The Faded Library

1930s residenceA friend of mine recently purchased this historical house built in the 1930s. This wonderful old home is full of detail and architectural interest and interestingly, was transferred to him not quite empty. The lovely old study came with a rather motley collection of faded books on the library shelves. This collection of books, an assortment of old book club selections, spans a period from 1930 to 1984. Apparently, it was collected and left on these shelves over an eighty year period by the families that had lived in the house.  New books had not been added for the last thirty years so all of the books are homely and faded, and are old enough to evoke a guilt of sorts when considering exactly what to do with them. I think, rather than representing the “great gift” the previous owners implied, the books really were a big old pile of books that hadn’t been read for years, that  no one knew what to do with and everyone felt too guilty to dispose of.

As the responsibility for the interior design of this lovely old home was given to me, I needed to take a good look at the possibilities of the library and determine exactly how to deal with it’s faded aspects and keep the guilt and looks of it’s somewhat weary presence at bay. Together, we needed to make a decision about the fate of the faded old books.  Neither of us feel the house is sacred and should be left untouched just because it is old and charming and has some historical significance, thus…a dilemma of sorts has developed. Our options appeared to be, get rid of the faded pile, move it to another room and use the library for my clients personal collection of contemporary books, or somehow develop the library and embrace the story it represents.

After considerable thought, we have decided to embrace the weary books, read them, catalogue them, and see if we can purchase the missing books from the Book of the Month Club years represented as that particular segment of the library is most obvious and the easiest place to start. As none of the books have dust jackets, my research has found them to be of marginal valuable so additions shouldn’t be particularly expensive but they would be an interesting collection to pursue and would give the library its own story. At present, I am unsure of my clients dedication to  this project, but I am starting our evaluation and he is humoring me.

After a little research, I discovered that Book of the Month Club editions of this age have a small  indented dot on the back cover near the spine. This marking makes these books easy enough to recognize.

About five weeks ago I began my reading plan.  So far I have read eight books and I am finding many hours of pleasurable reading and a few other hours, not so much. My ultimate intention is to write a “little report” on each book as I work my way along the shelves. This is all a little crazy I know, and a somewhat over done evaluation, but one I am looking forward to. I will keep you posted on how it develops.

The eight books I have read so far are:

The Nun’s Story…Kathryn Hulme….1956

Marjorie Morningstar …Herman Wouk…1955

The Summer of the Barshinskeys…Diane pearson…1984

Crescent City…Belva Plain…1984

By Love Possessed…James Gould Cozzens…1957

Vagabonds…Knut Hamsun…1930

The Durable Fire…Howard Swiggett..1957

Voss…Patrick White…1957

Some of these books are Book of the Month Club, some are not…I just started with a shelf before I had decided on the order I am now hoping to develop. My intention is to write individual blurbs about the books and see if I can rally some followers for our project…

Book of the Month Club old library

Pintrest Boards….1600s Style

Pintrest Boards….1600s Style

Developing collections of images is really nothing new, just maybe how to go about it is. After having recently become interested in The Gallery of the Louvre I decided to compile my own collection of historic encyclopedic paintings, or Pintrest boards of long ago, if you will. This collection type painting became popular in the 1600s. Sometimes called cabinet paintings, because they displayed a collection of things in a cabinet, or small room, like setting, these paintings are monumentally detailed works of art. I am finding them fascinating particularly  when related to the present day obsession with Pintrest and other sites that provide a format for a personal collection of images in essentially  a cabinet like setting. So look with me at these interesting paintings, and remember collecting an image before 1850 was not an easy task, you painted it, drew it or carved it or had someone do this for you and this accomplishment was known as art. Put down your iPhone long enough to think about and grasp this unfamiliar concept.


The Gallery of the Louvre, Samuel B Morse, The Terra Museum of American Art

I have decided to place Gallery of the Louvre first in my collection of cabinet paintings although it is, admittedly, the weakest of the paintings I have collected as examples for this post. I think it is important to remember the development of fine art has always been about studying the great art that came before and learning the techniques. An American in 1832,  I am unsure where Morse would have had an opportunity for study that would enable him to develop, an in depth understanding of the techniques of the great masters until he went to Europe on his “study abroad.” So naturally, without this crucial training his painting would be weak in comparison. Unfortunately, when Morse brought the painting home to America, he did not develop the “followers” he had hoped. None the less his cabinet painting, Gallery of the Louvre, is considered a key piece in the development of American art.

