November 11, 2019

Recently Discovered Gari Melchers Painting Featured in Philadelphia Inquirer

"Winter" by Gari Melchers.

“Winter” by Gari Melchers.

Gari Melchers Home and Studio was featured in a Philadelphia Inquirer article about the recently discovered Gari Melchers’ painting, Winter, that was stolen by the Nazis in 1933. The work bears a striking resemblance to a Melchers’ painting, entitled Skaters, that is in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts’ (PAFA) permanent collection.

Winter was among 1,200 works the Nazis looted from the collection owned by the descendants of Jewish publisher Rudolf Mosse, who were persecuted and forced to flee from Germany. It was later auctioned off in New York City to Bartlett Arkell, the founder of the Beech-Nut Packing Co., who in turn, donated it to his museum in upstate New York. On the other hand, Skaters, was purchased by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1901, and has remained there ever since.

Joanna Catron, GMHS’s assistant director and curator, wasn’t surprised that the two paintings look so similar.

“[Melchers] was known to copy or crib from himself multiple times — anything to pay the rent,” Catron told the Inquirer, adding that GMHS owns a pastel version of the oil painting at PAFA. “I think this was an instance of, ‘Well, this is so successful, I think I’ll try it in pastel.'” Read more. 

Melchers Paintings Loaned to Embassy in Austria

"In Old Virginia," one of the two Gari Melchers' paintings loaned to the residence of newly appointed Ambassador of Austria Jim Gilmore, former governor of Virginia.

“In Old Virginia,” one of the two Gari Melchers’ paintings loaned to the residence of newly appointed Ambassador of Austria Jim Gilmore, former governor of Virginia.

Gari Melchers Home and Studio has loaned two paintings by Gari Melchers for display in the residence of the ambassador to the U.S. Mission in Vienna, Austria. James Gilmore, former governor of Virginia, has been named the new U.S. ambassador. He has expressly asked officials of the Art in Embassies program of the U.S. Department of State to identify paintings that portray characteristic scenes of Virginia. The art of Gari Melchers, an internationally renowned painter who in his later years called Virginia home, was an obvious choice.

Two paintings were selected by Gilmore and the AIE officials. A landscape, entitled In Old Virginia, pictures a bucolic farmyard with cow, the real-life setting of which is down the hill from the artist’s Georgian house in Falmouth, Virginia.

A Native of Virginia

“A Native of Virginia” by Gari Melchers

A nearly life-size portrait of a sturdy pioneering type called A Native of Virginia, will also travel to Vienna, the pair intended as representative of the picturesque beauty of Virginia and the virtues of its citizenry. The loan will continue through the completion of Ambassador Gilmore’s assignment.  Gari Melchers Home and Studio last partnered with the Art in Embassies exhibition program in 2009 when it supplied paintings for display in the U.S. Embassy in Bern, Switzerland.

Contact: Joanna Catron at jcatron@umw.edu or 540 654-1841

Gari Melchers Home and Studio is a 28-acre estate and former residence of the artist Gari Melchers and his wife, Corinne. The property, which is operated by the University of Mary Washington, is both a Virginia Historic Landmark and a National Historic Landmark. Located at 224 Washington St. in Falmouth, Virginia, a quarter mile west of the intersection of U.S. 1 and U.S. 17, it is open daily with an admission charge.

FBI Seizes Stolen Melchers Painting

"Winter" by Gari Melchers.

“Winter” by Gari Melchers.

A painting by renowned local artist Gari Melchers has been seized by the FBI where it has hung in the Arkell Museum in Canajoharie, New York, since 1934. The painting has been declared as property illegally and forcibly obtained by the Nazis, according to a report by the Washington Examiner, Oct. 18, 2019. The courts will determine who is the rightful owner of the property.

In the years leading up to WWI, American painter Gari Melchers was an expatriate headquartered in Holland and Weimar, Germany. He enjoyed the patronage of important German businessmen and manufacturers like German-American exporter Hugo Reisinger, the Krupp steel and armament dynasty, and Rudolf Mosse, the media giant whose flagship newspaper was the Berliner Tageblatt.

Mosse, a Jew, was a philanthropist and prolific collector of art. In 1900, he visited the Great Berlin Art Exhibition, an international forum of contemporary art, where he acquired a pastel painting entitled Winter by Melchers. The painting features a picturesque Dutch couple as they amble before a wintery village backdrop with skates and skating stick in tow.

