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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Marie Vassilieff

Pieta, Marie Vassilieff
Woman Sitting, 1910, Marie Vassilieff
Last spring (2015) when my wife and I were in Paris, we stayed at the Concorde Montparnasse Hotel. Had I done my homework better, I would have realized we were within walking distance of the Musee du Montparnasse, situated less than a half-mile away. Of course, had I done my homework, I would have also found that the museum had been closed for over a year. Thus I would have wasted time and my all-to-limited energy walking to a deserted, alley, overgrown with weeds only to be disappointed. I should point out that if you were to go online, even today, in search of information regarding this attraction, most sites mentioning fail to mention its closing. The museum, owned by the City of Paris, opened in 1996 and closed in 2013 having had financial difficulties during most of its existence. As Paris museums go (and there are a zillion of them), it wasn't much of an attraction. It was off the "beaten path" (way off), had no permanent collection, run by a couple aging artists on a very taut shoestring. It relied mostly on visitors attending special exhibitions. For six euros, you could have wondered about a mere 4,600 square feet dedicated to the Montparnasse art community's halcyon days from about 1900 through the 1930s. The building itself, was once the home of the Academie Vassilieff and it's founder, the Russian artist, Marie Vassilieff.

Quaint, picturesque, pure left-bank Paris...
but by Paris standards, not much of a museum.
By Paris standards around 1905, when Marie Vassilieff first visited the city, she was not much of an artist. Born in 1884, Marie grew up in a prosperous pre-revolution family native to the far western Russian city of Smolensk (almost in Poland). Her family wanted her to become a doctor. She wanted to become an artist. She studied first at the Imperial Academy of Art in St. Petersburg then, in 1910, moved permanently to Paris where she worked as a Russian newspaper correspondent while studying under Henri Matisse. She became a Cubist. Although there had been a few female Impressionists a generation before, Modern Art, Cubism, and all the other "isms" of the early 20th-century were solidly male bastions and even most of the men were struggling. As her Pieta (top) and her Woman Sitting (above, left) would indicate, she was painting under the influence of two men, Amedeo Modigliani, and Pablo Picasso (along with Georges Braque).

Besides painting, Marie Vassilieff also created sculptural dolls, often satirical in nature.
The Smoker (sometimes called The
Tipple), Marie Vassilieff.
Marie Vassilieff is not a part of art history because of her Cubist paintings. She was, at best, imitative and uninspired in that regard. However, unlike her male counterparts, Vassilieff never had to struggle to put food on her table as did her friend Modigliani, who painted her portrait (above-right). She had a "day job," a well-to-do family back in Russia, she made satirical dolls, and probably sold a painting or two from time to time. She also taught art at her academy, though there's no indication she was particularly overburdened with students. Marie Vassilieff is remembered, re-spected, and indeed, beloved for her atelier, which eventually developed into a canteen for struggling Montparnasse artists, where they could enjoy a plate of food, a glass of wine, and the good company of other artist for just a few cents. It wasn't quite what we Americans called a "soup kitchen" during the worst years of the Great Depression, but it wasn't all that far removed.

A sketch of a rather rowdy 1917 party at Vassilieff's canteen celebrating the return of Picasso's buddy, a wounded Georges Braque, from military service after WW I. Though Vassilieff is obviously no great draughtsman, several of the artist are identifiable.

In the Café, Marie Vassilieff
Free food (or virtually free) is always a great draw, especially for starving artists. Vassilieff's canteen drew such iconic modern artist as the aforementioned Picasso, Modigliani, Braque, and Matisse, but also Chaim Soutine, Fernand Leger, Juan Gris, Marc Chagall, and other lesser-known figures on the time. Vassilieff had been a nurse in the French Red Cross during the war. She saw how badly the financial situation had become for many of the artists of Paris who frequently had little or nothing to eat. In 1915, she opened the canteen that provided a full meal and a glass of wine for only a few centimes (cents). Vassilieff's painting, In the Café, (right) would appear to be a scene she knew well. During the war, she and her artist friends were able to avoid the curfew by registering the canteen as a private club. The story is told that in January 1917, Georges Braque came home from the war a wounded veteran. Marie Vassilieff and Max Jacob decided to organize a dinner for Braque and his wife. Among the guests was Alfredo Pina with his new companion, Beatrice Hastings, who had recently ended her two-year relationship with Amedeo Modigliani. Knowing Modigliani's penchant for causing a disturbance when he drank, and that he drank often, he was not invited. Word of the affair reached Modigliani. Uninvited, and very drunk, Modigliani showed up, looking for a fight. A scuffle ensued, a pistol appeared, and Marie Vassilieff, all five feet of her, pushed Modigliani downstairs while Pablo Picasso and another artist locked the door. Marie Vassilieff made what is now a very famous drawing (above) depicting the event. Modigliani is the male figure in the background.