The Tribuna of the Uffizi
The Tribuna of the Uffizi
The Royal Collection © 2012,
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
In the summer of 1772 Queen Charlotte commissioned Johann Zoffany to paint an encyclopedic rendering of the Tribuna of the Uffizi. Unfortunatly, when completed Zoffany’s magnificent “Pintrest Board” was rejected by the Queen. Apparently there was a great flap about the inclusion of so many unknown figures in the front of the painting and the King and Queen found them offensive. Queen Charlotte could “not suffer the picture to be placed in any of her apartments” So after this five year laborious undertaking of the copies of the great masters paintings, lamps, statues, bronzes and minute details of the frames and the exact representation of the room, Zoffany fell from favor and never was allowed to paint for the court again. Really?
Use the magnifier and closely look at exactly what so offended Queen Charlotte.
(FYI: The Uffizi Gallery, located in Florence, Italy,  is one of the oldest and most treasured museums of the Western World. The art contained within it’s stone walls is magnificent beyond imagining. The Tribuna of the Uffizi is a cabinet painting of the Tribuna, a depiction of a  gallery within the Uffizi in 1772, most likely the art shown was rearranged by the artist, to show contrasts thus making the painting more interesting and complete. Recently, I spent a day at the Uffizi, and could have spent a year.)
The Academicians of the Royal Academy
The Academicians of the Royal Academy
The Royal Collection © 2012,
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

I have included Zoffany’s Academicians, which has hung next to Tribuna for two hundred years in the Royal Collection. Believed to have been conceived as a pair the two paintings show an interesting contrast and tell an interesting story. Tribuna displays a collection of the art…Academicians displays a collection of the artists. Interesting side by side because of  the contrast of light and dark, and the contrast of  the amount of detail in one, the more casual interpretation in the other. However, both reflect the tools of the artistic trade…notice in the foreground of Tribuna the tools needed to stretch a canvas are meticulously conceived…probably also insulting to Queen Charlotte.


towerofsleep:</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>Willem van Haecht, The Cabinet of Cornelis Van der Geest, 1628<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> Currently working on a paper about early-17th-century Flemish paintings of painting collections. Early modern tumblr, kind of.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />  

Willem van Haecht, The Cabinet of Cornelis Van der Geest, 1628
This Flemish cabinet painting is interesting in more than one way. Not only does it show the important art collection of Van der Geest, but it also shows his collection of important friends. I guess there is more than one way to keep track of followers.


The Royal Collection © 2007, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II; used with permission

 A Cabinet of Pictures, 1659 Jacob de Formentrou (Flemish, 17th century). The Royal Collection © 2007, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Probably first recorded in The Royal Collection during the reign of George III. The Queen seems to have the market cornered on these most magnificent of all the cabinet paintings. I wonder if she is on Pintrest…I have heard she has an iPhone.


File:Frans Francken (II), Kunst- und Raritätenkammer (1636).jpg

Chamber of Art and Curiosities
Franz Francken
Many times cabinet paintings of this type included not only an art collection but also other collected curiosities. Remember with only the painted image for reference, many unknown and unseen before images were interesting and educational. Such as this collection of shells and other sea creatures.

Ancient_Rome_PaniniAncient Rome, Giovanni Panini , Metropolitan Museum of Art

This painting depicts many of the most significant architectural sites of Ancient Rome. Even though really placed in the category of architectural paintings this is still an exquisite example of an encyclopedic painting.

Art, an interesting concept. Collecting art an even more interesting concept. Collecting an image without an iPhone, to most,  an unimaginable concept.

The Rug Studio, Overland Park, Ks…interpret Brady Legler’s art as rugs.

This week when I was in The Rug Studio they had just received their latest shipment of rugs…these unbelievable vibrant and beautiful works of art. They are all pieces exclusive to The Rug Studio and they are luscious.

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This is an excerpt from information Becky sent me about the artist.

Brady Legler’s color palette is often as bright and vibrant as any Impressionist painting. Splashes of electric turquoise vibrate against fiery reds. Slashes and spirals infuse the abstract paintings with a sense of movement. The overall effect is emotional and optimistic. People meeting Brady for the first time might think he is reserved, but the paintings tell a different story. “I like to work on big canvases because I like to see walls covered in color.”

His use of acrylic paint and non-traditional application methods give his work a sense of depth and texture. Layers appear on the canvas as paint is slathered on, then scraped away. “I see my paintings the same way I see people—in layers. Sometimes the layers have to be peeled away to see the true meaning.”

The artist, Brady Legler, is a student at the Parsons School of Design in New York and a native of Kansas City. His life, much like his art, is multi-faceted. He began his creative process designing jewelry. The jewelry is sold at high-end retailers throughout the United States and select boutiques.

The Rug Studio is part of the inter sanctum of the design world of Kansas City, a wonderful designer only showroom. I can take you by appointment, or I can bring anything they have to you.

My World Traveling Friend goes to Biarritz, France…images this morning.

My World Traveling Friend goes to Biarritz, France…images this morning.

Sometimes this particular friend is just too painful for words.  This week he is in Biarritz, France…slumming apparently. He is staying in Edith Piaf’s room according to the brass plaque on the door.  IMG_4849I wonder how the bed fits as he is 5’10” and she was 1.47m or as I interpret… 4’9.75″ tall. When he sent the text and the picture of the plaque I answered, “Sing me a song, sparrow”…he sent…”OH, WOE IS ME, OH WOE IS ME.”

