Redwood Library Acquires Collection of Early Modern Architecture Books

Posted in on site, resources by Editor on February 18, 2016


Redwood Library and Athenaeum in Newport, Rhode Island, with Harrison’s Mirror mounted on the front pediment of the 1750 building, designed by Peter Harrison; the mirror was one element of the installation exhibition To Arrive Where We Started by Peter Eudenbach (July 2012 — July 2013).

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From Art Daily (17 February 2016) . . .

The Redwood Library and Athenaeum—a hybrid historic site, museum, rare book repository, and the oldest continuously operating lending library in America (1747)—has acquired a comprehensive collection of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British architecture books and building manuals from the antiquarian bookseller Charles Wood. Comprising 53 titles, the collection deepens the Library’s already significant holdings of material devoted to early modern architecture and design, one of its cornerstone collecting areas. The acquisition was made possible by a grant from the B.H. Breslauer Foundation, as well as from donations from a number of local and national benefactors.

newport-2-“By virtue of what the Redwood is—the country’s oldest public Neo-Classic structure and a touchstone of the nation’s architectural patrimony—we are duty bound to remain a center for the study of early American architecture,” said Benedict Leca, Executive Director of the Redwood Library. “This collection dovetails perfectly with our existing holdings, notably the Cary Collection of supremely rare eighteenth-century pattern books, and exemplifies our commitment to the scholarly interpretation of our own building and those of colonial Newport.”

Newport’s historic center of learning and a designated national landmark, the Redwood Library has been serving New England and beyond as a resource supporting the range of intellectual pursuit for nearly three hundred years. In a city especially known today as a hub of historic preservation, garden design and place making, the Redwood endures as a locus of research in these domains through a constellation of related collections, making this acquisition especially pertinent.

The Redwood’s Newport Collection, an indispensable trove when researching Newport and Aquidneck Island, comprises over 5,000 books and hundreds of archives and manuscripts. The Doris Duke Preservation Collection focuses on New England colonial and nineteenth-century architecture, with an emphasis on the preservation and restoration of both the exterior architectural structure, including windows, doors and moldings, and on interior decorative elements, such as wallpaper and textiles. The Dorrance Hamilton Gardening Collection currently holds over 500 titles of landscape architecture, classic ‘how-to’ guides by important historic designers, such as Geoffrey Jellicoe and Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, as well as a number of discerning treatments of historic world gardens. The Cynthia Cary Collection, collected over decades by Mr. and Mrs. Guy Fairfax Cary, Sr., contains nearly 200 fifteenth- to mid-nineteenth-century English and continental pattern books of furniture, decoration, and ornament. All of these collections are a resource for scholars from all over the world, and continue to grow through the acquisition of primary works and authoritative scholarly titles.

“This outstanding collection is particularly noteworthy as it is a blend of builder’s manuals on one hand, and of illustrated, so-called gentlemen’s folios on the other,” specified Benedict Leca. “It gives us a window not only on period building techniques, but also on the diffusion of architectural knowledge, its styles and fashions, by way of some real rarities. The Scamozzi Mirror of Architecture, for example, was often used practically by builders and thus literally consumed; for this reason it rarely survives complete. Of appeal to the connoisseur rather than the builder is a very rare suite of nine copperplate engravings of Chinese lattice designs by William Halfpenny, with the only two other known copies at the British and Avery libraries.”

Further highlights from the collection include a number of rare manuals and pamphlets, including Henry Cook’s Patent artificial slate manufactory (1786), one of only three copies listed in the National Union Catalog (NUC); Abraham Fletcher’s The Universal Measurer (1766), one of only six copies on OCLC; and The Rudiments of Architecture or the Young Workman’s Instructor (1775), one of only two known copies, the Redwood’s having an eighteenth-century Boston provenance. The folios include a copy of the now scarce pattern book produced by Abraham Swan, The British architect or the builder’s treasury of stair-cases (1765?); and Christopher Wren Jr’s Parentalia: or memoirs of the family of Wrens (1750), an exceptional copy complete with the often-missing mezzotint frontis portrait of Wren.

