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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Boston Trip: Day Three

Thursday was our last day in the city, and a little more sparsely populated than the previous days.  The morning started with a trip to Vose Galleries, the oldest dealers in American Art still in business.  Vose has always been a family affair, and that tradition continues today.  On the morning we arrived, the Voses were expecting another addition to the family to arrive that afternoon and it seems as though the family business will continue well into the future.  Students spent time on the galleries three floors, examining a range of works from Heades to Homers to contemporary pastels.  In addition to being able to examine works close up and see different styles of framing, we also heard a bit about the business side of the market: how works come into the gallery, how the market has shifted in the past decade, strategies for client services and cultivation, and the impact of the internet on marketing and sales.  The Voses and their staff were extremely generous, and we were grateful for the time we spent with them.

The gallery is housed in a brownstone on Newbury Street, which allows you to get a sense of scale and proportion of the works in a way that's impossible in a larger, more sterile space.  

If you'd like to know more about the Voses, their inventory, and exhibition schedule, click here

After the gallery visit, we headed over to the gold-domed State House, built by Charles Bullfinch with subsequent renovations and additions.  
It's an impressive building, the tours are free, and even though one must pass through metal detectors to enter the building (which always delays a group somewhat), it is well worth a visit.

Here's our group at the entrance.

Personally, I found the classical restraint of the Bullfinch sections to be the most elegant portions of the building, although the exuberant later work was interesting, too.  One reason we decided to take this tour was so that students could see the difference between Bullfinch’s residential work and his civic commissions.  Between this and the Otis house, we were able to see many examples of Bullfinch’s work, from the differences between public and private space in a residential setting, to public commissions designed to be both functional and ennobling. 

One of the stranger (and less visually successful) elements of the tour was an enclosed courtyard that was used for press conferences and events.  If there was any complaints I had about the building, it was the disjunction between styles and the varying quality of the design.  
The ceilings are one of the best parts of the tour, despite the limited attention they receive. 

Although aspects of the Victorian addition were quite nice, the blend of this, with the Bullfinch and Michael Dukakis' mid to late 1980s, worked against a feeling of cohesion.  Whereas the Bullfinch sections really stood on their own as great spaces, the newer additions were less satisfying.

Statue of a Civil War Nurse and Wounded Soldier, given to the State by the Massachusetts Daughters of Veterans in 1914.  On the wall behind this statue are plaques honoring Clara Barton and Second Lt. Frances Slanger.  

From there, it was a short walk across the street to the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, sculpted by Augustus Saint-Gaudens.  

The creation of the monument and its subsequent history seems to tell an important piece of the Civil War and race relations in the United States.  Shaw, who commanded the all-black 54th regiment is honored by this piece, as are the five white soldiers who were killed during the battle of Charleston Harbor, and although the black soldiers appear in the scene, they remained nameless until they were included on the monument in 1981.  Adding insult to injury, the 54th regiment was also paid less than white regiments, despite being brought into the war with the promise of equal pay.  It would be 18 months (and only after refusing all pay if it was not equal pay) that the soldiers received their full salaries. Critics have often remarked that Saint Gaudens’ sensitive treatment of the men in the company and individualized portraits used for the figures prevents them from becoming faceless, generic figures. 

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