Rauschenberg and Los Angeles

Robert Rauschenberg’s Global Loft (Spread), 1979, left, was acquired in 2012 as a gift in memory of Robert Shapazian. It is now joined by 15 of the artist’s photographs of Los Angeles, on loan from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. Photo by John Sullivan.

Robert Rauschenberg’s Global Loft (Spread), 1979, left, was acquired in 2012 as a gift in memory of Robert Shapazian. It is now joined by 15 of the artist’s photographs of Los Angeles, on loan from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. Photo by John Sullivan.

Since 2012, The Huntington has displayed Global Loft (Spread), 1979, a mesmerizing work by groundbreaking 20th-century artist Robert Rauschenberg, combining acrylic paint, pieces of fabric, three glue brushes, and a series of photographs on three conjoined wood panels. Visitors can now contemplate that piece alongside 15 of the artist’s photographs depicting Los Angeles in 1981 from his “Photos In + Out City Limits” series. The photographs are on loan from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and on view in the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art until June 2, 2015.

Photography was central to Robert Rauschenberg’s work as an artist. He frequently used photographic images, both ones made by him and others, in his painting and printmaking. He also considered photographs as works of art in their own right. Early in his career, he had expressed the desire to photograph the entire United States. In that spirit, he later turned his camera lens on several cities, including Los Angeles. In a book about the “Photos In + Out City Limits” project, Rauschenberg explained that his purpose was not to totally document, moralize, or editorialize the cities he was photographing. Instead, he said the photographs were “a collection of selected provocative facts (at least to me) that are the results of my happening to be there.”

Los Angeles, 1981, from “Photos In + Out City Limits”. Art © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, N.Y.

Los Angeles, 1981, from “Photos In + Out City Limits”. Art © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, N.Y.

Rauschenberg’s images combine the familiarity of a resident with the fresh perspective of an observant visitor. Rather than looking to the architecture of freeway overpasses or focusing on obvious L.A. landmarks, he took the point of view of the pedestrian on side streets, in parking lots, and by the beach. Some of these images express the visual cacophony of the city. Others are quiet and serene. Most of them capture surprising juxtapositions that express the artist’s playful sense of humor and illuminate his fascination with reflections, shadows, popular culture, and the intersection of the man-made world with the natural environment.

A volleyball net frames and seemingly catches two sailboats. A painted wave appears to crash into a parked car. Flats of live plants sit next to faux bois. The Queen Mary ocean liner appears to be parked next to a recreational vehicle and a van adorned with a painting of a cowboy lassoing a steer. These fleeting moments, so carefully framed, stand in for the larger city, a place that clearly amuses him.

Los Angeles, 1981, from “Photos In + Out City Limits”. Art © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, N.Y.

Los Angeles, 1981, from “Photos In + Out City Limits”. Art © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, N.Y.

Rauschenberg wrote that he used photography to resolve a personal conflict between curiosity and shyness. He thought of the camera as giving him permission to walk into every shadow or watch while any light changed. He wrote: “Mine is the need to be where things will never be the same again, discovering a kind of archaeology in time only, forcing one to see whatever the light or the darkness touches, and care.” He may have hid behind his lens to mediate his interactions with the world, but the results are squarely part of his artistic practice, demonstrating the visual acuity and wit that pervade all his work.

The Huntington holds a particular affection for Robert Rauschenberg, rooted in a well-documented account of how he decided to become an artist. Born in Port Arthur, Texas, Rauschenberg spent his adult life primarily in New York and Florida. While serving in the United States Navy from 1944–1945, he was stationed in San Diego. On a day off, he made his way north to The Huntington. Standing in front of the large 18th-century British portraits that hang in the Huntington Art Gallery, he had the stunning realization that he could become an artist.

Los Angeles, 1981, from “Photos In + Out City Limits”. Art © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, N.Y.

Los Angeles, 1981, from “Photos In + Out City Limits”. Art © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, N.Y.

The Huntington would like to thank the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation for so generously lending these photographs and supporting the installation. The 89 photographs that were part of “Photos In + Out City Limits: Los Angeles” were exhibited at the Rosamund Felsen Gallery in the early 1980s. The cities Rauschenberg photographed included Baltimore, Maryland; Boston, Massachusetts; Captiva, Florida; Charleston, South Carolina; Ft. Myers, Florida; Los Angeles, California; and New York, New York.

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Jessica Todd Smith is Virginia Steele Scott Chief Curator of American Art for The Huntington.

Bamboo, To Go

Xiao Liwu, one of San Diego Zoo's three giant pandas, dines in his Zoo enclosure on bamboo harvested from the gardens at The Huntington, among other sources. Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo Global.

Xiao Liwu, one of San Diego Zoo’s three giant pandas, dines in his Zoo enclosure on bamboo harvested from the gardens at The Huntington, among other sources. Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo Global.

When the pandas at the San Diego Zoo crave a bit of variety on their menu, zookeepers know exactly what to do. They order up some Chinese takeout.

That’s what led the Zoo to partner with The Huntington this year to obtain bamboo from the Botanical Gardens to help satisfy the appetites of its three star attractions: giant pandas Bai Yun, Gao Gao, and three-year-old Xiao Liwu. The Huntington’s plant collections include some 70 different species of bamboo, many of them native to China, offering a range of delicacies to tempt even the most finicky panda palate.

“When the zoo dietician contacted us about harvesting some of our bamboo, we were happy to help,” says David MacLaren, curator of Asian Gardens at The Huntington. Thinning the groves is healthy for the plants because it lets in more light and encourages new growth, he explains. “We’ve got plenty of bamboo to spare, so it’s great to be able to donate some of our surplus growth to such a worthwhile cause.”

