John Tuohy's MY WRITERS SITE: Do what you can with what you have where you are: DON’T WORRY-BE HAPPY Like this dog ABOUT THE AUTHOR John William Tuohy is a writer who lives in Washington DC. H...
John Tuohy's MY WRITERS SITE: WELCOME! Step right in!: WELCOME! DON’T WORRY-BE H APPY ABOUT THE AUTHOR John William Tuohy is a writer who lives in Washington DC. He holds an M...
John Tuohy's Connecticut History: Woodrow and Ellen Axson Wilson in Old Lyme: This online exhibition was created in conjunction with the exhibition, The Art of First Lady Ellen Axson Wilson: American Impression...
John Tuohy's Connecticut History: Painting Connecticut: 30" x 18" x 2" Subject Landscape Media Painting / Oil Style Impressionism Harkness Memorial ...
BY ERIN RUSHING
This post was written by Katie Martin, Summer 2016 Art Deco Trade Literature Research internat the National Museum of American History Library.
For six weeks in June and July, my task was to research and identify materials from the trade literature and world’s fair collections housed at the National Museum of American History Library that showcase the Art Deco period in Chicago.
I earned bachelor’s degrees in History and American Studies from Purdue University and am currently working toward a master’s in Library Science with a specialization in Archives and Records Management from Indiana University. With my background, I could not ask for a better place to complete my required internship credits than the National Museum of American History Library.
I began researching the Art Deco period in Chicago before I left Indiana for the summer. Art Deco style stemmed from the exhibitions of the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industrials Modernes held in Paris in 1925. Following the exposition, the style made its way into the US and pervaded all aspects of design including architecture, fashion, interior design, and household accessories. Art Deco reflected advances in technology and industry by incorporating geometric details, bright colors, and clean lines. At its height in the years between the two World Wars, the style was referred to as modern, modernistic, or art moderne. The 1933-1934 Chicago World’s Fair, known as “A Century of Progress International Exposition,” was the peak of the Art Deco movement in the Midwest. The Fair was held to celebrate the city’s centennial and to illustrate progress in the fields of science, engineering, social science, transportation, public health, and business. The organizers decided to utilize an Art Deco motif because it was functional, modern, simplistic, and served as a visual representation of progress.
Owens-Illinois Glass Company, Toledo, OH. Owens-Illinois Glass Containers 1934 Chicago World’s Fair, 1934, first pages of World’s Fair brochure.
When I arrived for my internship, I was glad I started the research process early. The trade literature collection consists of over 460,000 items that might include catalogs, advertisements, price lists, company histories, manuals, and other related materials representing over 36,000 companies. Because the collection is so varied, it offers valuable insight into the history of business, design, and consumerism. Six weeks is a short period of time to look for materials in such a vast collection, so I tried to stick to a research plan from the beginning.
I started by looking at the library’s secondary source materials on Art Deco architecture, jewelry, appliances, and décor to create a short list of Chicago companies with promising connections to the 1933-34 World’s Fair. This was a great place to start and I succeeded in finding catalogs featuring neon lighting, chandeliers, and futuristic exhibitions for the Fair in my first week. After I completed this list, I waded through 144 pages of search results from theCollections Search Center. I searched for the term “Chicago” in the trade literature and looked for companies with descriptions related to architecture, interior design, household products, and general wholesale. This process kept me busy for weeks. The collection has a minimum level of description in the online catalog because it would be difficult to create an item-level description for companies that produced hundreds of catalogs. The Westinghouse Electric and Mfg. Co., for example, has over 9,000 individual pieces from the late 1800s to the mid-1900s. In this case, I searched through several boxes and found one catalog related to modern lighting for movie theaters.
Joseph Hagn, Co., Chicago, IL. Annual Counter Catalog No. 39, 1938, page 682, juvenile wagons.
Throughout my internship, I found beautiful illustrations and pictures of interior and exterior lighting, decorative glass, jewelry, and furniture that showcased the modern style in Chicago. Interestingly, modern-style products were often mixed in alongside items crafted in traditional styles. I expected to find architectural and interior design elements; however, I was surprised to see Art Deco toasters, waffle irons, wallets, and even baby carriages in my research! My favorite find was a catalog called “Vitrolite Bathrooms – Kitchens” from the Vitrolite Company that featured high-end Art Deco bathrooms described as “the dream come true of many whose tastes have been hard to satisfy.”
Vitrolite Co., Chicago, IL. Vitrolite Bathrooms – Kitchens, circa 1935, bathroom interior.