Exhibition | Modernity vs. Tradition: Art at the Parisian Salon

Posted in exhibitions by internjmb on December 6, 2017

From the Redwood Library and Athenaeum:

Modernity vs. Tradition: Art at the Parisian Salon, 1750–1900
The Redwood Library and Athenæum, Newport, 1 December 2017 – 8 April 2018

Curated by Benedict Leca

Named after the Salon carré at the Louvre, where it was held between 1725 and 1848, the Salon’s rise as the world’s preeminent regular exhibition of contemporary art was intertwined with the rise of a modern viewing public. Early presentations—first at the Palais Royal and then in the Grande Galerie of the Louvre by the 1690s (above)—were of comparatively restricted attendance. Yet already contained in them was the tension between the rule-bound tradition of academic pedagogy and the more progressive tendencies of venturesome artists pandering to popular taste.

What had begun in the 1670s as the French Académie Royale de Peinture et Sculpture’s desire to foster artistic competition and thus progress, and as an invitation to a nascent public to scrutinize and judge the products of its Academicians, had evolved by the mid-eighteenth century into one of the most charged public forums for the exchange of aesthetic and political ideas. A catalyst was the emergence of the new literary genre of art criticism in the 1740s, which from the outset contained a strongly partisan wing highly critical of official art and of the Crown’s management of national art production. Aesthetic judgements were in this way often of a piece with political critiques, thus compounding the meanings and public impact of artworks and their interpretation.

As an arm of the French Crown, the Académie suffered a similar fate during the Revolution, being abolished in 1793 only to re-emerge as the Institut national and, later, as the École des Beaux Arts. These successive institutions managed the Salon fitfully. It endured in close alliance with official arts policy during the Empire and benefited from the more permissive era of the Bourbon Restoration. Later, having fully entered the popular imaginary through the explosion of modern press coverage after mid-century, it became the defining context that gave rise to modern art.  Indeed, if the number of exhibitions and visitors doubled during Napoleon’s reign, by the last quarter of the century the Salon had reached an altogether different level of impact. Now featuring thousands of works viewed by tens of thousands of visitors, the Salon as an international cultural phenomenon can be seen as the precursor of today’s many biennales.

Exhibition | The Variable Line: Master Drawings

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on December 21, 2016

Press release (via Art Daily). . .

The Variable Line: Master Drawings from Renaissance to Contemporary
Redwood Library & Athenæum, Newport, 1 December 2016 — 5 March 2017

Curated by Benedict Leca


Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Ruggiero Attacks the Orc (illustration for Ariosto, Orlando Furioso), pencil and wash on paper.

Departing from the appreciation that drawing not only remains foundational to art theory and pedagogy, but that it is also undergoing a discernible resurgence in current artistic practice, the Redwood Library and Athenaeum presents The Variable Line: Master Drawings, Renaissance to Contemporary. Organized by the Redwood Library, the sole U.S. venue, and featuring forty-five works, the exhibition is arranged as a survey featuring many types of drawings, rendered in a rich variety of styles and techniques, and treating a broad range of themes.

“Artists have always relied on drawing to put down ideas quickly—it serves this purpose perhaps even more now as the medium on-the-go appropriate to today’s global art world. In that sense drawing has always attached to the conceptual. Certainly drawing is integral to the larger turn towards conceptual thinking in contemporary art, from Sol Lewitt to Julie Mehretu,” explains Benedict Leca, Redwood Executive Director and exhibition curator. “That said, it is interesting to note how the works by contemporary women artists on view are at once visibly painstaking in their technique and contrary to traditional notions of skill.”

The presentation is arranged into seven sections—Académies and the Centrality of the Figure, Line and the ‘Grand Manner,’ Fragonard and Ariosto, The Light of Italy and the Lure of the Antique, Drawing the Pastoral, Landscape and the Bucolic, and Master/Mistress: the Gendered Line—enabling visitors to identify both continuities and ruptures in theme and technique across 500 years of drawing practice in Western Europe and America. Upending the now conventional dominance accorded to digital media or even painting, the selection of drawings on display crossing five centuries—from Renaissance to contemporary—speaks to drawing’s eternal relevance as consonant to art making in any medium, be it painting, sculpture, or video. It is for this reason that drawing’s ubiquity has stretched unbroken to this day, routinely entering our own lives as doodle or sketch. From the most pervasive to the most individual, drawing, like handwriting, thus offers historical perspectives through the continuities inherent to the medium, as well as insights into the stylistic idiosyncrasies of its adaptation by individual artists. The immutable simplicity of a line drawn across paper, parchment, or mylar makes the drawings exhibited here among those rare objects that enable visitors to ride along on the creative journey of both Renaissance and contemporary artists.




