In Glorious Color

Trade card from the 1880s
Trade card from the 1880s

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.

An exotic Russian czar and brilliant color promote thread in this American trade card.
An exotic Russian czar and brilliant color promote thread in this American trade card.

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.

"The Crimson Rambler," ca. 1908, by Philip Leslie Hale
“The Crimson Rambler,” ca. 1908, by Philip Leslie Hale

Here’s one way that rose got so popular: trade cards.

Crimson Rambler trade card

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.

The Artist’s Garden: Impressionists and the Garden Movement

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.

Book published in 1901
Book published in 1901

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," ca. 1908, by Philip Leslie Hale
“The Crimson Rambler,” ca. 1908, by Philip Leslie Hale

“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,

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the pink in the multicolor grass,

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and the veil that is in sun and shadow.

Laundry drying on the clothesline, along with grass and shadows, is beautiful.
Laundry drying on the clothesline, along with grass and shadows, is beautiful.

 

"A Breezy Day," 1887. Charles Courtney Curran.
“A Breezy Day,” 1887. Charles Courtney Curran.

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.

Can you see the banner of the painting "The Crimson Rambler?"
Can you see the banner of the painting “The Crimson Rambler?”

I’ll leave you with two artists’ own homes.

"My House in Winter" by Charles Morris Young
“My House in Winter” by Charles Morris Young

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.

The artist's home. "Snow" by John Henry Twachtman.
The artist’s home. “Snow” by John Henry Twachtman.

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.

Getting It Right with ‘Urban Light’

Artist Chris Burden was profiled in the Los Angeles Times on May 11, the day after his death. The first line says that he once had himself shot in the arm for a performance piece. Luckily, the bullet just grazed him. Although shocking, that’s not why art critic’s Christopher Knight article about him was on the front page of the L.A. Times, where only the famous, such as statesmen and Hollywood celebrities, get their obituaries. Burden’s is there because his “Urban Light” has become a Los Angeles landmark.

Chris Burden saw art in vintage streetlamps. He painted them gray and installed them in front of the L.A. County Museum of Art, on busy Wilshire Boulevard. They are now solar powered. The lampposts in each row are identical, so that even the most ornate have a peaceful grace.

This video by Mike Fix showcases the art installation with aerial views and gorgeous music: “Experience” by  Ludovico Einaudi.

 

Scarlett in “Mourning”

The month of Halloween, people often bring up Victorian mourning practices. Back then, it was an elaborate system, as was etiquette in general. I’ll talk about it another time, but here is something much more upbeat, a great movie clip from Gone with the Wind. The clip is four minutes, 45 seconds. At the end, Scarlett is a teenager in Deep Mourning, the first stage of mourning, which includes relative isolation. Note that even her jewelry is black. The other woman in mourning is her mother. Hattie McDaniel gives her Oscar-winning performance as Mammy. This clip sounds gloomy but is fun.

http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/281096/Gone-With-The-Wind-Movie-Clip–Savannah-Would-Be-Better.html

 

English Grandeur in San Francisco, Part One

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This gallery has paintings and 285-year-old furniture from Houghton Hall’s Saloon room, and a copy of its wallpaper.

It’s not the real Houghton Hall in Norfolk, England, but a San Francisco museum has plenty of its furnishings and art. Different rooms of the hall are depicted in the rooms of the California museum. Houghton Hall was built in the early 1700s by Sir Robert Walpole, the first de facto British Prime Minister. Houghton Hall: Portrait of an English Country House is an exhibit at the Legion of Honor, a grand building itself. The grounds have a sweeping view of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, and sea cliffs. The exhibit will be there until January 18, 2015.

Furniture from the Marble Parlour in front of a large photo of the real parlour papering the wall.
Furniture from the Marble Parlour in front of a large photo of the real parlour papering the wall.

 

The Marble Parlour was a dining room, and its beautiful china and silver is here along with its chairs, above.

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The Library, as displayed in San Francisco’s Legion of Honor.
Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a fifteen-volume work

The galleries have videos of the actual rooms, so ornate they are stunning!  I’ll give you a link to the real Houghton Hall below, and look in the bottom row for the room with the bright blue wallpaper shown below. That same room has a lavish bed for a child, the grandson of Sir Robert Walpole, a christening gift from the child’s godparents, King George II and Queen Caroline. The bed is in San Francisco, too.  This page of the website of Houghton Hall, Norfolk, England, has a dozen small photos you can click on to enlarge.

Wallpaper hand-painted and -printed in China about 1780. From Houghton Hall.
Wallpaper hand-painted and -printed in China about 1780. From Houghton Hall.

 

English Grandeur in San Francisco, Part Two

This is about Lady Sybil, not of the show Downton Abbey, but of the Houghton Hall of my last post.  This Lady Sybil rescued Houghton Hall from neglect. She and her brother Sir Philip Sassoon collected art which is now at the Hall, and some is now at the San Francisco exhibit.

Lady Sybil Sassoon (1894-1989), later Lady Chalmondeley, was a friend and supporter of statesmen and artists. She founded the Women’s Royal Naval Service.

The American painter John Singer Sargent painted this portrait of her as a gift when she married the heir to Houghton Hall, the Earl of Rocksavage, in 1913. Sargent gave her the cashmere shawl she wears and painted “To Sybil from her Friend, John S. Sargent.”

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Her husband inherited Houghton Hall six years later and it was Lady Sybil’s home for the next seventy years, and she restored it to its former glory.

Houghton Hall, Norfolk, England
Houghton Hall, Norfolk, England © Copyright dennis smith

Last week, I posted photos from San Francisco’s Legion of Honor’s current exhibit Houghton Hall. Here’s a photo of one more room in the exhibit, the gallery with artifacts from Houghton Hall’s Tapestry Dressing Room.

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 Lady Sybil wore this robe, train and dress at the coronation of George IV in 1937. A peer’s rank dictates the type of ceremonial dress. Her father-in-law, the 4th Marquess of Chalmondeley, had the role of Lord Great Chamberlain at an earlier coronation (Edward VII in 1902) and wore the uniform above, including this hat.

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Here is the website of Houghton Hall, a page showing its splendid rooms. Click on the thumbnail photos to enlarge them. The exhibit at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor closes January 18, 2015.

 

A Sunday Stroll in a Frank Lloyd Wright Neighborhood

The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio was closed for the day by the time we arrived in Oak Park, Illinois. We bought a map in the gift shop and walked around the corner.

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On Forest Avenue, most of the homes were not designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The yards are not wide, so it’s one lovely house after another, mostly Victorian and conventional, as you see above.

And then, bang. The 1902 Arthur Heurtley House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. This is Prairie Style, horizontal as Great Plains. Wright wanted to create an American style for homes. This home has leaded windows, for which Wright is known.

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Across the street is the Moore-Dugal Residence, built by Wright in 1895. It’s a Tudor with some twists. Wright said, “A porch on a half-timber English Tudor. That never happened before.” I like the balls under the porch railing, and elsewhere, like the fence, where I got a close look at their ornamentation.

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This house went through a fire in the 1920s, and Wright, who had moved on from Oak Park, returned to redesign and rebuild the ruined upper half. The chimney had been conventional before, and he replaced it with a blade-shaped one.

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Too bad Wright’s studio and home were closed, but if I had got there on time, maybe I would have skipped the neighborhood tour, which I enjoyed very much. I did get to see his studio and home from the outside. The pillars have birds on them.

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There’s a lovely plaque with his name in stone, and above it, one of two sculpted crouched figures.

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Would I have noticed this, up high, if I had toured the interior? I don’t know, but I do know I will try to go back.