Sunday, November 29, 2015

House Tour, Moran Studio and a Surprise

Mantle in the Thomas Moran Studio
Thomas Moran Studio
Thomas Moran's House by Theodore Wores
Hugh and I attended the East Hampton Historical Society House and Garden Tour on Saturday. I was especially excited to see the progress made on one particular home on the tour, the Thomas Moran Studio. The renovation of the Moran home and studio, originally built in 1884, is expected to be completed within the next year. You can see a step by step diary of the restoration here. I can't wait to visit when renovations have been completed. I wonder if the garden will also be restored to the gloriousness depicted in Theodore Wore's painting above. There were NO PHOTOGRAPHS allowed on the tour, but I didn't think anyone would mind me showing you the Moran studio. The fund raising tour is each year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Highly recommended. 
It was fun to glimpse inside each East Hampton home.
It was also fun to see the other people on the house tour.
Elegant house tourist.
We were leaving House #1 driving along Ocean Ave. in East Hampton when I yelled, "Stop! There's a Tanster! Just let me out here." Luckily no one was behind us on the road. Hugh did a "U-ey" and pulled into an estate driveway. I hopped out for a closer look. Me: "It IS a Tanster!" Hugh:"Why don't you leave it there for other people to enjoy." Me: "No, you take them and make a donations to the Southampton Hospital... and it's raining..." All while detaching the painting from the tree in front of someone's house, feeling rather furtive.
Atlas at Rockefeller Center by The Tanster 
To donate to the coalition for women's cancers at Southampton Hospital.

Friday, November 27, 2015

My Paris Dream

I have been thinking a lot about Kate Betts and her memoir, My Paris Dream, lately.  I read Kate's book this summer after serendipitously finding out about the book and Kate being a Sag Harbor native. The shockingly horrific events in Paris on November 13th tore at my heart and reminded me again of what is really important in my life, my family and friends. I am so grateful for all of their encouragement, love and support. I am also especially thankful to live in a place that allows and inspires me to follow my dreams.
In My Paris Dream, Kate writes of following her post graduate dream to live and work in Paris. Ironically, at the time of Kate's move there, Paris had suffered attacks from an extremist group now forgotten. Kate hesitated, but her Mother encouraged her not to fear, but to follow her dream and go. The story of Kate's experience in the City of Light seen through her young eyes is an inspiring reminder to continue to dream.
Kate Betts and friends at Harbor Books.
My own Paris dream was also a post graduate adventure. At the end of my college senior year at St. Olaf College,  I went on a choir tour to Norway. All year my best choir friend, Suzan, and I dreamt of "Tour" and our post tour trip to Paris. We would stay with a friend of Suzan's, an American visiting Paris. When it was time for our trip Suzan decided to stay in Norway. What was I to do? We had dreamt La Boheme dreams all year. The tickets were booked to return from Paris. I was going. Suzan gave me the address of her friend Robert and off I went. I took an overnight ferry from Bergen to Amsterdam. After an unexpected adventure in Amsterdam and train to Paris, I arrived at the Paris address. I don't recall the arrondissement, but the apartment was a classic. A tiny woman on the first floor of the building asked me who I wanted, (I think!) I showed her my piece of paper, and said I was there to see Robert. Her reply "oh l'ame´ricaine". She sent me up the wide curving stairs to the third floor where I knocked on an ornate wooden door. A woman in light blue apron answered my knock. (A French maid!) I told her I was there to see Robert -----. I kept repeating the name and finally a look of realization came over her and she said, "oh, RoBARE" and went running back into the apartment calling, "RoBARE, voila!" over and over again. A young man came to the door. His name was Robert, but it wasn't the Robert that was supposedly expecting two American choir girls.
Artwork by Carol Gillott via her blog Paris Breakfasts

I was only in Paris for two days. It seems the Robert that I met, who was living in the garrett giving English lessons to the resident's children, was supposed to be visited by the other Robert who never showed up. This kind young man fed an unexpected stranger and allowed me to sleep on the floor of his garrett room for one night. My foolhardy unforgettable adventure is one that fuels further dreaming. I think back to it now when I am afraid to try something new.
photo from Corey Amaro's blog: Tongue in Cheek by her son Sacha