By the end of my internship, I found more than 80 individual catalogs in the collection and looked through materials from more than 150 companies. Ultimately, my list will be used to determine a digitization plan for these materials in the future.
Although I spent a lot of time digging into the trade literature, it was not all work and no play. I had the opportunity to tour the Library of Congress with a Rare Book Cataloguer, go behind-the-scenes at the National Zoo, and attend the annual staff picnic at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. My team even won the Smithsonian Intern Scavenger Hunt! It was a wonderful experience and I’ll never forget my summer in Washington, D.C. with the Smithsonian Libraries.
Ganz, Cheryl. The 1933 Chicago World’s Fair: a century of progress. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008.
Weber, Eva. Art Deco in North America. London: Bison Books, 1985.
By Paula J. Johnson, August 11, 2016
To mark what would have been Julia Child’s 104th birthday on August 15, curator Paula Johnson shares new information on two works of art in Julia’s kitchen. To keep up with all the latest Food History information and programs, including our Julia Child themed Cooking Up History demonstration on August 12, join our Food History email list!
As a curator of food history and fisheries, I’m always delighted when these realms overlap. This happened recently with two objects in Julia Child’s kitchen, when I learned the real story (and not just a fish tale!) behind the fish prints that hang high on the kitchen’s walls. Several months ago, I received two email messages from Pat Pratt, a dear friend of Julia’s, who set the record straight on these works of art. And in so doing, Pat gave us a glimpse of Julia as an intrepid angler, an enthusiastic friend, and a curious cook in search of an answer to the nagging question, “what went wrong with that dish?”
Measuring 40” x 12,” the first print hangs above the doorway connecting the kitchen and the pastry pantry. Our catalog record noted that the object was made of paper, ink, and wood, and that it was not signed, but little else. We weren’t sure of the species of fish, or anything about the print’s origins, until Pat wrote:
“I made the print of the bluefish on the day when Julia caught it off our Herreshoff 12-1/2 foot sailboat while sailing in Saco Bay near Prouts Neck [Maine]. Julia and I were with my husband, Herbert Pratt, at the tiller. It was the morning of August 31, 1975. Julia and I were fishing for mackerel with the usual small-hooked, multicolored mackerel rigs, holding the lines by hand over the sides of the gunwales. Suddenly Julia yelped that she had a huge bite. With considerable pulling she got what we thought would be multiple mackerel wiggling on the line. Instead, to our amazement, it was a big fish. When we got it into the cockpit and onto the deck, we realized it was a bluefish—the first one we had ever caught, or seen, in Maine. We were all astounded.
“Julia said with glee that she had been eager to cook a whole fish in a new way. We went ashore and showed it to Paul [Julia’s husband]. I had been making fish prints in the Japanese manner that summer, using my regular Winsor and Newton watercolors, so I had all the equipment to make one [fish print] of the bluefish. I cleaned and dried the exterior of the fish and laid it on a flat surface. I covered it with Payne’s Grey [paint color] using my 2” flat brush. Then I placed a sheet of rice paper over the fish and carefully rubbed it to get all the details of the fish including the fins and tail. I carefully lifted the paper off to have a nice clean image of the fish.
“Our dining room table was made of Cypress wood and through the years of being scrubbed it had a nice raised grain. Paul said, ‘Why not make the fish look as though it were in water by making a rubbing of the grain in greens and blues with wax crayons?’ We placed the dried print on top of the table and with a whole Caran d’Ache crayon, stripped of its paper wrapping we lightly rubbed over the print. ‘Voila!’ said Julia, ‘It looks alive.’”
The bluefish print. 2001.0253.0754.
“While Julia and I prepared the fish in her new way, Paul and Herbert set the table and chose the white wine for lunch. The new way was: Place the cleaned but not scaled fish on a baking sheet. Oil the fish. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 20–25 minutes. Skin the fish and place the cooked fish on a platter to serve.
“Licking our chops in delightful anticipation, we sat at the table with a wide view of the sea from which the fish came. Julia served our plates and just before taking the first bite, we raised our glasses in joy. We all took our first bite and, to our horror and dismay, the fish was tough as leather. It was basically inedible! We were utterly disappointed, as we had thought what perfection it would be to have a spanking fresh fish. We had no idea what was wrong.
“At eight o’clock one morning 10 years later, Julia called me. ‘Pat, Pat,’ she said, ‘I just found out why our bluefish was so tough. I’ve just been talking to John, in Seattle, who deals with all sorts of fish big time at the fish pier. . . . He said it is very important that fish be out of rigor mortis when you cook it, otherwise it will be ‘tough as leather,’ it may be a matter of days for big fish like salmon and tuna.’ Julia was a bird dog in always wanting to find answers to questions and problems. This time, it took 10 years!"
