Nothing So Lovely as a Tree

September 22, 2011 at 12:45 pm (history, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I spent last evening reviewing photographs Charlotte Frost had taken of Fanny Seymour’s sketchbooks (held at the Bodleian Library, Oxford University). Today, I sit at my desk (I call it “sitting in a hall, staring at a wall’ – but you’d have to see my ‘office cubicle’ to appreciate the poetry….), the window is high above the section of wall, and looking up don’t I see some tall, thin, green, leafy TREE — just like so many Fanny sketched!

I was suddenly transported back in time (c1830) and place (England rather than the state of Vermont).

Studying these drawings — mainly architectural (some of the Smith homes: Tring Park and Mapledurham; some homes of relatives: Castle Ashby, Coolhurst, Purley Hall; some surroundings: gardens, walks, villages) — makes me cast a glance back on my own art studies in college.

I have only two specimens in my collection (guess I didn’t care enough about still life or models to keep those studies) and really don’t recall how long it look me to do the most intensive one: a “collage” of various items all spilling over across the paper, one “scene” segueing into the next. I’ve always been rather proud of it, though. Proved — to me! — that I had at least imitative talent.

I’m dating myself here, but think of the campaign, “Can You Draw This Girl? You Might Have a Career in Art.” This was a correspondence course type of ad. I’m sure I attempted the girl or the “Bambi” deer, but I never sent anything in.

An Aside: Guess they are still around!

 

  • Art Instruction Schools — since 1914.
  • a student has actually posted an interesting “review” of the Schools; but also a complaint.
  • in a hunt for the “Can You Draw This Girl?” I came across Wikipedia‘s entry for the School.

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Augusta rules!

August 16, 2010 at 11:03 pm (news, people, research) (, , , , , )

This seems destined to be the summer of Augusta Smith turning up in unexpected places. A few months ago, it was a 1798 diary penned by Augusta Smith the elder, whom I usually refer to as ‘Mamma’ in this blog. And over this past weekend, an 1824 letter written by her eldest daughter, Augusta!

The letter arrived in my email box thanks to Angela in Alberta, Canada. Her grandfather had been given the letter, when he was in England, during World War II. Imagine.

Angela is lucky, as it is one of the most intriguing letters. Augusta proves herself a very astute writer, especially when she is reminiscing about the family trip to 1822-23 and remembering their time in Rome. Ah! I know only too well what it is like to pine for places you haven’t seen in some time…

There are a couple items to bring up in this blog, but I will leave them for later. Let it suffice that I greatly thank Angela for bringing this letter to my attention. Few might realize  how one letter, one diary, sometimes even just one sentence or two written about these people can shed new light, revealing light, on these 200-year-old people.  Hip-hip-hurrah for blogs! for without this one I would never have seen these private sides of my two Augustas.

BTW, the above is not a portrait of Augusta (I have nothing of either — so far!), but a fashion plate from c1820. As eldest daughter, young Augusta occupied a unique place in the Smith of Suttons family, she was Mrs Smith’s ‘ornamental daughter’ according to one contemporary and friend. Augusta’s life makes for riveting reading, and I do so want her story to be told. Riches – pain – love – marriage – death. She is definitely one reason I pursue these people to the ‘ends of the earth,’ from North Carolina, to Winchester and Chelmsford, Warwick and Chicago, London, New York City, Oxford, and now Alberta.

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