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
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The Traphagen School: Fostering American Fashion at FIT;

Friday, March 15, 2019


William Wade, Panorama, 1847
The lore and legends of the mighty Hudson River served as inspiration for legions of artists including Thomas Cole, and writers who captured the river in paintings, drawings, literature and photographs, and surveyors and scientists have mapped and measured its every parcel, forever romancing its legendary history.
       But the Hudson River is much more than a body of
water. It has been home, not only for people, but hundreds of species of fish, birds, and plants, a landscape so rich when first discovered they came to plunder and then came enlightenment and conservation. Today, the movement to protect nature is called "environmentalism." Image: William Wade, Panorama of the Hudson Rive from New York to Waterford, ca. 1847. New York Historical Society Library.
      This spring, The New York Historical Society presents HUDSON RISING, a unique exhibition that explores 200 years of ecological change and environmental activism along "the most interesting river in America" through artifacts and the celebrated Hudson River School of paintings.  
       On view through August 4, 2019, HUDSON RISING  we learn that the Hudson River flows from the Adirondack Mountains 315 miles south to the bay between New York City and New Jersey, where it meets the Atlantic ocean. Five paintings by Thomas Cole at the entrance to the exhibit, tell a story about the rise and fall of the mighty Hudson empire.       
JOURNEYS UP RIVER: The river was lush, it was brimming with oysters and in its heyday oysters were shipped worldwide and in abundance in New York's Fulton Fish Market. With the  explosion of New York's population at the turn of the century and its commercial activities, including severe overfishing, the areas in and around New York were now highly polluted. Yields from the oyster beds atrophied, and questions arose about the safety of shellfish.    
Robert Havell, Jr.'s 'View from Hudson River
In the 1800's mighty Hudson was like a magnet luring steamboat and armchair travelers from New York City pointing out the landscape's natural wonders, Hudson Valley industries, notable individuals, and Revolutionary War sites along the way. Hudson River School art on display include Image: Robert Havell Jr.'s 'View from Hudson River from near Sing, Sing, New York, ca. 1850, oil on canvas. Purchase: Watson Fund. 1971.

THE ADIRONDACKS: 1870s-1890s examines the creation ofAdirondack Park, established to save the source of the river and combat deforestation in order to protect the viability of the entire Hudson watershed. Then, too, Seneca Ray Stoddard'a photograph images of deforestation made a strong case for forest conversation and protection of the Adirondack wilderness. THE PALISADES: 1890s-1950s In the late 1800s, the Palisades cliffs were being blasted to bit by road builders, Citizen activists, such as the New Jersey chapter of the General Federation of Women's Clubs and the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society, fought back and helped create Palisades park in 1909. The throngs arrived and outdid themselves in 1920 when over two million people visited the park. This is a breathtaking exhibition and includes THE HUDSON HIGHLANDS and the final section A RISING TIDE: TODAY discusses the process of reimagining and reclaiming the Hudson River in the 21st century with conservation and environmentalism at its core.  Image: George Henry Boughton (1883-1905) Hudson Valley from Fort Putnam, West Point 1855. Oil on Canvas. New York Historical Society. Gift of John V. Irwin and William F Irwin.   
Boughton's Hudson Valley 1855
PROGRAMMING;  Several events include May 22, Douglas Brinkley, New York Historical's presidential historian, explores how presidents like Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt championed the protection of the nation's natural treasures.  For program details an family activities visit 
                 Ta Ta Darlings!!!  I'm overwhelmed by the lore and legends of the majestic Hudson River and count the many times I have traveled on Metro North cruising along as the train passes the sights at a speed of historical significance.  Fan mail welcome Visit Polly's other Blogs at



