Arts History Update for mid November 2016

13 Nov

Arts History Update for mid November 2016 by David Cummins

On April 6, 1917 the United States declared war on the German Empire, entering The Great War later renamed World War I, mobilizing four million Americans. 100,000 died. An exhibit World War I and American Art is on display from November 4, 2016 to April 9, 2017 at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. It includes, inter alia, John Singer Sargent, Gassed (1919) borrowed from a London England museum and Gifford Beal, On the Hudson at Newburgh (1918) borrowed form the Phillips Collection in Washington DC. I’ve walked around the downtown in Newburgh and seen that exact view of the Hudson River but not of course with newly conscripted troops marching toward the dock and a troop ship for embarkation.

The exhibit travels thereafter to the New York Historical Society Museum & Library at 170 Central Park West from May 26, 2017 to September 3, 2017 and on to the Frist Center for the Visual Arts Nashville Tennessee from October 6, 2017 to January 21, 2018.

Gifford Beal (1897-1956) was a popular American painter in the first half of the 20th century whose work is included in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among others.
Gifford Beal had a special relationship with The Phillips Collection. He was the uncle of Marjorie Phillips, the artist wife of museum founder and collector Duncan Phillips, and was instrumental in their meeting. In 1921, Beal gave Marjorie a ticket to an exhibition of Duncan Phillips’ collection at the Century Club in New York, and that is where the two first met. Over time, the museum acquired a strong collection of Beal’s art, and now has more than 21 Beals, including works on paper, ranging from 1918 to 1954.
Born in the Bronx, New York, Gifford Beal began studying painting with William Merritt Chase when he was 12 years old. As a young man, he studied at the Art Students League in New York and later served as its president for a record 13 years (1916-1929). Beal had early successes, winning many painting and watercolor prizes; in 1914 he was elected to the National Academy of Design. The artist’s subjects varied; some of his best known pictures are of holiday crowds, circus performers, and hunting and fisherman scenes. Beal also frequently painted the landscape along the Hudson River and in Gloucester and Rockport, Massachusetts where he spent many summers. His style was influenced by the Impressionists’ use of light and color, as well as by modern approaches to line and form.
John Singer Sargent is more well known to most Americans, as an American who lived and painted in the United Kingdom. Here is his painting General Officers of World War I Can you pick out Black Jack Pershing from that crowd?

Here is Childe Hassam, Early Morning on the Avenue in May 1917 [a month after war was declared] (1917) Hassam was one of the first Impressionist style American painters.


How about kicking back in the old Great Gatsby style? No better place to do that than at Oheka Castle Hotel & Estate in a French Chateau style resort setting, tennis courts and spa on the grounds landscaped by the Olmsted brothers [yes the Frederick Law Olmsted who designed Central Park (1858) in Manhattan and Prospect Park (1866) in Brooklyn], golf and additional dining at nearby Cold Springs Country Club, all within the package of options when booking. Best of all you need not cross the pond, for this is all in Huntington, New York on fascinating Long Island, address 135 West Gate Drive, Huntington NY 11743-6052, the Long Island Expressway IH-495 to the south and Cold Springs Harbor on Long Island Sound to the north. Call on the telephone for packages and prices 631-659-1334. If you go, consider dressing me in livery so I may carry your bags and attend to your incidental needs and wants.

Financier Otto Hermann Kahn built this castle on a 443 acre plot of land in the Gilded Age of the 1920s spending $11 million to do so. The name Oheka is an acronym from his name Otto HErmann KAhn. Otto’s daughter Maud was married June 15, 1920 in the castle, the first of thousands of brides.

If staying overnight/pampering is out of the question, purchase a tour of the mansion and formal gardens. Then explore nearby areas like the town of Huntington, town of Oyster Bay, and go to one or more of the public parks with waterfront property or hillside overlooks into the harbors, bays, inlets and gaze off into Long Island Sound.

Closer to home try Hotel Settles in Big Spring Texas or Yellow Rose Inn in Nazareth Texas formerly the ranch headquarters for the 12,000 acre McGinty Ranch or Starlight Canyon, Amarillo Texas or for a glimpse into the former hotel in Floydada Texas visit The Covey Smokehouse Barbeque Restaurant in Covey/Commercial Hotel [hotel was Commercial Hotel from 1913 and Lamplighter Inn from 1964 but you can’t book a room today] at 102 South 5th Street phone 806-549-6448 and gaze up at the tin ceiling and other evidence in the public rooms of the former hotel,-102-S-5th-St,-Floydada,-Texas


Appreciation for the arts wouldn’t exist were it not for … the candle. This indispensable wax-and-wick marvel is so humble that history has no record of its beginnings, but they probably trace back to two innovative civilizations, the Romans and the Egyptians. Centuries before the Common Era, both developed the candle that is similar to what we use today. There have been refinements—braided rather than twisted wicks, better wax—but Caesar and Ptolemy would surely recognize today’s candle as the direct descendant of theirs.

In its most basic elements, there are only two components, wax and cotton, and it can be made equally well by machine or by hand, inexpensively. It has burned steadily through the Iron Age, the Dark Ages, the Age of Enlightenment, and the Atomic Age, and has served as metaphor, symbol, and inspiration for almost as long.

What has changed most over time is the form of the candle, the arrangement of multiple candles to express style and mood, and the base or basin in which a flammable thing is placed. Quite often the latter is uncolored and translucent so as not to take away from the aura cast by a flickering flame atop a soft texture bio-morphic mass.

I am old school so multiple candles of varying lengths taper and mass on a dining table or coffee table near a sofa or chairs, when lighted with soft music in the background, transforms the physical and metaphysical space.


The Nose (1836) by Nikolai Gogol is a satirical short story. It tells the story of a Russian Empire official in St Petersburg whose nose leaves his face and develops a life of its own Dmitri Shostakovich composed his first opera based on this absurdist tale and it premiered in Leningrad in 1930 but was not well received by the Stalinist cultural critics, and was savaged by the press as decadent nonsense. The run of the show was curtailed and it was not performed again for decades.

Shostakovich was not impeded as his third opera was an adaptation of Gogol’s The Gambler.

The Nose just enjoyed a handsome response at the Royal Opera House in London England’s Covent Garden October 20 – November 9, 2016. It was directed by Barrie Kosky and the orchestra was conducted by Ingo Metzmacher, sung in English subtitled in English on a translation by David Pountney. Everyone in the cast wore a fake nose except for the principal character Kovalyov.

It’s now available for watching on the Royal Opera House You Tube Channel since the run ended and watching online won’t interfere with ticket sales.

For those of us who read Gogol’s The Overcoat so many years ago, and never forgot it, this is a cultural treat.


Leonard Cohen age 82 died Thursday November 10, 2016 He was a minstrel Canadian Jew but also spent almost a decade living in a Buddhist monastery and was an ordained Buddhist monk. The philosophy of longing and perilous insight in so many of his songs, is part of our cultural heritage.

He saw the paradox in our lives famously writing the lyric “everything is cracked, that’s how the light gets in”

There Is a Crack in Everything, That’s How the Light Gets In: Leonard Cohen on Democracy and Its Redemptions



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