Museums and Exhibitions in New York City and Vicinity
| Home | | Museum Guide | | International | | Architecture & Design | | Theater |


Glenn Loney
Caricature of Glenn Loney
by Sam Norkin.
CONTENTS, November 21, 1999
[01] ModernStarts at MoMA
[02] MoMA's People
[03] MoMA's Places
[04] MoMA's Things
[05] Velázquez in New York
[06] Salisbury Cathedral Reunion
[07] Watteau & His World at the Frick
[08] Clemente Retro at the Guggenheim
[09] Gulbenkian Treasures at Met
[10] New Acquisitions for Met's American Wing
[11] Met Wants Historic American Play Productions
[12] Rock Style at the Met
[13] 500 Years of Italians in New York
[14] Did Manhattan Cost $24?
[15] Godwin at Bard
[16] Maisner's Medieval MSS in Malibu
[17] Saved from Europe at St. Etienne
[18] Kristal-Nacht & Berlin Wall
[19] Johnson's "Fugitive Slaves" at BMA
[20] Modernism & BMA at Armory

You can use your browser's "find" function to skip to articles on any of these topics instead of scrolling down. Click the "FIND" button or drop down the "EDIT" menu and choose "FIND."
Copyright © 1999 Glenn Loney.

For editorial and commercial uses of the Glenn Loney INFOTOGRAPHY/ArtsArchive of international photo-images, contact THE EVERETT COLLECTION, 104 West 27th Street, NYC 10010. Phone: 212-255-8610/FAX: 212-255-8612.

For a selection of Glenn Loney's previous columns, click here.


Your indefatigable reporter, reviewer, and International Traveler is off to Paris for two weeks of art & architecture, as well as of theatre, opera, and dance.

Unfortunately—having just returned from two weeks in Ireland at the Dublin and Wexford Festivals—he hasn't had the leisure to write at length about the often wonderful new museum & gallery shows he's seen in New York between flights. The same is true of his reports on new productions of old plays and openings of new and more problematic dramas.

So this edition of Loney's Museum Notes can be little more than listings, illustrations, and brief comments.


New Ways of Looking at Modern Masters—

MoMA MODERNSTARTS/People--Malevich's "Woman with Water Pails."
Even an Albrecht Dürer drawing—or a Rembrandt portrait—was once upon a time a work of Modern Art. But people didn't think of artworks in quite that way then.

Sadly, over time, the New becomes the Old. Or, worse, the forgotten. The neglected.

And once owners or viewers have become all too used to seeing such works, they lose their immediacy, their vitality, even their power to provoke thought and arouse emotion.

Passing the Century and the Millennium marks, what is a Museum of Modern Art to do? Change its name: Museum of Modern Art & Past Masters of the Last Century?

Or should it start out with a clean slate—a tabula rasa—by giving all its old stuff to the Metropolitan Museum's archival heaven?

That would, of course, leave MoMA with empty galleries—at least for the first six months of the New Millennium.

There are literally thousands of artists out there, waiting for the opportunity to fill entire walls at MoMA and the Whitney with their innovative visions of the Present and the Future.

Many MoMA regulars—who make ritual tours of the Permanent Collections when they visit—may have stopped really looking at, and thinking about, the paintings and sculptures.

MoMA's curators are aware of this. So they have devised a trio of Millennial Exhibitions which invite viewers to take a new look at old Modern Art. Most of the works are from 1888 to 1920, with some later items for contrast.

All three shows present artworks and objects from the permanent collections in a new light. And in different relationships to each other.

Instead of traditional gallery arrangements dictated by Chronologies, Styles, Mediums, Movements, or Schools, the new MoMA perspectives are quite refreshing.

Paintings, drawings, and sculptures are shown in relation to each other, as the various artists' views of a basic theme, subject, form, or object. Similarities in subject are often stressed. But contrasts in treatment are also juxtaposed.

The result—as a number of art-critics have noted—is that one sees familiar and much-admired paintings as if for the first time, especially when contrasted with a similar object or composition by a quite different talent.

Because all the artworks on view on the first, second, and third floor galleries are from MoMA's own considerable holdings, some striking works are on display for the first time in years. If ever.

A number of powerful graphics by Edvard Münch, for example, prove quite surprising. One or two were to me entirely new. I had not seen them on display before, not even in the Münch Museum in Oslo.

Thus, MoMA reclaims the Mantle of Modernity for itself and for its older masterpieces.


[Closing February 1, 2000]
MoMA MODERNSTARTS/People--Signac's "Portrait of Félix Fénéon."
Aspects of Figural Art are shown in the extensive Second Floor Galleries. There are some 320 artworks on view, arranged in eight installations.

The point is made, visually, that even with the development of abstraction, the human figure remained a central subject.

Composition and figural language are two major themes explored in this section.

Among the special installations are: Language of the Body, Composing with the Figure, Composing the Figure [note the difference!], Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, and Posed To Unposed—Encounters with the Camera.

There is also a special area devoted to Actors, Dancers, and Bathers. You can easily imagine which famous works are on view here.

In one small room, the wild and often colorful fantasies of James Ensor and José Guadalupe Posada provide strong, interesting contrasts. Posada's festive skeletons—decked out in sombreros and huge señoras' hats—have a certain resonance with some of Ensor's carnivalistic creatures.

The outside wall of the gallery is decorated with a Sol LeWitt abstract mural, inspired by Eadweard Muybridge's sequential photographs of a man running.


[Closing March 14, 2000] The press-kit for this section of MODERNSTARTS features a powerful photo of the Eiffel Tower under construction, with the girders and trusses reaching only to the second platform. This archival treasure was taken in 1888 by H. Blanchard.

There's also an awesome panoramic photo of San Francisco in flames, immediately after the Quake of April 1906. This caught my eye at once as I have a panoramic color-lithograph of exactly this scene, published in May 1906.

[I found it years ago in London in the Friday Caledonia Market. In one stall, a woman was selling this view in an oak frame. Actually, she had no idea of the rarity of the lithograph. She thought the frame was the real selling-point. I paid her £10, removed the panorama, and gave the frame back to her for resale.]

Today, none of these older photos—including the motion-studies of Muybridge—looks remotely Modern. But then, this is entirely a matter of perspective.

MoMA MODERNSTARTS/Places--De Chirico's "Evil Genius of a King."
It's interesting to note that some very special modern artists are represented in all three of the major divisions of MODERNSTARTS. Picasso, of course. But also Giorgio de Chirico—whose haunting and symbolic canvases conjure up all sorts of imaginings.

[When I was at UC/Berkeley half a century ago, my friend the late novelist David Stacton was so smitten with his work that he wrote a special essay on "The Empty Colonnade of De Chirico."]

Places occupies most of the Third Floor gallery-space. Its special—and odd—divisions include: Unreal City, Seasons and Moments, Rise of the Modern World, and Hector Guimard and the Art Nouveau Interior.

And there's also "Landscape as Retreat: Gauguin to Nolde." Not to overlook the catch-all for the extensive MoMA holdings in modern French art: "Changing Visions: French Landscape, 1880-1920."

A special point is made in this section about artists' views of the land, the countryside, as urbanization increased.

Often, landscapes were perceived from urban points of view. For city-dwellers, used to cramped apartments, the rolling green hills and wide-open vistas of meadow frequently looked like a kind of paradise.

The farmer toiling on the land—had he any free time and talent—might have painted his potato-field with quite different colors, composition, and brush-stsrokes.

From the fictional fantasies of Jules Verne to the painterly visions of the Italian Futurists, the World of the Future has continued to excite the imaginations of modern artists—as well as those of commercial illustrators and cartoonists.

So the Unreal City section is especially interesting in its displays of inventive—and occasionally horrifying—artworks.

The vegetative and floral fantasies of Hector Guimard's version of Art Nouveau provide striking contrasts to the visions of most modern architects and designers.

His Paris Metro entrance sculpture has been restored at MoMA for this show. And there's an entire room of his designs.

[I write this hours before departing for Paris. Guimard's Castel Bérenger is high on my list of subjects for photography. Last summer, Munich's Villa Stuck Museum had a special exhibition of his designs for the Castel.]


Closing March 14, 2000]
MoMA MODERNSTARTS/Things--Frank Lloyd Wright's window for the Coonley Playhouse.
On the ground floor, THINGS suffers from a lack of space—much of which is taken up by the lobby and coat-checking.

One area is devoted to artworks depicting—in various degrees of Cubist Deconstruction—The Guitar. You can guess whose canvases, collages, and constructions are on view there.

As a concession to the arts of modern design, objects made for practical and decorative uses are displayed in a rather small glass case. They stand in strong contrast to some of the paintings depicting similar items.

It is interesting to note that about the same time Guimard was twining his vines in decadent Paris, in Vienna, Josef Hoffmann and Kolo Moser were designing flatware, ceramics, and containers which still look cutting-edge Modern.

This section itself looks incomplete, under-designed. It was probably the space-problem, for MoMA certainly has a remarkable collection of modern furniture, appliances, and other objects.


Because the chief charm of the Frick Mansion is not only its lavish interiors but also the particular placement of Henry Clay Frick's beloved artworks, a major show of Old Masters from other museums in its Long Gallery is quite out of the question.

But New York museums which are in decorative stasis over time lose repeat-visitors. Today, it really is necessary to have special exhibitions from time to time to keep old friends coming back.

