Sunday, April 28, 2013

An Interesting Lesson From An Old House

Several weeks ago, my friend Sandy and I visited the Duval House, the oldest house in Citrus County, Florida. It was built in the mid-1860s, which just goes to show you how recently Florida was settled.

We were given a tour by Frank Peters, a former coworker of ours, and a most interesting storyteller. Frank is directing the renovation of the house, which entails undoing many 20th century "improvements."

Frank directed our attention to this old fireplace, which is very shallow in depth, as you can see. The style was known to the locals as a "French fireplace." Contemporary Americans who buy vintage houses with similar fireplaces end up not using such fireplaces because they'll smoke up the whole house.

That's because they don't know a secret, which is that the original occupants built fires with the logs stacked vertically.

Blogging friend Jim of Road to Parnassus has sent this image of the Farris House, built on the St. Johns River. The Duval House will probably look a lot like this when the renovation work is finished. Thanks, Jim!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Legends of Joel Nakamura

As I've mentioned before, one perk of working in the world of advertising and publishing (particularly if one loves paper) is to receive well-made paper sample books, also called catalogs.

Paper catalogs can often be inspiring because they're vehicles by which paper companies, design groups, illustrators, photographers and printers all show off their best work. The catalog above, from Georgia-Pacific Papers, also doubled as a calendar for the year 2000 — pretty clever when one considers that the client (myself) would carry around Georgia-Pacific's paper samples all year long.

The calendar featured the distinctive paintings of Joel Nakamura, who created more than a dozen works based on world mythology. His paintings are on metal, with richly ornamented borders that serve as frames. Here are some of Nakamura's paintings, along with text by Michael Koster:

The Egyptian legend of the sun. Each day at dawn the sun was born from the sky. He attained maturity by mid-day and aged by evening. At nightfall he entered the underworld. Each day, month and year, renewed the creation of the world.

The Japanese legend of the creation of land and sea. Kaumi created an enormous ocean resting on the back of a giant trout. He sent a bird to form areas of dry land by beating its wings and trampling the mud with its feet.

The African legend of fire. In African legend, the ostrich was the source of fire, keeping the fire under its wing when not in use. Mantis tricked the ostrich into spreading its wings and quickly grabbed the fire from the ostrich. That is why the ostrich never attempted to fly. Humans then tricked Mantis to obtain fire.

The Australian legend of rivers and mountains. The curving meandering of the Rainbow snake created rivers and mountains. Aborigines believed he was the spirit of creation and fertility.

The legend from India of the Lotus flower. The Hindu god Vishnu dreamed of the universe as a Lotus flower. Likening the solar matrix to a wheel, the expanded Lotus flower forms the rosette and the sun wheel of the perpetual cycles of existence.

The Navajo legend of the pollen path. To the Navajo, pollen is sacred. Pollen represents life. To walk in beauty on the pollen path is to walk in accord with all of nature. The path is often represented in the form of a spiral.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Folding 1000 Cranes

You've probably heard the story of the sick girl who was told to fold 1000 cranes, so that she might be healed. Have you ever wondered what so many cranes would look like and what you would do with so many?

A member of my extended family faced a major illness a couple of years ago, and a Japanese friend folded 1000 cranes for him. This is how it was presented:

The cranes each measure approximately one inch and are interlocking. Below is a close-up.

Wishing you good health!


Friday, April 12, 2013

19th Century Sunday School Cards

In my search for 19th century ephemera, I usually buy trade cards or rewards of merit. But on occasion, other miscellany — like religious cards — catches my eye, particularly if it's gilt embossed or beautifully die-cut.

Scanning just doesn't capture the gold luster on this quaint card, which strikes me as looking Neo Gothic. That could be a good clue to its age.

As I look at the rest of the cards in this posting, I see that I'm most attracted to the amazingly fine die-cut laciness that was achieved in the 1800s. We don't see this fineness today, even with the technology of lasers.

I've always had a special affinity with this card of the angel, not only because it is one of the most handsome pieces of ephemera that I've collected, but also for the inscription on the back.

Have a happy weekend!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Poet's House

My brother's neighborhood has a lot of houses that are in the process of renovation, and a drive around the block often offers a surprise — or a story — or both!

What was this all about? I had to make a closer inspection.

click to enlarge
This sign in front of the house offers an explanation to the neighbors and curious passers-by. I've removed the names, but the wife is a builder and the husband is a poet.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Portrait Painter Bernard Boutet de Monvel
Bernard Boutet de Monvel (1881-1949) was the son of Louis-Maurice de Monvel, a major illustrator of 19th century French children's books. Bernard trained under his father and under Luc-Olivier Merson (1849-1920), best remembered for his evocative Rest on the Flight Into Egypt, below.
Like his father, de Monvel became an illustrator, and also an advertising artist. After World War I duty, he traveled to Morocco, where he spent the better part of seven years. There he painted orientalist Moroccan scenes, perhaps influenced by the work of Merson.

Connoisseur  |  May 1987
Starting in 1926, de Monvel made yearly trips to the United States, where his society portraits were in much demand. De Monvel — elegant, charming, amusing and always beautifully dressed — attended the same dinners and balls as upper crust New York society, where he would easily attain new clients. The portrait above, of Mrs. Payne Whitney, cost upwards of $10,000, a staggering sum during the Depression.

Library of Congress
And so Bernard Boutet de Monvel lived very well. This is a view of his studio in Palm Beach, Florida. He also had a (mirrored) octagonal room in his French home.

Connoisseur  |  May 1987
In this portrait of Millicent Rogers, de Monvel revels in the luxe of designer clothes. He was a master of painting satins and jewelry. Millicent's mother had been a life-long patron, and de Monvel often painted generations of a family.
De Monvel's portraits have often been described as "icy." Beautifully composed and technically smooth, they are beautiful likenesses that nonetheless don't reveal sitters' inner warmth or personality. Perhaps that suited clients who were more interested in projecting status. Above is the 1931 portrait of Mrs. Samuel L. M. Barlow.

Marquis de Cuevas  |  Connoisseur  |  May 1987
Above is a 1929 portrait of Yeshwantro Holkar II, Maharajah of Indor, and below is a study for the same portrait.

Duc de Brissac  |
Above is a 1925 portrait of George Marie Haardt, General Manager of Citroën.

lyceo_hispanico  |
De Monvel painted striking cityscapes of New York and often incorporated architecture into his portraits, like the 1933 one of Rodman W. Edminston, below.

I've saved my favorite painting for last. It's Bernard Boutet de Monvel's own self-portrait, with the Place Vendȏme in the background.

Connoisseur  |  May 1987
De Monvel died in the Azores on October 28, 1949, when an airplane he was riding crashed into a mountain side.