Carry-out order: Daniel Ramos, a senior horticulturist with the San Diego Zoo, carries a bundle of freshly cut timber bamboo (Phyllostachys vivax 'Wubujizhu', a Chinese native) out of a grove in the Japanese Garden. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

Carry-out order: Daniel Ramos, a senior horticulturist with the San Diego Zoo, carries a bundle of freshly cut timber bamboo (Phyllostachys vivax ‘Wubujizhu’, a Chinese native) out of a grove in the Japanese Garden. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

The Huntington’s harvest supplements bamboo grown in the Zoo’s own groves and vegetation obtained from the San Diego Botanic Garden and other sources. In addition to expanding the pandas’ menu, using outside resources gives the Zoo’s heavily used bamboo stands a rest, allowing the plants to grow more fully for future harvesting.

Once a week, a team of the Zoo’s browse horticulturists (specialists in growing dietary plant material for zoological collections) makes the trek up from San Diego to San Marino. On a recent visit, senior horticulturists John Updike and Daniel Ramos cut tall stems, or culms, from three different varieties: Bambusa beecheyana, a clumping type that grows by the Lily Ponds; Phyllostachys vivax ‘Wubujizhu’, a towering timber bamboo that lines the path at the south end of the Japanese Garden; and P. aureosulcata f. spectabilis, a willowy, yellow-caned bamboo in the Chinese Garden. All three species are Chinese natives. (Visitors to the gardens needn’t fear that harvesting will diminish the bamboo groves; the cutting is done selectively and in limited quantities from any given area.)

Senior horticulturist John Updike of the San Diego Zoo cuts thick culms of Bambusa beecheyana into smaller sections. Pandas peel these tough, fibrous stems into strips and eat them along with the tender leaves and branches. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

Senior horticulturist John Updike of the San Diego Zoo cuts thick culms of Bambusa beecheyana into smaller sections. Pandas peel these tough, fibrous stems into strips and eat them along with the tender leaves and branches. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

“Dietary diversity is essential for nutrition, and it also keeps the pandas interested,” says Daniel Simpson, the Zoo’s horticulture manager. “Feeding a panda a new type of bamboo is like offering a chocolate chip cookie to someone who’s been eating only rice cakes.” He also notes that taste varies among the three animals. The Zoo’s animal care specialists take note of the pandas’ preferences, and then each week they give Simpson a shopping list. The Huntington’s bamboo is particularly beneficial as a food source, explains Simpson, because it’s chemical-free and regularly irrigated, which enhances its nutritional value.

After felling a tall culm from a large stand of bamboo, Updike and Ramos strip the leaves and branches from the cut stems and tie them into neat bundles. The hollow culms are cut into smaller lengths, and then everything is loaded onto the truck for the two-hour drive back to San Diego. Roughly 200 pounds of bamboo are collected on each trip. Back at the Zoo, it’s wetted down and placed in refrigerated storage barns to keep it fresh.

The Huntington’s collections include some 70 species of bamboo, many of them native to China. Pictured here: Bambusa beecheyana. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

The Huntington’s collections include some 70 species of bamboo, many of them native to China. Pictured here: Bambusa beecheyana. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

Each panda consumes roughly 50 pounds of bamboo a day, devouring the tender leaves and branches as well as the tough, fibrous culms, which they peel into strips. By taking careful note of the panda’s likes and dislikes as they munch on The Huntington’s “takeout,” the Zoo’s horticulture staff figure out which varieties of bamboo to use to supplement their own groves.

If variety is the spice of life, then three lucky pandas in San Diego are experiencing a very zesty life indeed.

You can watch San Diego Zoo staff harvesting bamboo at The Huntington in a video on the Zoo’s website. Panda fans can also watch the animals enjoying their meals (and much more) on the Zoo’s live Panda Cam.

Lisa Blackburn is communications coordinator at The Huntington.

Note: The panda in the top photo had been misidentified as Bai Yun. Corrected March 25. We apologize for the confusion.

Open to Interpretation

In the past, sumptuous furnishings may have tempted visitors to touch. Now, thanks to interactive displays—such as this one on the Savonnerie carpets—visitors can.

In the past, sumptuous furnishings may have tempted visitors to touch. Now, thanks to interactive displays—such as this one on the Savonnerie carpets—visitors can.

One of the first things visitors encounter in the mansion that houses the Huntington Art Gallery is a series of first-floor period rooms that Henry and Arabella Huntington inhabited in the early decades of the 20th century. But for many years, visitors could only skirt the edges of the rooms, making it difficult to imagine the Huntingtons’ lifestyle or really get a sense of their exquisite European art collection.

Now a new layout, better signage, and iPads are helping to bring the Huntingtons and their collection to life. Doors that were once closed between the rooms—the Large Library, Large Drawing Room, Small Drawing Room, and Dining Room—are now open. Visitors can move around and among the rooms, making it easier to take in the sumptuousness of the ornate decorations and gain closer, unobstructed views of the precious artworks, furniture, and decorative objects on display. A panel in each room orients the visitor, and smaller displays and iPads offer additional detail.

Open doors and better access in the Large Drawing Room and other period rooms allow visitors to explore the spaces Henry and Arabella Huntington inhabited. iPads offer detailed histories about the precious objects the rooms contain.

Open doors and better access in the Large Drawing Room and other period rooms allow visitors to explore the spaces Henry and Arabella Huntington inhabited. iPads offer detailed histories about the precious objects the rooms contain.

In the Large Library, you can sit in chairs inspired by Arabella’s favorite chairs and gaze at the treasures around you. These include a set of Beauvais tapestries after designs by François Boucher, purchased by Henry Huntington in 1909, and two opulent wool Savonnerie carpets designed for Louis XIV’s redecoration of the Louvre palace in the late 17th century. There are also scores of volumes from Henry’s vast book collection—just a sampling of the hundreds of thousands of books and manuscripts he collected during his lifetime, a number so large that he would build the Library to house them all in 1920. At one of the nearby iPads, you can touch the screen and see an animated video (viewable below) that reveals how the drawers of an 18th-century mechanical writing table open and close.

