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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Hillwood extends Post's diamonds and rubies through Jan. 11

Marjorie Merriweather Post and her daughter, Dina (Merrill) in 1929, by Giulio de Blaas (1888-1934). On her left shoulder, Post wears one of her favorite pieces, a Cartier emerald epaulette, shown below.  Dina Merrill Hartley, the actress who turned 91 yesterday, Post's only surviving child, is a sponsor of Cartier: Marjorie Merriweather Post's Dazzling Gems at the Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens  rubies

A close up of the Cartier epaulette with seven emeralds, in the painting above.  The weight is?/Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens
 
It's always fun to see how the rich live, the one percenters, to visit their homes, a rarity for most of us, but Hillwood in northwest Washington was the home of a billionaire, Marjorie Merriweather Post (1887-1973), and it's open to the public.  There, visitors may see the special exhibition of "fabulous" jewelry Post commissioned and bought from Cartier, the French house, whose artistry is the subject of Cartier: Marjorie Merriweather Post's Dazzling Gems.

Direct from a Cartier exhibition in Paris at the Grand Palais on Champs Elysees, the Hillwood show is fitted in a small gallery with rings, necklaces, earrings, evening gowns, purses, and a dressing set, among other items, at the estate's Adirondack Building.

Also on display are jeweled boxes and elaborate enameled, painted picture frames, including a set of Russian Tsar Nicolas II's daughters, Grand Duchess Tatiana and Grand Duchess Olga, who were murdered by the Bolsheviks in Russia in 1918.

One of Post's four marriages was to Joseph E. Davies, appointed U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1936. While living in Russia in 1937 and 1938, Post and her husband bought many art works from the Stalinist government which needed money to build the regime. Post developed an affinity for Russian decorative arts and her collection evolved into the world's greatest collection of Russian imperial arts, outside the homeland.

She was also an admirer of French art, bequeathing many pieces of her jewelry to the Smithsonian, including a diamond tiara Napoleon I gave to Empress Marie-Louise, on view at the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History in the Hall of Gems.  The Smithsonian loaned several gems to Hillwood for Cartier.

Marjorie Merriweather Post in 1952 by Frank O. Salisbury (1874-1962) wearing the necklace below/Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

A close up of the Cartier emerald and diamond necklace worn by Marjorie Merriweather Post in the portrait above/Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

Another Cartier necklace owned by Marjorie Merriweather Post/Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

A diamond necklace owned by Marjorie Merriweather Post, designed by Cartier/Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens


Hillwood's Adirondack building where Post's Cartier pieces are displayed/Photo by Patricia Leslie

The south portico of Hillwood, the home of Marjorie Merriweather Post in Washington, D.C./Photo by Patricia Leslie 

The dining room at Hillwood/Photo by Patricia Leslie 
 
The breakfast room at Hillwood/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Marjorie Merriweather Post/Hillwood Estate, Museum  & Gardens

Other items in the Cartier presentation include a cigarette box of gold, silver, enamel, agate, and diamonds with ashtrays of gold, rubies, jade and sapphires, made in "the heyday of cigarette smoking," de rigueur elements to accommodate smokers found in elegant homes of the 1920s and 1930s.

Post began her Cartier collection in the 1920s and added to it throughout most of her life. 

The Cartier firm opened its doors in Paris in 1899, and its New York shop in 1909 where Post became Cartier's best client, Hillwood says. 

For presentation in 1929 at the Court of St. James, Post wore a 21-carat Columbian emerald reportedly offered to her by Cartier and formerly worn by Austrian Archduke Maximilian (1832-1867) who crowned himself emperor of Mexico where he was executed.
The Maximilian emerald ring which Marjorie Merriweather Post gave to the Smithsonian where it is displayed in the Hall of Gems at the National Museum of Natural History/Smithsonian

Many rooms at the Hillwood mansion are open to the public, including the upstairs with bedrooms and dressing rooms (no sitting, please). While on the grounds, enjoy the peace of its 25 acres, nicely designed with tranquil gardens where visitors may sit on benches and dream.