When I moved to a handsome building across the street from the Frick years ago, I planned to visit once a week, if not more. To sit in its Garden Court. To attend lectures and concerts. Even to admire the Old Masters, which I had already seen many times.

Curiously, there were entire years in which I made it to the Met, SFMoMA, the Victoria & Albert, and the Alte Pinakothek—but never crossed the street to the Frick.

Until recently, I went only to take friends visiting from Europe. The Frick is very high on the Must-See lists of many tourists.

Now that the Frick has an attractive basement suite of exhibition rooms—intimate but adequate—I'm a regular visitor.

But even upstairs on the main floor of this grand mansion, there are spaces where a huge canvas can temporarily give way to some smaller ones.

Velázquez in New York

[Closing January 16, 2000]
BAD HAIR DAY--Velázquez's portrait of the Infanta Maria Teresa.
It's the 450th anniversary of the birth of one of Spain's greatest painters, Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez. One of his birthday presents is a special show at the Frick Collection.

This impressive installation is in the oval chamber between the Long Gallery and the rectangular room. There are only four slightly curving walls available for hanging.

Three large Velázquez portraits command three of these spaces, with the fourth reserved for three smaller but important works.

All are from New York collections. From the Frick itself, the Met, and the Hispanic Society of America.

They include the Met's portrait of the painter's slave and assistant, Juan de Pareja, freed in the year of the portrait.

Also from the Met is the small but powerful portrait of the head of the Infanta María Teresa, later Queen of France. She was definitely having a Bad Hair Day when painted.

The unfortunate girl suffered—as did the Frick's King Philip IV—from the congenitally ugly Spanish Habsburg chin, mouth, nose, and eyes. What plastic surgery—or gene therapy—might have done for these austere and cruel rulers!

For those who do not know the Hispanic Society of America, it's time to make a visit to its Beaux Arts palace on Audubon Terrace, at 155th Street and Broadway. It has a remarkable collection of paintings by Goya, El Greco, Zurbarán, Murillo, Velázquez, and other celebrated Spanish artists.

Founded in 1904 for the exhibition of the arts and culture of the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America, the museum and research library also have extensive collections of art objects, decorative arts, drawings, and references from the Spanish Renaissance through the Baroque Era.

The Frick exhibition is accompanied by a handsome publication: Velásquez in New York Museums. It is a matter of some pride that so many of this master's works are in Manhattan.

[In the 1940s at UC/Berkeley, students studying reference-books in the immense Long Reading Room of the Charles Franklin Doe Memorial Library could look upward at ranks of huge portraits of the Kings and Grandees of Spain, all copied from Velázquez. Where are they now—the paintings, not the Spaniards?]

Salisbury Cathedral Reunion

[Closing December 31]
CATHEDRAL VIEW--One version of Constable's masterpiece at the Frick.
Recently the Frick brought together separate bullfight paintings, cut from a much-criticized Manet Salon original. One of the works is in its permanent collection.

Now the Frick has moved its handsome oil of Salisbury Cathedral from its customary commanding position at the end of Mr. Frick's Long Library to one side of the majestic fireplace.

On the other side is John Constable's full-scale oil-study for the finished work. This canvas is on loan from the Metropolitan Museum. It is interesting to note the changes Constable made from his first inspiration to his final vision.

Watteau and His World

[Closing January 9, 2000] In the two small galleries, the round foyer, and the two passages beneath the Frick's main floor, there is a feast of French drawings on view.

They span the first half of the 18th century, with an emphasis on faces, bodies, and gestures, rather than on clothed elegance.

In his paintings, Watteau's delicate attention to the details of ladies' luxurious gowns made him especially admired. His portrayal of gowns and surcoats with long flowing lines from the collar gave the name to the Watteau-Sac.

Despite the studied grace and stylized refinement of finished paintings by Antoine Watteau and his colleagues, these sketches show a more immediate humanity. People rather than Poseurs.

Among other artists in this show are François Boucher, Françoise Lemoyne, Claude Gillot, Jean-Etienne Liotard, Nicolas Lancret, and Charles Natoire. The "Usual Suspects" in this period.

Clemente at the Guggenheim

[Closing January 9, 2000] Francesco Clemente is the youngest artist to have a Guggenheim Retrospective. The colorful, symbolic, and often provocative paintings, watercolors, pastels, and illustrations on view date only from 1970.

Those who find large-scale and garish evocations of male and female genitals offensive, obscene, or disorienting should avoid this lively show.

These images are obviously not intended to offend. If anything, they seem a celebration of sexuality. Or a suggestion of its mystery.

In "Conversion to Her," Clemente's sexual symbols relate to the idea of metamorphosis.

There are eight sections to the show, which is teeming with symbols, many as hermetic as those of Keith Haring.

