Even before photography, astronomy yielded beautiful images. At the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, I popped into the library to see the universe. The exhibition is titled Radiant Beauty: E.L. Trouvelot’s Astronomical Drawings. They were published in 1881 and 1882.
The title is from Trouvelot’s own words: “No human skill can reproduce upon paper the majestic beauty and radiance of the celestial objects.”
“Mare Humorum,” above, shows the surface of the moon, both in sunlight and the darkness of the lunar night.
Trouvelot was a self-taught astronomer. He immigrated from France to Massachusetts as a young man and established a silk-producing farm. He made astronomical drawings, often in pastel, with the aid of telescopes at Harvard and the U.S. Naval Observatory, the latter the world’s largest telescope at twenty-six inches.
He travelled to see total eclipses of the sun, one in Wyoming Territory (shown above, with solar storms), and another in the South Pacific.
There is a lunar eclipse this week! This is one drawn by Trouvelot.
I love his drawing of Jupiter, above. Two white moons on the left cast shadows, one on the Great Red Spot.
These are from a published set of fifteen lithographs of his drawings. The Huntington displayed their complete set. There’s a reason it is very rare, and that’s only one thing covered in the following four-minute video, also available on YouTube:
There’s something special about an object made by a team of artists instead of a machine. The irregularities make it unique.
Louis Comfort Tiffany’s glassworkers made what he called Favrile (hand-made, hand-blown) glass vases for people who lived around 1900, an age of industry and machines. The people of this time also wanted the art of the dawning twentieth century to be new and different than the art of the past.
Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of the famous jeweler, was a young painter and interior decorator whose commissions included the White House. Later, he was able to focus on his passion: glass. He experimented and learned from others, making glass with dimension. Metal gave glass an iridescent luster.
Tiffany designed gardens and drew inspiration from nature.
His company had made leaded glass windows that looked like paintings. The expensive windows decorated mansions of the very rich. He marketed these vases to a much wider audience.
Tiffany studied ancient glass in his travels to the Old World, and also at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, very close to his home. He loved the pockmarks and other deterioration that took place over centuries in the soil. He and his team created new vases with pockmarks and an ancient look he called Cypriote.
The one with the fish may be my favorite. This vase is empty.
The first graveyard in Tombstone, Arizona, shows the violent side of the Old West. For the second time, Women Writing the West has brought me to Tucson, and Tombstone draws me like a magnet although it is seventy miles away. Last week I went twice. My only visit to this famous cemetery was just before Halloween.
Boothill contains those who died in the first years of the silver-mining boomtown of Tombstone. It’s now on the National Register of Historic Places, and visitors are given a pamphlet with details of the dead. Who says historical research is dull?
Mr. Killeen was shot by Frank Leslie in a disagreement over Killeen’s wife. The recently widowed Mrs. Killeen married her husband’s murderer.
Three-fingered Jack Dunlap was robbing a train when a guard shot him. Dunlap’s partners in crime left him, and he named them before he died.
George Johnson did not realize the horse he bought was stolen.
Outlaws and respectable folk, prostitutes and strangers rest in peace. Margarita, a dance hall girl (who probably kept her last name secret), was stabbed by another, who went by the name of Gold Dollar. They had argued about a man.
Victims of diphtheria. Suicides, many of them women. Accidents, including in mines. One well-dressed stranger was found dead in an abandoned shaft.
Many murdered. Death by hanging, legally and illegally.
Tombstone is the site of the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral, where Wyatt Earp and his brothers, along with Doc Holliday, killed three outlaws in a gang. They rest here, together. Two were brothers.
They say that those who live by the sword, die by the sword.
I was shaken. I did not find it spooky, only sobering. I’ll leave you with a little graveyard humor. Lester Moore was a Wells Fargo agent and argued with a man over a package. Both died, but I’m sure Moore got the better epitaph.
Weeks ago I was in France, eager to visit the famed gardens of Villandry chateau. I became captivated by the story of the couple–neither of them French–who bought the chateau in 1906 and restored it.
They met in Paris, in the laboratory of Professor Charles Richet. Richet would go on to win the Nobel prize in medicine.