WhatCartier:  Marjorie Merriweather Post's Dazzling Gems

When:  Now through January 11, 2015, including New Year's Day, Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., and Sundays, 1 - 5 p.m.  Closed on Mondays. Beginning January 12, Hillwood will closed for the month.

Where:  Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens "Where Fabulous Lives," 4155 Linnean Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008

Suggested donation:  $15 (adults), $12 (seniors), $10 (students), $5 (child, ages 6 -18) and free for those under age 6.

Parking:  Free, on-site

Biking and walking:  Encouraged; bike racks available.

For more information:  202-686-5807

Metro station: Van Ness/UDC station on the Red Line, then walk a (mostly uphill) mile and burn off Christmas calories.  (Taxis, available.)

Metro bus stop: The L1 or L2 bus stops at the corner of Connecticut and Tilden streets, NW, about a half mile's (mostly uphill) walk from Hillwood.

patricialesli@gmail.com


 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Washington Cathedral honors President Woodrow Wilson

In honor of the birth of President Woodrow Wilson (Dec. 28, 1856- Feb. 3, 1924), members of the U.S. Armed Forces assisted in a wreath-laying ceremony December 28, 2014 at the president's tomb at the Washington National Cathedral. President Wilson is the only U.S. president buried in Washington, D.C.  Here, the troops rehearse for the 10-minute ceremony which was attended by approximately 100 visitors and members of the Wilson family.  President Wilson is buried under the arch at the opposite end, between the two wreaths on the columns/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Members of the U.S. Armed Forces are ready Dec, 28, 2014 for the wreath-laying ceremony to honor the 158th birthday of President Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president of the United States/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The clergy arrive Dec, 28, 2014 for the wreath-laying ceremony at Washington National Cathedral in honor of the birthday of President Woodrow Wilson, the only U.S. president to earn a Ph.D.  The president's second wife, Edith, is also buried at the Cathedral.  His first wife, Ellen, is buried in a family plot in Rome, Georgia/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The Very Rev. Gary Hall, in white, said a short prayer at the wreath-laying ceremony at Washington National Cathedral to commemorate the December 28 birthday of President Woodrow Wilson/ At the end of the prayer, drums introduced "Taps," played by a trumpeter who stood, unseen, in the distance/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The clergy departs/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The wreath and floral tribute to President Woodrow Wilson whose birthday on December 28 is recognized every year at the Washington National Cathedral, according to a docent/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The card on the red, white, and blue bow is addressed to "The President."/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The angels herald President Woodrow Wilson's birthday on December 28 at Washington National Cathedral/Photo by Patricia Leslie
One of many 2014 creche scenes at Washington National Cathedral/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A Christmas floral display at Washington National Cathedral/Photo by Patricia Leslie
In a chapel to the west of the main altar at Washington National Cathedral/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The main altar at Washington National Cathedral/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The main altar and reredos at Washington National Cathedral/Photo by Patricia Leslie
At the altar in a chapel to the east of the main altar at Washington National Cathedral/Photo by Patricia Leslie 
The nation's first president, George Washington, stands to the right of the main entrance at Washington National Cathedral. President Washington wore a red Christmas carnation or rose in his lapel, and removed his hat in honor of President Wilson.  Lee Oscar Lawrie (1877-1963) was the sculptor/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 
 
What: Washington National Cathedral
 
When:  Open daily, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Sunday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
 
Where: 3101 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W. , Washington, D.C. 20016
 
Admission:  No charge on Sundays.  Other days:  $10, adults; $6, students, seniors, active and retired military; free for children under age 5.
 
Free parking on Sundays
 
Metro stations:  Tenleytown, Dupont Circle, or Woodley Park, and take a bus from there.  See directions.
 
For more information:  202-537-6267
 
Extensive renovations and repairs underway, due to the August, 2011 earthquake.

patricialesli@gmail.com

Sunday, December 21, 2014

You done me wrong, Wall Street Journal

Found at the Harris-Teeter, Tysons Corner, Virginia

And I don't read you any more.

Stood up and broken-hearted again, Wall Street Journal.

A "no show" for five days out of six.

Who would last that long with any lover?

I get the message, Wall Street Journal:
You don't love me any more.

I called,
I tweeted,
I bawled!
And pleaded.

Your henchpeople promised you'd call me back!

