Monday, May 20, 2019

AUGUSTA SAVAGE: Renaissance Woman Review By Polly Guerin

Augusta Savage with "Realization"
"/There is form and color, and rhythm in the work, but most of all , there is Augusta Savage in every bit of it." --- New York Telegram, April 1932.  
     When it comes to success in life, "Timing is Everything," and such was the case with Augusta Savage (1892-1962). Being Black, being a woman and being an artist are challenges that Augusta encountered, yet she overcame poverty, racism, and sexual discrimination to become an instrumental artist, educator and community organizer during the Harlem Renaissance, an artistic and cultural movement during the 1920s and 1930s in which cultural work was produced by Black artists about the Black lived experience. Yet, her work is largely unknown today. 
       To remind us not to forget. this remarkable woman's oeuvre is worthy of new found recognition but she was also the driving force behind the artistic education of  several notable artists in Harlem, including Gwendolyn Knight, Jacob Lawrence, William Artis and Norman Lewis. Image: Augusta Savage with her sculpture "Realization," 1938 Gelatin Silver Print, 10 x 8 in. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the New York Public Library, Photographs and Print Division, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations, 86-0036. Not much has been written or recorded about her 1938 sculpture "Realization" but one can sense both shame and fear in a sorrowful monument that symbolizes the pained bewilderment of the persecuted Negro peon.
      The New York Historical Society presents: AUGUSTA SAVAGE, RENAISSANCE WOMAN through July 29, 2019, "This landmark exhibition gives visitors the opportunity to understand and appreciate the artistic greatness of Ms. Savage's Legacy, as well as the many challenges she
faced as a woman and an African American," said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New York Historical Society.  
     Augusta's commitment to using art to empower an oppressed is at the heart of the exhibition, which features more than 50 works of art and archival materials that explore Savage's legacy
through her own sculptures as well as the work of emerging artists she inspired.
Boy with Rabbit, 1928
As a child, Augusta was so inspired to create art that she used the rich clay deposits in Green Cove Springs, Florida, where she was born in 1892,  to sculpt animal figurines. When her father, a minister, discovered her work, he beat her severely for what he thought "graven images." Alas, her father could not "beat" the art out of her and neither could our imperfect world and society.  

Image: Boy with Rabbit, 1928 reflects the innocence of childhood, a nude boy tenderly feeds apples to a rabbit eagerly standing on its hind legs next to him. This subject demonstrates Savage's ability to sculpt the body and animals into a comprehensive composition evoking innocence and perhaps referencing Savage's childhood in Florida.                 
        Augusta moved to Harlem to study art in 1921 and graduated from The Cooper Union School of Art, where she completed a four-year program in three years. Despite having a prominent scholarship to the Fontainebleau School of Arts in Paris rescinded due to her race---the selection committee declared "it would not be wise to have a colored student," Savage studied elsewhere in Paris  from 1929-31 to further her practice. When she returned to New York, she established her own studio in Harlem to offer free art classes to children and adults.  
      Savage was one of 12 women artists commissioned for the 1939 World's Fair in New York and the only African American woman selected to participate.  She created LIFT EVERY VOICE AND
SING (1939) for the occasion---a 16 foot-tall sculpture of Black youth in the form of a Harp, inspired by the hymn "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," also known as the Black National Anthem. Unfortunately, Savage lacked both the funds to cast the work in bronze and the space to store it, so like many artworks at the World's Fair, it was destroyed when the event ended. Lift Every Voice and Sings exists only in the form of souvenir replicas, like the version on display in the gallery.  Its exhibition marks the 89th anniversary of the New York World's Fair.
     Savage fought to create opportunities for many Harlem artists and became an inspiration  for the community centers nationwide. In Savage's own words, "I have created nothing really beautiful, really lasting, but if I can inspire one of these youngsters to develop the talent I know they possess, then my monument will be in their work."  On view in the exhibition are works by Knight and Lawrence as well as Romare Bearden and William Artis.
Lift Every Voice and Sing
     Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman, a companion catalogue, published by London-based firm D.Giles Unlimited further explores Augusta Savage's impact and legacy. The book is available in the NYHistory Store and from online retailers. The exhibition was curated by Jeffreen M. Hayes, Ph.d and organized by the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens with support from the National Endowment for the arts and the Sotheby's Prize.
       Ta Ta Darlings!!!  What talent, what perseverance, what a awesome, benevolent artist/sculptor---Augusta Savage nurtured and enabled so many talented Black youth to fulfill their dream. Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs at and click on the links in the left-hand column to women determined to succeed, visionary men, fashion historian and poetry.