When Mosse died in 1920, his extensive art collection, including the Melchers painting, passed to his wife, and following her death in 1924, to his sole heir, his daughter Felicia Lachmann-Mosse. When her husband, Hans, assumed control of his father-in-law’s publishing empire, his press was sharply critical of the rising Nazi powers. When the Reich began to target Jews in business and the media, the Lachmann-Mosses fled Germany and surrendered their businesses and all other holdings, including their art collection, to the state in August 1933.

The surviving heirs of Felicia Lachmann-Mosse have sought restitution of the family art collection confiscated under duress, establishing the Mosse Art Research Initiative (MARI) project with the assistance of the investigating unit of BartkoZankelBunzel. Joanna Catron, curator of the Gari Melchers Home and Studio, Falmouth, assisted the effort by providing papers documenting Rudolf Mosse’s purchase directly from the artist and Winter’s reappearance in 1934 at a Macbeth Gallery sale, New York. Subsequently several gaps in the picture’s trail have been closed.

Winter appeared as Skaters in a 1933 inventory of the Mosse collection in a Rudolf Lepke auction house sales catalog, Berlin, prepared by Nazi collaborator Karl Haberstock. Skaters was sold by Lepke in 1934 to an unknown buyer and appeared a short time later at the MacBeth Art Gallery in New York City, where it was sold on consignment to Bartlett Arkell, the American founder of the Beech-Nut Packing Company. It has hung in the museum he founded in Canajoharie, New York, until Sept. 10, 2019, when it was seized by the FBI.

The story regarding the seizing of Mosse’s publishing empire and art collections by the Third Reich and recent efforts to make restitution to his descendants is featured in the June 2018 issue of Smithsonian Magazine.

Gari Melchers Home and Studio is a 28-acre estate and former residence of the artist Gari Melchers and his wife, Corinne. The property, which is operated by the University of Mary Washington, is both a Virginia Historic Landmark and a National Historic Landmark. Located at 224 Washington St. in Falmouth, Virginia, a quarter mile west of the intersection of U.S. 1 and U.S. 17, it is open daily with an admission charge.

New Tour Offers Sights and Sounds of Gari Melchers Home in Stafford

The new tour at Gari Melchers Home and Studio was highlighted in The Free Lance-Star:

At one point during the new tour of Belmont, the Falmouth home of American Impressionist artist Gari Melchers and his wife, Corinne, visitors hear the sound of a bell ringing.

It’s a recording of the real servant’s bell that rings in the kitchen of the historic house, and it’s the tour guide’s cue to tell visitors about the servants whose work allowed Gari and Corinne Melchers to live their lives the way they did, said Michelle Crow–Dolby, education and communications manager at Belmont.  Read more.

Belmont Hosts Loan from National Arts Club

Study, by Gari Melchers

A striking portrait of a woman of color entitled Study by Gari Melchers will be featured in an upcoming spotlight exhibition scheduled for October 25 through January 5, 2020. The loan is made possible thanks to the generosity of The National Arts Club, New York. The painting appears for the first time at Gari Melchers Home and Studio.

When it came to subjects of his own choosing, Melchers usually rejected conventional standards of beauty in favor of working-class types, but this well-turned-out woman, with her handsome and serene bearing, is an exception. Joanna Catron, who curates the show, says that “although Study was executed in the era of women’s suffrageit represents a class of American Impressionist painting that perpetuates an old-fashioned view of woman as an object of beauty, or in this case, a ‘study’ in beauty, with no attempt to individualize personality.” The identity and nationality of the black model is unknown, and this is the only known instance in which she sat for the painter.

The mission of The National Arts Club is to foster public interest in the fine arts. It was founded in 1898 by a group of distinguished artists and patrons who conceived the clubhouse as a gathering place to welcome artists of all kinds, as well as art lovers. The National Arts Club took as its residence the historic Samuel Tilden Mansion at Grammercy Park, New York.

In order to build a stellar collection of American art, esteemed artists were invited to submit a representative example of their work in return for a life membership. Melchers was invited to join the NAC in 1917, which he readily accepted with his submission of Study. As the majority of the painter members of the NAC were American Impressionists, Melchers chose an example of singular beauty that could compete with the best.