Symposium | The 2015 Newport Symposium

Posted in conferences (to attend) by Editor on March 27, 2015

From The Preservation Society of Newport County:

North and South: Crosscurrents in American Material Culture
23rd Annual Newport Symposium, Newport, Rhode Island, 26–29 April 2015

Despite the sometimes irreconcilable differences that culminated in the Civil War (1861–65), Newport and other Northern cities maintained close social, economic, cultural, and artistic ties with the South from the Colonial period through the Gilded Age. The 2015 Newport Symposium, North and South: Crosscurrents in American Material Culture, invites a fresh look at regional differences in American furnishings, silver, textiles, painting, architecture, and interiors to reveal the complex exchange of ideas and enduring influences.

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4:00  Opening Lecture

“Historic House Museums, North and South: Preserving Our Past, Enhancing Our Future,” George McDaniel (Executive Director, Drayton Hall, Charleston, SC)
In both the North and South, historic house museums are too often seen as staid institutions, stuck on giving only boring ‘velvet ropes’ tours and suffering from declining revenues and morale. While such examples do exist, there are also many house museums that are using their collections, their site, and their staff in innovative and strategic ways to reach out and make a difference in their communities and beyond, and to thereby play significant roles in preserving our past and enhancing our future.

5:00  Opening Reception at Rosecliff (1902)

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8:00  Registration and coffee

9:00  Welcome, Donald O. Ross (Chairman of the Board, The Preservation Society of Newport County)

9:30  “Pride & Prejudice: Understanding North and South,” Tom Savage (Director of Museum Affairs, Winterthur Museum)
At the first Williamsburg Antiques Forum in 1949, Joseph Downs, then curator of the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, announced that “little furniture of artistic merit was ever produced south of Baltimore.” A southern matron asked politely but pointedly if Mr. Downs had spoken “out of prejudice or ignorance?” The battle cry that went out from that conference spawned the landmark 1952 exhibition Furniture of the Old South, 1640–1820 at the Virginia Museum and a special issue of The Magazine Antiques dedicated to southern furniture. In 1965, The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA) opened in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. This lecture will examine the historiography of southern decorative arts research and the mythological perceptions that have pervaded our understanding of American material culture, both North and South.

10:30  Break

11:00  “He Went to War a Virginian But Came Home an American: General  Washington’s Revolutionary Transformation of Mount Vernon,” Susan Schoelwer (Robert H. Smith Senior Curator, George Washington’s Mount Vernon)
George Washington’s wartime travels took him to countless communities in New England and the Middle States, giving him rich opportunities to compare country estates and city houses in these regions with more familiar examples in Virginia and Maryland. After the Revolution, he drew on these experiences to purposefully redesign Mount Vernon, his beloved home and estate on the Potomac River, to suit what he called his ‘Republican stile of living’. The resulting innovations—most notably the picturesque landscape surrounding the Mansion and the grand neoclassical interior that Washington called his ‘New Room’—vividly expressed his prescient vision for the future of the new American nation.

12:00  Lunch

1:30  Concurrent lectures and tours

“Beyond the Summer Colony: Exchange Between Charleston and Newport,” Brandy Culp (Curator Historic Charleston Foundation)
Because of its favorable climate and intellectual charm, Newport was a fashionable summer destination for many Charlestonians in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In addition to being what some have called “the Bath of America,” Newport was an important partner in the coastal trade, and the two cities were economically linked. We will discuss the exchange of goods between Newport and Charleston facilitated by merchants such as Rhode Island native Nathaniel Russell, as well as the cultural connections that gave rise to Newport’s popularity among the southern colony.

“Elegant Boston Interiors 1789–1830,” Jane Nylander (President Emerita) and Richard Nylander, (Curator Emeritus, Historic New England, Boston, MA)
In two consecutive afternoon sessions, the Nylanders will discuss furnishings and interiors in the homes of Boston’s elite during the New Republic. Early nineteenth-century Boston witnessed changing styles of architecture and furniture, new technologies, increasing prosperity, and an expanded circle of world trade. Interiors featured both locally made and imported goods such as textiles and wallpaper, ceramics and glass, window curtains and carpets as well as paintings and sculpture, reflecting an increased interest in the fine arts.

