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Posts Tagged ‘art’

Before I leaned over the stairwell to photograph the window, I asked the gentleman at the front desk to listen carefully. If he heard a thud, he should come running. Luckily there was no thud and I was able to photograph an interesting decorative detail from the window, Purity, by John La Farge.

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In the early 1900s, during a lecture to young architecture students, John La Farge made the point that “The use of color in architectural decoration is not mere arrangement of pleasing tints. It is a matter of construction by color.” His philosophy is evidenced throughout Trinity Church. The rich colors and bold patterns he produced provide great inspiration for new custom merchandise from the simplicity of a square coaster to so much more including a green bordered 36 x 36 chiffon scarf, canvas pencil pouch and fountain pen. You’ll be able to find these items on the shelves of the shop at Trinity Church starting in January. Below is a slideshow of how a new pattern evolved from its original source. Hope you enjoy!

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Exterior of the Scrovegni Chapel, also known as the Arena Chapel, in Padua, Italy

This particular walk (or ramble) through history began after reading a footnote by stained glass historian Virginia Raguin. In her online history of stained glass in America, there is a footnote that reads, “Client and patron intermingled intellectually and socially; Brooks, H. H. Richardson, and La Farge had viewed Giotto’s Arena Chapel in Padua together. See John La Farge, The Gospel Story in Art (New York, 1913, repr. 1926), 279. ” I first learned of Reverend Phillips Brooks, architect H. H. Richardson and painter and stained glass designer John La Farge through their creative collaboration that produced the National Historic Landmark Trinity Church in the City of Boston. But what were they doing hanging out socially? What was The Gospel Story in Art that, if indeed it was published in 1913, it was done so after La Farge’s death? Who was Giotto and was there something special about his Arena Chapel?

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Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-1886), John La Farge (1835-1910)

The first question is easy to answer. Born in the 1830’s, these gentlemen were of a generation. Though ostensibly from very different backgrounds, they were each members of a larger social class that would have socialized in the U.S. and abroad. With earned and/or inherited family wealth, they were expected to travel … the oceans were no barrier to lengthy tours of Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The men were also connected by their attendance and/or connection to elite schools like Harvard, Yale and Princeton. They would have attended the same literary and art salons in Boston, New York and elsewhere. Richardson and Brooks were friends long before Richardson entered the competition to build the new Trinity Church in Copley Square. And Richardson and La Farge were well-acquainted long before La Farge was asked to orchestrate the interior decoration of the new church. It would not be unheard of for these three men to be meandering about Europe and somehow meet up at a church. As for the second question …

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Painting of Mary Caldawader Jones, and self-portrait of John La Farge

Apparently, The Gospel Story in Art, was a labor of love for La Farge that he never completed. Today La Farge is most well-known for his stained glass windows but he began his career as a painter and muralist. Throughout his life he studied art (even when he thought he was to become a lawyer), and eventually he would become a prolific writer and lecturer on the subject. La Farge died in 1910 but his friend New York socialite and philanthropist Mary Caldawader Jones compiled his work, with the illustrations that he used as reference for his text, and had the book published in 1913.  In the preface she explains that La Farge “had cherished the wish to write a book on the representation of the Christian story in art, a work for which few men were so well-fitted. Born and educated in the older faith of Christendom, he brought to his task not only the reverence of a believer, but also full knowledge of the widely different forms through which the life of Christ has been expressed by artists.”

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I found the reference on Page 297 referred to in the footnote, and, if I do the math correctly based on some other information I know, the three men likely stood in that chapel in 1882. Yet I know from other letters, memoirs, etc. that at least Brooks and La Farge had visited the chapel earlier in their lives, La Farge in 1856 just as he was beginning his artistic studies in Europe, and Brooks possibly in 1865 as he took a respite from preaching in Philadelphia. The young La Farge was so moved by what he saw that, once back in the U.S., he purchased etchings of Giotto’s paintings.

By 1872, Brooks was Rector of Trinity Church in Boston. His friend Richardson was overseeing construction of the new church. They’d discuss wanting the interior to be colorful, atypical of a traditional Episcopal church. When, in 1876, they commissioned John La Farge to decorate, did they reference Giotto and the chapel in Padua?

