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Art Finds

Monday, March 04, 2013

My Story on New England Art Finds in the March/April Issue of Yankee Magazine

Blame it on the majestic scenery in New England that lured artists to its shores and mountains, or savvy collectors who had the foresight to purchase the preeminent works of their time. The result is undeniable. The bounty of art found in this region is mind-boggling, from the American art collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to the Hudson River School paintings hanging at Hartford’s Wadsworth Athenaeum to the Impressionist gems located at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Add university collections like Harvard’s Fogg and the recently reopened Yale University Art Museum that could rival the finest art museum in most mid-range cities, and you understand how spoiled we are. 

 
Even with this gluttony of art, there are some hidden treasures to be found. I was fortunate last summer to be hired by Yankee Magazine to describe six of my favorite art gems in New England, often overlooked: the Cushing, Maine house that inspired Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World; Winslow Homer’s studio in Prouts Neck, Maine; Albert Bierstadt’s 10-by-15-foot work, Domes of Yosemite, found in the back of the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont; Jose Clemente Orozco’s 24-panel mural at Dartmouth University’s Baker Library, now seen under new lighting; the WPA murals of a whaling scene created by Thomas LaFarge in 1938 at the New London Post Office; and the only National Park System site dedicated to an American painter, the Weir Farm in Wilton, Connecticut. All are worth checking put. You can find the story the old fashioned way, in the magazine at newsstands. It’s not online. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/04/13 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Musee de la Civilisation A Must-Stop in Quebec City

Quebec City’s Musee de la Civilisation might sound like some vague museum of anthropology. Venture inside and you’ll be surprised to find one of the most intriguing museums in North America. On my last trip to Quebec City, I was treated to an exhibition called Urbanopolis, an architectural study that shows how cities around the world are preparing themselves for the future through apartment design and public transportation. When I returned this weekend, I saw a fascinating show on Nigerian art from private French collections, rarely seen by the public. The 187 objects from 44 various ethnic groups in Nigeria included a series of large masks created from, among other things, the human skull, facial hair, antelope horns, and lion’s teeth. I especially enjoyed the films of anthropologist Arnold Rubin from the 1960s that showed remote Nigerian tribesmen dancing with several of the masks and costumes on display. Another worthwhile exhibition at the Museum showcased New Zealand’s Maori culture and featured large wooden carvings from ancestral meeting houses. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/05/13 at 11:00 AM
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Friday, February 01, 2013

Modernism Comes to the Portland Museum of Art This Summer

William S. Paley (1901–1990), the media titan who built the CBS broadcasting empire, amassed an extraordinary collection of modern art. He also became the catalytic force behind The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), which opened in 1929. When he died, he donated his entire collection to MoMA. Now MoMA is sharing 62 of those treasures with other art museums. The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism, will be on view May 2 through September 8, 2013, at the Portland Museum of Art. Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró, Alberto Giacometti, and Francis Bacon, are among the 24 artists whose paintings, sculpture, and works on paper will grace the walls. The Portland Museum of Art is the only New England venue for this blockbuster show, which will then move on to Quebec City. 

 
Talking about Quebec City, I’ll be reporting live from the biggest Winter Carnival in the world next week, before traveling to Baie-Saint-Paul and Le Massif ski resort. So please return often! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/01/13 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Top 5 Travel Experiences of 2012, An Architectural Tour of Buffalo

Friends laughed when I mentioned that I was headed to Buffalo last July, before dropping my son off at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester. “Not exactly Paris, huh?” Little did they realize that the city was undergoing a cultural renaissance, rehabbing many of the architectural wonders that Buffalo is blessed with. In the early 1900s, the affluent community, rich with Erie Canal commerce, helped persuade Louis J. Sullivan, Frederick Law Olmsted, and Frank Lloyd Wright to come to town to create skyscrapers, parks, and estates. 

 
Wright’s Darwin Martin House (1905), rivaled only by Fallingwater in scope and mastery among his residences, just completed a 10-year, $50 million renovation. This includes the renovation of a conservatory and carriage house, linked to the main house via a 100-foot long pergola. This was my third tour of a Wright house, include Taliesen West, and was by far the most impressive. 
 
I also checked out the former Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane, a castle-like assemblage of 14 buildings designed by H.H. Richardson in the late 1800s. The gothic-looking towers have been rebranded the Richardson Olmsted complex and will soon become a boutique hotel and center for architecture. Other noteworthy stops include Louis J. Sullivan’s 13-story 1895 Guaranty Building, the first skyscraper in America, and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, considered one of the finest collections of modern art in the country.
 