Paris inspires and comforts me lately through books and blogs. 
I few blogs that inspire me:
Carol Gillott's: Paris Breakfasts
Corey Amaro's blog Tongue in Cheek:
Photographer Carla Coulson: Don't Put Your Dreams Off Till Someday
Photo by Carla Coulson via

“Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.” Pope Paul VI

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Lost Landscape of Orlando Bears

While researching the 19th century Sag Harbor artist Orlando Hand Bears, I came across an article by Lois Beachy Underhill. The article was originally published September 18, 2003 in the Sag Harbor Express. I discovered it in the East Hampton Library. Since the Express archives aren't available online, I am including it here, along with images that I have discovered along the way.

Our Town
The Lost Landscape of Orlando Bears
by Lois Beachy Underhill
In 1839 Sag Harbor artist Orlando Hand Bears painted a landscape of the Sag Harbor waterfront, the earliest know view of the village from the north. He created a panoramic vista stretching from Conklin's point in the east to the North Haven bridge and beyond in the west. It is a lovely composition with a foreground featuring the harbor and its many boats, their sales filled with wind, a middle distance showing the village spread out along the shore, a background of several hills which rise gently, and overhead a vast sky filled with clouds scudding in the breeze.

This work is Bears only known landscape. It provides an almost "photographic" record of Sag Harbor buildings. The steeple of the old 1817 Presbyterian Church rises loftily above the village. Individual commercial buildings and houses are clearly delineated, including my own house at present day 68 Bay Street. The picture can be dated to 1839 by the appearance of the Methodist church: it is in its former location, on the hillside beside present day High Street, and the church's 1839 tower clock built by Ephraim Niles Byram, Sag Harbor's famous clockmaker, is clearly visible.

Bears is famous for his portraits, and he is considered one of the most talented interpreters of the human face in early America. His technical skills were outstanding. Sitters came alive in Bears' portraits. Their faces brimmed with vivacity and personality and their eyes followed the viewer around the room. Bears is particularly esteemed for his well rendered hands, the part of the body most difficult to paint convincingly. He included his sitters' hands so frequently that we could almost speculate he was showing off his skills. Many Orlando Hand Bears' paintings are unsigned, and it may be that he painted hands as a visual signature of his middle name. Bears' talents received new attention and recognition in 1984 when a New York City show at the American Folk Art Museum included 15 of his works. New York Times art critic Helen Harrison calls Bears a "gifted technician" and "sensitive interpreter" in her 2002 book "Hamptons Bohemia." She quotes Alice Assael's assessment of Bears' work saying "the harsh flatness characteristic of much non academic portraiture is absent from his paintings, in which a soft, gentle a and personalized interpretation of the subject is evident." Bears' works are hard to find today, but a few of them can be discovered hidden away in Sag Harbor.