"Amulets and Prayers," for example, concentrates on symbols such as signs, numbers, the five-senses, and the elements.

To suggest "The Four Corners," Clemente shows a human hand rising from primordial muck, against a starry sky. The fingers are extended, the thumb folded across the palm. Over this surface is painted a map of the world.

Ecological concerns are painted on human faces in "Contemplation." A detail shows cherubs—or erotes—playing with human Body-Parts.

Clemente has even provided his version of the Stations of the Cross. "Bestiary" suggests equal value for all forms of life—including spirits.

Treasures on Display at the Met Museum:

Masterpieces from Lisbon's Gulbenkian Museum

[Closing February 27, 2000]
TWO SPHINXES--Oil Magnate & Art-Collector Gulbenkian and Oracle.
Across the plaza from Lisbon's historic plattoresque Jeronimo Monastery, the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum is undergoing some structural and cosmetic repairs.

That is the immediate reason that so many valuable treasures from that famed collection are now on view at the Metropolitan. But this welcome visit from Portugal can also be seen as a friendly invitation to visit Lisbon and enjoy these works—and many other masterpieces—in their customary setting.

Not far away, you can see the immense marble monument to Prince Henry the Navigator. He's the reason Portugal was able to make itself a great sea-power. And a major Colonial power, enriched with gold and silver from Africa, the Orient, and the New World.

Gulbenkian—known as "Mr. Five-Percent"—made his money developing oil in the Middle East. But he used his immense income not only to amass his art treasures, but also to fund many deserving arts organizations.

At the Met, there are marvels of Islamic Art, as well as Pharaonic fragments, and Old Masters. One of the most lovely of these is Rubens' portrait of Helena Fourment.

Rivaling that in beauty is Gainsborough's vision of Mrs. Lowndes-Stone.

Resonating with the Frick's current Watteau show are the Gulbenkian's own Watteau, Fragonard, and Lancret.

I have a special fondness for several items of table-silver. Notably a pair of mustard-barrels and some salt-cellars which represent the process of heating saline-waters to free the salt.

That these and other works—such as the immense silver centerpiece Catherine the Great commissioned—feature chubby little naked cherubs suggests that Kiddie Porn was already rife in the Rococo Era.

Celebrating the American Wing's 75th Year:

Notable Acquisitions 1980-1999

[Closing November 12, 2000]
TARGET PRACTICE--Diana and facade of the Met's American Wing.
There are tiny tags on all artworks, objects, and furniture in the American Wing which are new since 1980. Some are already old friends to regular visitors.

One I especially admire is the glass-cased exhibit of a Tiffany lampshade in the process of construction. Over an inverted bowl-shape of hardwood, there's a paper cartoon of richly colored leaves and flowers. The hardwood can withstand the heat of soldering as pine cannot.

Over the stiff and heat-resistant paper, there is a section of newly soldered pieces of glass, forming the designs of the cartoon.

Also on hand are bits and pieces of Tiffany glass, soldering-iron, copper-strips for framing the glass before soldering, and other tools of the trade.

This is in a corner of the densely packed Henry Luce II Center for the Study of American Art.

In many older museums, the study collections are crowded into some basement rooms, with furniture stacked to the ceilings.

At the Luce Center, all objects are neatly arranged in glass-cases on pegs or shelves. In this way, hundreds of different items can be studied—if not individually displayed for visitors—in close association with similar objects, styles, and materials.

The New-York Historical Society will soon have a similar center, also funded by Henry Luce III, who named the Met's Center in honor of his father, the publisher of Time, LIFE, and Fortune.

Amidst the wonderful Period Rooms of the American Wing is the great oval chamber adorned with Vanderlyn's fabulous Panorama of the Gardens of Versailles.

This room is favored for galas, and it's easy to see why. Not only is it spacious, but Vanderlyn's 360° vista of the Palace of Versailles and its gardens is both noble and breathtaking.

In its own time—when Panoramas were the IMAXs of the day—this would have been shown in an elevated rotunda, lit from above by natural light, and assisted by gaslight.

Viewers would climb stairs from below to stand on a platform in the center of the surrounding vista—as if suspended in space.

Given its severe space-limitations, there's no way the Vanderlyn can ever be shown now as its creator intended.

But wouldn't it be a Great Idea to erect a temporary Panorama Theatre outside in Central Park to show how such expositions of cities, battles, and landscapes delighted another age?

The celebrated American painter and theatre-artist, William Dunlap—"The Father of the American Theatre"—even wrote a play, "The Trip To Niagara," to accompany his Panorama of a journey up the Hudson to the famous Falls.

To celebrate the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the tumultuous construction renewals at Potsdamer Platz and other blighted DDR areas of the once divided city, recently three temporary Panorama Rotundas were built to show how the New Berlin will look.

