Treasures of The Huntington: The House and Art Collection - Part 9 of 10

We only had one day to visit The Huntington, and having thoroughly toured the splendid gardens, the time remaining to us could not include both the world-famous library and the Art Collections. As artists we chose the Art Collections, (although it was a tough choice even so); but could only fit in visiting the house. However, this was a reward in itself. Even now, in the eighteen months since our visit, I find my memory returning to the many impressive pieces we saw. The Huntington's website describes it thus:
The Art Collections are distinguished by their specialized character and elegant settings in three separate galleries on the Huntington grounds. A fourth space, the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery, hosts changing exhibitions. The Huntington Art Gallery, originally the Huntington residence, contains one of the most comprehensive collections in this country of 18th- and 19th-century British and French art. It serves as home to Gainsborough’s Blue Boy and Lawrence’s Pinkie
When we first entered the building, I did not know what to expect beyond the fact that I knew the name of The Huntington against many reproductions of works of art in my art books. But I was amazed that the first painting I saw was Henry Raeburn's portrait of the steam-power pioneer James Watt (below).
At The Huntington the artworks are often displayed in fully furnished rooms, unlike many other modern galleries. You thus feel as if you were a guest at a weekend country house party or the home of a particularly wealthy friend. 
In 1913, Huntington married Arabella Duval Huntington, the widow of his uncle Collis. She was Henry’s age and shared his interests in collecting. As one of the most important art collectors of her generation, she was highly influential in the development of the art collection now displayed in the former mansion.
In 1919, Henry and Arabella Huntington signed the indenture that transferred their San Marino property and collections to a nonprofit educational trust, creating The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, which hosts more than 500,000 visitors each year.
The interiors were very much the work of Arabella Huntington, once known as the richest woman in America, and like many great collectors she had an interest in a wide range of disciplines. The house retains much of her influence to this day.

As we were looking at two paintings (not illustrated) of the Spencer family (one by Reynolds; one by Romney), an American father with a group of children in tow, trooped past - doing the gallery at speed - and announced, "That is Lady Di's family", in a manner suggesting that these people were still very much with us. I felt that a little more explanation was necessary for the better education of his offspring.
These people almost looked like they were part of an art installation - by Duane Hanson. Specifically, I was thinking of a work of Hanson's called Tourists, which I saw at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh some years ago.
The couple here are looking out over a terrace, which in turn has a spectacular vista over the majority of parkland and garden at San Marino to Los Angeles beyond. It is a strange feeling to be locked into this 'other world' within the house and art collection, while modern bustling California - trendsetter for a large part of the globe - goes about its business only a short distance away.

Gill took this photograph of me studying the wall between two works by Thomas Gainsborough. (The Blue Boy and Elizabeth Beaufoy, later Elizabeth Pycroft)
The Huntington Art Gallery houses the European art collection and includes one of the most distinguished collections of 18th- and 19th-century British paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts outside London, including Thomas Gainsborough’s Blue Boy, Joshua Reynolds’ Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse, and John Constable’s View on the Stour near Dedham. Also part of the European collection, The Arabella D. Huntington Memorial Art Collection contains Renaissance paintings and sculpture along with a collection of 18th-century French sculpture, tapestries, porcelain, and furniture.

This painting by French painter Claude Lorrain is entitled View of Seaport, but I feel that there is possibly more to it than the title allows. Be that as it may, elements in the painting are to be found in many other of the artist's works, principally, the tower, the colonnade and the use of the sun as an feature in the painting instead of merely as a light source.
These works - entitled Portrait of a Woman and Portrait of a Man - are by Domenico Ghirlandaio (real name: Domenico di Tommaso di Currado di Doffo Bigordi) a brilliant artist of the Italian Renaissance, whose enormous talents did not extend to finding imaginitive titles for his paintings. These are thought to date from around 1490.
This work, which I loved, was painted by Italian Michele Ciampanti. Like the Ghirlandaio portraits, this is painted in tempera on a wood panel. It is entitled Antiochus and Stratonice[1].
Constable and Turner were contemporaries and although their styles were completely different, both pioneered new techniques of painting and ways of seeing the world around them. To find such fine examples of their work at The Huntingdon was a joy to eye and spirit. Above is John Constable's smaller painting of Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop's Grounds[2] and below is a detail of Turner's The Grand Canal: Scene - A Street in Venice[3]. Belowthat is a closeup of Turner's brushwork, which could be an entire work by a 20th or 21st century artist.

View on the Stour, near Dedham by John Constable.
View in Venice, with San Giorgio Maggiore[4] by Richard Parkes Bonington.
The Last Gleanings by Jules Adolphe Aime Louis Breton. Gill liked this image, I think because it reminded her of the Bible story of Ruth gleaning in the fields - a book which has special meaning for her.

These Sevres vases[5] are quite exceptional, and indeed there is an astonishing array of porcelain at The Huntington. Well worth visiting for these alone.

This scene has more vases and urns, but the desk with the Sevres porcelain plaques inlaid is what caught the attention here.
After such a feast of visual splendour, filled with thoughts of 18th century British and European art,we came out into the late afternoon to more of the same in the gardens. Our time-travelling now over we ventured back to Sierra Madre and present-day California.