Ann Coleman was in her early twenties, a Bryn Mawr College graduate from a wealthy family of American Industrialists. Joachim Carvallo was a Spaniard. He had grown up poor after his bankrupt father abandoned the family. Both Joachim and Ann had lost their mothers when they were children.
The two young scientists had different temperaments. Ann was introverted and resisted the roles for the women of her time. Joachim was “very romantic and enthusiastic in his loves and hates,” wrote Professor Richet.
The passionate Spaniard and independent-minded American sparred over the ongoing Spanish-American War. Then they fell in love.
Seven years after they became Mr. and Mrs. Carvallo, they bought a 1536 chateau in France’s Loire Valley.
The chateau is still in the Carvallo family. They keep these photos of Ann and Joachim on the piano.
The Carvallos Recreate a Long-Lost Garden
Joachim amassed an important collection of 17th Century Spanish art. Ann enjoyed all types of needlework and became skilled in them.
Together, they researched what their simple garden had looked like in the 16th century. They consulted books of the period. Digging in the garden yielded the remains of foundations and drains.
They transformed their grassy fields, shrubs and trees back into a spectacular Renaissance garden.
In this image, the foreground is the Ornamental Garden, also called the Love Garden. It is in front of the fenced stream, which turns into a moat.
The four squares of geometric patterns symbolize different types of love. You can see the entire Passionate Love square next to the white planters with trees. This square has shapes that suggest dancing and broken hearts.
To the left is the Tender Love square. It has heart shapes filled with flowers, pink right now. They are separated by flame shapes, and the center has hedges that represent masks worn at balls. The other squares are Flighty Love (half is shown here) and Tragic Love.
Above the fenced stream is the organic Vegetable Garden, which includes flower beds. Here is map of this garden, including colors, for this spring:
There is also a maze and a serene Water Garden with lawn, fountains, and a large pond shaped like a Louis XV mirror.
Villandry is one of many chateaus in the Loire Valley, but it has the most beautiful garden. This is wine country, not far from Paris.
I had to take photos in driving rain! Still, I did not want to leave. For lovely photos of the entire gardens, here is Villandry’s virtual tour. I’d love to hear your comment.
A bold entrepreneur and scientist, Thaddeus S.C. Lowe (1832-1913) made fortunes and lost them. It is almost the due date for filing 2016 income taxes, so some of us are taking a hard look at our saving and spending. The story of Professor Lowe’s fortunes is a cautionary tale.
He was a scientist with little formal education. Because he ran away from home as a boy, his schooling ended with the fourth grade. Nonetheless, people called him Professor Lowe. The title Professor was not reserved for those who taught in colleges or had advanced degrees. Professor Thaddeus Lowe held over 200 patents.
A Chemist Becomes Rich and Suffers Losses
Lowe made one of his fortunes after pressurizing ammonia to make refrigerated railway cars and steamships. His first refrigerated steamship was a financial success. He invested in more ships, but some were too large to enter shallow-water ports. Lowe’s personal losses totaled $87,000, a huge sum in the late 1800s.
The Lowe Water-Gas Process improved gas and made it more affordable. Gas was used to light homes as well as heat them. Lowe made a fortune producing and selling water gas and manufacturing appliances. These included stoves, heaters and fireplaces. The gas company he owned, however, was a financial failure. Same with a hotel he owned that showcased water gas.
A discouraged Lowe came to California and, too energetic to retire, founded a bank and invested in real estate. He lived in a mansion on Pasadena’s Millionaires’ Row, at 955 South Orange Grove Avenue. It was reported to be the largest residence in the country at the time and sat on fifteen acres.
The mansion even had a four-story observatory. Lowe lived there with his wife and younger children (they had ten in all), looked out at the steep mountains, and dreamed big.
Lowe’s Railway to the Clouds
The Mount Lowe Railway was an engineering challenge because of steep grades and crumbling surface rock, but Lowe would not take “no” for an answer. The railway was built by D.J. Macpherson with Lowe as the financial backer. Visitors enjoyed the thrilling ride and ate and stayed at hotels Lowe built on the mountain. He also built an observatory near the top of the railway.
