Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"Working" on Vacation

After a short hiatus, I'm back. We all need a vacation now and then, right? As a bookseller and lover of books, every vacation turns into a search for books. With the decreasing number of open shops, the challenge has increased in difficulty. Sadly, one bookshop I frequented in Newport has closed, they are still in business but no longer as an open shop. So it goes.

This did not stop me from orienting the trip around my interest in book illustration. Newport happens to be the home of the National Museum of American Illustration. I've tried to go for the past three summer, but it has always been closed, open only by appointment. I'm of the mind to be spontaneous while on vacation, so having to plan ahead didn't fit into my M.O. Fortunately, this summer, the museum kept open hours on the weekend, so I forked over my $25 to view the permanent collection.

The NMAI is housed in one of the grand mansions of Newport on Bellevue Avenue. The mansion is named Vernon Court and was built in 1898 in the tradition of the French chateau. It really is an extraordinary structure and when it was constructed, the architect had it in mind that the first floor should have a layout suitable for a museum to showcase the grand furnishings and artwork of the owner.
The museum's permanent collection focuses on the Golden Age of Illustration of the early 20th Century. To my personal delight, this includes the Brandywine artists, a school of artists founded by the man credited as the father of American Illustration, Howard Pyle. The collection is truly astounding and it is pure delight to see the originals of artwork I had only been able to admire in books. I also developed a new respect for advertising artist J. C. Leyendecker, whose depiction of men changed the ideal of how a man should dress and carry himself in the 1920s.

The artwork is beautifully presented, surrounded by furnishing from the 17th-19th Century, for which there is also information. The architecture is of the gilded age and perfectly compliments the artwork which is presented. For more information on the museum, I urge you to visit their website:

So, if you love and of these artists as much as I do, the trip to the museum is well worth it: Maxfield Parrish, N. C. Wyeth, Jessie Willcox Smith, Howard Pyle, Elizabeth Shippen Green, Violet Oakley, Charles Dana Gibson, Harrison Fisher, etc...

In honor of my visit the museum, below I will list some of the books from my inventory that feature artwork by the artists whose work I had seen at the museum:

Harrison Fisher:

Dream of Fair Women, published in 1907. Housed in original box with glassene dust wrapper. $425.00

Elizabeth Shippen Green:

Book of the Little Past. 6 color plates by Green, a Brandywine artist. $150.00

Maxfield Parrish:

Golden Treasury of Songs and Lyrics. While the illustrations were used without Parrish's permission, we are now glad that they did. However, at the time it was quite an affront to the artist. 8 color plates. $500.00

Knickerbocker's History of New York. One of Parrish's earliest works. This is the 1915 edition, originally pulbished with Parrish illustrations in 1900. $350.00

Jessie Willcox Smith:

Child's Garden of Verses: 1905 with 12 color plates. $225.00

Dream Blocks. 1908 with 14 color plates. $650.00
Other available Smith titles: Book of the Child, Child's Book of Verses, Seven Ages of Childhood.
For more information on the Brandywine artists, may I suggest: The Brandywine Tradition by Henry C. Pitz, published by Weathervane in 1978.

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