A Few Updates …

September 30, 2013

New images recently added to KOAR from the Filson Historical Society include portraits that relate to two blogs posted here earlier this year.

2013.2.8&9.
The life and work of William Kendrick (1810-1880), one of the first jewelers in the Louisville area, is part of “Bottoms Up!” which was posted on April 30, 2013, and can be directly linked at: https://kentuckyonlinearts.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/bottoms-up/ William met Maria Stroup Schwing (1814-1885), daughter of Louisville goldsmith and jeweler John Godfried Schwing, at a party when she was nine years old and he was approaching fifteen. They married seven years later on January 19, 1832, and had nine children. By the time of William’s death in 1880, he had become one of Louisville’s most prosperous and respected merchants. Their son William Carnes Kendrick (1852-after 1930) wrote Reminiscences of Old Louisville, a lengthy typescript account of the city that includes references to many local businesses and business owners, starting with a “Memoir to My Father, William Kendrick” and ending with the catastrophic “Recent Flood” that left Louisville under several feet of water for many weeks. It can be found at: https://speedweb.speedmuseum.org/pdfs/kendrick.pdf
This, along with many other publications, can also be found through the KOAR website at: http://www.koar.org/publications.htm

Louisville artist Carl Christian Brenner (1838-1888) is profiled in “Brrr, It’s Cold Outside …” which was posted on February 5, 2013, and can be directly linked at: https://kentuckyonlinearts.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/brrr-its-cold-outside/
2013.2.4Carl’s most iconic paintings are detailed landscapes of his favorite haunts: scenes from what is now Cherokee Park and along River Road in Louisville, Pewee Valley in Oldham County, and the hills just across the river in New Albany, Indiana. His favorite subject was beech trees. Brenner married Anna Glass (1843-1936), daughter of an eminent Louisville violinist, in 1864 and they had six children. Three sons inherited his artistic talent; Edward became an architect and Proctor Knott (named after Carl’s close friend, Kentucky governor James Proctor Knott) studied art before taking holy orders at St. Meinrad Abbey in Indiana. Carolus (1865-1924), who painted this portrait of his father, studied art in Germany and France before settling in Chicago. Several works by Carolus are also in KOAR and the Filson Historical Society has photographs taken by both Carolus and his brother Edward in its special collections. A catalogue of the J.B. Speed Memorial Museum’s 1947 exhibition “Kentucky Paintings by Carl Christian Brenner” can be found at: https://speedweb.speedmuseum.org/pdfs/brenner.pdf

The Filson Historical Society was founded in 1884 in Louisville, Kentucky. Named to honor Kentucky’s first historian, John Filson, it is the commonwealth’s oldest privately supported historical society. Their website is: http://filsonhistorical.org

.

KOAR images shown here (top to bottom):
    2013.2.8 William Kendrick
    2013.2.9 Maria Kendrick
    2013.2.4 Carl Brenner
.


A Civil War Prisoner’s Dream

December 31, 2012

A very Happy New Year to all! Now that Steven Spielberg’s new hit film Lincoln, based in part on historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, is out and we are nearly midway through the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, perhaps it is time to blog about the sculptor of another work featured in the KOAR image header (above), the marble bust of Abraham Lincoln.

Albert P. Henry was born in Versailles, Kentucky, on January 8, 1836. His parents moved to Princeton, in the Pennyrile region of western Kentucky, when he was young. Henry demonstrated an interest in art early 1940.39in life. According to information gathered in the 1920s from family members in Washington, D.C., and Kentucky, while still a boy Henry used a block of marble thrown from a steamboat to carve an ambitious group sculpture composed of an Indian girl holding a dove while a wolf creeps up to snatch the bird from her grasp; though crude, the proportion and perspective were said to be well expressed. Henry started his business career as a clerk in the Hillman Iron Works, where he occupied his leisure time by modeling small portrait busts and casting them in iron to be used as weights to keep doors open.