Monday, February 25, 2019


Isotta Brembati, ca. 1555-56
The visual world that Giovanni Battista Moroni recorded, embellished and transformed the genre of portraiture in spectacular ways. This spring The Frick Collection, presents the first major
exhibition in North America devoted to his work in an exhibition through June 2, 2019.
        Bringing together nearly two dozen of Moroni's most arresting and best known portraits introduces his masterful illusion of recording reality. Instead Moroni captured the realistic image of the sitter with no attempt to glorify or improve upon the figure. 
       The arrogant men, the subdued obedient women peer out with innocent eyes devoid of any emotion. A masterful realist, Moroni may never have achieved the fame of other artists working at the time, however, his recognition for realism stands as a testament to his genius.
     Although less familiar to audiences outside of Italy, Moroni is celebrated as an essential figure in the Northern Italian tradition of naturalistic painting that includes Leonardo da Vinci and Carracci.  Known for his naturalism Moroni presents wealthy citizens of Bergamo in their elegant attire alongside a selection of complimentary objects, including Renaissance jewelry, textiles, arms and armor, and other luxury items.  Image: Isotta Brembati. oil on canvas, ca. 1555-56, Fondazione Museo de Palazzo Moroni, Bergano, Lucretia Moroni Collection.
        Moroni's naturalism was sometimes criticized, yet the historian, Roberto Longhi, for example in 1953 praised Moroni's "documents" of society and placing the artist at the head of a tradition of Lombardy naturalism that anticipated Caravaggio. 
The Knight with the Wounded Foot
MORONI  was born in Albino, a small city less than ten mills from Bergamo and during the sixteenth century, Bergamo was geographically---and, in some ways , culturally---closer to the Duchy of Milan.  Thus, Moroni encountered sitters, fashions, and luxury goods from both Milan and Venice. The opulent attire of his sitters in rich silks, brocades, trapunto embroideries and gold bullion, jewel encrusted crosses and other luxury accessories reflect the lifestyle of wealth and position in society. Image: Faustino Avogadro, called Il Cavaliere dal Plede Ferito (The Knight with the Wounded Foot) ca. 1555-60, Oil on canvas, The National Gallery, London.

      Moroni achieved his characteristic naturalism through exacting attention to detail, psychologically potent and vivid expressions, with a 'warts and all" approach that at times, resulted in seemingly unidealized portrayals. His realistic portrayal of Lucrezia Agliardi Vertova conveys with emphatic clarity his elderly sitter's goiter, her sagging neck, wrinkled skin.  At the same time, she is dignified.
      Moroni's most famous painting, The Tailor, is unusual for its portrayal of a tradesman at work, albeit probably a wealthy one. It has impressed viewers for centuries with its life likeness
and suspended action. 
      In 1660, Marco Boschini, in his celebrated poem about Venetian painting, La carta del navegar pittoresco, proclaims Moroni's Tailor is so lifelike that it seems able to speak "more eloquently than a lawyer." Paintings like The Tailor were ahead of their time and anticipated the narrative portraits for which Rembrandt would be celebrated the following century. Nearly by the portrait of The Tailor, viewers can see in a separate glass case, large metal scissors the tool of the tailor's trade, similar to the one in the portrait.      
The Tailor
Scholars have debated the precise meaning of The Tailor, prompting consideration of the social status of Moroni's clientele: does the painting simply present a tailor carrying out his daily tasks, or is it allegorical portrayal of the unidentified man's family name (such as Tagliapanni, meaning

"cloth-cutter.") Based on the sitter's clothing---fashionable and costly (though made of wool rather than the more expensive silk) the painting most likely depicts a well-to-do tailor. LUXURY ITEMS in the exhibit includ, Isotta Brembati's fan, pendant cross of rubies, emerald and pearls, and marten fur which are rare surviving objects in the exhibition. Though marten furs were highly popular among elite women during the Italian Renaissance, very few have survived.  The extraordinary example on display is the only one with a gold marten head with precious stones and enamel underscores the opulence of the accessory as well as its duality, being at one time beautiful yet grotesque. Website: For additional information 212-288-0700.
       Ta Ta Darlings!!! Moroni's paintings and objects bring to life a Renaissance society 
and its opulent lifestyle. Fan mail welcome at  
       Fan mail always welcome just go to and click and link in the left hand column to Blogs on fashion, visionary men, women determined to succeed and poetry.