In the Large Drawing Room, the Huntingtons’ taste for elegant sophistication is evident in the finely hand-carved wall panels and intricate French furnishings. Visitors are invited to touch a reproduction of a gilded metal mount attached to an 18th-century chest of drawers by German cabinet-maker Martin Carlin and imagine how it would catch the candlelight.

Next door, in the Small Drawing Room, you can tap another iPad to view details of an exquisite French mantel clock, created by renowned 18th-century clockmaker-to-the-kings Renacle-Nicolas Sotiau in the early 1780s. The ermine-clad fellow in Sévres porcelain at the top of the clock is its original owner, Prince Maximilian of Hapsburg, brother of Marie-Antoinette of France.

Finally, stop by the Dining Room. Next to the large table and glimmering chandelier is a photograph showing the room decked out for a 1926 luncheon in honor of the Crown Prince of Sweden. The photo helps you envisage dinnertime chez Huntington. Henry and Arabella would appear each evening for dinner at 7 p.m. in formal attire. Four butlers waited on them, two who served and two who stood ready. Quite the life indeed.

Take a seat, really. The chairs on the right are modeled after Arabella’s favorite chairs and are meant for sitting.

Take a seat, really. The chairs on the right are modeled after Arabella’s favorite chairs and are meant for sitting.

If you haven’t visited the Huntington Art Gallery in a while, come check out the period rooms. These spaces, even while gloriously “stuck in time,” continue to evolve.

The video of a mechanical writing table is part of a suite of five short, silent videos that are installed on iPads in the period rooms. The videos, focusing on objects and architectural features in the period rooms, are also viewable online on Vimeo and YouTube.

Diana W. Thompson is senior writer for the office of communications and marketing at The Huntington.

Einstein and the Astronomers

Albert Einstein (right) at the top of the 150-foot solar tower at the Mount Wilson Observatory, with solar physicist Charles St. John (middle) and mathematician Walther Mayer (left). Jan. 29, 1931. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Albert Einstein (right) at the top of the 150-foot solar tower at the Mount Wilson Observatory, with solar physicist Charles St. John (middle) and mathematician Walther Mayer (left). Jan. 29, 1931. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

On the eve of Albert Einstein’s 136th birthday on March 14, we invite you to consider a letter Einstein wrote in 1913 to renowned solar astronomer George Ellery Hale (1868-1938)—a letter reminding us of the dance between theory and experiment.

In June 1911, several years before Einstein worked out the final details of his general theory of relativity, he completed a paper titled “On the Influence of Gravitation on the Propagation of Light.” In this work, he theorized that the gravitational field of the sun was powerful enough to cause an observable bending of starlight—a deflection that could be measured during a total solar eclipse. Einstein predicted that the position of a star near the sun would appear to have shifted from its normal position by an angle of somewhat less than one second of arc, or less than 1/360 of a degree.

In his letter to George Ellery Hale, Einstein illustrates starlight being deflected by the gravity of the sun. Oct. 14, 1913. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

In his letter to George Ellery Hale, Einstein illustrates starlight being deflected by the gravity of the sun. Oct. 14, 1913. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Over the ensuing months and years, Einstein corresponded with several astronomers to draw attention to the importance of his theory and solicit their help in refining his predictions through astronomical observation. One person he wrote to was Hale, founder of the Mount Wilson Observatory, which was home at the time to the world’s largest operational telescope. As a solar physicist, Hale would become best known for his discovery of magnetic fields in sunspots, but he also possessed remarkable terrestrial influence, helping to found both The Huntington and the California Institute of Technology. Einstein’s letter is one of the gems among Hale’s papers at The Huntington.

In his 1913 letter to Hale, Einstein asked (in his native German) if it would be possible to test his prediction without waiting for an eclipse. Hale wrote back that an eclipse was necessary. Sunlight would otherwise obscure stars that appeared close to the sun.

Undeterred, Einstein continued to seek help from colleagues. One of his most frequent correspondents was German astronomer Erwin Finley-Freundlich, who planned an expedition to the Crimea in 1914 to observe an eclipse and test Einstein’s prediction. Due to the outbreak of World War I, the members of the expedition were taken into custody and their equipment was confiscated. This sad turn of events proved to be something of a boon for Einstein, giving him more time to complete his general theory of relativity and revise his calculation. Indeed, in 1915, Einstein significantly altered his prediction, calculating that the angle of deflection would be twice as large as he’d originally thought.

Einstein peers into the solar telescope’s eyepiece, with Mayer in the background. Mount Wilson Observatory. Jan. 29, 1931. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Einstein peers into the solar telescope’s eyepiece, with Mayer in the background. Mount Wilson Observatory. Jan. 29, 1931. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Finally, on May 29, 1919, British astronomer Arthur Eddington provided the first confirmation of Einstein’s general theory of relativity by measuring the apparent displacement of stars during a solar eclipse that he observed on the island of Principe, located off the west coast of Africa. The publication of Eddington’s results the following year made Einstein world famous.

Einstein would make his first of several visits to Mount Wilson in 1931 while serving as a research associate at the California Institute of Technology. The Huntington possesses numerous photographs of Einstein visiting Mount Wilson but none of Hale and Einstein together. Instead, we see a smiling Einstein in the glare of the California sun with the astronomers Edwin Hubble, Walter Adams, and William Campbell, among others—captured for a moment of levity in space and time.

