For Those With An Independent Will To See Haworth, Start Your Charlotte Brontë Pilgrimage At The Morgan Library

There it was — a two-piece cotton and wool day dress printed with blue flowers, leaves and tendrils, with slightly puffed sleeves and mother-of-pearl and brass buttons. A pair of cloth ankle boots with leather toe caps stood beside it.Charlotte Brontë: An Independent Will

Charlotte Brontë is said to have worn this dress during a June 1850 visit with novelist William Makepeace Thackeray in London. The author of Jane Eyre, then in her mid-thirties, was only four feet nine inches tall, with an 18 1/2″ corseted waist.

This was the moment I had been waiting for. I was standing before the first showstopper of Charlotte Brontë: An Independent Will, an exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City. Presented to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Charlotte’s birth, the exhibition traces her development from a talented young writer to a celebrated novelist through literary manuscripts, letters, rare books, drawings, portraits and personal artifacts from the collections of the Morgan Library, the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, England and London’s National Portrait Gallery.

The young Charlotte and her siblings spent time sketching fashionable ladies, painting landscapes and copying illustrations of birds by Thomas Bewick, engraver and author of A History of British Birds in 1816. A watercolor depiction of a stone cross on the West Yorkshire moors that surrounded the Brontë family home in Haworth was found tucked inside Charlotte’s school atlas and is thought to be her work.

Charlotte Brontë: An Independent Will

Her paint box, still stocked with cakes of paint, porcelain mixing wells and palettes and paint brushes, is displayed nearby.

Charlotte Brontë: An Independent Will

But it is the Brontës’ juvenilia that is most remarkable. Miniature manuscript books dating from around 1828 measure just over two inches and are filled with watercolor drawings and short stories written in microscopic handwriting similar to printed fonts. Magnifying glasses are on hand to take a closer look at these extraordinary items.

Charlotte Brontë: An Independent Will

Charlotte’s portable writing desk is outfitted with writing tools, including pen shafts and nibs, sealing wax, an ivory-handled seal, and an abundance of wafers, or adhesive disks used to seal letters.Charlotte Brontë: An Independent Will

Also on view—for the first time in the United States —is a portion of the manuscript of Jane Eyre, from the collection of the British Library. It is open to the page on which appears the famous line that inspired the title of the exhibit: “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will, which I now exert to leave you.”

Near it are copies of the first American edition of Jane Eyre, published by Harper & Brothers in 1848, and the copy of the first edition of Jane Eyre that Charlotte presented to her friend Mary Taylor. Copies of Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, published in 1846 and 1848 under Charlotte, Emily and Anne’s pseudonyms, are also on view.

Several items in the exhibit are so rare to leave their current homes that it is extraordinary to see them together at the Morgan Library. These pilgrimage objects include the only two portraits of Charlotte that were painted during her lifetime, both shown for the first time in the United States. One is the famous painting of the teenaged Charlotte and her sisters, Emily and Anne, painted by their 17-year-old brother, Branwell, around 1834. The ethereal image in the midst of the girls is said to be Branwell’s self-portrait.Charlotte Brontë: An Independent Will

The other portrait of Charlotte was a chalk sketch that her publisher commissioned in 1850 to give to her father, Patrick Brontë.

Charlotte Brontë: An Independent Will

Charlotte married Arthur Bell Nicholls, the curate at Haworth, in 1854; nine months later, the 38-year-old was dead. A memorial card and an 1858 letter from Charlotte’s father to an American admirer with a sewn-on sample of Charlotte’s handwriting, conclude the exhibition.Charlotte Brontë: An Independent Will

Two years later, novelist Elizabeth Gaskell wrote The Life of Charlotte Brontë; the biography’s frontispiece shows an engraved view of the parsonage where the Brontës lived in Haworth. Mrs. Gaskell’s biography helped to establish the Haworth parsonage as a tourist destination for Brontë fans who continue to seek it today. I’m one of them.

Charlotte Brontë: An Independent WillCharlotte Brontë: An Independent Will is on view at the Morgan Library & Museum through January 2, 2017. For more, see an online exhibition titled Charlotte Bronte: Ten Letters and a Fictional Fantasy, as well as The Brontës: A Family Writes, by Christine Nelson, a Morgan Library publication that features the manuscripts and rare books in the library’s Brontë collection. Celebrating Charlotte Brontë: Transforming Life into Literature in Jane Eyre, by Christine Alexander and Sara L. Pearson, explores how art and objects inspired Charlotte in creating her most famous work, while The Art of the Brontës, by Christine Alexander and Jane Sellars, includes discussion of the Brontës’ miniature manuscripts.