How about a contemporary Panorama of New York City? Or even of Museum Mile!


New Professional Productions
Of Ante-Bellum American Plays

At the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a 75th Anniversary Celebration is in progress.

And, for the new Millennium, the Wing's curators are currently preparing a very special salute to American Arts in New York City before the Civil War.

The show will be titled: ART & THE EMPIRE CITY: New York, 1825-1861. Its dates are set for 19 September 2000 through 7 January 2001.

This is to be a very wide-ranging show, including the performing arts of that tumultuous period of metropolitan growth and change.

Recently, admiring new acquisitions to the considerable collections of the American Wing, I was told about the forthcoming exhibition. I thought it might be an interesting enrichment to the show if actual performances of popular period plays could be included.

The show's curators had anticipated my thought. Lectures, films, and workshops are always programmed to enhance appreciation of the Met's major exhibitions.

But there is no budgetary provision for a revival of, say, Anna Cora Mowatt Ritchie's "Fashion," a wonderful mid-century comedy of Manhattan Manners. And the Met's Grace Rainey Rodgers Auditorium isn't really suitable for mounting a play. It is also so fully scheduled, there's no possibility of a two or three-weeks' showcase run.

So any Manhattan-based theatre-ensembles interested in joining the Met in this show and celebration of Old New York will have to use their own stages and budgets.

Still, there's the considerable advantage of exposure to a much wider—and knowledgeable—public by being mentioned in Met Museum publicity and program-listings!

It may already be too late for theatre groups who have set their repertories for next season. But for those with some flexibility—and an interest in American plays of the mid-19th century—this could be an interesting challenge and adventure.

For more information about exhibition dates—and possible inclusion in the show's programs—contact: Ms. Catherine Hoover Voorsanger, Assoc. Curator of American Decorative Arts, American Wing, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York 10028. hone: 212-650-2615.

Here are some of the most popular American plays of that era:

METAMORA, Or The Last of the Wampanoags [1829]


THE DRUNKARD, Or The Fallen Saved [1844]

FASHION [1845]


PO-CA-HON-TAS, Or The Gentle Savage [1855]


Jonathan Bank's Mint Theatre has already revived "Uncle Tom's Cabin." As George L. Aiken's dramatization of Harriet Beecher Stowe's historic novel was already a travesty, the revival proved more of a curiosity than a revelation.

But Bank and his Mint staged an excellent revival of my edition of the virtually lost and previously unpublished manuscript versions of The House of Mirth," by Edith Wharton and Clyde Fitch. So I applaud their efforts in exploring America's forgotten dramas and comedies.

Rock Style

[Closing March 19, 2000] This probably trendy show hasn't opened at this writing. But it will when I am away, so readers should be ready to slip on their Nikes and run over to the Met's Costume Institute.

Mick Jagger—in an Ossie Clark sequined jumpsuit—is shown jumping on the cover of the Press Invitation.

The show is sponsored by Tommy Hilfiger, so it's sure to be suitably contemporary. And, it's to be hoped, outrageous as well.

At the New-York Historical Society:

The Italians of New York

[Closing February 20, 2000] Here's a photo of Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia reading the Daily News. This time it's not the comics—which he read over Station WNYC for kiddies during a newspaper-strike. No, he's interested in his re-election victory: by a 3-to-2 vote.

The current exhibition of Italian-Americans' contributions to the life and culture of the City of New York is impressive in its attention to such details of daily life: political, social, familial, and economic.

The largely documentary show spans 500 years, beginning with the courageous Italian explorer Giovanni di Verrazzano and closing with the art-critic & public moralist Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Verrazzano ultimately gave his name to a very big bridge, spanning the Narrows also named after him. But he didn't decide to settle here, so he doesn't really count as an immigrant involved in what this exhibition sub-titles as: "Five Centuries of Struggle and Achievement."

The epic tides of 19th century Italian immigrants—seeking new lives and new opportunities, inside the "Golden Door"—is richly documented in this show. There are even sample steerage bunks for viewers to test the rigors of the Trans-Atlantic passage.

Studying the many aspects of Italian-American achievement in the city should fill many descendants and contemporaries of people featured in this show with pride.

Even in recent years, some Italian-Americans have complained of a feeling of being looked down upon by others. Or of being virtual Outsiders.

This has partly been the result of living together in all-Italian districts, of speaking Italian or its provincial dialects at home, and fiercely preserving social and religious customs from the Old Country.

Aspects of these areas of interest are featured in the exhibition. It was easier for the Italians' co-religionists, the Irish. Initially, they were also shunned and mocked, but they at least spoke a form of English at home.