Left to right: Albert Einstein, Edwin Hubble, Walther Mayer, Walter S. Adams, Arthur S. King, and William W. Campbell pose in front of the 100-inch telescope dome at Mount Wilson Observatory. Jan. 29, 1931. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Left to right: Albert Einstein, Edwin Hubble, Walther Mayer, Walter S. Adams, Arthur S. King, and William W. Campbell pose in front of the 100-inch telescope dome at Mount Wilson Observatory. Jan. 29, 1931. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

A facsimile of the letter from Einstein to Hale is on display in the astronomy section of The Huntington’s permanent exhibition “Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World.”

Kevin Durkin is editor of Verso and managing editor for the office of communications and marketing at The Huntington.

Fantasy Aloe Hybrids

Zimmerman’s kind of six-pack: half a dozen aloe hybrids. On the bottom left is a young Aloe ‘Gargoyle’; on the bottom right is Aloe ‘DZ’. She’s waiting for the others to develop before she decides whether they merit a cultivar name.

Zimmerman’s kind of six-pack: half a dozen aloe hybrids. On the bottom left is a young Aloe ‘Gargoyle’; on the bottom right is Aloe ‘DZ’. She’s waiting for the others to develop before she decides whether they merit a cultivar name.

When it comes to aloe collecting, Karen Zimmerman’s hybrids are real show-stoppers. As The Huntington’s propagator of succulent plants, Zimmerman has had amazing success breeding striking, jagged-toothed specimens permeated with red, orange, or yellow that produce delectable contrasts with the aloes’ green to bluish-green leaves.

Take her Aloe ‘DZ’. A virtual sunburst of color, the elongated greenish leaves are studded with raised red ridges and tiny, distinctive red teeth along their edges. Or Aloe ‘Jeff Karsner’, named in honor of the late Jeff Karsner, who served as the head gardener in the Huntington’s Children’s Garden. A riot of colors, the rosette of this aloe—which grows to six or more inches—has bluish leaves, red and white striations, and deep-red, trapezoidal teeth on its margins.

Collectors are sometimes caught off guard when they first encounter one of these so-called “fantasy aloe hybrids” and realize they’ve just fallen head-over-heels in love.

That’s what happened to Zimmerman. She was fond of aloes but hadn’t paid particular attention to their hybrids. Then noted plant breeder Kelly Griffin donated a couple of his aloe hybrids to an auction at The Huntington’s 2002 Succulent Symposium, and Zimmerman’s professional life changed course.

Colorful and playful, Aloe ‘Jeff Karsner’ is named after the late head gardener of The Huntington’s Children's Garden.

Colorful and playful, Aloe ‘Jeff Karsner’ is named after the late head gardener of The Huntington’s Children’s Garden.

“I was absolutely gobsmacked!” she recalled. “The teeth and colors he got were amazing. I wanted to try my hand at it.”

Zimmerman likens creating aloe hybrids to making living sculptures. She breeds her plants for “toothiness,” a term that refers to the sharp spikes that are one of the plant’s signature characteristics. She aims for teeth both on the margins and the surfaces of the leaves, as well as luminous colors. And while aloe flowers are nice, colorful aloe leaves can be enjoyed all year long.

“You can’t get too much color,” she says. One of Zimmerman’s dreams is to breed a tree aloe with leaves that blush bright red with many long red or yellow teeth. (Trying to picture a tree aloe? If you’re walking from the Library toward the Desert Garden, you’ll see several towering examples of Aloe bainesii to the left of the path. Nearby are some of The Huntington’s 200 other aloe species, mostly from southern Africa.)

To generate a hybrid, Zimmerman takes the pollen from one aloe—using the tip of her finger or a pencil—and applies it to the stigma of another. She tags the flowers with relevant information, including the seed and pollen parent, the date, and how many flowers she’s pollinated. Then she waits for the pods to ripen, collects the seeds, and grows them to see what she’s bred.

Aloe ‘DZ’ was Zimmerman’s first aloe hybrid to enter the International Succulent Introduction program, along with Aloe ‘Dragon’ and Aloe ‘Gargoyle’.

Aloe ‘DZ’ was Zimmerman’s first aloe hybrid to enter the International Succulent Introduction program, along with Aloe ‘Dragon’ and Aloe ‘Gargoyle’.

She applies a cultivar name—for instance ‘DZ’ or ‘Jeff Karsner’—only to the plants that achieve the characteristics she’s after. Often, if a plant merits a name, it’s distributed through The Huntington’s International Succulent 
Introductions (ISI) program. Started in 1958 and incorporated into The Huntington in 1989, ISI propagates and sells new or rare succulents to collectors, nurseries, and institutions. Income earned from sales supports the program. So far, Zimmerman has developed nine aloe hybrids for ISI.

Introducing a plant into the program requires a starting crop of roughly 100 to 200 specimens. Using traditional methods, the process could take a decade or longer. But since 2008, The Huntington has used its on-site tissue culture lab to shorten the span to a year or two.

When Zimmerman breeds a winner, she now hands over a part of her plant to the tissue lab. Technicians mass-produce the plant for distribution, often using a very early inflorescence (or flower stalk) before it starts to bud instead of dissecting the plant itself. The result is identical to what one would get using traditional propagation methods.

If you like what you see in these images, why not join Zimmerman for “Aloes on My Mind: Exploring Aloe Hybrids One Generation at a Time,” a talk she’s giving on Thursday, March 12, at 2:30 p.m. in the Ahmanson Room of the Brody Botanical Center. A plant sale follows the talk. Free; no reservations required.

Diana W. Thompson is senior writer for the office of communications and marketing at The Huntington.

Morse Among Friends

Morse painted biographical information into his monumental work. He depicts himself leaning over his daughter sketching in the foreground; friend and author James Fenimore Cooper stands in the corner at left with his family; and Morse's roommate in Paris, American sculptor Horatio Greenough, strides into the gallery holding his hat. Detail of Gallery of the Louvre, Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago.

