic expression, From Colony to Nation: 200 Years of American Painting features more than eighty works dating from 1720 to 1918, drawn from the New-York Historical Society’s large holdings of American paintings. On view June 7 through September 8, 2013, the exhibition interweaves art history and American history into a richly textured visual panorama, with subjects ranging from early Colonial portraits to urban Impressionism. The exhibition also highlights the story of the artists, patrons, and collectors whose contributions informed the history of New-York Historical.

Many works in From Colony to Nation will be exhibited for the first time in decades, following conservation of both the paintings and their period frames. Among the exhibition highlights is John Singer Sargent’s portrait Mrs. Jacob Wendell (1888), a recent gift to the New-York Historical Society from The Roger and Susan Hertog Charitable Fund and Jan and Warren Adelson. The first painting by Sargent in New-York Historical’s collection, the work was created during the young expatriate artist’s first professional foray on American soil.

The exhibition is organized into six overarching themes that interweave art history and American history into a richly textured national narrative beginning in the early 18th century and ending in the early 20th. Colonial Painting: Faces, Places & a Bible Story features a number of New-York Historical’s early portraits of the men, women and children who comprised the thriving populations of colonial New York and Philadelphia. Among the treasures on display are seven Beekman family portraits, dating from the 1760s and still in their original frames—a rare instance of an entire suite of portraits of a prominent family represented in a single collection. Also on view is Charles Willson Peale’s monumental The Peale Family (1773–1809), which brings together several generations in the artist’s studio for one of the most ambitious group portraits of the 18th century. The Peale family saga is played out over several decades and generations, coming to a close when the elderly Peale added a memorial portrait of his beloved dog Argus. Another exhibition highlight is the recent acquisition The Finding of Moses (ca. 1720), a rare scripture painting attributed to Gerardus Duyckinck. The Dutch community valued such Biblical narrative paintings for their religious content and as a reflection of their political experience, identifying with the exiled Israelites in their own struggles against the domination of Spain in the Netherlands and the English in New York.

Artists featured in the exhibition are also well-represented in New-York Historical’s portrait collection—The World of the American Artist features a selection of these likenesses, along with depictions of noted art collectors and patrons. Expatriate artist Benjamin West’s London studio was the destination for a first generation of aspiring Colonial painters, including Gilbert Stuart, Charles Willson Peale, and Abraham Delanoy, who painted West in 1766 at the height of the artist’s early fame as a history painter. Portraits of Asher B. Durand and Thomas Cole represent a later generation of American masters who focused upon the American landscape. Important collectors and patrons depicted in the exhibition include Luman Reed and Thomas Jefferson Bryan, whose collections formed the early core of New-York Historical’s collection.

The Early Republic: Patriots, Citizens & Democratic Vistas features founding fathers, New York merchants and Pennsylvania farmers, with several joined by their wives to create charming pairs. Iconic portraits of Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Lafayette portray the heroes of the Revolutionary generation. Gilbert Stuart portrays the dashing Schulyers as a newly married couple (1807), and Jacob Eichholtz’s captures the genteel charm of Pennsylvania country gentry in his portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Eichelberger (ca. 1819). Scenic wonders of the new nation include John Trumbull’s 1808 epic panoramas of Niagara Falls, contrasted with the 1818 record of a lively transportation hub at the New York waterfront captured by visiting Swiss painter J.H. Jenny. (more…)

Imagining the Shantytown Dwellings at Fort Mifflin

Posted in museums, the 18th century in the news by Editor on July 4, 2013

I’m sorry I learned of this Philadelphia project only a few days ago (after the close of the festival, which looks to have been positively exhilarating). Still, it seems worth noting, a useful counterweight perhaps to all the magnificence within the period’s historiography. One of the artists, Ben Neiditz, is, incidentally, on staff at the Penn Museum. -CH


Ben Neiditz and Zach Webber, Ruins at High Battery,
Fort Mifflin, Philadelphia, 2013. Photo by Peter Woodall

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In connection with Philadelphia’s Hidden City Festival (23 May — 30 June 2013), Ben Neiditz and Zach Webber have constructed improvised dwellings that recall Revolutionary War-era shantytowns along the Delaware River at Fort Mifflin, a stunning remnant of the Revolutionary War. Playing with notions of permanence and impermanence, the artists’ settlement recalls the shantytowns that have dotted the Delaware River wetlands since the 18th century–while also imagining the DIY settlements of the future. . .

Read more at the festival website; additional photos can be found at Street Department, Conrad Benner’s blog dedicated to art on the streets of Philadelphia.

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From the Fort Mifflin website:

Lossing, Benson John. "Field Book of the Revolution" (2 Volumes). New York: Harper Brothers. Vol. 2, p. 90

Fort Mifflin, 1777, from Benson John Lossing’s Field Book of the Revolution, 2 volumes (New York: Harper Brothers, 1853), vol. 2, p. 90. Image from Wikimedia Commons

[At Fort Mifflin, in the fall of 1777,] on the frozen, marshy ground within the walls of a stone and wood fort, the American Revolution produced a shining moment. Cold, ill and starving, the young garrison of (now) 400 men at Fort Mifflin refused to give up. The valiant efforts of the men at Fort Mifflin held the mighty British Navy at bay providing Washington and his troops time to arrive safely at Valley Forge where they shaped a strong and confident army. This battle escalated into the greatest bombardment of the American Revolution and one that many say changed the course of American history. . .

Call for Papers | American Art History and Digital Scholarship

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on July 4, 2013

From the symposium and workshop website:

American Art History and Digital Scholarship: New Avenues of Exploration
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 15–16 November 2013

Proposals due by 15 August 2013; registration due by 30 September 2013


Leo Castelli in a room of the Jasper Johns exhibit at the Castelli Gallery, 1958 (Archives of American Art)

The Archives of American Art announces an upcoming symposium, American Art History and Digital Scholarship: New Avenues of Exploration, to be held at the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, in Washington, DC, on Friday, November 15, followed by a one-day workshop at the Archives of American Art on Saturday, November 16. We seek proposals for Friday’s presentations and applications for participation in Saturday’s moderated workshop.

The symposium will convene scholars, archivists, librarians, graduate students, technical experts, and the public to consider American art history in a digital world, examining ways to integrate digital tools and resources into the study of
American art and to encourage collaboration. (more…)

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