Posted in Art, Books, England, History, Libraries, Museums, New York, Special Collections, Travel | Leave a comment

What Monk Knew How To Use Words And Images To Sell His Brand?

For months, I’ve been anticipating the arrival of two tantalizing exhibitions at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City. Word and Image: Martin Luther’s Reformation was one of them.

My travels through Germany have taken me on a Martin Luther pilgrimage.  In Wittenberg, I wandered through the rooms of Luther’s home and walked in his footsteps to the church door to which he nailed his 95 theses that began the Protestant Reformation. I’ve also stood in the Wartburg Castle room where Luther translated the New Testament from Greek to German. So when I learned that this exhibition features over 90 Luther-related objects from German museums, several of which have never been seen before in North America, I moved the Morgan to the top of my list of must-sees.

Word and Image: Martin Luther's ReformationTo commemorate the 500th anniversary of Luther posting his theses to that Wittenberg church door, the exhibition looks at how the monk strategically used printed material, art and music to launch and spread his message of religious reformation. One highlight is one of only six remaining printed broadsides of Luther’s theses inviting debate on indulgences, which the faithful once gained for their salvation and the selling of them to which Luther objected. Others are the January 1519 letter that Luther wrote, but never sent, to Pope Leo X, in which he reiterates his opinions on indulgences, but states his willingness to not publish further writings; as well as the manuscript of Luther’s Old Testament translation from his 11-week stay at Wartburg Castle.

Word and Image: Martin Luther's ReformationWhile those objects may be the headliners of the exhibit, I found favorites in other treasures. A circa-1520 limewood statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a child with her mother, St. Anne, recalls Luther’s devotion to St. Anne. When he was nearly struck by lightning, Luther pledged to the saint that if she would save him, he would give up studying law and become a monk instead.  A velvet and silk chasuble that Luther wore when he preached at Merseburg Cathedral in August 1545 is displayed nearby, alongside a chest that was used to store money gained from the sale of indulgences. Fragments of pottery unearthed at archaeological digs at Luther House in Wittenberg rest beside Luther’s green ceramic inkstand and decorative ceramic stove tiles from his home.  Tiny lead musical notation printing types that were recently uncovered in an archaeological dig conveys Luther’s influence in developing congregational singing. This rare find — used to print the first Lutheran hymnals — is  considered the oldest existing pieces of music-printing type in Europe, as they were used to print both lines and notes in a single step. 

Dozens of works of art by Lucas Cranach the Elder, the Saxon court painter from Wittenberg who created Luther’s public image, provide stellar illustrations of the points made in a fascinating book I read just before viewing the exhibition: Brand Luther: 1517, Printing, and the Making of the Reformation, by Andrew Pettegree.

Word and Image: Martin Luther's ReformationCranach first painted Luther’s likeness in 1520, portraying him as a vibrant young monk, university professor and theologian. Almost ten years later, Cranach depicted Luther again, this time with more gaunt, angular features, reflective of the results of the indulgence controversy. Then, when Luther married Katharina von Bora in June 1525, Cranach not only gave the bride away, but also gave the couple a pair of their portraits as a wedding gift, then produced several copies of them to share with their friends and relatives. All three of these portraits introduced Luther to those followers who had not made his acquaintance and were therefore not familiar with his looks.

Word and Image: Martin Luther's ReformationBut it is Cranach’s mastery of woodcuts that would prove so beneficial for the spread of Luther’s influence. Wittenberg’s printers depended on Cranach to produce woodcuts that would illustrate and decorate their broadsheets and books. By creating an unmistakable signature look, where a single woodcut bordered the page and framed the text, Cranach beautifully presented Luther’s message — and Luther’s name, using a bold, larger type and placing it on a line of its own, separated from the title, to attract the reader’s attention. The printer’s Wittenberg location was also emphasized, placed at the bottom of the title page instead of at the end of the publication, and surrounded by white space. Cranach’s design made Luther’s succinct, understandable theological writings immediately recognizable, and helped Wittenberg become the center of Lutheran publishing.

Word and Image: Martin Luther’s Reformation continues at the Morgan Library & Museum through January 22, 2017. For more, see Martin Luther: Treasures of the Reformation and Martin Luther and the Reformation: Essays, both published to accompany the exhibition, as well as Rick Steves’ new DVD and upcoming public television special, “Luther and the Reformation.”