The Musee du Montparnasse before the City of Paris closed it.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Franklin D. Roosevelt Portraits

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States,
Official White House portrait, 1947, Frank O. Salisbury.

The future president, age ten.
For a second day in a row, we find a former president's birthday. In this case it's Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United states. He was born on this date, January 30, 1882--134 years ago. He's often considered the third greatest President of all time after Washington and Lincoln. Born into a wealthy Hudson River Valley New York family, Roosevelt's paternal ancestors had become prosperous early on in New York real estate and trade. Much of his immediate family's wealth had been built by FDR's maternal grandfather, Warren Delano, Jr., in the China trade, including opium and tea. An only child, Franklin's mother, Sara was quite possessive of her son. His father was said to have been "remote," though others indicate James Roosevelt interacted with his son more than was typical at the time. From the age of two, his family took him on frequent trips to Europe, which helped their son become conversant in German and French. He learned to ride, shoot, row, play polo, lawn tennis, and took up golf in his teen years.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, National Portrait Gallery, 1945, Douglas Chandor.
In growing up, the boy attended an Episcopal boarding school in Massachusetts where 90% of the students were from families on the social register. He was strongly influenced by its headmaster, Endicott Peabody, who preached the duty of Christians to help the less fortunate. He urged his students to enter public service. Peabody remained a strong influence throughout FDR's life, officiating at his wedding and visiting Roosevelt as president. Peabody recalled Roosevelt as "a quiet, satisfactory boy of more than ordinary intelligence." Classmates described Roosevelt as "nice, but completely colorless." An average student, he stood out in being the only student Democrat, continuing the political tradition of his side of the Roosevelt family. Though many portraits have been painted of FDR over his lifetime, three stand apart. The official White House portrait (top) is by Frank O. Salisbury, and by far the lesser of the lot, notable mostly for the lack of eye contact (a rarity in presidential portraits), thus creating a thoughtful, though distant look in the president's face. The second, by Douglas Chandor (above) is by far the best, utilizing several "mini-portraits' of the president's hands. The drawing in the lower-left corner is a sketch of Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin at the 1945 Yalta Conference. It was originally intended as a preliminary drawing for a larger work, which was never completed because Stalin refused to pose for it (notice the artist's hand, holding a pencil, as if drawing the sketch).

Elizabeth Shoumatoff's portraits of FDR.
The third portrait of the three (above, left) consist of a preliminary watercolor portrait by Elizabeth Shoumatoff, a friend of Lucy Mercer Rutherford, who was a friend of the president. Shoumatoff was working on the portrait of the president around noon on April 12, 1945. Roosevelt was being served lunch when he said "I have a terrific pain in the back of my head." He then slumped forward in his chair, unconscious. The president's cardiologist, diagnosed a massive cerebral hemorrhage (stroke). Roosevelt never regained consciousness and died at 3:35 p.m. that day. Shoumatoff never finished the portrait. Today it hangs at Roosevelt's former health and relaxation retreat in Warm Springs, Georgia, known as the Little White House. Years later, Shoumatoff decided to finish the portrait in FDR's memory. She did a new painting based on her own memory (above, right). She changed the color of his tie from red to blue, but all other aspects are completely identical. The finished portrait also resides in the Legacy Exhibit in Warm Springs beside the original watercolor.

Chandor felt hands revealed a lot about his subjects' personality.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1937,
Donald Armand Luscomb
As sometimes happens, Douglas Chandor's portrait of Roosevelt gained him a commission to also paint First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. This portrait I saw in touring the White House some fifty years ago (back when all you had to do was line up at the East Wing gate). It hung in the main east-west hallway on the first floor at the time, and caught my eye in that I'd never before seen an artist include multiple painted sketches as part of a formal portrait. It was all the more remarkable in being such a attractive likeness of Mrs. Roosevelt, who, let's face it, was not the most photogenic First Lady to ever inhabit the premises. The portrait of FDR (below) by Jacob H. Perskie dates from 1941. Perskie was Roosevelt's official White House photographer who, apparently, was something of a painter as well. The painting now hangs in New York's Hall of Governors in Albany. The very unofficial portrait of Roosevelt (right) is by Donald Armand Luscomb, who entered it in a 1937 contest sponsored by the historic Spreckels Theatre in San Diego. It was exhibited briefly on the mezzanine balcony of the theatre and later displayed in the foyer of the Cabrillo Theater as a tribute to President Roosevelt.