Stratonice (Greek: Στρατoνίκη) of Syria was the daughter of king Demetrius Poliorcetes and Phila, the daughter of Antipater. In 300 BC, at which time she could not have been more than seventeen years of age, her hand was solicited by Seleucus, king of Syria, and she was conducted by her father Demetrius to Rhosus, on the Pierian coast (in Macedonia), where her nuptials were celebrated with the utmost magnificence.[1] Notwithstanding the disparity of their ages, she appears to have lived in perfect harmony with the old king for some years, and had already borne him one child, a daughter called Phila, when it was discovered that her stepson Antiochus was deeply enamoured of her, and Seleucus, in order to save the life of his son, which was endangered by the violence of his passion, in 294 BC gave up Stratonice in marriage to the young prince, whom he at the same time constituted king of the eastern provinces.[2] The union seems to have been a prosperous one, but we find little subsequent mention of Stratonice. She bore five children to Antiochus: Seleucus (he was executed for rebellion), Laodice, Apama II, Stratonice of Macedon and Antiochus II Theos, who succeeded his father as king. The city of Stratonikeia in Caria was named after her by Antiochus.
This is a reduced-scale version of an earlier Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop's Grounds, also painted for the bishop, and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1823. The bishop had intended the first painting to hang in his London house in Seymour Street as a reminder of Salisbury during his extensive periods of absence. In a letter of November 4, 1822, he urged Constable to complete it so that the painting would "be ready to grace my Drawing Room in London." After the close of the 1823 exhibition (at which Salisbury Cathedral was fairly well received), the bishop asked Constable to carry out a second, smaller version (the present painting) as a wedding present for his younger daughter Elizabeth, who had just become engaged to the attorney John Mirehouse. Writing to the artist on August 3, he explained, "She wishes to have in her house in London a recollection of Salisbury; I mean, therefore, to give her a picture."  
Turner often created landscapes through the veil of memory, seamlessly merging his own direct observations with what he had seen, read, or imagined of a place in the past. In Venice, he found his ideal subject. A city of light and water, Venice enabled him to indulge his fascination with brilliant effects of color and luminosity, as well as his penchant for scenery imbued with historical, poetic, and artistic associations. His approach to Venice was informed by the city's venerable artistic traditions, particularly that of the veduta, or painted view. 
During his month-long sojourn in Venice from April 20 to May 19, 1826 Bonington produced a phenomenal number of pencil drawings, watercolors, and oil sketches in which he sought to document the topography and capture the elusive beauty of a city that he did not expect to see again. Some of these Venetian works may actually have been completed after Bonington returned to his Paris studio, but the fluent, wet-into-wet handling and compelling evocation of atmosphere in this oil sketch leave little doubt that it was executed entirely on the spot without subsequent alteration. Rather than a finished work of art, it was intended as a record of raw data: a faithful transcript of nature to which the artist could subsequently refer while developing paintings in his studio. Artists had long embraced outdoor sketching as a valuable analytical exercise, but a finished painting was expected to manipulate nature, bringing it into closer agreement with idealized artistic conventions for color, composition, and facture. Bonington's paintings were unusual in blurring this distinction. They retain much of the freshness and fluent facility of oil sketches such as this, as well as a palpable sense of atmosphere and fleeting natural effects. In France, where he spent most of his career, Bonington's paintings were immediately linked with those of Constable and other English artists who were revolutionizing the art of landscape painting through "the transcription of observed natural phenomena for emotive effect and not cerebral or didactic engagement." This oil sketch is one of the most ravishing of those that survive from Bonington's Venice trip. It shows the church of San Giorgio Maggiore on the left with a distant prospect of Palladio's domed church of Santa Maria della Salute directly ahead. On-site reconstruction indicates that the artist took a boat out from the vicinity of the Albergo Grande Reale (now the Hotel Danielli) where he was staying, and sketched the scene from the water, as he did in several other instances. Rapid execution was important, as the month Bonington spent in Venice was plagued by poor weather; his travel companion, Charles Rivet, complained of "rain and incessant storms." Speed was all the more essential in a work such as this, in which the artist was principally concerned with capturing the evanescent atmosphere and chromatic subtleties of the scene. Sky completely dominates water and architecture by a ratio of four to one, an imbalance that provides a strong sense of vertical lift, reinforced by the church spires, boat masts, and pylons. The placement of several of these elements along a diagonal line rising from the lower right corner tracks recession into pictorial depth and shows the artist's instinctive tendency, even in this impromptu work, to organize the composition in accordance with established landscape conventions. The lack of architectural detail reflects the speed with which he painted, but it also creates the appearance of a veil of atmosphere, and prevents minutiae from interfering with the overall impression of light and weather. For much of his brief career, Bonington was known as a watercolorist, having taken up oil painting only shortly prior to his Venice trip, probably no earlier than 1824. That year, however, he received a gold medal for one of his paintings at the Paris Salon, as did his envious compatriot John Constable. Twenty-seven years Bonington's senior, Constable would later grumble of him, "It is not right in a young man to assume great dash--great compleation--without study or pains." 
This garniture of three vases is an example of jeweled enameling, which was the most extravagant type of decoration produced at Sèvres during the eighteenth century. The process involved applying to the porcelain embossed gold foils enameled in translucent or opaque colors, giving the effect of jewels. This technique was employed at Sèvres chiefly between mid-1779 and 1785. "Jeweled" Sèvres porcelain vases were not produced in any great quantity, probably because they were so costly. 


Popular Posts