Posted in Churches, Germany, History, Museums, New York, Special Collections, Travel | Leave a comment

Covering Compost Cookies to Candy Couture In 24,021 New York City Steps

When the first Saturday morning in December dawns, you may like to be nestled all snug in your bed, but I much prefer hitting the pavement for another now-legendary 15-hour visit to New York City.

The once-bleary-eyed novice in All Things Big Apple has beenRockefeller Center replaced by a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed sightseer who scurries off the motorcoach and scampers up Fifth Avenue, hot to trot for an ambitious lineup of adventures in store for the day.

The city that never sleeps is somnolent enough at that hour for early birds to have a few prime sights all to themselves. One is the 94-feet-tall, 56-feet-wide Norwegian Spruce tree from Oneonta, New York that towers over Rockefeller Center’s plaza this year, festooned with 50,000 multicolored LED lights and topped by a star fashioned from 25,000-Swarovski crystals.

Others are the dazzling holiday displays that artists spend the better part of a year crafting for department store windows. Macy's windowLord & Taylor’s “Enchanted Forest” features five vignettes of over 30 hand-sculpted animal figures dancing, ice skating and hibernating their way through a winter wonderland enhanced by LED displays, twinkling lights and over 9,000 feet of garlands. A two-story tree at Henri Bendel is trimmed with ten giant versions of the ornaments for sale in the store. At Macy’s, six windows portray holiday scenes focused on “Believing the Magic,” highlighted by an LED tree made of 1,000 crystals and interactive windows that measure visitors’ love of the holidays.

“Land of a Thousand Delights” is the appropriately named spectacular sight at Saks Fifth Avenue. Six animated windows on Fifth Avenue present fanciful Nutcracker-inspired scenes…Saks Fifth Avenue

while others are filled with “Candy Couture,” lavish designer dresses evocative of sweet treats like cotton candy, peppermint sticks and lollipops. After dark, a 10-story-tall multicolored light show stops the crowds that fill Fifth Avenue in their tracks.

Saks Fifth Avenue

“Make the World Sparkle,” urge the lovely vitrines at Tiffany & Co., where clever uses of perspective transform a holiday table, the Rockefeller Center angels and a silhouette of the Manhattan skyline into spectacular bejeweled peep shows that the police officers guarding Trump Tower were happy to help us see.

Tiffany & Co.

Across the street at Bergdorf Goodman, five lush scenes are a true “Destination Extraordinary.” In these verdant remakes of natural history dioramas, a fashion-forward tightrope walker makes her way across a lagoon overgrown with cypress trees, orchids and ferns, while a golden-haired lepidopterist nets her latest catch, flanked by a giant pair of praying mantis.Bergdorf Goodman

Five years of these New York City red-eye trips have established some favorites worth repeating, like Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a meal and shopping at Scandinavia House, and touring the East 20th Street brownstone where Theodore Roosevelt was born. This time, one particular must was walking past Patience and Fortitude, the lions guarding the entrance to the Stephen A. Schwartzman Building of the New York Public Library, to see some old friends who recently returned from an adventure of their own.Winnie-the-Pooh, New York Public Library

Winnie-the-Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga and Tigger — the famous toys who belonged to Christopher Robin Milne, inspired his father’s famous stories, emigrated to the United States in 1947, and now reside at the New York Public Library — were recently sent to a textile conservator to be restored. Pooh and his friends were restuffed, steamed, restitched and fluffed. Worn paws and ears were covered with a thin, protective mesh, while snouts were humidified and secured in their proper position. Small holes were patched with fine silk fabric in a color that mimicked the original velveteen. After vacuuming, they took their place on new mounts and sit before a map of the Hundred Acre Wood, on display in the library’s Children’s Center.

Two new destinations were on our must-see list. One was Momofuko Milk Bar, a nifty bakery to which Martha Stewart introduced us years ago on one of her field trips to her favorite spots around New York City.

Milk BarMilk Bar tempts New Yorkers with all sorts of unique signature treats featuring “crunches” and “crumbs.” The “crunch” is a staple made by blending a staple like cornflakes or potato chips with salt, sugar, melted butter and milk powder, baking the mixture slow and low, and then using the tender, caramelized concoction to make a snack, a cookie, a pie crust, or a garnish for a cake. The “crumb” are flavorful little bits made by pulverizing the main ingredient for the crumb, tossing it with flour, sugar and salt, binding it together with butter, baking it, and adding it to cookies, pie crusts and festive desserts like Funfetti Birthday Cake.