Monday, February 18, 2019

ONE BASQUIAT: Celebrating Black History Month: Review By Polly Guerin

BLACK HISTORY MONTH, which ends February 28th, reminds us to renew acquaintances with the tormented and talented, but short-lived life of Brooklyn-born artist JEAN-MICHAEL BASQUIAT. (1960-1988). Known for his raw gestural style of painting with graffiti-like images and scrawled text, once said. "I am not a black artist. I am an artist!" 
       The exhibition ONE BASQUIAT at the Brooklyn Museum last year, was the latest link between the artist, JEAN MICHAEL BASQUIAT, and Brooklyn--- from his birth at Brooklyn Hospital to childhood visits to the Brooklyn Museum, where his mother enrolled him as a Junior Member when he was six years old. 
       Basquiat's mother was an American of Puerto Rican descent who early on encouraged Basquiat's interest in art, taking him to new York City's great art museums. Troubled by his early childhood, when his mother was hospitalized, he dropped out of high school and left home at age 17. 
BECOMING BASQUIAT With no source of backing he lived on the streets, with friends, or in abandoned buildings and began a graffiti campaign with graffiti artists Al Diaz and Shannon Dawson. They created the persona Samo(c) on walls and around Soho and the East Village and on the D. train of the New York City subway system. He began to receive notice and emerged in the above ground New York art scene at age 20.        

At that time a resurgence of Expressionist painting was at its zenith and he participated in his first formal exhibition in "The Times Square  Show" (1980). From there his career skyrocketed, and until his death in 1988, he was a celebrity represented in major blue-chip galleries in New York and Germany.       
Yet lacking any formal training, Basquiat created highly expressionistic work that mixed graffiti and signs with the gestural and intuitive approach to Abstract Expressionist painting. Although much of his work addressed his personal angst in high stylized self-portraits, he also alluded to African American historical figures including jazz musicians, sports personalities, and writers. He appropriated and freely mixed motifs from African, Caribbean, Aztec, and Hispanic cultures and mixed "high art" references with images of popular culture, especially cartoons.        
FRIENDS WITH WARHOL In 1983 the young artist was befriended by the Pop artist, Andy Warhol and they began to collaborate occasionally.  Ever on the brink of unprecedented success, Basquiat appeared on the cover of the weekly New York Times Magazine in 1983 as a representative of the contemporary art-marketing trend. Sadly,
his life was short-lived.  Three years later, at age 27, he was found dead in his loft from an overdoes of heroin. The artist and director, Julian Schnabel made Basquiat and his meteoric rise in the art world the subject of his first film. BASQUIAT (1996).   
       Ta Ta Darlings!!!  Sad to note that the artist, so young, so full of promise ended without
trumpet or praise.  Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs on  