Bears painted several self portraits and a least two miniatures of himself during the course of his career. They show a handsome man, confident and self assured with a ghost of a smile on his face. He had an imposing nose, narrow and elegant, steady blue eyes that looked out at the world intently, and an abundant head of auburn hair filled with gold glints. One miniature includes a lock of his auburn hair. His visual signature in his self portraits was an imposing stick pin with a light color stone, possibly an opal or a moonstone, placed on his sparkling white shirtfront.
Orlando Hand Bears (self portrait)
Bears' interest in art seems to have developed at an early age, and was first expressed by painting shop signs and carriages. He established a tinsmithing business with his brother. He reportedly studied with Hubbard Latham Fordam, the well-known Sag Harbor portraitist, a distant cousin of Bears who was 18 years his senior. Helen Harrison considers the pupil Bears a better painter than his teacher, Fordham.
Ephraim Niles Byram
Ephraim Niles Byram, Bears neighbor, may have been the painter's first commission. In 1834 Bears painted the clockmaker's portrait in full length. Bears was jus 22 years old and Byram was 25 at the time. Byron's interest in astronomy was featured; one of his hands rested on his telescope while stars scattered through the sky over a rising moon in the background. A reproduction of the portrait can be seen on the back cover of Dorothy Zaykowski's "Sag Harbor, The Story of an American Beauty." Byram was the first of many Bears' portraits. In 1836 he painted Sarah Ann Eldridge of Sag Harbor. Many of his unsigned works have been identified through the attribution of experts in the field. Among these unsigned works is a portrait of Captain Jeremiah Slate ca. 1836, three portraits of a Long Island family, believed to be the Hendrick family from Sag Harbor, painted ca. 1835, and a series of Connecticut subjects.
Sarah Ann Eldredge
Orlando's father was Moses Bears, a Massachusetts native engaged in the coasting trade. The family name was sometimes spelled Beers. Moses' business interests brought him to Sag Harbor where he met beautiful, blue eyed, auburn haired Miranda Gibbs. We know she was beautiful and auburn haired because her son painted a miniature of his mother. She wore a white ruffled bonnet and large white collar, and her lovely eyes look out at us with the warmth and affection she felt for her son. Fastened to the miniature is a small braid of her gorgeous auburn hair, identical in color to the lock of her son's hair. The men in Miranda's family were school teachers, but she lived with her grandmother who was a Fordham. Moses wooed and wed Miranda, and they made their home in Sag Harbor, living in a house at today's 15 Oakland Avenue, as recorded on the 1858 map of Sag Harbor. Orlando was the couple's first son, born in 1812 according to Oakland Cemetery records. Orlando had a brother Alfred, one year younger, portrayed in a Bears miniature which may have been painted as early as 1833 when Orlando was only 21. Bears also painted a full size portrait of his brother. A younger brother, Edward died at age 6, and he is not known to have sat for Bears.
Miranda Gibbs Bears
A 4th sibling was a sister, Frances Effie. She grew up to marry David Jeremiah Youngs of Main Street and today's Oakland Avenue. Sometime after her marriage Bears painted a luminous portrait of his sister looking refined and elegant in a low cut dark gown. She was beautiful, auburn haired and blue eyed like Orlando and his mother, and, of course, her hand appeared in the portrait. On her finger was a gold ring of an unusual design: two hands with fingers stretched toward a small gold heart in the center. The family still cherishes the ring shown in the portrait.
Frances Bears Youngs
The Connecticut commissions Bear painted apparently led to his acquaintance with Mary L. Whipple, the daughter of a prominent and prosperous New London, Connecticut family. About 1838 Bears married Mary and they settled in Sag Harbor. Soon afterward he painted a portrait of Mary and his own self portrait. His first son Alfred William was born in 1840, and Bears painted the boy's portrait as a young child wearing a brown dress, dresses being customary attire for young boys at the time. Albert had bright, alert yes and a half smile on his face as he looked trustingly at his father. His hair was auburn, and was cut short. He carried an oak branch in his hand. The portrait is reproduced in Harrison's book, Hamptons Bohemia.
Alfred W. Bears
The Bears marriage was marred by tragedy. Three of the couple's five children died as infants. Bears' namesake Orlando E. was born in 1845 and died at age 17 from an accidental explosion The oldest son Alfred died at age 42 with no known descendants.
Mary Louisa Whipple Bears
Orlando Hand Bears' life was cut short at age 39 in 1851. His younger brother had already died in 1833, having drowned near Greenport at age 20. His father died shortly after Orlando, in 1853. All these untimely deaths are recorded on the family tombstones in Oakland Cemetery. Some time after her husband's death, Mary Whipple Bears returned to New London and she is buried there.

As the years went by, much of Bears' work disappeared from view. The 1984 show gave a large audience an opportunity to see his work for the first time. A new generation looked at Bears' self portrait and enjoyed his confident, handsome face, with its long elegant nose and intent eyes. Bears' work was well received by the public and by the critics. Mohonri S. Young wrote in the July 5, 1984 East Hampton Star that Bears' portraits shows "well developed modeling and landscape backgrounds." She went on to speculate that the daguerreotype may have eaten into Bears' career as a portrait painter, for the 1850 census indicates he was back in the tinning business.