Milk Bar has several locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn; we found one tucked in a tiny nest on West 56th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Inside, there they all were: Compost Cookies, hefty concoctions of chocolate and butterscotch chips, potato chips, pretzels, graham crackers and coffee grounds. Bagel bombs with bacon, scallion and cream cheese plugs. Volcanoes, bread bursting with scalloped potatoes, caramelized onions and shredded Gruyere cheese. Crack pie, a buttery, sugary concoction in a hearty oat crust. Cornflake-Chocolate Chip-Marshmallow Cookies, like those Milk Bar baker Christina Tosi made with Martha, which you can watch here.

Milk BarWash them all down with a swig of another signature Milk Bar concoction: Cereal Milk. Just like that tasty, sweet milk at the bottom of your cereal bowl, Cereal Milk is flavored milk made by steeping toasted cornflakes, or other cereals like Fruity Pebbles, Cap’n Crunch and Lucky Charms. Drink it straight, pour it over more cereal, add it to coffee, or turn it into desserts such as panna cotta or ice cream. Watch Martha and Christina make it here.

Momofuku Milk Bar and Milk Bar Life: Recipes and Stories, both by Christina Tosi, will help me recreate the Milk Bar experience for those not up for spending two nights sitting up on a bus.

The other destination I checked off on my Must-See List was the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum — not so much for its collection, but because it calls Andrew Carnegie’s house its home. Located on East 91st Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues, the 64-room mansion was designed in the style of a Georgian country house and was built from 1899 to 1902. Carnegie saw his home as “the most modest, plainest, and most roomy house in New York.” I wanted to see it because it was the place where the philanthropist donated money to build all of those free public libraries in communities across the United States and Scotland.Carnegie home, Cooper-Hewitt Museum

The Carnegie home was the first private residence in the United States to have a structural steel frame and one of the first in New York to have a residential Otis passenger elevator. It also featured central heating, innovatively powered by a pair of twin boilers that were fueled by coal that was transferred from a storage bin to the furnace by a coal car that traveled over a miniature railroad track. Its location — far north of where other Gilded Age notables lived — allowed for the creation of a large, beautiful garden, still a unique feature in Manhattan today. In 2011, the museum closed for renovation and reopened in December 2014.

The Cooper-Hewitt Museum — our country’s only museum devoted to historic and contemporary design — moved to the Carnegie mansion in 1970. Established in 1897 by Sarah and Eleanor Hewitt, granddaughters of Peter Cooper, an industrialist who started the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, the museum is a place where visitors can learn about decorative arts. The accomplished sisters were nuts about decorative arts from an early age, traveling across Europe and collecting all sorts of wonderful decorative objects.  In 1892, Sarah wrote “Fashions and Counterfeits of Bric-a-Brac,” an article for Cosmopolitan that helped collectors lend a critical eye to antique reproductions. Eleanor was a talented embroiderer, invented a system of stenography and was one of the first female typists.

For more on Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt, click here.  To learn more about Carnegie’s home, see The Life of a Mansion: The Story of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, by Heather Ewing.

Carnegie, compost cookies, candy couture and Christopher Robin’s friends — they were all wonderful to see. However, there were two real reasons I scampered around New York City this December, and both of them were at the Morgan Library & Museum. They’re coming up next.

Posted in Architecture, Art, Food, History, Holidays, Libraries, Museums, New York, Shopping, Travel | Leave a comment

Bake Batches Of Tasty Treats With The Columbus Dispatch’s Holiday Cookie Guide

When the ever-present plate of cookies is passed at a holiday gathering, what do you choose?

I’ll admit, there’s a strategy to how I load up the Royal Copenhagen Christmas plate for its next trip around the table. The Springerles, Pfeffernüsse and Lebkuchen are given pride of place, hiding the melt-in-your-mouth Mexican wedding cookies, the sugary Scandinavian roll-ups known as Finnska Pinnar, and the Zucker Hutchen, the “little sugar hats” with candied citron and meringue that thrill my taste buds.

As much as I love these perennial favorites, some new treats are going to debut during this year’s holiday baking extravaganza. Several will hail from Christmas Cookies: Dozens of Classic Yuletide Treats for the Whole Family, by Monika Römer. Others will rise from the pages of the Columbus Dispatch’s Holiday Cookie Guide.