Monday, February 11, 2019


FRIDA KAHLO, the celebrated Mexican painter's life was a work of art that reveals a life full of AGONY AND ECSTASY. Like a superstar she became a pop-culture icon, a fashion guru and survivor extraordinaire. She lived in the iconic Casa Azul (Blue House) in Mexico City with her husband, the world renowned muralist Diego Riviera. 
       They were the power couple of the art world but the exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, FRIDA KAHLO: APPEARANCES CAN BE DECEIVING, Through May 12, is actually a homage to a woman who continues to fascinate a legion of admirers worldwide. With a plethora of 350 objects, only eleven are paintings. The major portion of the show revolves around jewelry, decor, the native Tehuana cotumes and other traditional dresses, shawls and wraps. 
       We recognize Frida in dozens of self-portraits with her bold uni-brow and light mustache, the flower crown in her hair and the native costumes she preferred wearing as a symbol of her Mexican heritage. As an iconoclastic artist she painstakingly rendered striking, often shocking images that often reflect her pain and turbulent life. Frida''s journey actually began as a self-taught artist and evolved over time with kudos and international recognition.
Traditional Tehuana Dresses
        No matter where she traveled, whether in Paris, New York or her native country Frida fashioned herself elaborately in the Tehuana costumes of Indian maidens, creating an identity that clearly was unique and captivating. She painted using vibrant colors in a style that was influenced by indigenous cultures of Mexico. Frida Kahlo (born Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderon, July 6, 1907-July 13, 1954) was one of four daughters born to a Hungarian-Jewish father and a mother of Spanish and Mexican Indian descent, in the Mexico City, suburb of Coyoacan. She was born amidst political chaos in her homeland and throughout her life Frida preferred to claim 1910 as the year of her birth which coincided with the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution (1910).
         Some say that Frida adopted the Tehuana form of costume to hide her polio crippled leg and body disfigurement. There may be some truth to it. A polio survivor at fifteen, Frida’s young life was additionally altered due to a tragic accident.
         On the cusp of her youthful dreams, Frida had entered in the premedical program at the National Preparatory School in Mexico City, but that ended when she was gravely injured in a trolley car accident three years later when she was eighteen years old. Despite spending a year in bed and enduring more than 30 operations recovering from fractures of her back, collarbone, ribs and a shattered pelvis, shoulder and neck injuries. The injuries left her broken as a youth and debilitated throughout much of her adult life. She suffered a life of constant pain and often had to wear a body brace to support her weakened condition.
The Love Embrace of the Universe
      One wonders what Frida could do to while away the dreary hours of recovery. It was during this year of convalescence that Frida began to paint with oils. Her paintings were mostly still life studies  and self portraits filled with the bright colors of Mexico’s native folk art. Her talent evolved dramatically with self-expression and her profound reactions to life that she produced in surrealistic style in her paintings. About a third of her body of work, about 55 paintings, consists of self portraits. In some she stares out passively, in others Frida’s oeuvre was fantastic and sometimes gory depictions that symbolically articulated her own pain. Revealing different states of her mind are portrayals revealing her heartbreak, abortion and miscarriage. Yet there was a feeling of realism in many of her works which she rendered with real images in the most honest, straightforward way.
        One day, high up on a scaffold, the celebrated muralist Diego Rivera sat contentedly on his perch doing what he loved doing, painting grand public murals with political themes. Frida encountered the larger than life Diego in such a serendipitous manner, but she had already set her eye on the mural giant when she first met Diego as a schoolgirl. 
        At 21, Frida fell in love with Rivera, whose approach to art and politics mirrored her own. Although he was 20 years her senior, they were married in 1929 and she became his third wife, and from the onset they became intertwined in a tumultuous marriage. Although as a couple, they remained childless one can observe Frida’s anguish of miscarriage in her paintings. During most of their life together Frida was often immobilized in a cast in her bed, or confined to a hospital room awaiting an operation or recovering from a surgery. Her torment was abetted by Diego’s incorrigible philandering, once with Frida’s own younger sister, Cristina. Yet, Frida remained loyal often referring to him as her "Baby. "
          Frida took great pride in keeping a home for Diego and loved fussing over him, cooking for him and even bathing him. Their love proved sustainable. The couple traveled to the United States and France, where Frida met luminaries from the worlds of art and politics, and had her first solo exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York City in 1938. 
        Though they divorced in 1939 the couple remained inseparable and remarried in 1940. Frida’s painting “The Two Fridas,” a double self-portrait, painted in 1939 at the time of her divorce from Diego, is believed to be an expression of Frida’s feelings at the time.
         She delighted in children and had many exotic pets including the mischievous spider monkey that appears in “Self-Portrait with Monkey.” She loved visitors and often begged friends and “lovers to visit, not to “forget” her. Sadly after a lifetime of great fortitude and constant pain Frida Kahlo died at the age of 47. 
         The legendary artist has of late been transformed into a veritable cult figure with numerous books and films depicting her life. At one time there was even a cult of young women who would affect the Frida Kahlo look, simulating Tehuana costumes, the flowered headdresses and long skirts of the artist. In a lovely tribute to Frida Kahlo this exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum pays
due homage to a remarkable woman,
       Ta Ta Darlings!!!  As for inspiration, Frieda Kahlo never disappoints and reminds us of
her incredible courage all her short life to create works of art with amazing messages that
reflect a lifetime of genius..  Fan mail welcome at