Morse painted biographical information into his monumental work. He depicts himself leaning over his daughter sketching in the foreground; friend and author James Fenimore Cooper stands in the corner at left with his family; and Morse’s roommate in Paris, American sculptor Horatio Greenough, strides into the gallery holding his hat. Detail of Gallery of the Louvre, Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago.

What’s the connection between Morse code and The Last of the Mohicans? It turns out that their creators were good friends, and one depicted the other in a monumental painting on display in “Samuel F. B. Morse’s Gallery of the Louvre and the Art of Invention” through May 4, 2015.

Before Samuel F. B. Morse became famous for his work on the single-wire telegraph system and Morse code, he swelled with ambition to become a great painter, one to rival Raphael and Michelangelo. Attempting to secure his artistic reputation, he began painting Gallery of the Louvre in 1831 while living in France (the work was completed in 1833). In the painting, he reproduced famous works by Leonardo, Rembrandt, Rubens, and Titian, among others, arranged in a fictitious installation in the Musée du Louvre in Paris.

Morse also depicted in the painting several noted people, including himself and his daughter in the foreground and, close to the left side of his six-by-nine foot canvas, the popular author James Fenimore Cooper standing behind his seated daughter, Susan Fenimore Cooper, and his wife, Susan DeLancy Fenimore Cooper.

Why did Morse choose to paint Cooper, the author of such quintessential American novels as The Pathfinder, The Pioneers, and The Last of the Mohicans—novels set in romantic and roughhewn American wildernesses and frontier lands? And in the Louvre museum’s elegant Salon Carré, no less, flanked by his fashionably dressed family?

Frontispiece from The Huntington’s copy of the 1893 edition of James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans, showing a scene early in the novel when Uncas, the last of the Mohicans, saves the British army major Duncan Heyward. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Frontispiece from The Huntington’s copy of the 1893 edition of James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans, showing a scene early in the novel when Uncas, the last of the Mohicans, saves the British army major Duncan Heyward. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The connection lies in the friendship between Morse and Cooper, who both belonged to the Bread and Cheese Club, an artistic and literary circle that Cooper started in a New York City bookstore owned by his publisher. It turns out the two men also belonged to another club of sorts, along with American sculptor Horatio Greenough, who appears in Gallery of the Louvre to the right of the Coopers, holding his top hat in his hand. (The Huntington has Greenough’s sepia-on-paper Silhouettes (1831) among its art holdings.)

In an essay in Samuel F. B. Morse’s “Gallery of the Louvre” and the Art of Invention, the book that accompanies The Terra Foundation’s visiting exhibition of Morse’s painting, Wendy Bellion, associate professor of art history at the University of Delaware, writes:

“In Europe, with Greenough, they [Morse and Cooper] forged what I would call ‘the Sculpture Club’—their friendship cohered around experiences of imagining, making, and writing about sculpture . . . Along with Cooper, Morse and Greenough shared a robust friendship grounded in their identities as artists abroad and as Americans committed to advancing the arts in the United States.”

The silhouettes of Morse (top row, third from the left) and Cooper, (second row, middle) appear in Horatio Greenough’s Silhouettes, 1831. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The silhouettes of Morse (top row, third from the left) and Cooper, (second row, middle) appear in Horatio Greenough’s Silhouettes, 1831. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

As a testament to their close friendship, Morse wrote to Cooper upon his return to New York in 1833, urging him to come back to the States: “Come home in the spring, do. Mr. dear Sir, you are wanted at home; I want you, to encourage me by your presence.” Morse goes on to allude to Cooper’s novel The Pioneers when he writes: “I find the Pioneer business has less of romance in the reality than in the description, and I find some tough stumps to pry up, and heavy stones to roll out of the way, and I get exhausted and desponding, and I should like a little of your sinew to come to my aid at times, as it was wont to come at the Louvre.”

The Huntington Library has an assortment of items related to Cooper, including manuscripts, letters, and all editions of his major works (including The Pioneers and The Last of the Mohicans), some of which are in their original bindings. In addition, the Library holds illustrations from some of his most famous works.

It is fitting that this traveling exhibition should make a stop at The Huntington, where items related to three American friends—artists whose friendships were sealed in France and honored in Morse’s painting—are reunited for a while in the mind’s eye.

Kevin Durkin is editor of Verso and managing editor for the office of communications and marketing at The Huntington.

Newton’s Lost Copy of Mede, Revealed

The Huntington’s library collection comprises nearly 9 million manuscripts, books, photographs and other works in such fields as American and British history, literature, art, and the history of science. Because of the sheer volume of materials—with each item having to be analyzed by hand and carefully studied—it’s possible for things to remain hidden for decades before a staff member or researcher comes along and has a thrilling moment of discovery.

Such a moment recently transpired for researcher Stephen Snobelen. What follows is his account of a new finding in the Library that is generating excitement as it signals opportunities for further scholarship.

Detail showing the future Millennium from the apocalyptic time chart found in Newton’s copy of Mede’s Works (1672). Mede’s chart likely helped inspire Newton’s own apocalyptic beliefs. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Detail showing the future Millennium from the apocalyptic time chart found in Newton’s copy of Mede’s Works (1672). Mede’s chart likely helped inspire Newton’s own apocalyptic beliefs. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

An Unexpected Revelation
Less than an hour before books were recalled from the Ahmanson Reading Room in the Munger Research Center, I brought to my desk one of The Huntington’s two copies of Joseph Mede’s Works (1672), a 1,000-page book of exceptional erudition on biblical exegesis written in English, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew.

It was the Friday afternoon before the long Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, but I intended to spend a few minutes with this grand volume. Mede, who died in 1638, was a prophetic interpreter and a major inspiration for the famous physicist Sir Isaac Newton, who wrote extensively about biblical prophecy and adopted Mede’s historicist interpretation of the Apocalypse.

