Friday, August 7, 2009
After the GCWS meeting I went to our local small museum, the Taft (www.taftmuseum.org). The Taft is the home of Anna Sinton and Charles Phelps Taft. This house is a National Historic Landmark built in 1820. It is Federal Paladin architecture. The house is where Anna Sinton grew up and stayed after her marriage to Charles and raised their family. Charles was the half brother to President William Howard Taft. President Taft actually announced his running for the Presidency on the front portico. The Taft's bequeathed their historic home and collection of 690 works to the city of Cincinnati in 1932. There are European and American Master paintings by Rembrandt, Hals, Goya, Hobbema, Gainsbourgh, Reynolds, Duveneck, Farny, Ingres, JMW Turner, Whistler, Millet, Corot, Sargent and Duncanson Murals. There are Chinese Porcelain, European decorative arts, Limoges, watches, sculpture and furniture. I went to the museum because I had set up a private docent tour. My supervisor, Ms. O, happens to be a docent there. So, my friend and I met her and enjoyed her knowledge of the amazing art work collected by a prominent family of Cincinnati's history. My friend and I have been at the museum before for special exhibits and have always enjoyed this beautiful homes treasures. But, by taking the tour we learned about the works in more detail and walked away with a new appreciation of this gift. The first painting on the left is a portrait of Edward Satchwell Frason, Jr. by Henry Raeburn (1756-1823). I love this portrait. I like the shadows and the way the light hits his face and white shirt. Its illumination is spell-bounding. I find this execution of portraiture flawless. The face is so realistic, as is the fabric of his coat, shirt and vest. They were all painted with such detail that you feel like he standing in front of you. This portrait is accompanied by another portrait by Raeburn of Edward's cousin. They are in a room that also feature Chinese porcelain. Another amazing piece is the Ivory Madonna and Child. This tiny medieval sculpture, is one of five in the world. It was something to see this one Ivory tusk carved into a beautiful figure. The sculpture had three other figures that went with it. One angel above the Madonna and two that stood beside her. The these two are in the Lourve. The one that was above the Madonna was lost during the French Revolution. My favorite room holds the next three paintings. I am a huge John Singer Sargent admirer. So when I entered this room for the first time and found the portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson (1887) by Sargent I was blown away. I had seen this piece in books and had never known or realized that it was here in my own backyard. So each time I visit for exhibitions, I still come to this room to look at this painting. The three of us talked about how Mr. Stevenson was a personal friend of Sargent. How Mr. Stevenson looked relaxed, yet in poor health. Ms. O said that she learned that this was Mrs. Stevenson's favorite portrait of her husband. She felt that Sargent did not make her husband look like a stick. This is why you want to take a docent led tour or get the recorded guides, so you get the history and tidbits about the artwork or artist. The next painting in this room is by Whistler, At The Piano (1858-59). It is Whistler's sister at the piano and his niece looking on. His sister appears to be in mourning in her black dress. The little girl looks ready to go to a party in her white dress, tights and black shoes. I like how her one shoe looks as if it is hanging off her foot that is crossed across her other foot. My friend pointed out that the pianists hands were not actually in position to play because they were flat and not curved over the piano keys. Kinda like when you type. I do not play piano so I would not have seen this. Another favorite is the local artist, Frank Duveneck's The Cobbler's Apprentice (1877). The boy is smoking a cigar and has a look like someone has just caught him smoking. His mouth puckered as he holds his basket of cabbage. His rag-a-muffin appearance and ruddy cheeks endears you to him even more. These are some of my favorites even though there are many amazing pieces every where you look. So if you have not seen paintings or by those I listed above...take a trip to the Taft and enjoy the beauty of the home and its collection. I know there is the Shelbourne in Vermont, the Isabella Gardner in Boston and I have been to the Frick in NYC (which is really amazing). These turn of the century mansions with their collections are a enjoyable way to not only see the art, but see how the rich lived then. Could you imagine your favorite artists works all over your home? Is there a historical home with an art collection in your home town/state? I would love to hear from you, please leave a comment. Gaylynn I want to thank Ms. O and my friend. It was a very enjoyable afternoon.