Unsure what to make of this, I consulted an article on rigor mortis in fish, which suggests that if Julia and Pat had put the fish back on ice and waited a few hours, it would have passed through rigor, at which point the muscles would have softened again and the fish would have been edible when cooked.
The Rock Cod
This 25.5” x 17.7” fish print is more straightforward because it is signed by Paul Child, an artist in his own right. While we do not know the exact date for Paul’s fish print, we know that he used the same techniques described by Mrs. Pratt. She speculates that Paul made the wavy water by hand “as he was not near our dining room table for the raised grain.” The rock cod print hangs above the refrigerator and is a bit more difficult to see; a menagerie of ceramic and wooden cats, chickens, and miscellaneous kitchenware partially obscure the view of the print.
The rock cod fish print. 2001.0253.0747.
The lesson of the fish prints meshes with Julia’s attitude toward cooking: never stop asking questions because you might learn something new!
You can read more about Julia’s kitchen and recipes on our blog!
Paula Johnson is a curator in the Division of Work and Industry. She has also blogged about cooking with Julia Child in Washington, D.C.
John Tuohy's MY WRITERS SITE: Happiness ...................: ABOUT THE AUTHOR John William Tuohy is a writer who lives in Washington DC. He holds an MFA in writing from Lindenwood Unive...
The Ross Bleckner Sea and Mirror at Alec Baldwin’s Manhattan office. CreditSantiago Mejia The New York Times
By GRAHAM BOWLEY
Ten years or so ago, as the actorAlec Baldwin remembers it, the gallery owner Mary Boone sent him an invitation to a show of work by the painter Ross Bleckner, an artist whom she represented and he had befriended.
The card featured a reproduction of Mr. Bleckner’s “Sea and Mirror,” a work from 1996, when the artist was at the height of his popularity.
So began Mr. Baldwin’s love affair with the painting — an infatuation that has ended with Mr. Baldwin, who occupies a central role in New York’s cultural life, now pitted in a bitter dispute with two formidable players in the city’s rarefied world of art and money — Ms. Boone, a prominent art dealer, and Mr. Bleckner, one of her notable talents.
This has, to say the least, become awkward.
For years, Mr. Baldwin said he carried the image of “Sea and Mirror” in his shoulder bag, alongside a picture of one of his daughters and his father. In 2010, he asked Ms. Boone to find the collector who owned it and pry it away.
“There was a kind of beauty and simplicity” to the work, Mr. Baldwin recalled in an interview this month.
Happily, she reported back, the collector would sell — but at a premium.
Mr. Baldwin put up the $190,000.
“I love this thing so much,” he said in a 2012 speech about support for the arts at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, proudly recounting his quest. “Three months later it was hanging in my house, in my apartment in New York.”
But Mr. Baldwin said that something about the painting always gave him unease. The colors weren’t quite the same. It smelled, somehow, new. In fact, he said, just a few months ago he discovered that he had not bought the painting he pined for. Instead, he said, for reasons that remain disputed, Ms. Boone sent him another version of the painting. He claims she passed it off as the original.
“I thought she had made my dream come true,” Mr. Baldwin said. Instead, he said he believed that Ms. Boone, frustrated that the collector would not agree to sell, persuaded Mr. Bleckner to take an unfinished work from the same series, finish painting it and sell it to him without saying a word.
Mr. Bleckner’s office said he could not be reached for comment. Ms. Boone, through her lawyer, disputed Mr. Baldwin’s account, asserting he was never misled about the identity of the work.
“He’s wrong that the painting is a copy; it’s an original and very fine work of art by Ross Bleckner,” Ms. Boone’s lawyer, Ted Poretz, said in a statement.
Mr. Baldwin, however, has emails that buttress parts of his account. The Boone gallery also stamped a number — 7449 — on the back of the painting it sold to Mr. Baldwin, the same number it had listed next to the work it had said it was pursuing from the collector.
Mr. Baldwin said he met with the Manhattan district attorney’s office this summer but was told that a criminal case could not be made.
Ms. Boone’s lawyer declined to address in full the issues raised by the emails or the number next to the painting.
“The gallery never likes to have unhappy clients,” Mr. Poretz said in his statement, “and it has turned cartwheels to try to satisfy Alec Baldwin. It has repeatedly offered Alec Baldwin a full refund, among other things.”