You didn't.

How can you do this to a longtime lover, Wall Street Journal?

You did.

Three years ago when I recommended that you double-date with WAPO so you would arrive on time and on the day promised, you ignored me.

I cried,
I tweeted;
And wrote;
And bleated

Finally, you got the message, Wall Street Journal

But now, the end is here
And in you go, the recycling bin,

My friend, I'll say it clear
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain
I read a paper that was full
I read each and ev'ry weekday
And more, much more than this, you did it your way


Regrets, I've had a few
I gave you many chances, a lot to mention
I ignored what I had to do and saw through without exemption
You had no plans for a charted course,

each careful step along the highway
And more, much more than this, 

You did it your way

Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew
When you charged more than what was due
But through it all, when there was doubt
I paid it up, you had some clout
I faced it all, and I was small, you did it your way


For what's a girl, what has she got?
If not respect, then she has naught
To say the things she truly feels and not the words of one newsreel
The record shows I took the blows;

You did it your way!

And now we've split up,
We've gone our byways,
I am sick of you and all the chances
I gave to you to make advances
You did it your way.

We are not the door mats on the doormat of life like you treat us, Wall Street Journal, all the subscribers you've disappointed, teased, and tormented. The doormat, where I always hoped to find you.

Herstory now.

By the time I get to Phoenix,
You may be in Brooklyn
By the time I make Albuquerque
You may give me a call
But you'll just hear that phone keep on ringing
Because it's on silent, that's all
You've dumped this girl, so many times before
You just didn't know
I would really go

One can only wonder...

Why doesn't the Wall Street Journal write an article about its own lousy customer service?

patricialesli@gmail.com

Monday, December 15, 2014

Book review: 'Finding Me,' a compelling horror story

Finding Me:  A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed by Michelle Knight with Michelle Burford/Weinstein Books

At the end, I cried with her.
 
Finding Me is the story of Michelle Knight, one of the three women locked up by a man who kidnapped them all in similar, separate circumstances, and kept them chained in a house for years in Cleveland, Ohio.

You may wonder: How can one person hold three people captive for so long? Easy, when the victims are bound, threatened, and chained with no access to the outside and strapped to poles in a basement.

I didn't intend to read the book, but there on the shelves of new books at my favorite public library, Fairfax County's, it stood, waiting for me to pick up and skim a few pages, which soon became many more.

It is a sad and painful story of man's inhumanity, about the loneliness which drives a man to commit crimes and kidnap women for sex and companionship, as much as he would steal a dog.

The book opens with Michelle's early memories of childhood and sleeping in a car with her siblings when her family had nowhere to go. As she matured, a family member repeatedly raped her, and she ran away, joining drug dealers in a satisfactory arrangement until she was spotted and returned to her family. 

When she disappeared for 11 years, locked up only a few blocks from her home, no one came looking for her which her kidnapper continually reminded her.

She was raped repeatedly in captivity, sometimes several times a day; starved; beaten; brutalized, threatened with a gun.  She lived without toilet facilities and used a bucket in the bedroom while chained.  It often overflowed with urine which spilled upon the floor.

She got pregnant four or five times, and each time, "the dude" (whose name she avoids using in the book) aborted her child by beating her, throwing her down the basement steps, and punching her repeatedly in the abdomen.

Michelle went eight months without a bath until Ariel Castro told her she stank and allowed her to wash off. Her hair was like concrete, strands glued together with semen and blood.

He brought her a puppy and broke its neck when she annoyed Castro. 

In 2003, the year after Michelle's kidnapping, a new victim, Amanda Berry, joined her, locked in the house. And then Gina DeJesus arrived in 2004.

On a discarded mattress Castro found in the city, Gina and Michelle slept on the floor, chained together, and Castro would have sex with one, while the other tried to tune out the sounds.  When bed bugs were found in the bed, he gave them plastic to cover it. 

He treated Amanda almost like a wife, permitting her child to be born in the home, assisted by Michelle, whom Castro threatened to kill if anything happened to the baby. 

"Jocelyn" was born in a plastic swimming pool, and Castro treated his daughter well, and as the years passed,  Michelle and Gina feared that when Jocelyn matured, "the dude" would violate Jocelyn, too. 