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decorative detail of wall inside Trinity Church

H. H. Richardson died in 1886, and his friend Phillips Brooks passed away in 1893. Whenever the two men had stood in the Padua chapel with La Farge, this is what La Farge remembered of the moment in The Gospel of Art. “Let us turn once more to Giotto, as the greatest of all those who represent the history of Our Lord. … 

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In his book, La Farge references Giotto (c. 1267-1337), an Italian painter and architect, at least 49 times. He includes excerpts by Leonardo about Giotto as a leading figure in resurrecting art“…it was in truth a great marvel that from so rude and inapt an age Giotto should have had strength to elicit so much that the art of design, of which the men of those days had very little, if any, knowledge, was, by his means, effectually recalled into life.” A noted painter during his day, Giotto’s work in the Scrovengi Chapel, also known as the Arena Chapel, is considered his masterpiece. Frescoes depict the life of Mary and Jesus.

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detail from Last Judgment fresco

La Farge writes:

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scene from the life of Joachim

“Were we to stand before the painting of Giotto in Padua, we should find it difficult to realize, in our present habit of passing over legends, how important these legends once were …”

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detail from the Ascension

“If a movement of line can give the impression of sound, Giotto has done it … “

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In earlier essays in his life, La Farge describes how his youthful travels in France and Italy, and in England among the Pre-Raphaelites, influenced his understanding and use of color. But only in this book do I suspect that he rhapsodizes about Giotto in a book that is about art and perhaps about La Farge’s connecting with his faith. One can only wonder what lasting impressions were made when a 21-year old La Farge first walked into that church.

Sources & Additional Reading

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrovegni_Chapel

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giotto

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_La_Farge

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Hobson_Richardson

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phillips_Brooks

http://college.holycross.edu/RaguinStainedGlassInAmerica/Home/index.html

http://college.holycross.edu/RaguinStainedGlassInAmerica/Museum&Church/Museum&Church.html

Image Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mary Cadwalader Rawle Artist: William Oliver Stone (1830–1875) Date: 1868 Medium: Oil on canvas Dimensions: Oval: 12 x 10 1/2 in. (30.5 x 26.7 cm) Classification: Paintings Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Max Farrand and Mrs. Cadwalader Jones, 1953

The Gospel Story in Art by John La Farge page 297

The Gospel Story in Art (Archive.org)

Playful Padua by Rick Steves

Web Gallery of Art: Frescoes in the Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua

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I keep having an interesting conversation with a fellow in my life. He’s about the destination and I’m all about the journey. I race to destinations but when I journey I never know what I’ll discover like chancing upon this beautiful fungus with its lovely blue hue on a tree in the Middlesex Fells Reservation.  Because I am such a creative namer when it comes to labeling prints, I simply called the image “Blue.” A framed print has been selected by Metro Housing Boston, a nonprofit providing innovative and personalized services that lead families and individuals to housing stability, economic security, and an improved quality of life. This donation was made possible by The Art Connection, a wonderful institution connecting artists with nonprofits, and providing access to original works of visual art to underserved communities.

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I’ve been proud to donate works through this organization for several years. You can learn more about Metro Housing Boston and The Art Connection via the links below.

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Metro Housing Boston

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The exterior of the National Technical Museum is austere but the interior is magical. The exhibits are well curated to appeal to the child of any age and background. There were at least 11 major exhibits, and my favorites were Astronomy and the Measurement of Time. Prague was home to astronomers Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) and Johannes Kepler (1571-1630). The Astronomy exhibit, and the Measurement of Time, with great reverence and artistry, highlight the Czech contribution in these fields. Easy to visit via public transportation. A lovely kid and adult friendly cafe in the basement.

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http://www.ntm.cz/en

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Crucifix

I had wandered away from the conference during an official break and found myself in, what I realized later, was the village square of Dolni Brezany. One of the square’s most startling features is a large stone sculpture of Jesus on the cross. This Calvary sculpture dates to the 18th century and is a replica with the original apparently relocated to the National Museum.

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While I missed the glass dresses at Galerie Portheimka, there was another quite stunning exhibit on display. It is actually a permanent display called Glass as Art.

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Learn more here: http://www.museumportheimka.cz/vystava/glass-as-art/

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… I peek in windows. And, thank goodness, I did this day as I walked past the Portheimka Galerie, a glass museum.

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I thought what I saw in the early morning hours was a new exhibit being installed. Unfortunately for me, it was an exhibit being taken down!

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I am grateful for what I did see and to learn of the artist Karen Lamonte. You can view more of her beautiful work on her website: https://www.karenlamonte.com/

And for more information about Portheimka, visit here: http://www.museumportheimka.cz/introduction/

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