At the outbreak of the Civil War Henry, commissioned as a captain, joined the 15th Regiment, Kentucky Cavalry (Volunteer) organized in the fall of 1862 at Owensboro and mustered into United States service at Paducah on October 6. The Confederate Forts Henry and Donelson, which guarded the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers respectively, had fallen in February of that year to Ulysses S. Grant, supported by Andrew Foote’s Western Flotilla of four ironclads and three “timberclads”, opening Tennessee to Union invasion and occupation. After the leader of the 15th Kentucky Cavalry, Lieut. Col. Gabriel Netter, was killed in 1863 the command passed on to Henry, by now a lieutenant colonel.

Henry was captured at Spring Creek, Tennessee, on June 29, 1863, when his horse was shot from under him during a skirmish near Fort Henry. He was taken to Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia. It was primarily an 1940.1.41.1officer’s prison but by 1863 there were over 1,000 men crowded into large rooms on two floors with open, barred windows that left them exposed to weather and temperature extremes. The prisoners cooked their own sparse rations (beef, bacon, flour, beans, rice and vinegar) with inadequate fuel; there also was a shortage of clothing and blankets. In the Libby Chronicle, a newsletter written by inmates that summer, an ironic poem entitled “Castle Thunder“ voiced the humor that could be found even amid such harsh living conditions:

     We have eighteen kinds of food, though ‘twill stagger your belief,
     Because we have bread, beef and soup, then bread, soup and beef;
     Then we sep’rate around with ’bout twenty in a group,
     And thus we get beef, soup and bread, and beef, bread and soup;
     For dessert we obtain, though it costs us nary red,
     Soup, bread and beef, (count it well) and beef and soup and bread.

While confined in Libby Prison for nine months, Henry devoted much of his time to carving the bones of oxen, often used to obtain bone fat (by boiling fresh bones split open lengthways) for making soap. He managed to smuggle some of these carvings from the prison in a wooden box with a false bottom. Among them was a cup upon which he had carved The Prisoner’s Dream, showing on its lower portion the interior of a cell with an armed sentry at the door while the prisoner sleeps on the floor, using his boots for a pillow; above this is carved the tranquil scenes from his dreams. There is a black-and-white photographic print of Henry wearing his Civil War uniform in the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division; a digital image of this full-length standing portrait can be viewed online at: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2002714668/

After the close of the war Henry was appointed consul at Anconia, Italy. Before leaving the 1943.1.1LUnited States, however, he already had executed marble busts of Kentucky’s Senator Henry Clay and President Abraham Lincoln from life. Although comparatively unknown as a sculptor, Henry’s small bust of Senator Clay was acquired about 1865 by the Library Committee of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., for the Office of the Architect; it later was placed in the room of the Senate Committee for many years, then put on display in the Hall of the House of Representatives. The bust of Lincoln was located in the Custom House at Louisville; from there it was “Deposited by Citizens of Louisville” at the J.B. Speed Art Museum according to a 1949 exhibition catalogue, which can be found at:
    https://speedweb.speedmuseum.org/pdfs/portrait.pdf
(This is one of many publications available through the KOAR website, at:
    http://www.koar.org/publications.htm)

While in Italy Henry spent a considerable amount of 1930.54time in Florence, where he studied under sculptors Hiram Powers and Joel Tanner Hart. It was during this period abroad that his most ambitious work was done, an idealized bust of internationally acclaimed American singer and actress Genevieve Ward. She began her career as an operatic star in Milan and Paris but after losing her singing voice due to illness in 1862 had turned to acting. Ward was one of many engaging American women expatriates in England during the late Victorian and Edwardian periods between around 1870 and the end of World War I; they were educated, nearly all moneyed, and distinctive for being outsiders free from many of the social constraints that restricted English women of that time. Henry’s portrait bust of Genevieve 1952.13was a celebrated work of art in Louisville, displayed proudly in the reception room of the historic Galt House (illustrated here in a lithograph printed on a silk handkerchief) on the occasion Ulysses S. Grant’s official visit to Louisville in 1879.

On her 84th birthday on March 27, 1921, the year before her death, Genevieve Ward was created Dame Commander of the British Empire. Although born just a year earlier, by then Albert P. Henry had been gone nearly fifty years; he died on November 6, 1872, in Paris, Kentucky.