To top it off, the food was exceptional. On the first night we had inspired Polish fare at Bistro Europa, including pierogies and golabki, stuffed cabbage that would make my grandmother proud. The second night, we dined at the spanking new Mike A’s Steakhouse in a downtown building that was dormant the past 40 years. Saved by Buffalo’s favorite son, developer Rocco Termini, the circa-1904 Lafayette Hotel has reclaimed its French Renaissance and Art Deco glamour and is now a boutique hotel with a vintage bar. 
 
From the Saturday morning farmers market to Shakespeare at Delaware Park, the city was energized and proud locals were having the last laugh. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/10/13 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Get into the Holiday Spirit at Newport

Decking the halls with boughs of holly is not such an easy task in Newport, Rhode Island. Their opulent estates are each a city block long. The historic seaport gets into the Holiday spirit with a month-long citywide celebration simply called Christmas in Newport. The long list of activities includes Victorian dinners at the Astors’ Beechwood Mansion, tours of the rarely visited estate of Doris Duke, and lantern walks over the twisting cobblestone streets. 

 
Newport is also home to a slew of intriguing boutique shops. Near the mansions, Alloy Gallery (125 Bellevue Avenue) is owned by a Rhode Island School of Design-trained jewelry artist who displays contemporary wares created by her and her colleagues. On the corner of Spring and Church, Macdowell Pottery features crafts, towels, and women’s scarves. More women’s clothing—blouses, dresses, and jackets adorned with colorful summer prints, can be found at Tyler Boe, at Bannister’s Wharf. The kids will like the quirky games, clothing, books, and other odd miscellaneous knickknacks found at Pleasant Surprise on Thames Street. Close by is the Newport Historical Society Gift Shop, selling sea soap, shells, gardening and history books on New England, and my personal favorite, the Gurglepot, a jug that makes a gurgling noise when pouring water. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/12/12 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holiday Cheer in Toronto—The City’s Architectural Boom

Over the past five years, Toronto has enjoyed an architectural renaissance, with Daniel Libeskind’s bold addition to the block-long stone and brick Royal Ontario Museum, Frank Gehry’s tasteful redesign of the Art Gallery of Ontario, and hometown favorite, Jack Diamond’s acoustically perfect opera house, the Four Seasons Centre. Outside the ROM, shards of aluminum and ribbons of glass jut out onto the sidewalk with knife-like precision, without care or need for right angles. Libeskind’s whimsy lends itself well to the child-like intrigue that one can’t help but muster when visiting the mind-boggling collection of wares inside the ROM. More than a mere natural history museum with requisite brontosaurus skeleton, the ROM has a vast collection of gems and treasures from ancient Egypt, Greece, and China. On display until January 6, 2013, is the exhibition “Ultimate Dinosaurs: Giants from Gondwana.” The show displays bizarre dinosaurs, virtually unknown to North Americans, before they were discovered in South American and Africa. 
 
Highlights of Frank Gehry’s new addition at the Art Gallery of Ontario include a stairwell that extends outside the blue titanium back wall to reward guests with vistas over Grange Park. And Galleria Italia on the second floor, a large lounge where ribs of soft Douglas fir curve upward, as if you’ve just entered the inverted hull of a ship. A spacious gallery devoted to the sculptures of Henry Moore and landscapes by the Group of Seven, highly regarded Canadian painters from the 1920s, are a small sampling of the impressive works found at the AGO. But I’ll be headed there this morning to view the latest blockbuster exhibition, “Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics, and Painting.” This rare showcase of 155 works by and about the artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera was created primarily from the collection of Mexico’s Museo Dolores Olmeda. It’s only on view through January 20, 2013, so find a way to get to Toronto soon. 
 
 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/27/12 at 12:00 PM
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Friday, September 28, 2012

Connecticut in Autumn, A Visit to Weir Farm in Wilton

Last Friday, I woke up early and drove to the outskirts of Danbury to Weir Farm National Historic Site. Along with the home of sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens in Cornish, New Hampshire, Weir Farm is the only other locale in the National Park System devoted to an artist. It was a perfect fall day and as soon as I turned off from Route 7 I was treated to a quintessential Connecticut landscape of rolling hills, old stone walls, and grand estates. Weir Farm was the former home, studio, barn, and gardens of J. Alden Weir, one of the fathers of American Impressionism. Head inside the Visitors Center and you’ll watch a short video on his life and see photos of the artist with his buddies, John Singer Sargent, Childe Hassam, and John Twachtman, who all loved coming out to the sprawling property for a day in the country. Take a walk around the grounds and down to the pond and you’ll instantly understand the allure. I toured the property with a park ranger and a group of art students from nearby Western Connecticut State University, who were going to spend the afternoon painting the scenery, still inspired by the landscape. Little has changed since the time of Weir. You can walk along the trails and see the exact spot where Weir painted many of his works. The stone walls, fields, and faded red barns are all the same. The only difference is that the trees have grown. 