I came to that momentous conclusion on November 20, when I attended a terrific cookie-baking demonstration commemorating the release of the newspaper’s eighth annual collection of holiday cookie recipes.The Columbus Dispatch's Holiday Cookie Guide Celebration

Dozens of people packed a section of the Fresh Thyme Farmers Market grocery store on Polaris Parkway to watch Dispatch Food Editor Lisa Abraham prepare eight kinds of cookies featured in this year’s guide.

As we arrived, we were given a free spatula imprinted with a table of handy baking measurements and a sought-after print version of the special section containing the recipes and the stories behind them. Lucky wheel-spinners also took home Dispatch oven mitts, Macy’s gift cards and cookie cutters in the shape of the state of Ohio.

Before taking their seats, those who registered to attend sampled four different kinds of the 50 types of cookies that made this year’s lineup. The Columbus Dispatch's Holiday Cookie Guide Celebration

I proudly picked a Chocolate-Coffee Drop that my friend Joan Stack successfully submitted. I also chose to try a Norwegian Almond Bar, a White Chocolate-Cherry Shortbread and a heavenly Stained Glass Window.The Columbus Dispatch's Holiday Cookie Guide Celebration

As we squeezed into a place and munched away, Lisa provided some pre-show entertainment as her helpers passed out complimentary bottles of water to those wanting to wash down their selections.

“What goes better with cookies than coffee?,” Lisa asked. “Here’s a free canister of ground Folgers coffee for this man who was the first to arrive.”

Other lucky ladies who had attended the past two years of holiday cookie demonstrations received cookbooks like Frankie Avalon’s Italian Family Cookbook.

With the door prizes distributed, Lisa and Julie Fulton, news librarian at The Columbus Dispatch, began making a sweet confection called Cheery-Cherry Macaroons.

The Columbus Dispatch's Holiday Cookie Guide CelebrationAs she beat egg whites, added sugar, folded in flour and salt, stirred in cherries and coconut, and dropped the mixture by tablespoonful onto a baking sheet, Lisa described how the holiday cookie guide is produced.

After the call for recipes went out in August, Lisa received 186 submissions from readers, up from 165 last year. By mid-September, she started picking recipes, breaking them into categories. She reviewed what recipes had been printed in the last three years and eliminated half of the entries to prevent repeats. Then came testing the recipes, with help from over 40 bakers among the Dispatch staff, their family and friends. The 50 recipes that were chosen met Lisa’s criteria for being representative of a good mix of categories, different flavors and for successful execution by bakers of various skill levels. Finally, the recipes were typed and edited, the cookies were photographed, the publication was laid out, and its cover was designed.

As we sampled these easy-to-bake morsels, Lisa and Julie got to work on a version of Apricot Bars, another speedy bake included in the guide. Bar cookies are always a hit because they are so efficient to make during the holidays, Lisa advised; they can be cut into triangles to yield four dozen cookies.

While I can’t report on the other kinds of cookies that Lisa made for the rest of the afternoon, I can share that I’m anxious to try baking the Almond Butter Sticks, Garibaldi Cookies, Butterscotch Brownies, Forgotten Cookies, Spice Cookies with Caramel Frosting, and Sandbars.

A digital version of this year’s complete guide is available to subscribers, but individual cookie recipes can be accessed on the Dispatch website. Click here for more information.

Tune in to WOSU Radio’s All Sides with Ann Fisher on Thursday, December 8 to hear Lisa talk about this year’s Holiday Cookie Guide.

For more holiday cookie ideas, check out Good Housekeeping’s Christmas Cookies: 75 Irresistible Holiday Treats and Christmas Cookie Swap! More Than 100 Treats to Share This Holiday Season, both of which were published this year.

Posted in Food, Holidays | Leave a comment

Cultivate A Taste For Thomas Cole

Of all the images of artwork over which I pored in darkened lecture rooms and slide libraries, Kindred Spirits is one of those at which I marveled the most. Its painter, Asher B. Durand, skillfully executed sparkling waterfalls, soaring birds, verdant leaves, moss-covered tree trunks and rocks, and two men surveying this lovely scene. An inscription on a tree that reads “Bryant/Cole” is a clue to the identity of these nature-loving friends who trekked through New York’s Catskill Mountains — poet William Cullen Bryant and painter Thomas Cole.Kindred Spirits, from Wikimedia Commons

Durand painted Kindred Spirits in 1849 as a tribute to Cole after his death in February 1848. Once housed at the New York Public Library and now part of the collection of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the painting is regarded as one of the great works of the Hudson River School, in which a handful of painters painstakingly captured the beauty and emotional appeal of nature.