Monday, May 13, 2019


The Cradle, 1872
"Berthe Morisot has captured on canvas the most figurative notes with delicacy and skill, and a technique which earns her a place in the forefront of the Impressionists." George Riviere, critic
       Celebrated in her time, French impressionist painter, BERTHE MORISOT's  prolific and daring style set a new trend as one of the revolutionary artists of the French Impressionist movement. As one of the founding members of the advant garde she was renowned as a painter of modern women and captured Parisians life with poignant details and intimate settings. Image: The Cradle, 1872, oil on canvas, Musee D'Orsay, Paris, Dist, RMN Grand Palais/Patrice Schmidt.
      In an acclaimed international touring exhibition, BERTHE MORISOT, WOMAN IMPRESSIONIST, The Dallas Art Museum presents, through May 26, the very first solo exhibition of her work to be held in the United States since 1987. After a highly successful presentations in Quebec, Canada, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States, the Dallas presentation focuses on the artist's figurative paintings and portraits though approximately seventy paintings from both public institutions and private collections. Of special interest. nine of the paintings are exclusive to the Dallas Museum of Art's presentation in North America and will be seen for the first time in Dallas as part of the exhibition. 
       Morisot may not be as well known as her impressionist colleagues, such as Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Pierre-August-Renoir, but her distinct style sheds light on subjects that recorded the lifestyle of women and their servants, babies and children in delicate domestic venues. 
Woman at her Toilette 1875-1880
      ON A RECENT VISIT to the Dallas Art Museum's exhibition, Polly was impressed by the enduring charm of Morisot's oeuvre. Each painting seemed overcast in a creamy white blending of colors, which made an impression of serenity and compassion in the domesticity of everyday life, including tender childhood moments, housework, practicing violin or piano, reading or playing with a little dog. Image: Woman at hr Toilette, 1875-1880, oil on canvas, The Art Institute of Chicago, inv. no. 1924.127. Courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago/Art Resource, NY.
       Then, too, there is The Cradle, 1872, best know and loved work, as well as Woman at her Toilette 1875-1880 where a woman is seated before a mirror with her back toward us in a swirl of color. Notice that the artist does not show the woman's face reflected in the mirror lending an impression of mystery to the portrait. It is interesting to note that during most of her painting career Morisot did not have a painting studio but produced most of her paintings by setting up an easel in her kitchen or living room.
Eugene Manet ith their daughter Julie 1881
Although many of her paintings were created with interior renderings she also excelled with outdoor themes."En plein air" paintings revealed her innovative treatment of integrating her subjects within the setting with lush brushstrokes and palette.  In 1874 she married Eugene Manet, the younger brother of Edouard Manet and painted this loving scene of Eugene with their daughter Julie at Bougival, 1881. 

       The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with a specific focus on Morisot's pioneering developments as a painter first, woman second. Edited by Sylvie Patry in English, the catalogue was co-published by Rizzoli International Publications, Inc. and The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia. (Hardcover, $55). 
       MARK YOUR CALENDARS. Of special note, The Dallas Museum of Art opens its presentation of the first major U.S. Retrospective of the HOUSE OF DIOR on May 19, 2019. The exhibition celebrates more than 70 years of the French House's legacy and influence and includes New Looks exclusive to the DMA presentation.
       TA Ta Darlings!  I realize that the Dallas Art Museum may not be on your travel agenda, but I trust that this feature has engaged your interest in Berthe Morisot. As a fashionista enthusiast I hope to see you at the Dior exhibition
      Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly's other Blogs
at and click on the links in the left-hand column.