The little girl lived in the house with them all until she was six years old when police rescued the women, after neighbors responded to Amanda's pleas for help when she was able to scream when Castro left the house and a door unlocked on May 6, 2013. Four months later, Castro was dead from suicide in prison, police said.

At the end when she was hospitalized, Michelle sobbed often, overwhelmed by the enormity of her plight, embarrassed by her appearance in front of the hospital staff and the long hair on her legs, the years lost with her toddler son, Joey.  She weighed almost 47 pounds less than when she entered Castro's prison.

Throughout her ordeal, the happy memories of her son and thoughts about his life since her disappearance, and seeing Joey again kept Michelle going and gave her reason and hope to live.

Now, whenever I see a house boarded up, I wonder. 

We can become desensitized to circumstances which look awry.  We can ignore them and look away. 

Who wants to get involved?

It's none of my business.

We can take action and ask. 


patricialesli@gmail.com

 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Jimmy Webb, live at Bethesda Blues and Jazz

Jimmy Webb at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, Dec. 5, 2014/Photo by Patricia Leslie

He saved his best for last, "MacArthur Park," and at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club Friday night, he said it had been recorded more than 500 times, including three times by Waylon Jennings.
Jimmy Webb singing and playing "MacArthur Park" at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, Dec. 5, 2014/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Jimmy Webb, 68, whose songwriting skills top the charts, talked more than he sang in the 2.5 hour show (one intermission), about the artists he's worked with, about the background of each hit. For a few numbers, he invited the audience to sing along, but the evening, thankfully, did not become a "sing-along" and overwhelm the reason for attendance. 
Jimmy Webb at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, Dec. 5, 2014/Photo by Patricia Leslie

He was energetic and merry, solo with a piano on stage and without a program, which he put together while he played.

Unlike Bob Dylan on tour who sometimes won't sing his big hits, Webb sang most of his biggies: "Galveston," "By The Time I Get to Phoenix," "All I Know," "Worst Thing That Could Happen."
Jimmy Webb at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, Dec. 5, 2014/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 
"I don't write all sad songs," Webb said. "Bob Dylan would put out an album and you couldn't understand a damn word of what he said. We're good friends."

He recorded with Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings, to name a few, and Webb said he didn't know Jennings (1937-2002) real well: "He was a real character."

Jimmy Webb at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, Dec. 5, 2014/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Jennings would lay on a sofa with a hat over his face, and when Webb told him that Webb had won a Grammy, Jennings said:

"'What for?'"

"'Country Song of the Year.'"

"'Which country is that?'"

Webb said "at times I felt a bit miffed that the critics weren't taking me seriously." But later: "When you're famous, they make a big deal out of it [transgressions] and really hurt your feelings."



Jimmy Webb at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, Dec. 5, 2014/Photo by Patricia Leslie

When "Up, Up and Away" came out in 1967, Webb's manager called to tell Webb that KMOA in Oklahoma City (near where Webb grew up) thought the song was about drugs. "It was a song about balloons!" Webb exclaimed before he sang the song, inviting the audience to help him reach the high notes.

 
Judy Collins, "the fairy godmother of lost songs," picked up one of his songs which had languished for eight years in the back pages of his songwriter's notebook, "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress."

Collins is "larger than life and all feelings....Her voice is every bit [what it used to be] when she was 20 years old. She still tells racy stories," Webb said, some about old boyfriends. 

Jimmy Webb at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, Dec. 5, 2014/Photo by Patricia Leslie

But the person to whom Webb is most indebted is Glen Campbell, diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2011.

Like most who receive bad news, we wonder how our lives will be affected, and Webb is no different:  "I felt so sorry for myself, that I was losing a part of myself," and then he realized what he was experiencing could not compare to Glen's family. Still, Webb felt "an incredible sense of loss....I love Glen so much and he's the reason I'm up here because we had an incredible run."

When he was 14, Webb said he used to pray he would meet Glen Campbell and four years later, the composer almost lost it when he heard Campbell singing Webb's "By The Time I Get to Phoenix" on the radio.