Cole — the man in the hat, holding the red sketchbook, and here, in an 1838 portrait by Durand — assumed heroic proportions on my list of favorite artists. In 1818, 17-year-old Cole and his family emigrated from their native England to Steubenville, Ohio, where he designed patterns and engraved woodblocks used in his father’s wallpaper-making business. After an itinerant portrait painter taught him the basics of oil painting, he started painting landscapes, eventually studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Thomas Cole: The Artist as ArchitectA sketching trip up the Hudson River in 1825 inspired him to create several works that were displayed in a New York City shop window and noticed by three of the city’s most prominent artists, including Durand, who was working as an engraver. In the years that followed, Cole became known for painting landscapes and allegorical scenes like The Voyage of Life, the celebrated four-painting series that follows a voyager from infancy to old age as he sails through life, guided by an angel, now at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. He was a frequent writer of poetry, journal entries, and periodical articles, like the “Essay on American Scenery” that he wrote for the January 1836 issue of American Monthly Magazine. But he is best known for founding the Hudson River School, a style of landscape painting that juxtaposes small details with luminous, picturesque views of the natural scenery bordering the river and the Catskill Mountains.

When I heard that an exhibition at the Columbus Museum of Art would explore Cole’s interest in architecture — particularly as a designer of the Ohio Statehouse — I counted the days to its November 18 opening.

Thomas Cole: The Artist as Architect, on view through February 1, 2017, is a collaboration between the museum and the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, New York. The site includes Cedar Grove, Cole’s home, and a studio he built there in 1846 that was reconstructed this year. In the exhibition, see views of Cedar Grove that were created by fellow Hudson River School painters Frederic Church and Jasper Cropsey, as well as a scale model of the studio that was modeled after an Italian villa. Thomas Cole: The Artist as Architect

The exhibition includes examples of elevations and floor plans for Cole’s projects, as well as some of his landscape paintings that include buildings and architectural ruins, such as View of Monte Video (1828) and The Van Rensselaer Manor House (1841).  Two pattern books from Cole’s personal library that illustrate building styles and decoration are also on view.Thomas Cole: The Artist as Architect

In 1829, Cole made his first trip to Europe, studying its great paintings, sketching architectural details and gaining inspiration in Italian ruins, such as those he captured in The Cascatelli, Tivoli, Looking Towards Rome. I nearly genuflected before the hinged mahogany paintbox that Cole took with him on subsequent travels to Italy.  The image on its interior cover depicts the ruins of the Temples of Zeus and Concordia in Girgenti, Sicily. Thomas Cole: The Artist as Architect

By the mid-1830s, Cole started expressing his interest in architecture, listing himself as an architect in the New York City Directory and sketching ideas for a national monument to George Washington. In 1838, he entered a competition to design the Ohio Statehouse, and won third place for his rendering of a horizontal building with a Doric colonnade, a recessed entrance and window bays, and a low windowed dome.
Thomas Cole: The Artist as Architect

Alexander Jackson Davis, an architect who authored Rural Residences, the first American pattern book for building houses, was hired to combine the best of all three drawings; however, Davis’s plan was too expensive to build, so Cole’s design was executed with some modifications. Thomas Cole: The Artist as Architect

The Architect’s Dream, which Cole painted in 1839-1840 and is now in the collection of the Toledo Museum of Art, is another highlight of the exhibition. The painting portrays an architect lounging on a column, perched on books as he conjures images of fantastic architectural styles.Thomas Cole: The Artist as Architect

Perhaps the most poignant part of the exhibition is Cole’s study for The Cross and the World – The Pilgrim of the World on His Journey. Painted in 1846-47, the study was to be for a five-part series Cole planned about the opposing journeys of the “pilgrim of the cross,” who seeks spiritual truth, and the “pilgrim of the world,” who delights in material things, but he died before he completed it. Thomas Cole: The Artist as Architect

Cultivate a taste for scenery, Cole urged in his “Essay on American Scenery.”

“It is a subject that to every American ought to be of surpassing interest; for, whether he beholds the Hudson mingling waters with the Atlantic–explores the central wilds of this vast continent, or stands on the margin of the distant Oregon, he is still in the midst of American scenery–it is his own land; its beauty, its magnificence, its sublimity–all are his; and how undeserving of such a birthright, if he can turn towards it an unobserving eye, an unaffected heart!,” Cole wrote. “…Nature has spread for us a rich and delightful banquet. Shall we turn from it? We are still in Eden; the wall that shuts us out of the garden is our own ignorance and folly.”