Although the railway and hotels were popular, it lost money at a time when Professor Lowe had other financial problems. It opened in 1893, at the start of a recession that would last years.
By 1898, Professor Lowe’s debts totaled over $200,000, and he had to declare bankruptcy. By then, Lowe’s huge mansion was owned by his neighbor Adolphus Busch, the beer magnate. The railroad was acquired by Henry Huntington’s Pacific Electric Railway and operated for decades.
Although he lost this fortune, Lowe counted his blessings. He explained that his Mount Lowe Railway was ten years ahead of its time. He said that he was glad he had a mountain named in his honor, something that money couldn’t buy.
Back to the lab. Professor Lowe developed a method to convert crude oil to gas and coke. He put it in production, but he did not charge enough to make and sustain profits.
The good professor died nearly penniless in his daughter’s Pasadena home. At the time, he was planning a gas-powered luxury airship.
Lowe’s Early Career: Balloonist and Lincoln’s Chief Aeronaut
From the time he was young, Lowe was a balloonist. When the Civil War broke out, he offered to help the Union. President Lincoln wrote a note to General Scott to “see Lowe once more about his balloon.” Lowe acquired the note and treasured it for the rest of his life. Lowe became Chief Aeronaut of the Union Forces, a civilian position.
Lowe ascended in a balloon and looked down upon Confederate troops in the distance. He observed their movements and telegraphed this intelligence information to Union soldiers below. A wire connected the telegraph in the balloon to the one on the ground.
Special thanks to the Mount Lowe Preservation Society Inc. and the Pasadena Museum of History.
I’ll post on the first of the month starting June 1.
From black and white to color: the invention of printing by lithography brought beauty to people’s daily lives through mass production. If you are old enough to remember when color TV was new, you remember the first time you saw a show in color. I was amazed. It was so much more lifelike and vibrant than shades of gray.
In the late 1800s, lithography brought an explosion of items printed in color. People were handed trade cards like these, picked them up in the store, and pulled them from their mailboxes. Some women and children pasted them into albums.
Handbills distributed on the street for events, illustrations in books, free promotional posters you could tack on your wall–suddenly color was everywhere.
Recognize this painting from my last post? The Crimson Rambler, named after the wildly popular rose.
Here’s one way that rose got so popular: trade cards.
Technology also brought colorful clothes. At this time, in the last half of the 1800s, synthetic dyes were introduced and suddenly people could wear rich colors. Here are two silk dresses from the 1890s. These are from the Pasadena Museum of History.
Technology brought the excitement of color. “The Color Explosion” was an exhibit at the Huntington showcasing part of their Jay T. Last Collection of lithographed items. Click on that link to see some examples that really took advantage of color, and read how it changed the world.
Take a second or two to load these beautiful paintings from “The Artist’s Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement, 1887-1920,” now at the Huntington. With the rise of the middle class and railroads, more people could commute to their job in a city and come home to a suburb.
Artists and other people enjoyed gardening in their own yards or in their artists’ colonies. Both painting and gardening involve color, form, and composition.
“The Crimson Rambler” may look wonderfully old-fashioned to us, but its 1908 audience recognized this hybridized rose as a lovely product of technology. I like the lavender light on her white skirt, above,
the pink in the multicolor grass,
and the veil that is in sun and shadow.
I think these women are spreading out laundered sheets to dry. This is a jewel of a painting, small (not quite 12 x 20 inches), and vivid, clear, and crisp as a windy day.
This exhibit, from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, is at the Huntington through Monday, May 9, and then continues its tour in the East. If you don’t live close to Los Angeles, that’s okay. I’ll keep posting about the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
I’ll leave you with two artists’ own homes.
The labels with “The Artist’s Garden” exhibit state that the garden in winter was often discussed in books and magazines. The winter garden was considered a relaxing retreat, and winter a time of renewal.
At the Huntington, I had read “renewal” to mean the sleeping gardens. I think of renewal in springtime grass and flowers. Maybe the writer meant personal renewal. Gardens, and impressionist art, renew and refresh me.
Happy Spring! Enjoy nature. I’ll post again on the first Monday in June.