Sometime later, Campbell called Webb and asked him to write another "town" song for him, and Webb sat down that afternoon and wrote "Wichita Lineman."

Campbell has always been an inspiration to Webb whose singing voice is similar to Campbell's. 

He closed his performance with the full-blown seven minutes and 21 seconds of "MacArthur Park," written with a girlfriend in mind (his or Richard Harris's? Working with Harris, by the way, was "a wonderful experience").

It was a memorable evening with a superbly talented artist who sang, played, and told it like it was, happy in Bethesda.  (A song about Bethesda?)

For more performances at Bethesda Blues & Jazz, check out its calendar.  This month the Chuck Brown Band, Urban Soul, and the Nighthawks are some of the groups which will perform, including the Glenn Miller Orchestra which plays "In The Holiday Mood" December 10, with dancing!

When:  Most nights

Where: 7719 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814

How much: Prices vary.  Buy tickets at the door or
online.


Future shows: Please check out the calendar.

Food and drink: The dining area has a $10 per person minimum which can be applied toward any item on the menu. Check out FAQ here. And here's the menu. I have found the food, magnificent: Beet salad ($12), tomato,  basil and mozzarella salad ($11) are delicious. Ditto, the appetizers like the crab cakes (about $12) and five coconut shrimp ($12).  The drinks are good and reasonably priced.  Nice wine selection.

For more information: 240-330-4500

Getting there: The Bethesda Metro station is about 1.5 blocks away, and parking is below the building (free on weekends). See directions.


To read about past shows, please click Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club.

patricialesli@gmail.com

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Songwriter Jimmy Webb at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Dec. 5

Jimmy Webb
America's songwriter and the only person to win Grammys for music, lyrics, and orchestration, Jimmy Webb, will perform at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club Friday night beginning at 8 p.m.

Webb's "By The Time I Get to Phoenix" was the third most performed song for 50 years, according to BMI.  His compositions have been recorded by Elvis, Judy Collins, Isaac Hayes, Art Garfunkel, Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker, Billy Joel, Linda Ronstadt, R.E.M., Carly Simon, and Frank Sinatra, to name a few.  He's the youngest man inducted into the National Songwriters' Hall of Fame and is now its chairman.

Billboard's Top 10 Jimmy Webb songs and recording artists are:

1.   "MacArthur Park" – Donna Summer, 1978
2.   "Wichita Lineman" – Glen Campbell, 1969
3.   "MacArthur Park" – Richard Harris, 1968
4.   "Worst That Could Happen" – Brooklyn Bridge, 1969
5.   "Galveston" – Glen Campbell, 1969
6.   "Up, Up And Away" – The Fifth Dimension, 1967
7.   "All I Know" – Art Garfunkel, 1973
8.   "Honey Come Back" – Glen Campbell, 1970
9.   "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" – Glen Campbell, 1967

10. "Where's The Playground Susie" – Glen Campbell, 1969

Click here for the link to Webb's appearance on David Letterman July 21, 2014 with 23 musicians and Will Lee on vocals singing "MacArthur Park."
An $8 million renovation transformed the 1938 art deco Bethesda Theater into the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club/Photo by Marc Rubin
 
What: Jimmy Webb at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club

When: 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 5, 2014

Where: 7719 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814

How much: $35 at the door or online.  


Future shows:  Please check out the calendar.

Food and drink: The dining area has a $10 per person minimum which can be applied toward any item on the menu. Check out FAQ here. And here's the menu. I have found the food (beet salad: yummy) and drinks, good and reasonably priced.

For more information:  240-330-4500

Getting there: The Bethesda Metro station is about 1.5 blocks away, and parking is below the building (free on weekends). See directions.


To read about past shows, please click Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club.

patricialesli@gmail.com

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Free Christmas concert Dec. 3 at St. John's, Lafayette Square

The Madrigal Singers from St. Albans and National Cathedral schools, Washington, D.C., will sing a Christmas concert December 3, 2014 at St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square

The Madrigal Singers from St. Albans and National Cathedral schools will sing music of the season in a free noon concert on Wednesday at St. John's, Lafayette Square.  The 36 choristers attend grades 10 through 12 at the schools which are affiliated with the Washington National Cathedral.

