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Porcelain cup with butterfly handle, ca. 1879. Courtesy of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA).

Mention of the summer colony on Appledore Island, Maine, might bring to mind Childe Hassam’s bright watercolors and oils of the sea-bound spot. The woman he painted there—amid red poppies set against an azure blue sky—was Celia Thaxter (1835– 1894), a writer, artist, gardener, and central figure in a group of artistic and literary luminaries encamped seasonally on the windswept isle.

Olive branch plate, ca. 1870. Courtesy of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA).

As a gardener, Thaxter was an astute observer of the natural world. She translated this love of nature into painting flora and fauna on china, a then-popular ladies’ pastime on which Thaxter relied to make ends meet. While many women copied design books to embellish their wares, Thaxter based her work on direct observation, such as a butterfly in her Appledore garden. Her rendition of an Italian olive branch, presumably derived from a travel sketchbook, was picked up by Boston publisher Louis Prang for greeting cards.

One Woman’s Work: The Visual Art of Celia Laighton Thaxter is on view through April 12, 2002, at SPNEA’s Gallery at One Bowdoin Square, Boston. Info: tel. 617.227.3956

John F. Francis (1808–1886), Still Life: Cognac and Biscuits, 1850. Private collection; courtesy of Orlando Museum of Art.

Over the last twenty years, John Beck has assembled one of Florida’s most important private collections of American art. The collection’s strength is in its range and quality—from luminist works such as Francis Silva’s October on the Hudson (ca. 1873) to twentieth-century abstraction including Arthur Dove’s watercolor Landscape II (1941). Sixty works from Beck’s collection are on view in An American Palette: Paintings Celebrating American Art and Life at the Orlando Art Museum, Orlando, FL, through May 26, 2002. A 134-page hardcover show catalogue, written by guest curator Dr. Valerie Leeds, is available. Info: www.OMArt.org; tel. 407.896.4231

“World’s Largest Teapot,” ca. 1851, made for the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London, is ornamented with scenes depicting the production of tea. Approximate dimensions: H: 31”; handle to spout: 34”. On loan from R. Twining and Company, Ltd.; courtesy of Concord Museum; photography courtesy of Norfolk Museums Service.
The ladies here visit, drink tea and indulge every little piece of gentility to the height of the mode and neglect the affairs of their families with as good grace as the finest ladies of London.
—Joseph Bennett, Boston, 1740
In Tea Drinking in 18th-Century America by Rodris Roth.

Tea drinking was a serious matter in eighteenth-century England and America. For the upper class, taking tea came with certain rules for preparation and presentation. The host’s choices of teapot and other accessories for the ceremony were indicators of wealth and taste to the style-conscious class.

One hundred examples of fine eighteenth- and nineteenth century teapots, from a collection of 3,000 at Norwich Castle Museum in Norwich, England, are part of an exhibition at the Concord Museum (MA) exploring the designs and styles that emerged over two centuries in response to a market demand for “the latest model” of teapot.

Traditions in Elegance: 100 Teapots from the Norwich Castle Museum is on view through May 27, 2002, at the Concord Museum, Concord, MA. Info: www.concordmuseum.org; tel. 978.369.9763

Painted in Canton, China, ca. 1800, these gouache views of tea manufacture were probably originally brought to Salem or Boston by a returning merchant. Three of twelve gouaches on loan from a private collection; courtesy of Concord Museum.

Jean-Baptiste Greuze (French, 1725–1805), Head of a Woman, ca. 1765. Private collection; photography by J. Michel; courtesy of The Frick Collection, New York.
Jean-Baptiste Greuze’s early work was praised by the philosopher Diderot as “morality in paint.” However, by his late career, the French artist had shifted to painting suggestive depictions of young women—the sexual overtones thinly veiled. In the age of neoclassicism following the French Revolution, his work quickly fell from favor, but not before securing some important patrons.

Catherine the Great and members of the Russian Court admired and collected works by Greuze. Hence, a collection of his paintings and drawings now resides in the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. More than two dozen of these works, many of which have seldom left Russia, along with about forty others from various international collections are in the first-ever exhibition of Greuze drawings.

Greuze the Draftsman is on view at The Frick Collection, New York City, May 14 to August 4, 2002, and then travels to The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, for an exhibition from September 10 to December 1, 2002. Info: www.frick.org; tel. 212.288.0700

Fig. 4: “Burial.” Connolly Hours, France, fifteenth century. Tempera and gold on vellum. Boston College, John J. Burns Library. Ms. 86–97, f. 106.

Last fall the Birmingham Museum of Art reopened its American Art Galleries after a major reinstallation. Curators from the fine and decorative art departments worked together to create a didactic time line of American culture, which includes objects from the permanent collection that were in storage (such as Thomas Cole’s masterwork Mount Aetna, 1842) along with new acquisitions and works on long-term loan.

Fig. 5: “Blanche of Burgundy Praying Before Saint Benedict,” Savoy Hours; fragment of the original text. This section attributed to the workshop of Jean Pucelle, ca. 1334–1348. Tempera and gold on parchment, 201 x 147 mm. Courtesy of Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Ms. 390, f. 7.

Also on view now through July 14, 2002, is Avant-Garde Glass from Vienna Secession to Bauhaus: The Torsten Brohan Collection from the Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas, Madrid. A selection of 180 exquisite glass works demonstrates the transition of central European design from the highly ornamental Vienna Secession (1897–1918) to the refined Weiner Werkstatte (1903–1932) to the purely functional Bauhaus period (1919– present). Info: www.artsBMA.org; tel.205.254.2565.

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