August 27, 2016


As far as I can remember, early American 'folk art' {broadly speaking...} was the first to awaken my interest in looking at art, and I am still strongly drawn to it.  So it was a great treat to spend this morning at Cogwell's Grant, an 18th-century farmhouse in Essex, Mass. filled with paintings, furniture, rugs, carved ostrich eggs, pottery, china, wooden signs and many other kinds of art and antiques collected by Bertram and Nina Fletcher Little. {The Littles, I learned, purchased the house and its surrounding land in the 1930s, as a summer home;  their other house, with another, more 'formal' collection of folk art, was in Brookline. Cogswell's Grant and its collections were given to Historic New England in the 1990s, and I remember coming here once before, soon after I moved to Boston, probably the minute it opened. :)}

There is so much to look at, from carved ostrich eggs to hooked rugs, but this was a special tour focusing on the portraits in the house, most of them painted in the early 19th century.  There were dozens of them, and a common theme of  looking at how the artists focused on what was important to their sitters {and not overly much on flattering them...}  Many of the portraits showed contrasts: attention paid to capturing a face, but much less to hands or clothing, or great skill in depicting lace or jewelry, but less expertise with perspective or other artistic techniques, or a head that sits a little oddly on its shoulders.

These last two — painted c. 1814-1816 by Ammi Phillips — were the ones that I loved most.  {The images I found don't really do them justice ...} They're large and very softly tinted, hanging side by side in an upstairs bedroom, and so lovely, and then there are those frowns... )

1 comment:

Bellezza said...

I wish I could have been there with you! Thank for posting these beautiful paintings, and reminding me of a simpler time. So peaceful to my soul.