Monday, February 4, 2019

AKC Museum of the DOG Unleashed in New York:: Review By Polly Guerin

New York City adds another "feather in its cultural cap,"  with the re-imagining of the  AKC Museum of the Dog, located on prominent Park Avenue in the Kalikow Building, 101 Park Avenue, corner of 40th Street. Opening date February 8, 2019.
       Located just  one block from Grand Central Terminal, THE MUSEUM OF THE DOG designates itself, so to speak, as the "Best in Show," newcomer in the museum hub of Murray Hill. 
       In its sparkling new home the museum's two-floor residence has the advantage of clear story windows that shed light on the exhibitions and artifacts. Across the top perimeter dog silhouettes parade to the delight of viewing from the street.

       The Museum's mission to refocus on the role the DOG has played in our lives and our history. In its new location the MUSEUM OF THE DOG expands its reach to thousands more visitors both locally and from around the world with canine-related exhibitions and its extensive collection of fine art and artifacts, new and innovative programming, events and lectures.      

      CANINE FINE ART: The Museum houses one of the world's largest collections of canine fine art. including paintings by famous artists including the superb oil on canvas of The Two Dogs by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, A vibrant portrait of Salukis by the English artist, James Ward. Then, too, there are works by Maud Earl, Arthur Wardle, plus rare porcelains, including small as well as life-size ceramics and bronzes of remarkable note. Alan Fausel, long-time director of AKC Cultural Resources, formerly at 260 Madison Avenue, is The Museum of the Dog's Executive Director and with his consummate knowledge pointed out that the in addition to the canine art work on display there are hundreds more in storage. To this end his innovative use of movable wall panels makes it easy to change the configuration of the art exhibitions. 
      Prior to its debut in New York City for three decades the Museum's vast collection had been displayed at the Museum's home outside of St. Louis and now it is permanently installed in New York City, home of the American Kennel Club headquarters, and where the Museum first took root.  In addition to being the premiere institution  for the display of art, artifacts, and literature related to pure-bred dogs in America, the museum is also an innovative and interactive learning center engaging both young and adult with delightful interactive programs and fun activities. 
Two Majestic Ceramic Dogs: Photo by Shaye Weaver
EXHIBIT SPOTLIGHTS: Dogs on the Job exhibit is just one of the many engaging digital experiences throughout the museum. In the digital dog "Molly" interactive exhibit learn to train a dog on the job with a series of commands and hand signals for dog training. I enjoyed the Find Your Match kiosk, that takes your photo, aligning its likeness with an AKC-registered dog breed. Users can email or share their match through social media. By the way, I was matched up with a Terrier breed with a 
reddish coat.  Then, too, there is the AKC TV Broadcast center and near the staircase is a diversified window case display of ceramic and bronze dogs of all variety.
      THE LIBRARY.RESOURCES CENTER houses over 3,000 books and dog-related publications including the comprehensive The Illustrated Book of the Dob (1890) and Dogs and All About Them (1910).  School children will also delight in the area set aside for drawing and creating
dog-related crafts. 
       The Museum also has an app where children can interact with the exhibits with ARTY, a virtual dog/tour guide, throughout the Museum. For more information about the AKC Museum of the Dog, membership or entrance fees: visit
       Ta Ta Darlings!!!  As a dog person myself, I was enthralled by the companionship, loyalty and service provided by dogs, you will, too!!!  Fan mail welcome, please write to
Visit Polly's Blogs at and in the left-hand column click on the Blog that resonates with your interest on fashion, determined women, visionary men and even poetry. 