The same could be said for cultivating a taste for architectural scenery, including the buildings that Cole conceived.

For more, see Thomas Cole: The Artist as Architect, the catalogue by Annette Blaugrund that accompanies the exhibition; Thomas Cole’s Poetry: The Collected Poems of America’s Foremost Painter of the Hudson River School; The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision, by Linda S. Ferber; American Paradise: The World of the Hudson River School, a publication of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Hudson River School: American Landscape Artists, by Bert D. Yaeger; Thomas Cole: Landscape Into History, edited by William H. Truettner and Alan Wallach; and a DVD titled The Hudson River School: Artistic Pioneers.

Posted in Architecture, Art, History, Museums, Ohio | 1 Comment

Be Still, My Beating Heart, For The Healthy Sanctuary On Olentangy River Road

While I’ve “taken the waters” from the hot springs bubbling below Bath, England and West Virginia’s famous White Sulphur Springs, I derived just as many beneficial and healing properties from a much closer destination. Spending the better part of a day at the McConnell Heart Health Center is my close-to-home version of a spa experience.McConnell Heart Health Center

Located in Columbus next to OhioHealth’s Riverside Methodist Hospital, the center is the result of the philanthropy of John H. McConnell, founder of Worthington Industries, former majority owner of the Columbus Blue Jackets and author of Our Golden Rule, and his wife, Peggy. The McConnells championed the prevention and treatment of heart disease through improved lifestyle habits and rehabilitation.

The McConnell Center integrates health and fitness with preventing heart and musculoskeletal disease and improving the health of those being treated for those diseases. The facility includes cardiovascular and weight-training equipment, a half-court gymnasium, steam rooms and saunas, relaxation and meditation rooms, as well as an iMcConnell Heart Health Centerndoor track, a 25-meter lap pool and two warm-water pools. The experience is completed by a retail store, a café with a heart-healthy menu, and a health education resource center staffed by physical therapists, registered nurses and dieticians and exercise physiologists who design personal health improvement programs for members. Aquatic, spinning, fitness and education classes are all complimentary for members.

Imagine beginning the day by soaking up the benefits of a warm-water pool that’s reminiscent of a perfectly tempered bath. An hour-long Water Yoga session adapts basic yoga poses for execution in the water to strengthen, stretch, balance and relax. In honor of Thanksgiving, a “Yoga Birds” theme incorporated the Flamingo and Pigeon poses into the routine.

Dry off, change and head for the Mind-Body Studio for Basic Pilates, a class in which dozens of participants learn the proper breathing and form techniques needed to perform modern-day versions of the exercises developed by Joseph Pilates to stretch, strengthen and streamline the body.

Fill the break between classes with the “Workout of the Month,” a combination of moves with stability, BOSU and medicine balls that can be performed at two different levels. An exercise physiologist on the fitness floor can provide exercise modifications as needed.

Next, unroll your mat for Yoga Mix, a moderately-paced class that incorporates a range of standing, sitting, balancing and back-bending poses to connect the breath with movement.

McConnell Heart Health CenterFour hours of exercise calls for a satisfying lunch. Find it in the center’s Longaberger Café, which serves heart-healthy sandwiches and salads. A hot lunch special — like the tasty French dip sandwich with au jus and fresh fruit that I chose — is served Monday through Thursday; a breakfast special is available on Friday.

After lunch, join a half-hour educational session like the one a psychologist with a soothing voice led on “Relaxation Techniques,” describing the benefits of deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, visualization and guided imagery.

Behind the McConnell Center, pass a pond, cross a bridge and find a 25-acre nature preserve. McConnell Heart Health Center

Walkers and runners can explore it along Peggy’s Path, which provides a choice of three loops that wind through the wooded grounds.
Peggy's Path

Come face-to-face with deer also enjoying the trail, read messages spelled in hedge apples, and spot birds making their homes in memorial nesting boxes. Or, experience nature by sitting quietly on one of the benches placed along the trail. Peggy's Path

Enter or exit the trail next to the Peggy McConnell Memorial Garden, an area enclosed by tall hedges and a large oak tree that was configured to resemble the letters “P” and “J,” for Peggy’s husband, John. Stone walls surrounding the gardens include motivational messages from Eleanor Roosevelt, Zelda Fitzgerald, Albert Camus and others to stay the course towards developing a stronger heart. “May you live every day of your life,” as Jonathan Swift said.Peggy McConnell Memorial Garden