The Huntington has several copies of the four editions of Mede’s Works, going back to the first of 1648. But I was after the 1672 edition, as I needed a picture of its fascinating apocalyptic time chart for a paper I was preparing for publication. I wanted the caption to say that this was the same edition of Mede’s Works that Newton owned (and, presumably, used). The time chart forms part of my paper’s argument that, despite the common myth, Newton did not believe in a clockwork universe, but held to a dynamic cosmology similar to, and perhaps informed by, the arrow of time Newton encountered in biblical prophecy and Mede’s writings on the Apocalypse.

Close-up of the Musgrave bookplate in Newton’s copy of Mede’s Works (1672), showing the motto Philosophemur (“let us philosophize”) and the Barnsley Park shelf mark, “Case R. E.4. Barnsley.” The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Close-up of the Musgrave bookplate in Newton’s copy of Mede’s Works (1672), showing the motto Philosophemur (“let us philosophize”) and the Barnsley Park shelf mark, “Case R. E.4. Barnsley.” The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

As soon as I opened the book, however, I immediately realized that I held in my hands not merely the same edition we know Newton owned, but the very copy he owned. I felt momentarily disoriented as I beheld a Musgrave bookplate, usually a sure sign that a book came from Newton’s library, which resided in the Musgrave family’s home from 1788 to 1920. A quick check of John Harrison’s ever-helpful Library of Isaac Newton (1978) confirmed the precise details of the Musgrave shelf mark written above and to the left of the bookplate.

How did Newton’s ownership of this book escape detection at The Huntington?

The process that obscured Newton’s ownership of this book takes us back a century or more. When half of Newton’s library was sold for auction in 1920, the Musgrave family had either lost track of its Newtonian provenance or hadn’t thought it a matter of significance. Thus the books were sold for a song and entered the rare book trade without Newtonian associations. Newton’s copy of Mede passed from a collector named Isabelle Brown to the former Bacon Library at Claremont Colleges before arriving, in 1995, at The Huntington—all without the great man’s name associated with it.

Barnsley Park in Gloucestershire, England. The stately country home of the Musgrave family when Newton’s library resided there from 1788 to 1920. Photograph by Stephen Snobelen, July 2008.

Barnsley Park in Gloucestershire, England. The stately country home of the Musgrave family when Newton’s library resided there from 1788 to 1920. Photograph by Stephen Snobelen, July 2008.

Another reason the book’s ownership became obscure: the bookplate does not bear the Musgrave family name, only the motto Philosophemur. Coupled to this is the fact that the person who long ago wrote the shelf mark, “E.4. Barnsley,” wrote the “n” like a “u,” and thus it entered the catalogue as “Barusley.” As a result, the connection with Barnsley Park in Gloucestershire, England, where Newton’s library resided from 1788 to 1920, was masked. When you look at the shelf mark, I think you’ll agree that it looks more like Barusley than Barnsley.

Newton’s Naughty Dog-Ears
But what really cemented the Newtonian provenance of The Huntington’s book is the many signs of dog-earing. This was Newton’s preferred method of page marking, and scores of extant books from Newton’s 2,100-volume library bear these distinctive dog-ears. With just a few minutes before books were recalled in the Ahmanson, I did a quick survey of the volume and found meaningful dog-ears marking themes in Mede’s writings that we know Newton was passionate about from his own theological manuscripts.

The outside fold of a dog-ear marking Justin Martyr’s testimonies about the Millennium in Newton’s copy of Mede’s Works (1672). The accumulated dirt on the fold is evidence that Newton kept the dog-ear down for many years. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The outside fold of a dog-ear marking Justin Martyr’s testimonies about the Millennium in Newton’s copy of Mede’s Works (1672). The accumulated dirt on the fold is evidence that Newton kept the dog-ear down for many years. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

After reluctantly returning the book, I sent e-mails to several Newton colleagues around the world. Did anyone know that The Huntington possessed Newton’s lost copy of Mede? No, this was news to everyone. The following week, I sent pictures of the bookplate and dog-ears to this same group of historians. All agreed, this was the real McCoy: a bona fide Newton-owned book. When I told members of the Library staff, they were surprised and delighted.

The process of identifying and learning more about Newton-owned books and their history continues to involve a fruitful collaboration between researchers and librarians, such as the professionals here at The Huntington. Now that Newton’s personal copy of Mede has been identified, it can be studied along with The Huntington’s other 15 Newton-owned books. The main goal will be to cross-reference the dog-ears with Newton’s theological papers. This project has already begun.

At the end of his first chapter in Library of Newton, Harrison recalls how the book dealer Heinrich Zeitlinger deplored Newton’s practice of dog-earing, disdainfully labeling it “naughty.” But what to a book dealer is unsightly is to a historian a source of insight. I have now done a full survey of dog-ears in Newton’s copy of Mede’s Works: there are 60. Newton was a very naughty boy. And for the sake of scholarship, we’re glad he was.

Inside front cover of Newton’s copy of Mede’s Works (1672), showing the Musgrave shelf mark “D7—14,” the Musgrave bookplate and the bookplate of subsequent owner Isabelle Kittson Brown. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Inside front cover of Newton’s copy of Mede’s Works (1672), showing the Musgrave shelf mark “D7—14,” the Musgrave bookplate and the bookplate of subsequent owner Isabelle Kittson Brown. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Stephen D. Snobelen is associate professor of History of Science at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is currently on sabbatical and a Dibner Research Fellow in the History of Science and Technology at the Huntington Library.

Buying a Turner

J.M.W. Turner, Neapolitan Fisher-girls Surprised Bathing by Moonlight, ca. 1840, oil on canvas. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

J.M.W. Turner, Neapolitan Fisher-girls Surprised Bathing by Moonlight, ca. 1840, oil on canvas. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Interest in the 19th-century British landscape painter Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) is stronger than ever. Director Mike Leigh’s biopic Mr. Turner was nominated for four Oscars, and we’ll know on Sunday whether it grabs a statue for cinematography, costume design, original score, or production design.