Monday, January 28, 2019

TOLKIEN: Maker of Middle-earth at The Morgan: Review By Polly Guerin

Dust Jacket Design for The Hobbit, April 1937
"In a  hole in the ground lived a hobbit." With this simple phrase Oxford Professor John Roland Reuel Tolkien, better known as J. R.R.Tolkien, ignited a spark in generations of readers. Tolkien's adventurous tales remain popular, taking on new devotees, even today, introducing all those "young at heart" to the rich history of Middle-earth.  Image Left: J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973). Dust jacket design for The Hobbit, April 1937, pencil, black ink, watercolor, gouache. Bodleian Libraries, MS. Tolkien Drawings 32 (c) The Tolkien Estate Limited 1937.
        From the children's classic The Hobbit to the epic The Lord of the Rings, the incarnation of these stories began quite simply as entertainment for his children who would be invited into their father's library in the evening to be entertained and beguiled as they listened intently mesmerized by the stories of hobbits and elves, dwarfs and wizards in a fantastic landscape of imagination. 
       If you missed visiting the magical world of Middle-earth, in the long, long ago, do not dismay. The Morgan Library and Museum has installed TOLKIEN: MAKER OF MIDDLE-earth, a new and quite marvelous exhibition organized in collaboration with the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, Marquette University Libraries (Milwaukee) and the support of The Tolkien Estate, The Tolkien Trust, members of the Tolkien family and private lenders. The exhibition celebrates the man and his creation and is open to the public through May 12, 2019 with a collection of Tolkien material ever assembled in the United States.      
Smaug and Huts of the River Rates/J..R.R. Tolkien top right
With favorite Tolkien images, re-configured in larger-than-life-scale on walls inside the exhibit they also cover the fairy tale entrance archway that welcomes visitors into the Middle-earth.  The 117 rare objects on view including family photographs and memorabilia, as well as Tolkien's original illustrations, maps, draft manuscripts and designs related to The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. Right: First image J.R.R. Tolkien Conversation with Smaug, July 1937, black and colored ink, watercolor, white body color, pencil. Bodleian Libraries, MS. Tolkien drawing 30 (c) The Tolkien Estate Limited 1937. Second image: J.R.R. top right corner. Bilbo comes to the Huts of the Raft -elves, July 1937, watercolor, pencil, white body color. Bodleian Libraries, MS. Tolkien Drawings 29 (c) The Tolkien Estate Limited 1937.
Father Christmas
Colin B. Bailey, director of The Morgan said, "The exhibition provides a rare look at Tolkien's artistic output that was wide-ranging, experimental, naturalistic and abstract. This exhibition helps us see what was so extraordinary and universally appealing about Tolkien's gifts as a storyteller and his ability to combine the scholarly with the artistic.  The show presents an intimate look at Tolkien's world through his handwritten and drawn works. We are grateful to the Bodleian Libraries, The Tolkien Estate and The Tolkien Trust." Image Left: J.R.R. Tolkien's Father Christmas drawing of "Me" and "My House." 1920, watercolor, white body color, silver powder, black ink. Bodleian Libraries, MS. Tolkien Drawings 38 (c) The Tolkien Estate Ltd. 1976.
       Visit for a list of Public Programs, Symposium, Family programs and the details for the Party to celebrate everything Tolkien and his great works where costumes are encouraged. Gallery Talks are given by John T. McQuillen, Associate Curator of Printed Books and Bindings. The book, TOLKIEN: MAKER OF MIDDLE-earth is available in the Morgan gift shop. The Morgan library and Museum is located at 225 Madison Avee, 212.685.0008. 
Ta Ta Darlings!!!  What an adventure, Tolkien's diverse and splendid oeuvre will leave you lost in
Middle-earth wonderland. Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs for more insight and in the left-hand column click on the direct link to the Blog that may resonate with your interest.