Even the brief flirtation with Mussolini and Fascism by some leading New York Italians is not kept in the closet. The great reception for Italy's Air Marshall Italo Balbo—who bombed Native Africans so Italy could seize their lands—gets its share of attention.

DEAD IN THE DAILY NEWS--Photos of Sacco & Vanzetti.
Apparent injustice against Italian-Americans is noted in items relating to the sensational trial of Sacco and Vanzetti. But there isn't much mention of the role of the Mafia in New York life.

That could be a sop to those more patrician Northern Italians who think Italy stops 30 miles south of Rome.

This show could have been more visual fun if it were decked out like an Italian Street Carnival: a recreation of the Festival of San Gennaro perhaps?

The Legendary Deal for Manhattan:
Did It Really Cost Only $24 in Beads?

[Closing March 9, 2000] The persistence of the belief that the Dutch bought the Island of Manhattan for the bargain-basement price of $24 is astonishing. It has survived—almost without challenge—for 350 years in the American popular imagination and in local folklore.

Currently at the New-York Historical Society, there is a very intriguing and attractively designed examination of this myth and its origins.

Using three-dimensional constructions—as well as historical artifacts, documents, maps, and prints—this exhibition also makes an important point about the radically different ideas about ownership of land held by the Native Americans and the early Dutch fur-traders and settlers.

For almost all Indian Tribes across America, the land was a gift from the Great Spirit for the use of all. Groups of Indians camped, hunted, fished, and even farmed in an area—and later moved on, replaced by others.

There were no fences, no boundaries, no property-lines, and certainly no deeds or titles of ownership.

For Indian Chieftains—often mistakenly welcoming the White Man—verbal or written agreements only affirmed that a group of people was welcome to live for a time in a certain area.

The Dutch fur-traders, on the other hand, regarded such treaties a binding transfers of ownership. They had no intention of moving on when the hunting and fishing were exhausted.

In fact, the Dutch West India Company needed the Town & Port of Nieuw Amsterdam as a permanent settlement from which to ship their beaver furs and hardwood to Europe from their many posts along the Hudson River.

But, if there were no dollars back in 1626, how did the story about a $24 price get started? Is there any historical record of this amazing transaction?

Yes, there is indeed. But it didn't turn up until centuries later. It was found by chance in the Royal Archives of the Netherlands.

And it's now on loan from The Hague, and on view on Central Park West.

This is Pieter Schagen's letter certifying the arrival of a cargo-laden ship from the New World in Amsterdam. It's addressed to the Governors of the Dutch West India Company, dated November 5, 1626.

In addition to listing 7246 beaver skins, 675 mink skins, 36 wild-cat skins, and 34 rat skins, Schagen noted, in part: "They [Dutch traders] have bought the island of Manhattes [sic] from the wildmen for the value of sixty guilders."

Peter Minuit struck a very good deal with the trusting Native American Lenape Indians. Did they get real Dutch guilders, or only glass beads?

See this show and find out! You will also discover what became of the Lenapes, forced off their lands by waves of white immigrants.

Also on currently view at the Historical Society are "Masterworks of 19th Century American Painting," the treasures of the Luman Reed Gallery, and "Kid City." This is a lower-level recreation of a turn-of-the-century street on the Upper West Side.

Not to be missed as well is "Glimmers of the Past," a gleaming collection of ornate Presentation Silver from the Society's vaults.

Today, it seems incredible that such immense and elaborate Loving Cups, Punch Bowls, and Trophies would have been customary gifts to honor civic services, retirements, and distinguished achievements.

But the tradition continues with such awards as the America's Cup and various horse-racing trophies.

At the Bard Graduate Center:

E. W. Godwin:

Aesthetic Movement Architect & Designer

[Closing February 27, 2000] Some of E. W. Godwin's furniture designs display a clarity of line and a dedication to functionality which rival those of Glasgow's Charles Rennie MacIntosh. And well before the innovative Scots Modernist began attracting critical attention.

GODWIN'S LITTLE APPLES--"Aesthetic Movement" wallpaper pattern.
Godwin, however, was infatuated with delicate and detailed designs, whether in building facades or in fabrics and wallpapers. His interest in reviving medieval Gothic motifs—as well as including ideas from the Orient and Middle East—led to a fantastic kind of eclectic Historicism.

Some might say: "Victoriana at its worst and most overdone." You would not want to dust some of Godwin's interiors or fancier pieces of furniture.

Nonetheless, he did have a tremendous influence over design and taste in his time as a prophet-practitioner of the so-called "Aesthetic Movement."

As with early English Arts & Crafts designers—and later Modernists such as Hoffmann and Moser in Vienna—Godwin insisted on the finest design, the finest of materials, and the finest of workmanship.

And, like these others, he hoped to extend this taste for beauty and excellence to quite ordinary people. To make their often shabby lives a bit more endurable, even enjoyable.