Meanwhile, across town, The Getty is about to open “J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free,” a show originally organized by Tate Britain. It features more than 60 of the master’s oil paintings and watercolors, including a work on loan from The Huntington, Neapolitan Fisher-girls, Surprised, Bathing by Moonlight (ca. 1840). With its contrast of cool moonlight, warm fire, and the burning heat of Mount Vesuvius exploding in the background, the painting testifies to Turner’s love of spectacular light and atmospheric effects.

The Huntington owns another major Turner work, The Grand Canal: Scene—a Street in Venice (ca. 1837). In this painting, Turner uses a scene from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice to explore his fascination with color and luminosity—capturing dazzling ripples of sunlight that sparkle on the Venetian canal. Henry Huntington purchased The Grand Canal in 1922 from art dealer and entrepreneur Joseph Duveen.

Over the years, Duveen had earned the trust of both Arabella and Henry Huntington. The story of how Duveen convinced Huntington to purchase The Grand Canal provides a window into the art dealer’s considerable talents as a negotiator. It also tells a larger tale of how American mega-collectors such as Huntington snatched up so many Old Master paintings around the turn of the 20th century. As Duveen was famously quoted as saying, “Europe has a great deal of art, and America has a great deal of money.”

Duveen (center) and Huntington (right) in an undated photo, along with two unidentified men. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Duveen (center) and Huntington (right) in an undated photo, along with two unidentified men. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The complex negotiations between client and dealer is meticulously recorded in The Art of Wealth: The Huntingtons in the Gilded Age, by Shelley M. Bennett, former curator of European art and senior research associate at The Huntington. Here’s a condensed version of their correspondence via telegram from that book. It starts in May of 1922 with Duveen informing Huntington that he has acquired the painting and ends eight months later when Huntington agrees to purchase it.

(The two men refer to the painting as Marriage of the Adriatic, an alternate name for The Grand Canal.)

(May 24) Duveen to Huntington: “I regard our acquisition of it as a great victory, as it was until then the finest Turner in private hands in England. As I am sailing for Europe on the 13th of June, I would so much appreciate your obliging me with an expression of your interest in this important painting.”

(June 1) Huntington to Duveen: “Your letter of May 24th with the photograph of the beautiful picture, Marriage of the Adriatic, has been received. My feeling now is that, with so much before me, I am at present too poor to buy anything. It goes without saying, however, that I should like very much to have the picture.”

Huntington’s plea of poverty, while exaggerated, was not completely unfounded. Over the previous six months, he had paid Duveen well over $1.2 million—roughly $15.5 million in today’s dollars—for Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy and The Cottage Door, and Joshua Reynolds’ Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse.

(June 9) Duveen to Huntington: “I am much obliged to you for your favor of June first with regard to the Turner picture, The Marriage of the Adriatic, but I notice that although you say ‘the beautiful picture,’ your letter is not very Turner-esque, and somewhat lacks the warm colour of the picture itself!! There is only one question which I would like to ask you, if I may, and that is, does Mrs. Huntington like the picture? Because, if Madame does, then I shall not dispose of it until you have both seen it.”

At the time, Henry and Arabella were living in their mansion on 57th Street in New York City and were planning a return to San Marino on Oct. 18th or 20th. Duveen begged them to delay their departure until he arrived in New York on October 23rd—presumably with the Turner landscape. The next cable suggests that they indeed delayed their departure and saw the Turner painting. The cable also takes up the price negotiations in midstream.

J.M.W. Turner, The Grand Canal: Scene—A Street in Venice, ca. 1837, oil on canvas. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

J.M.W. Turner, The Grand Canal: Scene—A Street in Venice, ca. 1837, oil on canvas. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

(Nov. 20) Duveen to Huntington: “Thanks for telegram. Two most important considerations are firstly that you like picture secondly that it is very finest of its type with nothing approaching it in America or any collection Europe. Compared with above considerations suggest matter of price of less importance and it would be tremendous pity if your collection already so rich in master pieces should miss this gem. Hitherto we have always come to terms. I have never allowed considerations of price to jeopardize our negotiations and think you feel the same . . . However to meet you will reduce price asked by thirty five making net total three hundred twenty five.”

(Nov. 20) Huntington to Duveen: “Like your picture but will not pay that price.”

The negotiations continue.

(Nov. 21) Huntington to Duveen: “We like the picture very much and appreciate the concession but cannot offer more than two seventy five.”

Then, a compromise.

(Nov. 22) Duveen to Huntington: “Many thanks for telegram which much appreciated.  Have today received a pair of beautiful dark blue Chelsea vases with Watteau subjects and graceful flowing handles. I bought these for your collection and was indeed on point of sending them to you. I will accept three hundred thousand for the Turner including these vases and do trust this is satisfactory to Madam and yourself.”

Deal complete.

November 23 (Huntington to Duveen): “Telegram received. As usual you have your own way. Send the vases.”

The same day, Duveen sent Huntington a bill for $275,000 ($3.5 million in today’s dollars) for The Grand Canal and $25,000 ($325,000 today) for the pair of Chelsea gold anchor porcelain vases.

The Grand Canal is on view on the second floor of the Huntington Art Gallery. The Art of Wealth is available from the Huntington Store. The exhibition “J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free” runs at the Getty Center from Feb. 24 to May 24, 2015. It will then travel to the de Young Museum in San Francisco, June 20–Sept. 20, 2015.

Diana W. Thompson is senior writer for the office of communications and marketing at The Huntington.