Monday, January 21, 2019

BRENDA STARR, Reporter: The Art of Dale Messick: Review By Polly Guerin

BRENDA STARR, Reporter may not have been the first female reporter to capture the collective imagination of young women and girls, but when Brenda Starr made her debut in June 1940 her fast-paced career and riveting adventures made comic book history. Not only was she a knockout beauty, but she had a distinct fashion flair. Her persona was highly dramatic and mirrored leading Hollywood actress, the iconic Rita Hayworth, with matching long, fiery red hair. Brenda was no ordinary reporter. She was brainy, she took risks, she traveled wide into adventures where no woman had ever ventured, and, Yes, she even fell in love. As a forerunner, role model,  BRENDA STARR WAS AN INSTANT HIT!!!
      Brenda Starr gets her due recognition in a delightful
exhibition at the Society of Illustrators, at 128 East 63 Street, through March 23, 2019. 
      Who gave birth to Brenda Starr? She was the brainchild of
Dale Messick. Known as the "Grand Dame of the Funnies,"
Dale is America's first syndicated female cartoonist for creating the popular adventure comic strip BRENDA STARR REPORTER. Her name was inspired by the 1930's debutante Brenda Frazier, who was a social headliner in the society of celebrity, at that time. So it seems to me that Brenda's incarnation combined the social antics of a debutante with a modern woman wrapped up in an appealing package as Brenda Starr.
        Dale Messick had no idea she would become America's favorite comic strip creator. She applied her talent and studied art at The Art Institute in Chicago and soon obtained a job creating greeting cards---a far cry from her ambition. After one fledgling job she found another at a greeting card, this time in New York City. Though she had drawn comic strips during her school years, she began several cartoons with women as the lead character. By 1940 she had already tried in vain to sell four comic strips.
Dale Messick created  Brenda Starr
As serendipity would intervene, after reading about  a contest searching for new comics in The Chicago Tribune's New York Daily News, Messick submitted a  strip with a beautiful girl bandit who was a dead ringer for Brenda Starr. However the odds were against her because the head of the New York Daily News, Joseph Patterson, swore he would never publish a woman cartoonist.              Well, this caught the attention of his female 
assistant, Mollie Slott, who saw things quite differently and pulled Messick's work out of the trash. Mollie encouraged Messick to make a few tweaks; she thought that her female bandit should be a reporter, and according to lore, she also suggested that Messick change her name from Dahlia to Dale to sound more like a man. Messick took Slott's advice and re-submitted Brenda Starr as a red-headed reporter who worked for a newspaper called, "The Flash." She also signed it Dale Messick. And so the rest is history. Each week for the next forty years Messick created imaginative and often gripping story lines that sent Brenda Starr on assignments to exotic places that only male reporters were given, which ironically mimicked real- life journalism.       
The audacious reporter would free herself from being kidnapped, and jump out of airplanes, landing just outside her editor's window And once she even filed a story with the newspaper's cleaning woman. She even talked back to her managing editor. That was a "first" for women already asserting themselves in the business world.
      Other Outlets: In addition to drawing her strip, Messick also would include Paper Dolls, that became very popular with young girls who sent in fashion ideas. She also included an African American paper doll, Lona Light in 1948.
      DISTRIBUTION: At its peak, Brenda Starr was included in 250 newspapers  and read by more than 60 million readers.
When Brenda Starr and her long time "Mystery Man," boyfriend, , whose very survival depended upon the serum found in the fictitious but famous black orchid, finally married after 36 years in 1976, President Gerald Ford sent a a congratulatory telegram. 
      IN RECOGNITION o her work, Brenda Starr, Reporter was one of the 20 characters--and the only female characters---chosen to be on a stamp during the U.S. Postal Service's 100th Anniversary. The strip had also been turned into a movie serial in 1945 , a made-for-television-movie in 1976, and a film that starred Brooke Shields in 1992. In honor to her ground-breaking work, The National Cartoonist Society awarded Messick with the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement award in 1997.      
        The Society of Illustrators is open Daily check the schedule and admission charge at  
      Ta Ta Darlings!!! Brenda's quite a gal, Check her out in full exhibition display.  She's fascinating. Fan mail welcome at  Visit Polly's Blogs at any time,