Peggy’s Path also leads to Big Red’s Lodges, a complex of eight furnished guest lodges that were created in honor of Mr. McConnell, the redhead who was known to his friends as “Big Red.” Constructed in 2008, the lodges made Mr. McConnell’s vision for a health-focused retreat at the center a reality. Big Red's Lodges

Big Red's LodgesEach lodge features a living room, kitchenette, bedroom and bathroom. Amenities include a flat-screen television and fireplace, complimentary high-speed Internet, a king-size bed and a queen-size sleeper sofa, full access to the McConnell Center, a healthy continental breakfast at the Longaberger Café, and the option to schedule appointments with massage therapists, personal trainers and nutritionists. The lodges are reserved by out-of-town visitors or those wishing to stay close to a loved one being cared for at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital, Kobacker House or Bing Cancer Center.

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See An Atlantic Puffin And The Amalfi Coast Without Leaving Central Ohio

My mobile cuisine experiences may be limited to a Charlie Brown moment involving beignets and a longstanding intention to track down Alice’s Aebelskabels and try the traditional Danish pancake known as aebelskiver, but this strategist is well-versed in the continuing food truck trend. Initiatives like The Columbus Food Truck Cookbook and the Columbus Mobile Food Conference & Expo fuel public interest in these street-roaming ways for entrepreneurs and aspiring restaurateurs to test concepts for specialty eats with decreased overhead, start-up costs and risks.

But a yarn truck? Now that’s a brilliant concept!Yarnbyrds

Gahanna, Ohio resident Robin Richey put her undergraduate degree in business administration to good use when she decided to launch Yarnbyrds, the only yarn truck of its kind in Ohio and one of about 10 yarn trucks throughout the United States and Canada.

Richey converted a 20-by-8-foot white motor home into a paradise for yarn-lovers. Her husband, an electrical engineer, installed generator-powered color rendering index lighting — including a crystal chandelier — to show the yarns’ true colors. Custom-built cubbyholes are filled with yarn in a tantalizing array of colors and weights, including several hand-dyed lines that have been designed exclusively for Yarnbyrds.


From knitting tools to unique yarn-themed accessories and handmade project bags, Yarnbyrds offers something for every budget.Yarnbyrds

Richey hit the road this past July, and has been driving “Byrdie” to fiber festivals and farmers’ markets in Westerville, Grandview, Athens and Yellow Springs.

YarnbyrdsAt the Church of the Resurrection’s Fiber Fair in New Albany on October 29, my cousin and I indulged in skeins of Round Mountain Fibers’ hand-dyed yarn in colorways inspired by bird plumage. After debating between “Black Rosy Finch,” “Blue Jay,” “Dark Eyed Junco,” “Snowy Owl” and “Wood Duck,” I settled on “Green Heron,” a fingering-weight tribute to the striking bird with a velvety green back, chestnut-hued body and dark gray wings. She chose the worsted-weight “Atlantic Puffin,” a black-and-white skein with multicolored accents like its bill.

The next week, we saw Byrdie at the Friends of the Westerville Public Library’s Sit & Knit Day, during which fiber enthusiasts drop in to work on projects, share their work and demonstrate techniques. Yarnbyrds

She left with a map-themed zippered box pouch that Richey made; I gave in to “Amalfi Coast,” a fingering-weight wet kettle-dyed skein of merino, cashmere and nylon from Cleveland-based Destination Yarn that picks up the blues and greens from the water of this Italian destination, grays from the landscape, and corals from the buildings. “Farmer’s Market,” which captures the shades of kale, eggplant, tomato and carrots, and “Hocking Hills,” a combination of greens, earth tones and grey that capture the feeling of the well-known southern Ohio destination, will have to wait for another Yarnbyrds sighting.

Joyce Weida, a local designer of knitting patterns named after Columbus icons like Pearl Alley, Antrim Lake and the Southern Theatre, gave Sit & Knit Day attendees a complimentary pattern for “Seed,” an asymmetrical triangular wrap knit in seed stitch with three colors of worsted-weight yarn. Yarnbyrds carries some of Weida’s designs; you can also find them here on Ravelry, an online community where knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, weavers and dyers can keep track of their yarn, patterns and projects.

Byrdie plans to nest at Camelot Cellars on November 23 and the Granville Winter Farmer’s Market on December 3, among other places. Click here for more information, or follow Yarnbyrds on Facebook, Instagram and Ravelry.

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