3:00  Concurrent lectures and tours

“Finding the Sacred in the Secular: Eighteenth-Century Synagogue Architecture in Newport and Charleston,” Daniel Kurt Ackermann (Associate Curator, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, Winston-Salem, NC)
Touro Synagogue in Newport, which opened in 1763, has long been held up as a symbol of religious tolerance in America. Indeed, both Touro and KKBE’s Synagogue in Charleston, South Carolina, were important buildings in their cityscapes. These two sacred buildings constructed in secular styles reflected the status and acceptance that Jews found in early America. They also reflected the webs of kinship, commerce, and faith that linked the Jews of Newport and Charleston to each other and to the rest of the Jewish Atlantic world.

“Elegant Boston Interiors 1789–1830,” Jane Nylander (President Emerita) and Richard Nylander, (Curator Emeritus, Historic New England)
In two consecutive afternoon sessions, the Nylanders will discuss furnishings and interiors in the homes of Boston’s elite during the New Republic. Early nineteenth-century Boston witnessed changing styles of architecture and furniture, new technologies, increasing prosperity, and an expanded circle of world trade. Interiors featured both locally made and imported goods such as textiles and wallpaper, ceramics and glass, window curtains and carpets as well as paintings and sculpture, reflecting an increased interest in the fine arts.

4:00  “Elegant Taking and Talking Tea: Gentility, Patriotism and Shared Conversations in Early America,” Martha Willoughby (Senior Specialist, Christie’s, London)
This lecture will look at the American tea party and its central role in social and cultural discourse during the eighteenth century. Throughout the colonies, the ritual of tea drinking and its symbolism of British tyranny during the Revolution provided a means for establishing and affirming bonds with neighbors, visitors and compatriots. A close look at the tea party’s guest of honor—the tilt-top tea table—will illustrate the lively and fruitful conversation of ideas between North and South.

5:00  Tea and refreshments

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8:00  Registration and coffee

9:00  “North and South: Town & Country,” Trudy Coxe (CEO & Executive Director) and Laurie Ossman (Director of Museum Affairs, The Preservation Society of Newport County)

9:30  “‘Send None but the Finest Quality’: Art and Patronage in Early Maryland–The Edward Lloyd Family and Beyond,” Alexandra Kirtley (The Montgomery-Garvan Associate Curator of American Decorative Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art)
Edward Lloyd settled on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in 1659. There he established a dynasty of gentleman farmers, whose lands eventually stretched the entire length of the Delmarva peninsula. The Lloyds patronized artists of the first order, from the finest silversmiths and furniture makers to British marine painter Dominic Serres and American portraitist Charles Willson Peale. The family crafted an extraordinary landscape and built exceptional manor houses to reflect the most current architectural styles of the day. The story of the Lloyd family art patronage typifies the social experience in Early Maryland and the Upper South.

10:30  Break

11:00  “Five Desks for Virginia: New England Furniture in the South and the Caribbean during the Eighteenth Century,” Brock Jobe (Professor of American Decorative Arts, Winterthur Museum)
Throughout the 1700s, many New England woodworkers built furniture for export to distant ports in the South, the Caribbean, and beyond. Craftsmen often entered into contracts with ship captains, who carried the furniture from port to port in search of a market; when the pieces were finally sold, the proceeds were used to purchase timber, coffee, and molasses. The first provided the raw material for the furniture-making; the latter two offered a source of cash for craftsmen. We will trace the furniture export trade in four New England communities: Portsmouth, Salem, Boston, and Newport.

12:00  Lunch

1:30  Concurrent lectures and tours

“The Cosmopolitan Middletons: A Family’s History as Told Through Their Collections,” George McNeely (Vice President for Strategic and International Affairs, World Monuments Fund, New York)
The Middleton family established themselves in South Carolina in the early 18th century and have been prominent in politics, international affairs, commerce and culture ever since. Their remarkably grand Jacobean-style seat was completed in 1741 and the unusual ‘butterfly’ lakes and extensive gardens in the following decades. Trace the family through triumphs and despair, from Charleston to Philadelphia to Newport to London and back, through a wonderful selection of paintings, furniture and decorative arts in the family collections.