Gubernatorial portrait, ca. 1941, Jacob H. Perskie
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C., lies next to the tidal basin about halfway between the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials. Congress voted for it in 1955, but it wasn't until twenty-three years later, in 1978 that the design was finally approved. However, the approval came with no appropriation, thus construction did not begin for another sixteen years, in 1994 (typical of Washington politics). The original design did not include an image of Roosevelt (a polio victim) in his wheelchair. The ensuing controversy ended only after the National Organization on Disability raised $1.65 million to add the now-famous bronze sculpture by Robert Graham of Roosevelt in his wheelchair (below).

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1998, Robert Graham.

Incidentally, this marks my 2,000th "Art Now and Then" blog posting.


Friday, January 29, 2016

William McKinley Portraits

A McKinley-Roosevelt reelection campaign poster dated July 12, 1900.
Today, January 29th, is the birthday of yet another American President--William McKinley Jr. born on this date in 1843. Our twenty-fifth president would have been 173 years old today. He was first elected in 1896, beginning his term on March 4th, 1897. He was reelected in 1900, along with his vice-presidential running mate, Theodore Roosevelt. The colorful broadside above boast of the successful for handling of the Spanish-American War, while contrasting Democratic rule (left) with Republican rule (right). The contrasts include a "Run on the banks" with a "Run to the banks." Almost exactly six months after his reelection the colorful campaign poster (above) was replaced with the devastating headlines (below). President William McKinley became the third American President to be assassinated.

From this time on, the Secret Service was in charge of presidential security.
As presidential portraits go, those of President William McKinley are a relatively lackluster lot painted by equally lackluster artists. His official White House portrait (below, left) portrays the president in a black suit over a dark brown background giving it the effect of a disembodied head and hands. Painted by the little-known Harriet Anderson Stubbs Murphy in 1902, after McKinley's death, the portrait is sometimes confused with a somewhat better painting by August Benziger (below, right), dating from 1897 now in the National Portrait Gallery. The President sat for this portrait over a period of several mornings, eventually deciding to dictate his correspondence while Benziger sketched away. Over the course of several sittings, the painter experienced the personality of the President, which is said to have come through in the final work.

    Official White House Portrait                                      National Portrait Gallery                
The National portrait gallery also possesses another portrait of McKinley, this one by Adolpho Muller-Ury (below, right)from 1901, which features the president in a standing, near-profile pose. One of the better portraits of McKinley is by an unknown artist (below, left) which pictures him sitting by his desk.

Both portraits were likely painted after the President's death.
There's nothing like an assassination to bring out the hungry portrait artists.
With the assassination of her husband Mrs. McKinley (below) lost much of her will to live. Although she managed to withstand the days between the shooting and the president's death, she could not bring herself to attend his funeral. Her health eroded as she withdrew to the safety of her home in Canton, Ohio. There, she was cared for by her younger sister. Ida Saxton McKinley survived the president by less than six years, dying on May 26, 1907. She was buried next to him and their two daughters in Canton's McKinley Memorial Mausoleum.

The Official White House portrait (right) with an undated portrait (left).
Another McKinley presidential portrait (now discontinued)

President McKinley's sculptural portrait on the
streets of Rapid City, South Dakota, 2008,
by Lee Leuning & Sherri Treeby.
He must have forgotten his cell phone.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Kiss

The Kiss, 1907, Gustav Klimt, the $135-million kiss.
The Kiss, 1908, Constantin Brancusi
When art people think of kissing, the probably don't immediately bring to mind Gustav Klimt or Auguste Rodin, but then again, the really arty among us maybe do eventually. It would be a toss-up as to which work of art comes to mind first, Rodin's erotic marble sculpture (below) or Klimt's gold leaf lovers (above), which legend contends he and his companion at the time, Emilie Flöge, modeled for. It that was the case, there must have been some photography involved or some rather unromantic solitary posing. Rodin certainly did not pose for his Kiss and it's uncertain whether he even used a model for the female figure. There's no record of it, in any case. By the way, Rodin carved two copies of the original and there exists some 319 bronze castings of the duo. Another carved version of The Kiss (left) by Constantin Brancusi (obviously a cubist) was created in 1908, some twenty years after Rodin's piece. It would appear marble kisses had come a long with in that interval.