Kentucky Sideboard

November 4, 2012

Earlier this year, The Speed Museum purchased an extraordinary Kentucky-made sideboard. Its complex profile, richly figured veneers, precise inlays, and the exceptional quality of its craftsmanship place it among the most ambitious Kentucky sideboards to have survived from the early nineteenth century. It was made between about 1800 and 1815, probably in Lexington or its surrounding area.

It is not known who originally owned the sideboard. The previous owner, Robert Brewer, acquired it from Eleanor Hume Offutt, one of the most important early dealers of Kentucky antiques; she had opened Wilderness Trail Antiques in Frankfort in the late 1920s. He purchased the sideboard in 1951at the urging of his mother, Juliet Goddard Brewer, an influential early collector of Kentucky antiques and an outspoken advocate for preserving Kentucky’s architectural heritage. In this short video, Robert Brewer describes the unique circumstances surrounding his purchase on the day he shipped out for Navy service in the Korean War.

Sideboards have symbolized status throughout their history. In the Middle Ages, wealthy diners might sit to eat at a “side-board”, a type of table set along the side of a room. By the late seventeenth century, the “side-board” had evolved into a service piece, used to hold wine bottles, silver, dishes of food, and other items. The sideboard as we recognize it today, offering a combination of storage and display, developed in the eighteenth century. Within its drawers and compartments, owners stored textiles, silverwares, liquor, candles, and similar domestic goods until they were needed for use. Early nineteenth-century Kentucky: estate inventories and other documentary sources show that sideboards were often among the most expensive pieces of furniture one could own.

Inlay had become the preferred decorative treatment for fashionable American furniture in the late eighteenth century. The cost of inlaid furniture was considerably higher than for plain examples, so most furniture made in Kentucky in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries would have had little, if any, of the inlaid decoration affordable only for those who had the economic means to pay beyond the utility of an object. In Kentucky, regional differences in inlay styles and patterns evolved and today frequently assist in the identification of local schools of early Kentucky cabinetmaking. For example, though the form and inlay of this sideboard were influenced by Baltimore cabinetmaking practices, the decoration on its legs exhibits a distinctive bellflower and line pattern. Similar decoration has only been found on a few other Kentucky pieces, all of which most likely came from the same maker or shop. To date, the group includes The Speed’s sideboard, a pair of dining table ends, and possibly a blockfront card table.

Fortunately, Robert and Kathy Brewer treated this sideboard with great care for over sixty years. As a result, the sideboard remains relatively undisturbed. Preserving, analyzing, and understanding its layers of history became a team effort between furniture conservators, an analytical laboratory, and The Speed’s curators. Several months of conservation treatment and technical analysis included microscopic examinations of wood samples as well as x-ray fluorescence spectrometry and Fourier transform infrared microspectroscopy to analyze the compositions of different materials. Some of the discoveries?

  • The sideboard retains an old finish history comprised of shellac coatings. Shellac is made by dissolving in alcohol the resins secreted by particular types of insects, including the so-called lac beetle.
  • The wood used to make the inlay along the bottom edge of the sideboard is most likely eastern hophornbeam, a hard, heavy wood that grows in Kentucky but rarely seems to have been used by early Kentucky cabinetmakers.
  • Three of the “bone” shields around the keyholes are twentieth-century replacements made from celluloid, an early type of plastic.

During conservation, one of the celluloid shields was replaced with a new one made of bone; two celluloid examples still remain.


Early Louisville Racing and Edward Troye

June 24, 2012

Barely five years after Louisville was founded in 1778 by George Rogers Clark, horse races were being held on Market Street. By 1805 there was racing on Shippingport “Island,” which John James Audubon frequented in 1811-1812; he noted that horse racing was almost as interesting as watching birds.

After several unsuccessful attempts at organizing racetracks in Louisville, Oakland Race Course was established in 1832 on a fifty-five acre plot on the west and south sides of present day 7th Street and Magnolia Avenue. The clubhouse was celebrated as one of the most handsome sporting venues in the country, welcoming even ladies with a furnished room and private pavilion. The population of Louisville was approximately 20,000 citizens by then, only thirteen years after the death of Daniel Boone. An 1840 painting of Oakland House and Race Course, Louisville, by Robert Brammer and Augustus A. Von Smith, Sr., has also graced the KOAR webpage image header since we first went online in April 2006. (See our October 2011 blog for more on Edward Fisk’s portrait of Mary Daniel.) Brammer and Von Smith had a studio together in Louisville, upstairs on the south side of the 300 block of Main Street and later at Market and Sixth Streets, during 1840-1841. Since Brammer was a landscape painter, it is assumed that he painted the famous setting, while Von Smith contributed the many “miniatures” of horses, people, and carriages.

Oakland was struggling financially by 1839, when promoter and entrepreneur Yelverton C. Oliver arranged a match race offering a purse of $14,000. In those days racecourses were three to five miles long and there was no starting gate, which did not appear until the following century. Horses often ran in two to three races a day, and this match was for the best two out of three four-mile heats, winner take all. Two of the most famous horses of the era ran on September 30 in what became known as “the greatest
race west of the Alleghenies”: Wagner, foaled in Virginia in 1834, who had already established himself as the finest in Louisiana and Tennessee; and
Grey Eagle, foaled
a year later in Lexington, Kentucky, who had run the fastest two miles in the United States. This engraving of
Grey Eagle, after a painting by Edward Troye, was the Embellishment (frontispiece) for the American Turf Register of April 1843.

Edward Troye was a painter of race horses in Kentucky, Virginia, Ohio, and New York, being periodically active in Kentucky about 1834-1874. His portraits of renowned Early American thoroughbreds from 1832-1843 for the American Turf Register served as a marketing tool for both magazine and horseman throughout the country. They also are perhaps the only visual record of early foundation sires and mares in the United States. Troye traveled widely to sketch from life his legendary subjects, and his attention to the landscape and backgrounds behind the horses preserve a historical record of America at that time as well. This can be seen in his 1840 painting of Grey Eagle’s dam in Ophelia and Falcon, which shows in the distance Major H.T. Duncan’s Kentucky homestead, “Duncannon”, situated along Paris Pike on the outskirts of Lexington, Kentucky.

For that 1839 match an estimated 10,000 people (or more) were in attendance, including hundreds of racing enthusiasts who had made the long trek across the mountains from the Atlantic seaboard. As in the Brammer and Von Smith painting, outside the clubhouse fashionable belles were helped down from fine carriages by gentlemen in top hats and tails; among the noted aristocrats on this day was a contingent from Lexington, led by Henry Clay. Less famous fans who could not afford a seat in the stands perched up in the tall, graceful oak trees that gave the track its name, hoping to catch a glimpse of the race. Wagner won the first heat; in the second, just as it seemed Grey Eagle might have a chance to win, Wagner pulled ahead and won by a nose in a record 7:44, “best time ever south of the Potomac” according to the Louisville Daily Journal. Disappointed Kentucky fans demanded a rematch, which was agreed to be run just five days later, October 5, on the same course for a purse of $10,000. This time, Grey Eagle won the first heat by a length and Wagner won the second. Grey Eagle was leading down the stretch in the in the third heat, when either he broke down from the tremendous stress or possibly was bumped by Wagner; the injury prematurely ended his racing career.

Both horses became successful sires, “continuing” their matches through their offspring; in fact, Grey Eagle’s first colts started racing in 1843, the same year Troye’s portrait appeared in the American Turf Register. Cato, the famous slave jockey who had ridden Wagner, was given his freedom in exchange for the victories. And racing aficionados still consider this one of the high points of the sport in the United States. Many believe the publicity from the match races made Kentucky famous as the preeminent horse-racing state and that Louisville’s legendary Churchill Downs owes at least part of its fame to Oakland House and Race Course. However, Oakland itself suffered financial reverses in the late 1840s and was closed by the mid-1850s. It served as a staging point for Kentucky troops during the Mexican War and as a cavalry remount station for the Union Army during the Civil War. Eventually the area fell into serious disrepair and disrepute, becoming a refuge of shabby homes and gardens for society’s outcasts. At the turn of the century, Alice Hegan (Rice) dubbed the area “The Cabbage Patch” in her best-selling 1901 novel Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, a fictional name that has persisted to the present day.
.