A Chinese Cart Worth Discovering

Paper lanterns, some made of red lucky envelopes (laisee or hong bao), enliven the latticework of the new Chinese Garden Discovery Cart.

Paper lanterns, some made of red lucky envelopes (laisee or hong bao), enliven the latticework of the new Chinese Garden Discovery Cart.

You’re walking in the Chinese Garden. First you hear wheels crunching over gravel, and then you see a curious red-and-cream box approach. The intricate lattice design of the cart invites you to peek inside, but the bright fiery red sides shield its contents. What is this contraption? A food cart with Asian-inspired treats? Guess again. When you open this peculiar box, you get a glimpse into the complex culture of China.

The Chinese Garden Discovery Cart is the newest incarnation of a long-standing Huntington tradition—mobile interactive exhibits that focus on the theme of a particular garden. The activities on the cart include making Beijing opera masks, playing Chinese musical instruments, and exploring a Chinese apothecary box. What, you may ask, inspired these activities? To answer that question, let’s go back in time.

A Beijing opera mask adds drama to the cart.

A Beijing opera mask adds drama to the cart.

In the summer of 2011, I helped revitalize the Discovery Carts program by creating a new Chinese Garden cart. Having been a high-school volunteer at The Huntington, I had heard of Discovery Carts but never seen one because they were out of commission at the time. My task was to come up with possible activities for a brand-new Chinese cart.

For inspiration, I looked to my upbringing as the daughter of a Chinese herb specialist. My childhood visits to fascinating herbal emporiums gave me the idea of creating an apothecary box. What better way to showcase the garden’s plants than with an apothecary box focused on Chinese botany? Dried and gnarly, the medicinal plant samples in the box pique your curiosity and fill your mind with wonder.

An apothecary box containing: (3) dried Chinese dates, also known as jujube; (8) dried longan; and (9) snow fungus.

An apothecary box containing: (3) dried Chinese dates, also known as jujube; (8) dried longan; and (9) snow fungus.

Other activities came about more pragmatically. The lantern activity resulted from trying to find a way to repurpose years of accumulated red lucky envelopes from past Lunar New Years. The outcome was brilliant but, unfortunately, too time-consuming for the average visitor to recreate. In its place, a simplified version of the activity was used, complete with some intriguing legends about lanterns.

The new Chinese Garden cart heralds the renaissance of the Discovery Cart program; new carts for other gardens will be created during the coming year. Be sure to visit the Chinese Garden cart during The Huntington’s Chinese New Year Festival, Feb. 21–22. The cart will be stationed in the garden’s north courtyard from 12:30–4 p.m. A table at the garden’s eastern entrance will provide additional activities.

For more information regarding Discovery Carts, click here.

Christine Quach is a web editor at The Huntington.

Valentine’s Day in the Gardens

Set the mood for romance with a stroll on the North Vista, with its 18th-century statuary and Italian Renaissance fountain. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

Set the mood for romance with a stroll on the North Vista, with its 18th-century statuary and Italian Renaissance fountain. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

Time and time again, on Top Ten lists and “best of” compilations, The Huntington is named one of the best places for a first date, a first kiss, or a marriage proposal on bended knee. True enough, it’s a pretty romantic spot. Do you want to win the heart of someone special on Valentine’s Day? Here’s an idea for a garden walking tour that you’ll both love.

First, head west from the entrance walkway to the North Vista, where 18th-century statuary and an Italian Renaissance fountain set the mood for romance. Gravel pathways lead off into the Camellia Garden, an enchanting area for strolling hand-in-hand with your sweetheart under lovely winter blooms that tower overhead. (Lovers of camellias might want to take a brief detour at this point to pop into the nearby Botanical Center, where the annual Camellia Show and Sale is on view Feb. 14–15.)

Shaded paths among the camellias provide an inviting spot to sit and enjoy the blooms. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

Shaded paths among the camellias provide an inviting spot to sit and enjoy the blooms. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

Next, wander over to the Shakespeare Garden and see if you can find references to Romeo and Juliet and other works by the Bard on small plaques set among the flora. The garden is inspired, in part, by the Library’s collections of early editions of Shakespeare’s works, and the plantings include several flowers, herbs, and shrubs mentioned in his plays and poems.

You won’t find roses in bloom in the garden yet, but make a note to come back in April or May. When spring is at its peak, the Rose Garden is the floral embodiment of romance, with nearly 4,000 individual rose plants (in 1,200 different varieties) providing an irresistible atmosphere that stimulates the senses. And who can resist flowers with names like ‘Secret Love’, ‘First Kiss’, ‘Passionate Kisses’, and ‘Sweet Surrender’?

The Rose Garden leads you to the Japanese Garden—a breathtaking spot that has witnessed countless “will you marry me?” moments in its 103-year history. On the far side of the canyon, the walled Zen Court invites lovers to pause for a moment and contemplate life’s journey.

Step through the gate into the Chinese Garden, and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to another place and time. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

Step through the gate into the Chinese Garden, and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to another place and time. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

Enter the Chinese Garden (poetically named the Garden of Flowing Fragrance), and experience the romance of the East. You’ll feel as though you’ve been transported to China during the Ming dynasty as you stroll among the tile-roofed pavilions, walk under a waterfall, and sip hot cups of jasmine tea in a teahouse overlooking the lake. (If you and your beloved prefer cold craft beer, you can sip a couple of those here, too.)

For some, a romantic afternoon at The Huntington is not complete without afternoon tea in the Rose Garden Tea Room. (Reservations recommended. Call 626-683-8131.) Freshly baked scones, finger sandwiches, miniature fruit tarts, and strawberries with cream are among the sumptuous offerings served in an intimate setting overlooking the garden. It’s the perfect finale to a day spent enjoying the romantic pleasures of The Huntington.

Lisa Blackburn is communications coordinator for the office of communications and marketing at the Huntington.