According to Benjamin Hutto, who directs the singers and the music ministry at St. John's, the program will include popular tunes, medieval, sacred, and spiritual music:

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (Plainsong, sung in procession)
Exaltate Deo (Palestrina)
Dixit Maria (Hassler)
Ding, Dong! Merrily On High (French carol, arr. Wood)
Jesus, Good Above All Other (German carol, arr. Scott)
Stille Nacht (GrĂ¼ber, arr. Humphris)
Great Day (Spiritual, arr. Martin)
There Is A Balm In Gildead (Spiritual, arr. Poovey)
A Merry Christmas (Traditional, arr. Warrell)
It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas (Willson, arr. Huff)

The presentation is one of St. John's First Wednesday Concerts, always performed without charge and lasting about 35 minutes.
St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C./Photo by Patricia Leslie

St. John's, known to many Washington residents as the yellow church at Lafayette Square, is often called the “Church of the Presidents.” Beginning with President James Madison, who served from 1809 to 1817, every president has been a member of St. John's or has attended services at the church. A plaque at the rear of St. John's designates the pew where President Abraham Lincoln often sat when he stopped by the church during the Civil War.

All concerts start at 12:10 p.m. (with an exception in April), and last about 35 minutes. Food trucks are located at Farragut Square, two blocks away, for those on lunch break.

Who:  The Madrigal Singers from National Cathedral and St. Albans schools

What:  First Wednesday Concerts

When: 12:10 p.m., December 3, 2014

Where: St. John’s, Lafayette Square, 1525 H Street, NW, at the corner of 16th, Washington, D.C. 20005

How much: No charge

Duration: About 35 minutes

Wheelchair accessible

Metro stations: McPherson Square (White House exit), Farragut North, or Farragut West


For more information: Contact Michael Lodico, St. John's associate organist and choir director, at 202-270-6265 or 202-347-8766

Future dates and artists of the First Wednesday Concerts are:

January 7, 2015: Iris Lan plays the Complete Sonatas of Paul Hindemith on the organ

February 4: Lena Seikaly, jazz vocalist, with the Dan Dufford Trio performing works by Duke Ellington and friends

March 4: Jared Denhard, bagpiper, assisted by Michael Lodico, St. John's organist and choirmaster, performing Pipes and More Pipes

April 19 (Sunday), 4 p.m.: Spring Concert by St. John's Choir

May 6: The U.S. Air Force Strings accompanied by Benjamin Hutto performing a Handel organ concerto and other pieces

June 3: Benjamin Straley, organist at the Washington National Cathedral



patricialesli@gmail.com

Friday, November 28, 2014

Wyeth's 'windows' closing at the National Gallery of Art

Andrew Wyeth, Wind from the Sea, 1947, National Gallery of Art, Washington, gift of Charles H. Morgan, c. Andrew Wyeth. 

The painting above, Wind from the Sea, given to the National Gallery of Art by Charles H. Morgan in 2009, is what sparked an exhibition.

It was drawn by Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), one of the most revered of contemporary American artists, who, If he were still alive, would tell you he was not a realist painter, but an abstractionist, and the more you learn about him and see his work, the more you understand. 

He created Wind from the Sea two years after his teacher, mentor, and father, N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945), illustrator of classic tales like Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and 110 other books, died with his grandson in a car crash with a train not far from home.

Andrew said he painted what he lived, scenes drawn from summers in Maine, and his home at Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, where he was born and where he died.
Andrew Wyeth, Cold Spell, 1965, Private Collection.
The blacks, browns, whites and contrasts of winter never looked as romantic as they are in Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In which closes Sunday at the National Gallery of Art, the sole venue for the show.
 Andrew Wyeth, McVey's Barn, 1948, New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT
Andrew Wyeth, Bird in the House, 1979, Private Collection
Andrew Wyeth, Untitled, 1983, The Andrew and Betsy Wyeth Collection

It is easy to be swept away by the wind and stillness which envelop you as you gaze upon Wind from the Sea which opens the show to the 60 Wyeth works of paintings, water colors, and drawings.  Until the National Gallery exhibition. some of the works have never been publicly displayed. 
Andrew Wyeth, Airing Out, 1969, Private Collection
Andrew Wyeth, Drying Room: first version of spare room, 1973. The Andrew and Betsy Wyeth Collection

The collection seems much larger than the 60 pieces which are arranged thematically in four galleries, perhaps owing to their subject matter, the expansiveness of the land, and the windows opening to the outdoors.