The rocks upon which such Good Ship-Good Intentions always run aground are the prohibitive cost of such arts & crafts—only the wealthy can really afford them—and the sullen resistance of the workers to the finer things.

You can make your own judgments about Godwin's dreams, intentions, and achievements from the sketches, photographs, and actual objects in this compact but complex show.

Especially interesting are the drawings and other documents in a room reserved for Godwin's work in the British Theatre. He had a considerable career as a designer, director, and producer.

His ideas, dicta, and designs also had great influence on leading actors and directors of his day. That they are totally out-of-step with modern concepts of theatre don't make them less interesting. Or his drawings less impressive.

Godwin's problem was his insistence on Historical Accuracy in costumes, settings, and stage-movement.

His emphasis on Historicism was, he believed, essential to prevent audiences from receiving false or distorted ideas of what people in past periods wore, where they lived, how they behaved, and even what they ate.

For Godwin, a night at the theatre was similar to a visit to a museum or reference-library. He thought people should go to the playhouse—not to be entertained—but to be informed and educated.

Oscar Wilde was a highly visible and flamboyant apostle of the Aesthetic Movement. He greatly admired Godwin's work and his artistic precepts.

But just imagine Oscar handing out Final Exams after the final curtain of "The Importance of Being Earnest." Not the elegant Wilde style at all.

Godwin also influenced the Modern Theatre indirectly by siring a son with the famous actress Ellen Terry. This was the visionary Edward Gordon Craig—who had a liaison with Isadora Duncan.

There are two very handsome—and informative—books relating to this exhibition. One studies Godwin's furniture. The other is the official catalogue, edited by the organizer, Susan Weber Soros.

E. W. Godwin: Aesthetic Movement Architect & Designer contains a baker's dozen of impressive essays, as well as scores of exterior & interior designs and drawings and photos of Godwin's decorative creations. It has 411 pages and is heavy enough not to read in bed.

Medieval in Malibu:

Bernard Maisner's "Entrance to the Scriptorium"

It's too late for Manhattan Medievalists to fly out to Pepperdine College for the fascinating 25-year retrospective of Bernard Maisner's "Illuminated Manuscripts and Paintings." The show just closed November 24.

Maisner is one of the leading experts in Medieval illumination. I first met him at the Morgan Library, where he led a workshop in the art and craft of applying gold-leaf to manuscript pages.

It was a revelation to see how this was done, and more so, to discover I could actually do it also.

At the conclusion of the workshop, I asked Maisner if he would make me an illuminated medieval initial. Possibly a G or and L. Or maybe the two intertwined?

Instead, he invited me to his East Village studio to see his mysterious large paintings, which draw upon medieval images and symbols, as well as other fantasies.

But there's no room for large artworks in small Manhattan apartments. So Maisner showed me some intricate and precious small-scale gold-leafed illuminations he had created on commission.

I was so delighted that I commissioned him to create one for me, using Dante's opening lines from Dante's The Divine Comedy. It is a wonder of minute polychrome checkered patterns, circles-within-circles, and other designs and symbols.

My GL initials are even worked into the background design, semi-concealed.

His second creation for me is a haunting evocation of John Donne's "No man is an island." Every morning I wake to see an open coffin on a green island, with phases of golden sun and moon overhead. All that is missing is Donne's tolling bell.

After a recent trip to Dublin and close study of the Book of Kells, I asked Maisner to adapt those intricate Celtic interlacings and strange beasts and birds for an illumination of Yeats' invocation: "Rose, Rose of All the World."

Talk about strange convergences: He and his wife had just named their little girl Rose!

Anyone interested in Bernard Maisner's work can contact him at 56 Mount Street, Bay Head, NJ 08742. Phone: 732-899-9858.


60th Anniversary of Galerie St. Etienne

[Closing January 8, 2000] Amidst of a great deal of very bad fortune, the Viennese art-dealer Otto Kallir had the oddly good luck to represent a variety of innovative artists whose works were denounced by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels as "Degenerate Art."

Thus he was able to export most of his now-fabled holdings from Vienna when he fled to Paris in 1938, just after Anschluss with Nazi Germany. Had his stock been Rembrandts, Dürers, and Spitzwegs, he never would have been permitted to export or even to keep them.

Kallir's time in Paris—where he opened a Galerie St. Etienne, a reminder of his old shop near St. Stephen's Cathedral in the Austrian capital—was brief. In the early fall of 1939, war broke out in Europe.

In November 1939, Kallir opened his new Galerie St. Etienne in New York. Initially, his problem as a dealer was that few knew of the Austrian moderns. And even fewer wanted to collect them.