Some Bears works continue to reside in Sag Harbor. Though Orlando left no descendants, his sister Frances did, and her great-granddaughter Mildred Youngs Dickinson, a 91 year old Sag Harbor resident, has a fine Bears self portrait, as well as the stunning portrait of his sister Frances, along with a collection of Bears miniatures. Collector Joy Lewis owns the portraits of the Hendrick family. The ruddy faces father holds a squeeze box, his wife has a rose in her hand,  and their child nestles a kitten in her arms. Joan Tripp, president of the Sag Harbor Historical Society, received a portrait attributed to Bears as a gift from a family friend. The sitter is a lovely young girl with dark hair and black eyes wearing a pink dress. Not in Sag Harbor, but of interest to the villages' Babcock and Smyth families is a double portrait of early members of their family tree, Mary and Job Babcock, painted to record their wedding in 1837. A Connecticut dealer, Marguerite Riordan, has this work available for sale. The Whaling Museum has a number of unsigned portraits, several of which include tell-tale hands and may be by Bears. Their formal attribution is on the future agenda of the museum's new curator, Zach Studenroth.
Mary and Job Babcock
The whereabouts of Bears' masterful landscape painting of the Sag Harbor waterfront is unknown. The only evidence of its existence is a lithograph made from the painting by D.W. Kellogg, a Connecticut lithographer, sometime before 1840. O. H. Beers (here spelled Beers rather than Bears) is identified as "pinxt," which means the lithograph was made from a painting by Bears. The Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford owns a copy of the lithograph. Curator Nancy Findlay tells me that a typical lithograph printing of the time would have totaled somewhere between 12 - 100 copies. The whereabouts of these other lithographs are also unknown The original painting would normally have been returned to the owner after the lithographs were completes. Bears remarkable record of early Sag Harbor is a treasure too wonderful to lose. We need to find it. If you have any information on the painting or the lithographs please call me at 725-0219.

Lois Beachy Underhill is the author of "The Woman Who Ran for President, The Many Lives or Victoria Woodhull." Article originally published in the Sag Harbor Express 9/18/03

I have added the photographs included in this version of the article. Images that I have found online include attribution links. Images without attribution links are photos of photocopies in the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum archive.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Holiday Birds

The large flock of white birds are clearly visible as you drive along Noyack Road past North Sea Farms.
Soon this pen will be empty.
I listened to their quiet voices. 
Turkey clucks more like a purr than a "gobble".
Perhaps a swan shaped gourd for dinner instead?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Salty Canvas

East Hampton has a new art studio, a studio for getting artsy. Nikki Payne and Khanh Ngo opened The Salty Canvas this past August as a space for children and adults of all ages to create with paint. The studio hosts after school art classes, adult painting nights (BYOW) and private events. Nikki was preparing to welcome a group of five year olds for a birthday painting party when I recently stopped by.
Nicki Payne owner of the Salty Canvas
I am stopping back for a visit when Nikki has time to chat. I need to find out more about the various classes. It looks like a fun time!
The Salty Canvas on Facebook here
and on Instagram here
94 Newtown Lane
East Hampton, NY 11937

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Ships at Rest

Ships at the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard.
I don't often travel the he stretch of road along Bay Street where the boatyard is located. I had forgotten the angular beauty of a ship with her keel fully exposed.
Sag Harbor Boat Yard by Ben Fenske
oil on canvas 24 3/4" x 35 3/4"
Sag Harbor Yacht Club by Marc Dalessio
oil 10" x 14"
At the marina, a hound in a red neoprene vest was attempting to get a closer look at mallards swimming there. 
Further down Bay Street, past Cormaria, is Havens Beach.
Cormaria Retreat Center was originally the summer home of real estate developer Frank Havens and how Havens Beach got its name. 
Frank C. Havens' Summer Cottage by Annie Cooper Boyd, 1917
Haven's Beach by Ben Fenske
oil 10" x 28"
Along the beach, a number of boats emblazoned with They appear to be a Swedish company.  I'll have to find out how they ended up here at Havens.
Haven's Beach by Casey Chalem Anderson
oil 11" x 14"
Sag Harbor Yacht Yard link here