Thursday, May 9, 2019


The theme FREEDOM, expressed through the music of three contemporary composers, Duke Ellington, Rollo Dilworth, and Nicholas White, represents a new multi-media concert in the Canterbury Choral Society's 67th season
         FESTIVAL OF GOSPEL MUSIC, a celebration of spirituals, jazz and gospel music at the Church of the Heavenly Rest, 1085 Fifth Avenue at 90th Street takes place next Friday May 17, 2019 at 7 pm.
        Coincidentally adding to this glorious evening is the first installation on the East Coast of Les Colombes (the Birds) by artist Michael Pendry, appropriately titled Freedom and Release. 
Jonathan de Vries, Artistic Director and Conductor
       At the podium, artistic director and
conductor, Jonathan de Vries, has invited several choirs to participate in this multi-media event including The New Amsterdam Boys and Girls Choir, All Soul's Children's Choir, St. Hilda's and St. Hugh's Upper Division Choirs and the Choristers of the Church of the Heavenly Rest. 
      Musical selections include Rollo Dilworth's BOUND FOR GLORY,  which explores themes of redemption and salvation including movements, "This Train is Bound for Glory," and "City Called Heaven." This work was commissioned by Canterbury and was first performed at Carnegie Hall on November 18, 2017. The first movement, "This Train is Bound for Glory," celebrates the influences of African musical traditions on American folk tunes, European melodies, and the American African spiritual. The final movement in a metaphoric sense, the "train" refers to the Underground Railroad (a route of escape for runaway slaves) and "glory" refers to heaven.      
Soloist Janinah Burnett
 Of special note, the renowned 
soloist, JANINAH BURNETT, and celebrated Carlotta from the Phantom of the Opera, performs in the Canterbury Choral Society's final concert of the season. 
       It is significant to also mention that Canterbury's own, the celebrated piano soloist STEVEN GRAFF, will also perform in a jazz selection.
        A FESTIVAL of GOSPEL MUSIC also features selections from Duke Ellington's, Second Sacred Concert including "IT'S FREEDOM" and  "PRAISE GOD AND DANCE, " first performed at St. John the Divine, January 19, 1968.
       Nicholas White's "FULL FREEDOM," a piece for multiple choirs and instrumentalists,  written for the annual choral tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Kennedy Center (Washington DC) on January 13, 2002 features texts derived from the poems: "Peace" by Henry Vaughan,"The Essay on Man" by Alexander Pope, and "Fulfillment" by Ronald K. Orchard.
New Amsterdam Boys and Girls Choir

        TICKETS: $25 General Admission, $20 Seniors, $10 Students with ID.  Tickets also available via SMARTTIX.COM or at the door. 
     Do try to arrive early to acquire the best seats in the open seating in the Church of the Heavenly Rest. Polly is singing in the Canterbury chorus.  Don't forget to say "Hello" after the performance.
       Inquiries regarding this feature and Fan Mail may be sent to

Saturday, April 20, 2019


Dear Friends: IT'S DUKE ELLINGTON LIKE YOU HAVE NEVER HEARD BEFORE with The Canterbury Choral Society's GOSPEL CONCERT plus Works by Rollo Dilworth and Nicholas White on a Friday night, May 17th. 
      The FESTIVAL OF GOSPEL MUSIC is held in the glorious setting of the Church of the Heavenly Rest where we are joined by children, youth and gospel choirs, and brilliant soloists. Polly is singing in the chorus and will be delighted to greet you after the concert. 

Monday, April 8, 2019

THE TALE OF GENJI at the Metropolitan Museum: Review By Polly Guerin

The art of storytelling may well have its origins in THE TALE OF GENJI, a rich Japanese epic that one may conclude is the first and most historically romantic literature that captivated readers with spellbinding tales of romance and adventure. 
       Romantic writers today may well find great inspiration for although the stories date back to the early eleventh century, when they were written, they span over 54 chapters with a cast of some 500 characters in exquisitely illustrated and illuminated screens and scrolls. 
     The exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, on view through June 16th also brings together more than 120 relics from twelve collections in Japan and the United States inspired by the book. The popular 54-chapter tale was written by the noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu was a mix of storytelling themes centering on romantic encounters, entertainment, social conjecture and even Buddhist philosophy. 

It was the quintessential romantic story and like women devotees of the romantic novel genre today, the first readers were obsessed with the stories. At the core of the story line are the misadventures of the Emperor's son who, excluded from the line of succession, seeks restitution through romantic encounters with a cast of over 500 female personalities. And, oh
what a tale it was but not just for the elite, Murasaki's classic was available in modern
translations, books, drawings and popular prints distributed to a wide and eager audience.
Colorful episodes pull the reader in with mesmerizing descriptions of the Heian period and introduce beautiful and intriguing female characters. The most fascinating object on view include calligraphy texts and paintings drawn from the Edo period. The works on view reflect the wealth of patrons who commissioned magnificent screens, scrolls as inspiration from the book. Fashion also took a fancy to the Genji stories and produced magnificent gold encrusted silk robes and just in case a reader wanted to fancy herself a heroine in a story she would wear an elaborately embroidered kimono. Even a deck of playing cards printed with characters from the stories might get you in the mood.     
The Story of Genji is a story of serial sensationalism which captivated audiences not only with the romantic aspect of the story but provided details of opulent, privileged lifestyle, definitive descriptions of court life, the fashions they wore, the way they ate, drank an made merry. The screens are delightful to look at and tell individual stories of remarkable imagination.
The exhibition concludes with original drawings by the contemporary manga artist Yamato Waki, from his updated adaptation "Asaki Uume Mishi" a testament to the sagas remarkable legacy.   
     Ta Ta Darlings!!!   I wonder if anyone will take up the gauntlet, so to speak, and try to write
a saga of such monumental proportions today.  Alas, I do hope to hear from you please email  Visit Polly's Blogs at