The interaction is hardly the first to end badly in an opaque, largely unregulated art market. It raises questions about why works created in one era by an artist, operating under one set of motivations, are sometimes different in value and reputation, compared with works that were perhaps created by the same artist in another era.
But to Mr. Baldwin, the concerns are not nearly so esoteric: He contends he was betrayed.
“Ross was a kind of friend of mine,” Mr. Baldwin said.
He continues to be a Bleckner supporter. Mr. Baldwin’s foundation helped to underwrite an exhibition this month on Long Island that featured Mr. Bleckner’s paintings. He owns five of Mr. Bleckner’s works.
Mr. Baldwin said that the flamboyant, outspoken Ms. Boone, from whom he sometimes bought art, admitted this year that she had switched the works.
“She said, ‘I didn’t want to disappoint you,’” he said.
Mr. Baldwin, who met Mr. Bleckner at parties in the Hamptons, where the actor owns a home, became an admirer of his work in the 1990s. Mr. Bleckner, who had a Guggenheim retrospective in 1995 at 45, had been an ascendant art star of the 1980s. He belonged to a stable of young artists who helped Ms. Boone build her reputation in the ’80s, though two of her stars from that time, Eric Fischl and David Salle, have since left for rival dealers.
Mr. Baldwin bought his first Bleckner from Ms. Boone in 2010, and during that transaction mentioned that he really wanted “Sea and Mirror.”
The painting had sold at auction at Sotheby’s in 2007 for $121,000. Ms. Boone told Mr. Baldwin in an email that the collector now sought $175,000 for it.
“The Gallery normally charges ten to twenty percent for this kind of transaction,” she wrote. “To make this a friendly deal, we would charge you even less — $190,000,” before adding, “I know Ross is so thrilled for you to have a painting and so am I.”
Mr. Poretz said that shortly afterward Mr. Baldwin was told that, in fact, he was getting a different version of “Sea and Mirror.”
“By the time Alec Baldwin paid for the painting and it was delivered to him, he should not have misunderstood what he purchased,” Mr. Poretz said in his statement.
Mr. Baldwin denies he was ever told he would be receiving a different work. He said that when he received the canvas, he noticed the composition lacked a feathery quality in the brush strokes he had admired in the photos of the work sold at Sotheby’s, and seemed brighter.
Ms. Boone told him, he said, that it had been newly cleaned as a courtesy.
This year, his suspicions growing, he sent emails to Mr. Bleckner and Ms. Boone inquiring about the collector from whom he had bought the painting and about the cleaning.
According to copies of the emails, Mr. Bleckner responded that he did not know the name of the collector. Mr. Baldwin says Mr. Bleckner did not point out that that transaction had never gone through. Mr. Bleckner also discussed how he might have done the cleaning.
“I would usually do that,” he wrote to Mr. Baldwin, “although I don’t actually remember.”
Mr. Baldwin finally had a Sotheby’s expert compare his painting to a catalog image from the 2007 auction.
The expert said, “This is not that painting,” Mr. Baldwin recalled.
He then confronted Ms. Boone and Mr. Bleckner. He said they acknowledged having given him another work. Mr. Baldwin has an email in which Mr. Bleckner is deeply apologetic but does not directly address about what.
“im so sorry about all of this,” he wrote. “I feel so bad about this … what can I do to make this up to you?”
He said Mr. Bleckner told him that he had started the painting in 1996 and finished it in 2010, though he had dated it 1996.
“I don’t know what Ross knew,” Mr. Baldwin said. “Ross may have been instructed to make a copy. I don’t know.”
This summer, as Mr. Baldwin complained to Ms. Boone, he gave her an ultimatum.
“Deliver to me the painting that I bought. The one you sold me,” he wrote in an email.
Ms. Boone again asked Sotheby’s to contact the owner of the painting sold at auction in 2007, according to an email supplied by Mr. Baldwin. The collector, whose identity remains a mystery, was still not interested in selling.
Ms. Boone’s lawyer, Mr. Poretz, also contacted Mr. Baldwin to try to settle the matter.
In an interview, Mr. Baldwin acknowledged that the work he has was created by Mr. Bleckner and that it looks quite similar to the painting he coveted. But he said it was not the work he had fallen in love with — not a painting, in his view, created when the artist was at the peak of his fame.
Still, he told Ms. Boone in a recent email, he did not want to hurt Mr. Bleckner. “I’m less worried about you, Mary,” he wrote, “as you are more of an armadillo and I’m sure you have been blasting your way out of corners like this on more than one occasion.”
Ms. Boone wrote back to say that she was working to get him the work he wanted.
“I am not an Armadillo however,” she added.