While you walk and view the galleries, you may think "aha!" You've found a window missing, and if you look again, there it is.

Some critics claim Wyeth is overrated, but a study of his angles, lines, shadows, winter lights, and contrasts prove them wrong. And his popularity among art enthusiasts is undeniable. Visitors can uncover complexities, geometric patterns, and the abstract in the compositions.

Over the artist's career which spanned some seven decades, he drew more than 300 works with windows, according to his son, Nicholas (b. 1943) who supplied the figure to Nancy K. Anderson, National Gallery curator. 

Upon my second (of five!) trips to the show, at the exit, I stood in the small gift shop set up for Wyeth visitors and surveyed the biography, N.C. Wyeth (David Michaelis, 1998), when a woman rushed up and talked non-stop about 30 minutes about the subject.  "He's much more fascinating than Andrew," she said. 

I read the book, and she was right about its excellence which drove me back last weekend for my second visit this year to the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, about two hours north of Washington, just across the Delaware line, the home of many Wyeth works, and a conservancy.
On the Wyeth property at Brandywine River Museum & Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania/Photo by Patricia Leslie
From a window inside N.C. Wyeth's studio, Brandywine River Museum & Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. N.C.'s and Andrew Wyeth's studios are open to the public for a fee/Photo by Patricia Leslie
At N.C. Wyeth's studio, Brandywine River Museum & Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, /Photo by Patricia Leslie
A close-up of the palette at N.C. Wyeth's studio, Brandywine River Museum & Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 N.C. Wyeth's supplies at his studio, Brandywine River Museum & Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania/Photo by Patricia Leslie

In the near winter, you can stand and study the countrysides, rolling hills, barren trees, and structures, and marvel at Andrew Wyeth's ability to capture what may initially seem like simple things, but made compelling and bewitching by the artist.
From a window at Andrew Wyeth's studio, Brandywine River Museum & Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Some of the artist's sketches on the floor at Andrew Wyeth's studio, Brandywine River Museum & Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 A sign posted at an entrance at the Wyeths' home where Betsy and Andrew Wyeth raised their two sons, Nicholas and Jamie.  A portion of the house served as Andrew Wyeth's studio from 1940 until mid-2008, Brandywine River Museum & Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Sketches of John and Robert Kennedy, drawn by Jamie Wyeth, Andrew's son, at Andrew Wyeth's studio, Brandywine River Museum & Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania/Photo by Patricia Leslie

The National Gallery quotes Andrew Wyeth:  “It’s what’s inside you, the way you translate the object — and that’s pure emotion. I think most people get to my work through the backdoor. They’re attracted by the realism and sense the emotion and the abstraction — and eventually, I hope, they get their own powerful emotion.”  They might have that effect upon you, too.

From a window at Andrew Wyeth's studio, Brandywine River Museum & Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania/Photo by Patricia Leslie

The exhibition would not be possible with the assistance of the Altria Group and the support of the Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts.

The catalogue and exhibition in Washington were produced, directed, and organized by Dr. Anderson, curator and head of the department of American and British paintings, with assistance and contributions from Charles Brock, associate curator, American and British paintings, National Gallery of Art.  The catalogue is almost 200 pages with color plates of the featured works and several essays, one about windows in the art of Wyeth, Charles Sheeler (1883-1965), and Edward Hopper (1882-1967).

Andrew Wyeth is the father of the artist, Jamie Wyeth (b. 1946).

What: Andrew Wyeth:  Looking Out, Looking In

When: Now through November 30, 2014 from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. Sunday


Where: Main Floor, West Building, National Gallery of Art, between Third and Ninth streets at Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. On the Mall.

Admission: No charge

Metro stations: Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Navy Memorial-Archives, or L'Enfant Plaza

For more information: 202-737-4215

At Brandywine River Museum & Conservancy, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania/Photo by Patricia Leslie

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