Beginning with two Huggums baby dolls, my collection quickly grew to include Heidi, Cinderella, Snow White, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Alice in Wonderland. While I love them all, I’m partial to a blond-braided McGuffey Ana wearing a red plaid dress, white pinafore and straw hat; the black-haired Degas Girl, with her white eyelet dress with pink velvet sash and matching mob cap; the Madame Doll who came with a copy of The Secret of Madame Doll, the book by Frances Cavanah that inspired her; and a complete set of Little Women dolls, including a wardrobe for Jo that Grandma made for me for Christmas 1975.
Last Saturday, I was introduced to someone who was just as fond of Madame Alexander dolls as I am. Thanks to a tip from Tina, we stopped at the Zanesville Museum of Art to see its remarkable collection of more than 600 Madame Alexander dolls that were acquired by Shirley (Mrs. Charles) Gorsuch of Zanesville over a 30-year period.
Information sheets in the Gorsuch Gallery told us that in the early 1920s, Madame Beatrice Alexander and her three sisters made hand-sewn cloth dolls with dimensional facial features. As the Alexander Doll Company grew, Madame Alexander began creating composition dolls featuring painted features and “sleep eyes,” which open and close. She obtained trademarks and began producing several series of dolls, including “Little Women” and “The Sound of Music.”
The highlights of the collection are the eight-inch “Alexanderkins” dolls, created in 1953. These popular dolls with a chubby-cheeked, rosy-lipped “Wendy” face portray important historical figures, citizens of international countries, and characters from nursery rhymes. My favorites were the Alexanderkins dolls made to commemorate Elizabeth II’s coronation and Frances Folsom Cleveland’s “A Wedding in Washington.”
In the gallery, you can also admire Cissy, the 21-inch doll that Madame Alexander introduced in 1955. She designed over 200 high-fashion outfits of the period for Cissy, complete with high-heeled shoes, hats, handbags, furs, jewelry and lingerie. Two years later, Madame Alexander introduced Cissette, an equally fashionable, but smaller, 10-inch doll.
Three exhibit cases are devoted to the “First Ladies of the United States” series of Madame Alexander dolls, based on the First Ladies’ Inaugural ball gowns exhibited at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Mrs. Gorsuch’s collection includes the First Ladies from Martha Washington to Pat Nixon. It was fun to spot the Abigail Adams doll, just like the one I received for my First Holy Communion, and the Louisa Adams doll, which arrived the following Christmas in her elegant upswept hairstyle and white satin dress.
We arrived at the museum just in time to hear “America’s Songbook,” the first of four Musical Color programs that are taking place there this year. Thanks to a $35,000 grant from PNC Arts Alive, musical composer David Schubach worked with museum staff to create four concerts showcasing relationships between music and works of art on display in the museum.
During last Saturday’s program, vocalists Ann Ludman Sims of Zanesville and Samuel Hall of Columbus performed an hour’s worth of selections, including City Lights; The Way You Look Tonight; Moon River; Park Bench, one of Schubach’s own compositions; and a medley featuring Do You Remember? and Beautiful Ohio. This particular concert was designed to complement The Feminine Hand: Paintings by 19th and 20th Century Women, an exhibition on view at the museum through May 18. The exhibition features paintings by 20 women artists from the collection of Carl E. Eriksson, including works by Josephine Klippart and Alice Schille, two of my favorite Ohio artists.
While the Madame Alexander dolls brought us to the museum, we discovered that there’s much more there to see. After the concert, we sat down in Linn Auditorium to enjoy a reception amid a series of illustrations by Howard Chandler Christy, from The Tami Longaberger Howard Chandler Christy Collection and Archives, which were recently donated to the museum.
Then, we walked across the hall to see a magnificent 17th-century English paneled room from Hatton Garden in London, England. The paneling on the end walls, fireplace wall and part of the fourth wall date from the latter years of the reign of William III; four knotty pine panels are 20th century substitutes for a space that was originally occupied by an oriole window. Rounded moldings, a classical entablature with egg, dart and acanthus detailing over the fireplace, and a high-relief female bust are typical of the room’s late Baroque architectural style.
William Randolph Hearst originally purchased the paneling in London in the 1920s, and he had it moved to New York City for storage. In 1940, Edward M. Ayers purchased it from Park-Bernet Galleries and had it installed in the former Zanesville Art Institute. When the art museum moved to its present location, the paneling was removed piece by piece and reinstalled as it was in the original, with minor changes.
Today, the room is used to display fitting works of art from the museum’s permanent collection. We admired a circa-1800 walnut Hepplewhite lady’s writing cabinet, a Meissen urn, a 16th century Flemish Adoration of the Magi Triptych, Thomas Gainsborough’s circa-1760 portrait of Lt. Daniel Holroyd, Hiram Powers’ Carrara marble sculpture of Psyche, a 15th century Netherlandish wooden sculpture titled St. Anne with Prayer Book, and a beautifully wrought needlepoint firescreen.