The Kiss, 1889, Auguste Rodin. The top two are the most commonly photographed angles.
Of course, Rodin and Klimt were not the first nor last to depict the meeting of lips as a celebration of love. The Medieval painter, Giotto may have been one of the first and, shockingly, his kiss did not involve a man and a women. His kiss depicts, not love, but betrayal. He painted it around 1305 with the title, The Kiss of Judas (below) for the Scrovegni Chapel, in Padua, Italy. It's considered one of his greatest masterpieces.

The Kiss of Judas, 1304-06, Giotto
The Kiss, 1897-98,
Edvard Munch
Just about every famous painter since Giotto has painted his or her own version of The Kiss. Picasso painted at least two (below), one from the mid-1920s, the other, lesser known (and not without good reason), is undated. About the same time, Edvard Munch, while not "screaming" was apparently "kissing" as see in his woodcut print from around 1897-98 (right). Toulouse-Lautrec weighed in with his version of The Kiss (below, left) in 1893.
The Kiss, 1893, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Pablo Picasso finds The Kiss to be an abstract concept.
In the early 1940s, it's likely the most popular "kiss" was not painted on canvas but on the motion picture screen featuring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. It was "painted" by David O. Selznick and Victor Fleming, titled not "The Kiss" but Gone With The Wind (below) accompanied by Rhett Butler's words: "No, I don't think I will kiss you, though you need kissing, and often; and by someone who knows how." Though the scene below is the most iconic, as the dialogue suggests, the kiss itself didn't actually occur until more than an hour later in the film, after Rhett Butler had proposed marriage.

The 1939 kiss, painted by David O. Selznick and Victor Fleming in Gone With The Wind.
The Kiss, 1945, Alfred Eisenstaedt
Also during the 1940s, WW II entailed a great deal of kissing as servicemen left for Europe or the Pacific. However, the most famous kiss from the war came on VJ Day, August 14, 1945, set in New York's Times Square, when photographer Alfred Eisen-staedt captured an amorous sailor and a bystanding nurse in a lip-locked clinch to rival forever anything carved by Rodin or painted by Klimt. Notice the, no doubt, envious sailor and the elderly ladies in the background enjoying the historic moment. A little more than a decade later, a kiss took on a comic flavor as seen in Pop artist, Roy Lichtenstein's The Kiss (below) from 1962.

The Kiss, 1962, Roy Lichtenstein
For those wondering why I'm such an expert on kisses, I've painted a few during my own career too. My favorite was not titled "The Kiss" but could have been. I called it A Man for All Seasons (below), painted, as near as I can recall, about 1980. It depicts in a montage a single teenaged boy kissing each of his girlfriends over the course of a year. Perhaps, like Rodin, I should have made a number of copies. It sold within just a few weeks.

Copyright, Jim Lane
A Man for All Seasons, ca. 1980, Jim Lane


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Remedios Varo

Spiral Transit, 1962 Remedios Varo
It should come as no surprise to anyone that women have long been underrepresented in the visual arts. For centuries, that was true in virtually all professions except for those involving the kitchen, the hospital, the file room, or the classroom. Even in those venues the predominance of the female labor force has been a relatively recent phenomena, mostly in the past 150 years. Much of the more recent trends toward equality of the genders in the labor force has had to do with four factors, mechanization, education, economics, and motherhood. Mechanization reduced the male advantage as to upper body strength; co-education equalized a vast talent pool of untapped creative potential, economics had to do with the traditionally lower pay scale for women; while the decline in the birthrate during the past century (and an avalanche of timesaving home appliances) has freed up time for women to pursue previously male dominated careers in everything from military combat to presidential politics. Until the advent of the women's movement in the 1970, a gender imbalance was taken for granted in the visual art, as well.
Remedios Varo. The bottom-left photo features the artist's own faced
surrealistically juxtaposed with that of her first husband, artist Benjamin Peret.
Today however, the National Museum of Women in the Arts (who should know, if anyone does) claims that 51% of all artist are women. If statistical equality is the case, this balance has not come easily. It began with landscape painting, then spread to portraiture and abstract expressionism. According to my count, it likely came last to the Surrealist movement. I've counted more than ninety reasonably well-know Surrealists since the movement began in the early years of the 20th-century. There were only eleven women in the group (roughly 12%). Of course that figure does not represent the male-female ratio of working Surrealists today, but it does suggest at least one area of painting where the gender imbalance may remain. Among the better know women Surrealist were, Frida Kahlo, Dora Maar, Leonora Carrington, Kay Sage, Dorothea Tanning, and Remedios Varo. If you've never heard of the last artist, it's because I've not written about her...yet.