 
I’m off to Nova Scotia next week, where I’ll be blogging on location. Have a great weekend!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/28/12 at 12:00 PM
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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Winslow Homer’s Studio Will Open to the Public in September

Winslow Homer’s still-standing studio on Prouts Neck, Maine will finally open to the public next month. It has been closed for renovations since 2006, when the Portland Museum of Art acquired the studio where Homer lived and painted many of his masterpieces from 1883 until his death. Several years ago, I wrote an article for Yankee Magazine about Homer’s years in Prouts Neck. You can reserve tickets to the studio through the Portland Museum of Art. To further celebrate the opening, the Portland Museum of Art will display 35 major oils and watercolors painted during Homer’s time at Prouts Neck in a show titled Weatherbeaten: Winslow Homer and Maine. The exhibition will run from September 22 to December 30, 2012. Stay at one of my favorite stopovers in southern Maine, the Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, a 15-minute drive from both Portland and Prouts Neck. The Inn by the Sea is featuring a "Seascapes Package" to coincide with the exhibition and studio opening. For $632, you receive two nights in a one-bedroom suite, two rum cocktails named for the artist, two tickets to the Weatherbeaten exhibition, a catalogue from the show, and full breakfast for two each morning. They can also help to arrange tours of the studio, which cost an additional $55 per person. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/22/12 at 12:00 PM
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Thursday, July 05, 2012

Surprising Buffalo

At the turn of last century, Buffalo had more millionaires per capita than any city in America. The combined wealth helped persuade Louis J. Sullivan, Frederick Law Olmsted, and Frank Lloyd Wright to come to town to create skyscrapers, parks, and estates. Then the city fell on hard times. But it seems like Buffalo is having the last laugh. Money is staring to pour in to salvage many of their architectural highlights. 
 
I was in Buffalo this past weekend, on assignment for The Boston Globe, and I had a great stay. Wright’s Darwin Martin House (1905), rivaled only by Fallingwater in scope and mastery among his residences, just completed a 10-year, $50 million renovation. This includes the renovation of a conservatory and carriage house, linked to the main house via a 100-foot long pergola. This was my third tour of a Wright house, include Taliesen West, and was by far the most impressive. 
 
On an open-air bus architectural tour, we also checked out the former Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane, a castle-like assemblage of 14 buildings designed by H.H. Richardson in the late 1800s. The gothic-looking towers have been rebranded the Richardson Olmsted complex and will soon become a boutique hotel and center for architecture. Other noteworthy stops include Louis J. Sullivan’s 13-story 1895 Guaranty Building, the first skyscraper in America, and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, considered one of the finest collections of modern art in the country.
 
The food was exceptional. On the first night we had inspired Polish fare at Bistro Europa, including pierogies and golabki, stuffed cabbage that would make my grandmother proud. The second night, we dined at the spanking new Mike A’s Steakhouse in a downtown building that was dormant the past 40 years. Saved by Buffalo’s favorite son, developer Rocco Termini, the circa-1904 Lafayette Hotel has reclaimed its French Renaissance and Art Deco glamour and is now a boutique hotel with a vintage bar. Dinner was exceptional, probably the best meal I had since dining at the acclaimed Next in Chicago last summer. Mike Andrzejewski is one of the city’s best loved chefs and he finally has a high-end restaurant that matches his talent. One taste of his wagyu beef tartare, spiced with pine nuts, capers, watercress, red onions, olive oil, truffled dijon mustard, and egg yolk, and you realize this dude’s destined for a James Beard Award. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/05/12 at 12:00 PM
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Monday, April 02, 2012

Vienna Celebrates the 150th Birthday of Klimt

Despite the flagging economy and increasing concern over Eurozone debt, Vienna’s tourism industry is booming. Overnight hotel stays in Austria’s capital city in 2011 reached 11.4 million, a 5% increase from 2010, which was already a record-breaking year. Increased traffic from Russia, Spain, and Switzerland spurred on the high numbers, but the US still remains a vital market. The numbers of travelers to Vienna should only increase in 2012, with the city hosting a 150th birthday party for artist Gustav Klimt. Ten Viennese museums are offering special exhibitions in 2012 to display the paintings, drawings, and designs by Klimt. First stop should be the Belvedere, which owns the world’s largest collection of paintings by Klimt, including The Kiss. A show at the Albertina will delve into Klimt’s versatility as an artist, displaying 170 of his drawings.

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/02/12 at 01:00 PM
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Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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