The exhibition is Included with Museum admission. Contact: Joanna Catron at jcatron@umw.edu or 540 654-1841

Belmont Hosts Talk on Debt to the Musical Past

Gari Melchers Home and Studio hosts Musical Borrowings: Tribute or Plagiarism? a talk on the intriguing history of parodies, tributes, and highway robbery in music, presented by UMW Professor of Musicology Brooks Kuykendall, on Sunday, October 27 in the Pavilion at Belmont, 2 p.m. Admission is free of charge.

“Music is always about other music—perhaps sometimes too much so,” Kuykendall states, citing Handel, whose reputation is blighted because of his “indebtedness” to other composers. Kuykendall echoes T. S. Eliot in the contention that “good composers borrow; great composers steal,” adding that sometimes an allusion to other music is integral to a new artistic statement; sometimes it’s just funny.  Kuykendall will share imagery and audio examples in his exploration of “borrowings” from Handel to Pharrell, via Puccini and Peter Sellers.

Brooks Kuykendall is professor and chair of the UMW music department. He received his Ph.D. in Musicology from Cornell University, and his research has concentrated on British music in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, in particular Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Britten, Walton, and Gilbert & Sullivan. He blogs on musical textual issues at www.settlingscoresblog.net.

Gari Melchers Home and Studio is a 28-acre estate and former residence of the artist Gari Melchers and his wife Corinne. The property, which is operated by the University of Mary Washington, is both a Virginia Historic Landmark and a National Historic Landmark. Located at 224 Washington St. in Falmouth, Virginia, a quarter mile west of the intersection of U.S. 1 and U.S. 17, it is open daily with an admission charge.

Gari Melchers Home and Studio Awarded $15,000 by Stafford Tourism

Gari Melchers Home and Studio will host Art After Hours on Thursday, September 26 from 6-8 p.m. GMHS received $10,000 from Stafford Tourism for the program, as well as another $5,000 for its group marketing program.

Gari Melchers Home and Studio will host Art After Hours on Thursday, September 26 from 6-8 p.m. GMHS received $10,000 from Stafford Tourism for the program, as well as another $5,000 for its group marketing program.

Gari Melchers Home and Studio has been awarded $15,000 in tourism sponsorships by Stafford County. The sponsorships were made available as part of Stafford County’s tourism policy and program.

Established in December 2018, the program invites profit and nonprofit organizations to design programs or events that encourage visitors to Stafford. GMHS’s group marketing program received $5,000 in tourism sponsorships, while its Art After Hours Expanded events received $10,000.

Taking place on September 26 from 6-8 p.m., the next Art After Hours features live music by a local band on the lawn. Guests can take a stroll through the gardens and grounds, tour the art galleries and enjoy local food trucks, beer and wine. The event is free, but registration is required. For more information, please visit  https://www.garimelchers.org/news/calendar-of-events/.

UMW Museums Featured in Civil War Magazine

University of Mary Washington museums, Gari Melchers Home and Studio and the James Monroe Museum, were both highlighted in the fall quarterly issue of The Civil War Monitor magazine. Read more. 

Beate Jensen: Rooting for Retirement

Beate Jensen, cultural resources manager at Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont, who retires this month after 20 years on the job. Photo by Suzanne Rossi.

Beate Jensen, cultural resources manager at Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont, who retires this month after 20 years on the job. Photo by Suzanne Rossi.

Beate Jensen ’99 has gardened in just about every climate. Born and raised in Norway, she married a Marine stationed in Scotland and scattered seeds far and wide as they moved from Hawaii to Spain and everywhere in between. But it wasn’t until she came to Fredericksburg in 1996 that she began planting roots.

“I went to the library one day and copied down addresses for every college in Virginia. I requested course catalogs and read each one with care,” Jensen said. “Mary Washington’s historic preservation program caught my eye, and I haven’t looked back since.”

Jensen’s commitment to research landed her the job of cultural resources manager at Gari Melchers Home and Studio (GMHS) at Belmont, a position she’s retiring from this month after 20 years. She’s done everything, from controlling pests in the garden to pestering contractors to follow her guidelines. She and her staff keep the Stafford County estate looking just as it did when American Impressionist painter Gari Melchers and wife Corinne lived there in the early 1900s – but for 21st-century visitors to enjoy.