But he continued—as the gallery does today—to promote Austrian and German Expressionism. He also helped many Austrian Jews relocate and begin new lives in America.

So the 60th Anniversary show—with some of Kallir's own modern masters—is a celebration of a number of things, both temporal and spiritual, human and imagined.

Otto Kallir was also the man who made Grandma Moses an American household word!

Kristal-Nacht & The Fall of the Berlin Wall

On 9 November, the anniversary of Kristal-Nacht—one of the events that urged Otto Kallir to leave Greater Germany—the German Consulate General in New York opened an exhibition of imaginative photos of the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

At the Goethe Haus, Bernd Lasdin was showing his interesting and up-front photos of East and West Berliners—Before and After the Fall.

Beginning with posed portraits in their homes in 1986, he returned in 1998 to photograph them again. One of them was by then only a memory and a tombstone.

At neither exhibition-venue was there even a token photo or artwork relating to the night the Nazis destroyed Jewish synagogues, smashed shops, brutalized Jews in the streets, and dragged them from their homes.

It's understandable that Germans want to remember and celebrate the date which reunited their long-divided nation.

But it was divided after the war for a reason. That should not be forgotten either.

At the Brooklyn Museum:
Eastman Johnson: Painting America

[Closing February 6, 2000]
WHERE ARE THE WHEELS?--Farm kids play on "The Old Stage Coach" by Eastman Johnson.
On a recent trip to the Brooklyn Museum of Art, I was initially surprised to pass through a metal-detector. Then I noticed the crowds of students milling around.

As metal-detectors are frequently found now at entrances to New York City schools—to reveal concealed knives and guns—I thought this must be the reason.

Actually, the device was temporarily installed to ward off possible Terrorist Crazies, arriving to protest the BMA's highly controversial show of Young British Artists, aptly named "Sensation."

Fortunately, there have been no incidents thus far, aside from the frenzied efforts of Mayor Guiliani to bankrupt and close down the museum for offending potential Roman Catholic voters.

Opening its new Eastman Johnson exhibition, the BMA was back on safe ground again. There were no images on the walls which could offend or even annoy most people.

Some contemporary African-American activists might take offense at Johnson's portraits and genre scenes of American Blacks in the mid-19th century. Some are shown as talented musicians, but they are usually entertaining whites on the fringes of a family gathering or a dance.

Given the temper of his times, Johnson was remarkably sympathetic and sensitive to the dire plights and denied rights of many Black Americans.

FUGITIVE SLAVES DASH FOR FREEDOM--Eastman Johnson's dramatic painting at BMA.
In fact, one of his best-known canvases—and effectively a logo for this show—is his powerful "A Ride for Liberty—The Fugitive Slaves." A black man and wife—with his son in his lap and a babe in his wife's arms—are fleeing on a galloping horse.

But when the Northern Abolitionist Fevers had abated—and many white Americans began to be increasingly concerned about untutored and unconnected Blacks crowding into their cities—Johnson moved on to other subjects and genres.

This show lovingly chronicles his artistic development as a painterly technician and as an interpreter of American life and scenes.

From the first, he was a talented sketcher. His portraits of important American authors, such as Longfellow, Hawthorne, and Emerson are as notable in their way as his later faces of Nantucket fisherfolk.

At the Park Avenue Armory

Every November, the Gala Preview of Sanford L. Smith's Modernism show at the Armory is a benefit for the Brooklyn Museum of Art. This year, threatened with loss of city subsidies by Mayor Giuliani, the BMA really needed all the contributions and goodwill it could get.

It showed its own goodwill toward modern designers with two awards. Germany's Konstantin Grcic received the BMA/Modernism Young Designer Award.

France's Andrée Putman was honored with the BMA/Modernism Design Award for Lifetime Achievement.

These were bestowed in the Armory's remarkable Tiffany Room—where yards of rusty military chain are wrapped around the room's pillars, and priceless Tiffany decorations and stained-glass dazzle the eye.

This year, the sub-title of the annual show was "1880-1980, A Century of Art & Design."

As some of the items on view—and for sale at impressive prices—were distinctly and fustily Victorian, this sub-title may have been a kind of disclaimer.

Some of these objects and furniture were so overdecorated that even Queen Victoria—who died in 1901—might have found them old-fashioned.

At a time when English Arts & Crafts designers were trying to revive gothic and renaissance styles—and workmanship—"Modernism" doesn't seem an operative term.

Distinctly Modern were some of the pieces offered by such dealers as Deco Deluxe, Skyscraper, Moderni, Maison Gerard, and Richard Wright. [Loney]

Copyright © Glenn Loney 1999. No re-publication or broadcast use without proper credit of authorship. Suggested credit line: "Glenn Loney, Curator's Choice." Reproduction rights please contact:

Return to Curator's Choice Table of Contents