Monday, January 14, 2019

LABUTE New Theater Festival: Review By Polly Guerin

There is never any want for entertainment in New York City and theater is the kingpin of events when the St. Louis Actors' Studio's (William Roth, Artistic Director) LABUTE New Theater Festival returns to New York with three premiere one-act play by celebrated Tony Award nominated, playwright, director, Neil LaBute.  Performances running through Jan 27th take place
at the Davenport Theater, at 354 West 45th St. This is as good as it gets, or rather better than expected in off-Broadway theater productions. Tickets can be purchased by visiting or by calling 212.239.6200. 
      St. Louis Actor's Studio artistic director, William Roth comments: "We are proud of our
relationship with Neil and to bring these new plays to New York City as part of The LaBute New
Theater Festival. We are thrilled to bring this festival to the Davenport Theater and we are excited to have audiences experience this festival."
Gia Crovatin
ENDORSING ACTORS Neil LaBute: "I'm very excited to be working with William Roth and St. Louis Actors' Studio on our fourth incarnation of 'The LaBute New Theater Festival' in New York City. Together we have created a wonderful venue for a variety of artists to see their work performed in full productions in front of paying audiences--along with an important program that caters to high school authors as well."  
        In the world premiere play, directed by Neil LaBute, UNLIKELY JAPAN, starring actor, GIA CROVATIN, a young woman spots an old flame on television and in a mesmerizing monologue recounts how a single choice can alter the course of multiple lives.  Her delivery reminds us of the "what if" factor in life as she regales us with the different possibilities and scenarios. Ms. Crovatin has appeared on TV: "One Dollar,"  "Billions"  and the film Dirty Weekend among other venues and brings to the stage a compelling persona. (PHOTO: All photos in this article Courtesy of Russ Rowland)
       In the play world premiere play, GREAT NEGRO WORKS OF ART, directed by John Pierson, Brenda Meaney (Roundabout's "Indian Ink," Mint Theatre's "The New Morality") engages in conversation with  Keilyn Durrel (TV: "Better Call Saul," "Shades of Blue," 'High Maintenance") in a witty, sometimes combative conversation that changes its meaning, metamorphosing from cool to hot drama. 
        GREAT NEGRO WORKS OF ART follows a meeting between and under-celebrated artist and his gallery manager. They seemingly appear to be engaging in a 'first date,' episode but they soon segue into a forceful debate on race, culture and what is and what is not "ART" today.  Even the sign Great Negro Works of Art is challenged as to the placement of the words---should they read Great Negro Art or Great Works by Negro Artists.  Their combative ending 
Brenda Meaney and Keilyn Durrell Jones
is worth further contemplation. 

      THE FOURTH REICH (New York City Premiere, also directed by John Pierson, stars
Eric Dean White (TV: "Chicago Fire," and
"Blackbookberry") This performance focuses on a monologue by a public speaker  as he presents and pontificates on his unique views on modern history, thoughts about the future and alas ruminations on his favorite artist. Does one really care about what the character has to say? I wondered! However, his portrayal of a self-appointed, opinionated individual does give us cause to pay close attention to his comments and perhaps conclude with our own. 
      THE LABUTE NEW FESTIVAL provides another reason to get out of the cold and enter the experience of theater with warm-hearted actors who know the drill and give us very interesting performances which run on Wednesday to Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm and Sunday at 3pm.   Added performances tonight Monday, January 14 at 7PM, Wednesday, January 16 at 2pm and Tuesday January 22 at 7pm. For ticket information contact Telecharge or call the Davenport Theater at 212.956. 0948. 
Eric Dean White 
  Ta Ta Darlings!!!   I just spent a delightful Sunday afternoon at the Davenport, and hope that you will, too.  Fan mail welcome: Visit Polly's Blogs and in the left hand column click on the Blog that resonates with your interest on visionary men, women determined to succeed, fashion historian or poetry from the heart.

       Aspiring playwrights may be interested in the following information on the SUBMISSION PROCESS for the St. Louis Actor's Studio LaBute New Theater Festival.                         Professional Submissions and High School Submissions should be sent to: LaBute New Theater Festival, St. Louis Actors' Studio, 360 N. Boyle Ave., St. Louis, MO 63108. 
      For more information contact: 314-458-2978 or