Along the way, Jensen earned a master’s degree in library science, spurring her to record the building and landscape features into Belmont’s collections management system. Aided by the Garden Club of Virginia and other grants and gifts, her work to restore the Melchers’ home and grounds has earned accolades, including Stafford County Historical Commission’s annual Historic Preservation Award.

“Fulfilling Corinne Melchers’ wish for Belmont to serve as a memorial to her husband and a park for local residents has been a labor of love,” Jensen said. “And I cannot stress enough that this has been a team effort – my staff is the most dedicated group of professionals you can find.”

 

Beate Jensen, with her standard poodle, Tommi, at Belmont. Photo by Suzanne Rossi.

Beate Jensen, with her standard poodle, Tommi, at Belmont. Photo by Suzanne Rossi.

Q: What’s your favorite GMHS project?
A: The conclusion of each garden restoration project, no matter how large or small, is always satisfying. But I’m particularly proud of saving the Fannie Roots House [a historic cottage that was home to the civil rights activist by the same name]. I was recognized by Stafford County in 2011 for this project, but I’ve always felt the award should have gone to David Ludeker, [Belmont building and grounds assistant], as his skills and hard work prevented this building from being torn down. It’s a treasure – an outstanding example of post-Civil War vernacular architecture that rarely survives today.

Q: Do you have any favorite plants that the Melchers also enjoyed?
A: It’s been fun researching and bringing back old root stock roses that they grew in their garden.

Q: What’s your advice for novice gardeners?
A: Don’t create too many flower beds. Keep things simple by planting a variety of evergreen and flowering shrubs. Use mulch and clean up the garden in the fall to save yourself time and energy in the spring.

Q: What are your retirement plans?
A: My husband, Ken, who I met here in Virginia, and I are moving to Vermont, near my daughter’s farm. We’ll be just a few minutes from the mountains where I’ll get to hike with my dogs and go fishing.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: If it doesn’t feel good, you aren’t doing it right.

Join Us to Celebrate Beate Jensen’s Retirement Aug. 7

Please join us as we celebrate the retirement of Beate Jensen, the cultural resources manager for Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont on August 7 from 5-7 p.m. She retires after 20 years with the University of Mary Washington.

Beate recently received the Annual Historic Preservation Award by the Stafford County Historical Commission for her exemplary efforts to restore, safeguard and interpret the grounds at Gari Melchers Home and Studio. Joanna Catron, assistant director and curator of GMHS, read the following tribute to her colleague at an awards presentation before the Board of Supervisors:

If today the storied structures and grounds that comprise the 18th-century property known as Belmont are perceived as unusually authentic, well-maintained and a delight to the senses, it is due in large part to the expert care and dedication given to it for the last 20 years by Cultural Resource Manager Beate Jensen and the staff who serve under her direction. From the first, it has been Ms. Jensen’s ambition to provide a faithful representation of the 27-acre site coinciding with the period of Gari and Corinne Melchers’ residence there for the edification and enjoyment of visitors and future generations. Under her stewardship, and in partnership with the Garden Club of Virginia and other organizations, public and private, Beate has safeguarded the historic integrity of the property, developed and implemented a prioritized plan for practical and appropriate restoration where needed, and provided engaging educational and interpretive experiences. 

Beate Jensen, cultural resource manager at Gari Melchers Home and Studio.

Beate Jensen, cultural resource manager at Gari Melchers Home and Studio.

Beate extensively researched the history of the property and its site design for restoration and improvements to the historic smokehouse, horse stable and cow barn; to gates, fences, stone walls, piers, stairs and walkways; to garden ornaments and other man-made features; and to historic planting beds, roses and trees. She also supervises a maintenance program of tree pruning, feeding and disease prevention, and created a wildlife habitat.  She oversaw design and installation of outdoor lighting, new roofs for dependencies and upgrades to lightning protection of buildings and historic trees.

With the assistance of student interns and university colleagues, Beate began a long-term effort to catalog and map all natural and man-made grounds collections at Belmont. She authored the first comprehensive history of the 1790 house and a guide to dinosaur prints on the property, and has been an advocate for African American history in Stafford County through preservation and interpretation of the Fannie Roots House.  She is a frequent speaker on historic gardens and preservation matters and regularly represents Gari Melchers Home and Studio at professional conferences.