Monday, March 18, 2019

THE TRAPHAGEN SCHOOL Fostering American Fashion: Review By Polly Guerin

Ethel Traphagen photographer unknown
To the world at large the name Traphagen may have very little significance, but to fashion insiders, historians and some fashionistas they remember that Ethel Traphagen, illustrator and fashion designer was founder with her husband, the artist William R. Leigh of the TRAPHAGEN SCHOOL OF DESIGN  where they both taught at the school and she served as director. The first fashion school of its kind, it opened in 1923 at 1680 Broadway. It is interesting to note that the school's founding predates The Fashion Institute of Technology which opened in 1944.  
      However, this story is not just about a fashion school it is about the meteoric rise of American fashion that would rival Paris couture that had held the title of Empress of Fashion since its founding by Charles Frederick Worth in 1800s. 
     The School of Graduate Studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology presents an engaging and well documented tribute to THE TRAPHAGEN SCHOOL, Fostering American Fashion in an exhibit which runs through to March 31, 2019.. The exhibit in the Museum at FIT is open Tuesday through Friday noon to 8 p.m., Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. free admission
      1912, A PIVOTAL YEAR: When the New York Times announced the first ever American Fashion contest in collaboration with Ladies Home Journal editor, Edward Bok who had been promoting"AMERICAN FASHION FOR AMERICAN WOMEN "since 1910.  You must remember that at this time American designers were incognito so to speak. They labored under the influence of Parisian styles and merely adapted the silhouettes at various price points.  
The Winner, Dress Design inspired by ART
THE WINNER:Thirty-year-old Ethel Traphagen of Brooklyn, New York was was one such designer, unremarkable and obscure until she won the coveted first place evening dress award in the New York Times contest. At six feet tall the red-haired, blue-eyed Ethel would become a dynamic pioneer in American fashion
ORIGINAL AMERICAN DESIGN: Ethel believed that American design could be achieved by the study of art and fashion history as a source of inspiration and that would become the mantra of instruction when the school was established. Ethel's winning dress design was based on the painting Nocturne Blue and Gold, Old Battersea Bridge by Abbott McNeil Whistler. 
      When Ethel established Traphagen School it was built on the fundamental American design movement: Design by Adaptation was its core philosophy. The Traphagen School was known for its study collections. artifacts that included books and historic fashion plates made available to students to use hands-on for inspiration. Such a tenet was also adapted by the Hewitt Sisters, particularly Eleanor, who made their artifacts and collections available to students for research and interpretation. As far as designer recognition goes, very few rose to the heights of our present day superstars. However, in the 1940's Lord and Taylor was the firsr department store to
elevate American Designers to stardom, featuring them in window displays and bring to the fore
such luminaries as Bonnie Cashin and later Anne Klein. THE BATTLE OF VERSAILLES: Worth mentioning here this event's intent was to raise money for the restoration of the French palace. It pitted American ready-to-wear designers and the Parisian haute couturiers. 
Traphagen Archive Illustration
Bravo! The American 
designers presented modern, cutting-edge fashions, which made the French couture seem outdated and in consequential. THE TRAPHAGEN SCHOOL MAY HAVE BEEN THE STANDARD BEARER OF ILLUSTRATION AND DESIGN, BUT THE FASHION BEAT GOES ON EVER TO HEIGHTS OF UNPRECEDENTED ACCLAIM AT THE FASHION INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY. Traphagen closed is doors in 1991 and FIT opened in 1945 beating the path to
international fashion history.
    Ta Ta Darlings!!!! Polly was a professor in the fashion merchandising department at FIT for over 25 years and conducted  a summer study tour in Europe for 20 young women students through the fashion capitals of London, Paris, Milan and St. Tropez visiting haute couture and not so haute designers as well as factories and retail stores. Visit Polly's Blogs at
Fan mail welcome at

The Traphagen School: Fostering American Fashion at FIT;