Allegory in Winter, 1948, Remedios Varo
Souls of Mountains,
1938, Remedios Varo
In virtually every instance in which a woman rose to prominence in the Surrealist movement it was due to their attaching themselves romantically to a more famous male artist. With Frida Kahlo, it was the Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera. Leonora Carrington and Dorothea Tanning both had Max Ernst (during different intervals). Kay Sage was married to Yves Tanguy. Dora Maar was the muse and mistress of Pablo Picasso for over a decade. In the case of Remedios Varo, she had three such mentors, her first husband, Gerardo Lizárraga, and a short time later, a second "husband" Benjamin Peret (without having divorced her first). Later, in Mexico, she married Walter Gruen, a wealthy Austrian refugee who managed her career late in life. Despite a rather prominent nose, she was a very attractive bigamist. Remedios Varo was of Spanish birth into an upper-middle-class family, her father, a hydraulic engineer, her mother, a devout Catholic who sent her only daughter off to convent school. Doing so served to provide her was a broad upbringing in the arts and literature but also a lifelong resentment toward religion and a stubborn determination to become an artist. Other than portraits of family members, Varo's earliest serious work dates from 1938 when she was thirty, titled Souls of the Mountains (above, left). Her Allegory in Winter (above) came some ten years later. In terms of color, they are similar. Otherwise, it looks as if she came a long way during those ten years.

                 The Alchemist,                                     Stellar Porridge                                  
           1955, Remedios Varo                            1958, Remedios Varo                           
Following her bouts with the convent nuns, Remedios Varo moved on to the San Fernando Fine Arts Academy in Madrid, which was also the alma mater of Salvador Dali, though she didn't met the aurrealist master until much later. In Madrid, Varo spent many long hours at the Prado where she fell in love with the work of Hieronymus Bosch and his Garden of Earthly Delights. He seems to have made quite an impression in that virtually every one of her paintings from then on plainly suggests his influence. In 1930, she married her first husband, a young painter named Gerardo Lizárraga (the one she later forgot to divorce). They immediately fled to Paris to escape Francisco Franco and the Spanish Civil War. There she met for the first time Andre Breton, Max Ernst, Leonora Carrington, and a number of lesser surrealists including the poet-painter Benjamin Peret with whom she shared a studio. She displayed her work for the first time in the 1938 International Surrealist exhibitions in Paris and Amsterdam.

Harmony, 1956, Remedios Varo (possibly a self-portrait)
The Flight, 1961, Remedios Varo
About the time the German's took Paris in June of 1940, Varo. along with Peret. managed to obtain the paperwork allowing her to once more flee a war, this time ending up in Mexico where she was to spend the rest of her life. For a time she worked eking out a living as a commercial artist before turning to painting full time some three years later. Even though Peret returned to Paris in 1947, Varo had plenty of company from the old Paris days, fellow refugees Gunther Gerzso, Kati Horna, José Horna, Wolfgang Paalen and Marc Chagall as well as major Mexican artists such a Kahlo and Rivera, all of whom helped her survive in an art world far more interested in murals than Surrealism. It wasn't until 1955 that she had the first exhibition of her Mexican works coming as a result of a new relationship with Austrian refugee Walter Gruen, who had endured Nazi concentration camps before escaping Europe. Gruen promoted Varo fiercely, giving her the economic and emotional support which allowed her to fully concentrate on her painting. Her work began to be well-received as Mexico opened up to new artistic trends. Buyers were put on waiting lists for her work. Her second showing came at the Salón de la Arte de Mujer in 1958. In 1960, her agent, Juan Martín, opened his own gallery where he featured her work, followed by a second gallery in 1962. Only a year after that opening, at the height of her career, Remedios Varo died of a heart attack. Today, her work is well-known in Mexico, but not so much throughout the rest of the world.

Still-life Reviving, 1963, Remedios Varo (her final painting)

Meeting, 1959, Remedios Varo


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Early American Interiors

George Washington slept here...often.