“In Search of Respite: Natchezians at the Northern Resorts,” Jeff Mansell, Historian, Natchez National Historical Park
In an attempt to escape the blistering Southern summers, wealthy Natchez, Mississippi planters sought refuge at popular watering holes and fashionable Northern resorts. From June to October, in a seemingly steady progression, Natchezians moved from Niagara Falls and Seneca Lake to Saratoga and Cape May. In August, they descended on Newport and by 1860, one planter’s wife observed, “it seems to me all of Natchez is here.” While most Natchezians spent only a few weeks of the season in Newport, others built cottages and became fixtures in the social and cultural life of the town.

3:00  Concurrent lectures and tours

“Victoria Mansion: The 1860 Maine Summer Home of a New Orleans Hotelier,” Arlene Palmer Schwind (Curator, Victoria Mansion, Portland, ME)
Maine native Ruggles Sylvester Morse began his hotel career in Boston and New York, but by 1843 he settled in New Orleans where he quickly made a sizable fortune. Between 1858 and 1860 he constructed a magnificent summer home in Portland, Maine. This Italian villa style mansion is largely intact, with interiors that are exceptional for their brilliant wall and ceiling paintings, marble fireplaces, and stained glass. Over ninety percent of the original furnishings remain from 1860, including an important collection of furniture by Gustave Herter, who also supervised the design of the mansion’s sumptuous interiors. Learn how Morse’s background as a hotelier and a New Orleans resident influenced the design and furnishing of this unique example of pre-Civil War grandeur, a National Historic Landmark that has been a historic house museum since 1941.

“The North in the South: Furnishings in Antebellum Natchez,” Caryne Eskridge (Project Manager and Research Curator, The Classical Institute of the South, New Orleans)
In the mid-nineteenth century, the elite ‘Natchez Nabobs’ possessed the wealth, taste, and connections that allowed them to order the most fashionable furnishings from Philadelphia, New York, and Massachusetts. As a result, many of the parlors, dining rooms, and bedrooms in Natchez resembled what was found in elite households in the Mid-Atlantic and New England. These objects challenge the distinction of ‘northern’ versus ‘southern’ and reveal significant paths within the dynamic movement of goods and people. The presentation will highlight objects that remain extant in Natchez, in some cases in a nearly complete context.

7:00  Dinner at The Breakers (1895)

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8:30  Registration and coffee

9:30  “‘The Largest Assortment Constantly on Hand’: Furniture in New Orleans, 1840–1900,” Stephen Harrison (Curator of Decorative Art and Design, The Cleveland Museum of Art)
Recent research suggests that the story of household furnishings in the South’s most prosperous port city is far richer in its associations with Europe and the American style centers of the North both before and after the Civil War than ever imagined before. This fully illustrated lecture will discuss the many furniture emporiums that lined Royal Street and the bounty they displayed. Familiar purveyors such as Barjon, Mallard, and Siebrecht will come to life again along with the storied plantations and fashionable city residences they furnished and adorned with furniture of ‘fancy and fashion’ they kept ‘constantly on hand’.

10:30  Break

11:00  “Painting in the American South, 1730–1790,” Carolyn Weekley (Juli Grainger Curator Emerita, Colonial Williamsburg)
Portraiture dominated the activity of painters who worked in the early South. Most artists were trained in trades techniques such as signboard and coach painting. Both resident and traveling painters were the chief providers of portraits, although Southerners occasionally commissioned pictures from artists elsewhere in America and abroad, chiefly in London. Most of the painters engaged by Southerners had contact with others in the trade. Some were directly trained by fellow painters while others imitated the idiosyncratic styles of other artists.

12:00  Lunch

1:00  Optional independent touring
Symposium attendees will be admitted free of charge by presenting their symposium badges at the following properties: Redwood Library and Athenaeum (1748), Newport Art Museum, J.N.A. Griswold House (1864),  The International Tennis Hall of Fame, Newport Casino (1881), The Museum of Newport History at Brick Market. Preservation Society Properties: Chateau-sur-Mer (1852), Marble House (1892), The Breakers (1895), The Elms (1901), Rosecliff (1902)