Edward Troye’s portrait of undefeated American Eclipse, a direct descendant of the undefeated eighteenth century British racing champion Eclipse, after whom the annual American Thoroughbred horse racing awards is named, is on view at The Speed Art Museum until September 23, 2012.


Kentucky Historical Society: Paul Sawyier

February 26, 2012

Paul Sawyier remains one of the most popular artists in the Commonwealth, although his work is relatively unknown outside of the region.

Big Eddy

Perhaps this might change a bit with the recent addition to KOAR of more than 120 images from the Kentucky Historical Society’s collection of his works, including many of the impressionistic landscapes of Franklin County and nearby surroundings which have long been local favorites. Painting these mainly in watercolors, Sawyier sensitively captured ephemeral lighting effects and subtle color contrasts in his idyllic Kentucky scenes.

Winter in Kentucky

During his final years, however, Sawyier lived and worked in New York City and the Catskill Mountains. It is here that he began painting primarily in oils and produced what many consider his most mature work. While living with his sister in Brooklyn, he painted views of the many parks and waterways in the area. After moving to the Catskills, he concentrated on the mountains and neighboring villages. But he also worked from photographs of the old familiar settings in his home state, sending these paintings back to the faithful Kentucky patrons who had commissioned them.

Railroad in the Catskills

The Sawyier family home in Frankfort was located where the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History on the KHS campus now stands, with a historical marker honoring Paul Sawyier near its main entrance. Several of his paintings are being rotated through the KHS Great Revivals exhibition at the Old State Capitol if you would like to see them in person. (Images from Great Revivals are also in KOAR.)

And you can read more about Paul Sawyier in two exhibition catalogues on the KOAR Publications page, which has been expanded by the addition of more than sixty-five items.  First, click on this link: http://www.koar.org/publications.htm
Then select Individual Artists and Makers at the top of the page. Works are chronologically arranged by publication date. Scrolling down, you can find the catalogue for a 1940 exhibition at The Speed Art Museum, Paintings by Paul Sawyier, and Willard Rouse Jillson’s Paul Sawyier and His Paintings, which contains a more detailed account of the artist’s life and works written to accompany the 1965 centenary exhibition commemorating Sawyier’s birth.


Great Kentucky Antiques Given to Speed Art Museum

September 6, 2011

Even as the Speed Art Museum’s exhibition, Quilts from Kentucky and Beyond: The Bingham-Miller Family Collection was opening back in June (it closes on September 18), I was already working on the next big thing to hit the Speed:

Silhouette of Cassius Clay by William Henry Brown, 1845

The arrival of almost 120 pieces of nineteenth-century Kentucky furniture, silver, ceramics, textiles, paintings, and works on paper. This extraordinary trove of great Kentucky art was given to the Speed by Bob and Norma Noe. The Noes, both Kentucky natives, assembled the collection over the course of thirty years. Their generous gift makes the Speed’s Kentucky collection the best in the country.

Mason-Fleming-Lewis County, Kentucky, chest of drawers, 1795-1810

Over sixty highlights from the collection are now on view in the exhibition, Kentucky Antiques from the Noe Collection: A Gift to the Commonwealth. If you want to hear Bob Noe talk about his experiences as a collector, check out this and this.

To learn more about the Noes’ gift, read the whole press release.


Kentucky Quilts Are Coming!

May 5, 2011

On Sunday, June 19, the Speed Art Museum will open the exhibition Quilts from Kentucky and Beyond: The Bingham-Miller Family Collection. Drawn from an outstanding private collection, this exhibition of almost forty American quilts will include a selection of great Kentucky quilts dating from the antebellum era to the twentieth century. The exhibition will close on September 18. Watch for an update as we install the quilts next month!

Schoolhouse Quilt, about 1920. Kentucky