Washington slept here too, his
bedroom at Valley Forge.
Several years ago I covered Early American Painting. A month or so ago I wrote about American Colonial Interiors. At the time, I promised to make my way up through the history of the United States by visiting the outstanding homes from the various architectural periods involved. Today, we'll be looking at the period from the founding of our country in 1776 up through to the 1840s when the Gothic Revival style began to dominate both the outsides and insides of stylish American homes. While we might get by calling the interior décor of this period Early American, architecturally speaking it's called Classical Revival. And, as I noted in the opening paragraph in discussing the outside of such homes, it would be convenient if there were some kind of radical break between Colonial interiors and that which followed. Alas, there isn't. The Late Colonial interior became the Early American interior, but in name only. Other than that, the changes in tastes and design came very gradually. Add to that the fact that, as in architecture, geography played a part as well at least two, fairly distinct architectural styles--the Georgian and the Federal style. Georgian was named for England's King George III (and thus suggest colonial stylings). The fact is the Georgian style tended to be most popular after the Revolution, during the final years of the 1700s with the Federal style coming into play during the early decades of the 1800s. These two styles can be differentiated in terms of interior design, but the differences are subtle. In other words, it ain't easy.

Washington's Mount Vernon as seen today.
I guess it's only appropriate if we want to discuss post-colonial Early American interior decorating there's no better place to begin that with the father of our country and his estate, called Mount Vernon, on the Potomac River just south of the city named for him. Though the house had been in the family for a generation or two, it was during the Revolutionary War when it was enlarged, remodeled, and most importantly, redecorated to approximating what we see today in visiting the estate (above). And while we're at it, a few hundred miles inland, located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains just outside Charlottesville, Virginia, we find the equally authentic Early American home of Washington's Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, our third president. Designed and built (and later redesigned and rebuilt) by Jefferson himself, the interior of Monticello, as restored today, is that of a man as familiar with what went into his new home as with creating the house itself (below). Though they differ somewhat, reflecting each man's personality and tastes, both homes are the gold standard for what constitutes authentic Early American interior design.

Jefferson was something of a Francophile thus his home décor is somewhat
more French in flavor while Washington's Mount Vernon is more English.
Carter's Grove's Refusal Room.
Virginia also boasts yet another plantation estate of the same era as Mount Vernon just south of Williamsburg, Virginia, called Carter's Grove. Washington and Jefferson were both familiar with the estate, and especially two of the beautiful ladies who lived there. Each proposed marriage and both were turned down. The richly paneled, Early American drawing room where each future president met disappointment, has since come to be known as the "Refusal Room" (right).

When discussing the décor of Colonial era homes, I went from room to room. With Early American interiors there's little need for that beyond a quick peek into the distinctive tastes of our first and third presidents. An Early American kitchen, for instance, even in these grand houses, changed little in the hundred years from the colonial era through the Georgian and Federal periods. However, in the next hundred years, it changed drastically. Carter's Grove actually boasts two kitchens, the Early American "breakfast room" (below) and a "modern" one added during the 1920s. The estate was privately owned and occupied until the 1960s when it was opened for tourists. Later it became part of Colonial Williamsburg. Early American stairways (left) were a different matter. They became noticeably more ornate. It would appear that Washington may have modeled Mount Vernon's grand staircase (bottom-left) after that of Carters Grove (top-left).

The Carter's Grove "breakfast room" kitchen."
Early American styles gradually grew less
intricate as they became machine made.
No discourse on Early American interiors would be complete without a basic primer on the three major furniture styles prevalent during this period--Chippendale, Sheraton, and Federal (left). Georgian Chip-pendale was a late 18th century style ornately carved to reflect Rococo, English, Chinese, or Greek influences. The Sheraton style also dates from the late 18th-century and is often confused with Hepplewhite and other Georgian styles, but with straighter, more upright lines. Sheraton chairs often feature lyre-shaped backs and intricate inlays of veneers. The Federal style evolved in the early 19th-century displaying various interpretations of Georgian styles, Duncan Phyfe variations of the Sheraton style, as well as some French influences. In its heavier versions we see the English style Boston rocker and Hitchcock chair. Of lesser importance are Hepplewhite, Adam, Regency, and Shaker styles, which range from highly intricate to exceedingly plain in the case of Shaker items.

The American tendency to indulge in too much of a good thing.
I would also be remiss in discussing Early American furniture and decorating styles if I did not present a few examples of rooms which might be intended to reflect Early American authenticity but in fact, go way beyond anything Washington or Jefferson would have recognized (above). As a general rule, if it seems overstuffed and looks fairly comfortable, as with the couch and chair above, it's likely not authentically Early American. By the same token, if you visit the Blue Room, or the Green Room (but not the Red Room) in the White House (below), you'll be looking at a reasonably good sample of Early Americana décor.

Electrified Early American décor.

The Early American "bathroom" at Mount Vernon.
Washington relieved himself here.