FYI: Edith Piaf…Born on the streets of Paris in 1915 to a street singer mother and a street acrobat father, became the National Symbol of France during WWII…A voice like no other.

Will the new libraries be the Apple Store?

This morning when I ran across an article about the 49 most beautiful libraries in the world a thought crossed my mind…will libraries like these stunning beautiful places continue to hold a place of importance or will they be repurposed? Or will access to libraries go through somewhere like this Apple Store in Amsterdam,Apple Store...Amsterdam or really…will Apple Stores and others like them hold the key to the library.

Today I am working on my new teacher blog in my home office with piles of books everywhere, and for some reason I am looking at all these book a little differently this afternoon.  I am wondering why I have them and do I need them any more.  Maybe I better get them, every single one, on Amazon before they are of no value and worse yet nobody even knows what they are. This summer I was in an antique store in Fresno, California  where I witnessed a fifteen or so year old girl beg for an old dial telephone. She was asking her mother how it worked, I heard her incredulous “You are kidding” responses to her mother’s explanations.

I remember a year or two ago I didn’t want a book on my reader, I wanted a book to hold and touch and smell…in other words I wanted a real reading experience and even defended this position to those trying to make me accept change.  Some how I realize that need, or what ever it was, has gone by the wayside, and I am quite happy at two in the morning to click on BUY NOW and have a new book to read in the middle of the night.

So, my big question of the day is… what is going to happen to the libraries? Will there still be funds for them or will there be a big flap over the economic feasibility of using tax dollars to support these wonderful places.  Any way, just wondering…and admiring beautiful libraries of the past like this library at the Benedictine Monastery of Admont, in Admont, Austria.Library at the Benedictine Monastery of Admont, Admont, AustriaI am attaching the link from my twitter feed so you can also wonder…

If this feed does not show the article click on the search button and it will come up.

Happy Birthday Edgar

Last year when I was in Paris, I was lucky enough to be at the Musee d’Orsay  the same time as the most beautiful collection of the work of Degas. Of all the lovely pieces the most memorable was a tiny sketch book of little ink drawings Degas had used when he wanted to catch a quick image of a figure.  It was the most amazing thing, the pages were filled with ink line drawings of  figures in motion.  I have seen many ink drawings in my day but I had never before seen a line drawing that was immediately recognizable. Yet looking at this little book, I would immediately have know the drawings were Degas. The beauty of his form was present in just a single stroke of ink.  Amazing.

This article from the Huffington Post today, (HuffPost Arts and Culture twitter feed)….is in honor of Edgar Degas’ birthday, originally published last year honoring the artist’s life and work.

Today is the birthday of Impressionist extraordinaire Edgar Degas. The dreamy painter who idealized the beauty of ballet would turn 179 if he were magically still alive today.

Degas was born on July 19th, 1834 in Paris, France. His love for painting developed at an early age, and by the age of 18, he had turned his bedroom into a makeshift studio. In 1853, the young artist became a copyist, but in line with his father’s requests, also enrolled in law school. He made little progress in his legal studies, and his admission to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris solidified his decision to abandon academia for the world of art. He traveled to Italy to marvel at masterpieces by Michelangelo, Raphael, and Titian, and upon returing to France in the late 1850s, fell headfirst into his new career.

degas1Self-portrait (Degas au porte-fusain), 1855
Degas first exhibited at the Salon in 1865, during the time of his historical paintings and studies of horses. After a short stint in the National Guard during the Franco-Prussian War, he ventured to New Orleans, Louisiana, focusing more on works depicting his family members. Back in France in the 1870s, the artist became disillusioned with the inner-workings of the Salon and joined a group of young independent creatives who would later be known as the Impressionists. Although Degas abhorred the label, his association with the group that included Claude Monetand Camille Pissarro led to a betterment of his financial situation, allowing the painter to begin collecting works from the artists he revered.

Degas’ opposition to the plein air studies of the Impressionists set him in a class of his own, despite the persistent inclusion of the artist in the movement by others. Instead of landscapes, he focused more on indoor scenes of Parisian life, such as the inside of dance studios and crowded restaurants. He retained his love of classical techniques, using clouded brushstrokes and exaggerated shadows to create his signature off-center compositions. His color choice ranged from the dark palette of Dutch artists to the vivid choices of contemporary French painters, but his knack for leaving the viewer wanting with his seemingly unfinished creations persisted. Throughout his career, he moved from oil painting to pastel to sculpture to even photography, demonstrating the depth of his true artistic brilliance.

degas10The Dance Class (La Classe de Danse),1873–1876
Degas passed away on September 27th, 1917, at the age of 83. But his legacy lives on through his work, which is repeatedly shown in museums across the world. Images like “Dancers at the Bar” and sculptures like “The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer,” continue to be revered by art lovers regardless of their age, gender, or dance regimen.

So raise your glass to Edgar Degas’ birthday today, and thank the heavenly beings that he didn’t opt for a career in litigation! See a slideshow of his work below, and let us know your thoughts in the comments section: