A Thanksgiving Cornucopia

For Thanksgiving inspiration—and just plain fun—adventuresome cooks would be well served by perusing the historical recipes in The Cornucopia: Being a Kitchen Entertainment and Cookbook, a publication from the Huntington Library Press, edited by Judith Herman and Marguerite Shalett Herman. (Shown: a detail of the front cover.)

For Thanksgiving inspiration—and just plain fun—adventuresome cooks would be well served by perusing the historical recipes in The Cornucopia: Being a Kitchen Entertainment and Cookbook, a publication from the Huntington Library Press, edited by Judith Herman and Marguerite Shalett Herman. (Shown: a detail of the front cover.)

Anyone searching for an authentic American dish to serve for Thanksgiving dinner should consider the humble succotash: it would make a hearty addition to the meal and a terrific conversation starter. The bean and corn medley was (and still is) prepared annually in Plymouth, Mass., as part of the Forefathers’ Day celebration commemorating the landing of the Pilgrims on Dec. 21, 1620. Mrs. D. A. Lincoln, in her Boston Cook Book of 1891, writes: “Tradition says [succotash] has been made in that town ever since the Pilgrims raised their first corn and beans, and it is supposed they learned to make it from the Indians.”

Mrs. Lincoln’s “receipt” for succotash is one of the fascinating historical dishes included in The Cornucopia: Being a Kitchen Entertainment and Cookbook, a compilation of recipes and folklore edited by Judith Herman and Marguerite Shalett Herman. Drawn from historical cookery books in The Huntington’s collections and other sources, it was originally published by Harper & Row in 1973 and reissued by the Huntington Library Press in 2005.

A nineteenth-century cook applies some "elbow grease" to the preparation of dinner in an illustration from The Cornucopia: Being a Kitchen Entertainment and Cookbook. Huntington Library Press.

A nineteenth-century cook applies some “elbow grease” to the preparation of dinner in an illustration from The Cornucopia: Being a Kitchen Entertainment and Cookbook. Huntington Library Press.

Taking readers on a gustatory journey through the kitchens of yesteryear, The Cornucopia serves up a veritable feast of recipes and food-related tidbits from the 14th century to the turn of the 20th. Some of the dishes described in its pages might prove daunting to all but the most adventuresome chefs. Squirrel stew can be an acquired taste, after all, and goose blood is difficult to source locally. Methods of preparation, too, can present a challenge for the modern cook who might not know a pipkin from a spider. (And knowing that one is an earthenware pot and the other a footed cast-iron pan won’t help much, since few of today’s kitchens are equipped with either vessel.)

But this remarkable record of early foodways makes for fascinating reading that will delight the history buff and the gourmand alike. Early cookbook writers knew that it was not enough simply to provide a list of ingredients; conveying the proper techniques was essential, even for the simplest dish. It’s impossible not to admire the clarity of a recipe for black-eye peas, for example, that begins: “Gather your peas about sun-down. The following day, about eleven o’clock, gouge out your peas with your thumb nail, like gouging out a man’s eye-ball at a court house.”

Along with its humorous, obscure, and occasionally eyebrow-raising fare, The Cornucopia offers many recipes that are completely accessible and well worth sampling. Irish stew, cheese soufflé, lobster salad, hot cross buns, chocolate tarts—there’s something for every taste. Two of the dishes, a classic cranberry sauce and a mashed sweet potato casserole with Swedish turnips (rutabagas), would make particularly admirable accompaniments to a Thanksgiving meal of roast turkey—with, of course, a heaping helping of succotash. Those recipes appear below.

thanksgivingrecipes-3bAnother delicious cookbook published by the Huntington Library Press is A Celebration of Herbs: Recipes from the Huntington Herb Garden. This collection of recipes contributed by Huntington volunteers, readers, and staff is so packed with herbs that the savory aromas of thyme, rosemary, and oregano seem to waft right off the pages. From simple appetizers like a mushroom and cranberry paté with thyme, parsley, and chives to elaborate entrees such as pumpkin ravioli with sage butter sauce, A Celebration of Herbs offers dozens of flavorful ideas for adding the fresh taste of homegrown herbs (or even the store-bought variety) to meals for every occasion.

The book is beautifully illustrated with prints and engravings from The Huntington’s rare book holdings, including 24 full-color reproductions from Elizabeth Blackwell’s A Curious Herbal, published in 1737.

Reproductions from The Huntington's copy of Elizabeth Blackwell's 1737 botanical work, A Curious Herbal, are sprinkled among the recipes in A Celebration of Herbs. (Pictured: thyme.) Huntington Library Press.

Reproductions from The Huntington’s copy of Elizabeth Blackwell’s 1737 botanical work, A Curious Herbal, are sprinkled among the recipes in A Celebration of Herbs. (Pictured: thyme.) Huntington Library Press.

A dash of Huntington history rounds out the recipes, providing an intriguing taste of what mealtime must have been like in Henry and Arabella Huntington’s home. Mrs. Huntington was a believer in locally grown produce, long before it became trendy, and there were six small greenhouses on the estate for growing vegetables for the kitchen. The family orchard produced bushels of fruit including oranges, grapefruits, peaches, figs, plums, nectarines, cherries, guavas, and cherimoyas (custard apples). Avocados undoubtedly had a place at the Huntingtons’ table, as well; Mr. Huntington was so enamored of the fruit that he planted what is believed to have been the first commercial avocado orchard in the state. A brief history of the Herb Garden, which was originally Mrs. Huntington’s flower garden, is also included in the book.

Contemporary cooks, especially those who enjoy cultivating their own kitchen gardens, will find plenty of inspiration in A Celebration of Herbs to create memorable meals to share with family and friends throughout the year. A recipe that’s perfect for fall is Autumn Apple Soup. The recipe is given below.

Hungry for more? Both of these cookbooks are available at the Huntington Store.

Happy Thanksgiving, and bon appetit!

Cranberry Sauce

To stew cranberries till soft is all that is necessary to make cranberry sauce. When soft, stir in sugar or molasses to sweeten. Scald the sugar in the sauce a few minutes. Strain if you please—‘tis good without.

Mrs. A. L. Webster, The Improved Housewife, 1854
From The Cornucopia: Being A Kitchen Entertainment and Cookbook

Swedish Turnips and Sweet Potatoes

Pare two good-sized ruta-bagas [Swedish turnips] and cut them into slices. Wash and bake four sweet potatoes. Cook the Swedish turnips in unsalted water below the boiling point until perfectly tender; drain, and press them through a colander. Open the baked sweet potatoes, scoop out the centres, add them to the Swedish turnips, add a tablespoonful of butter, a saltspoonful of salt, and a saltspoonful of pepper. Beat the two until very light, heap them into a baking dish, brush the top with milk and bake in a quick oven until a golden brown, about twenty minutes. Serve with roasted duck, opossum, or baked rabbit.

Sarah Tyson Rorer, Mrs. Rorer’s New Cook Book, 1898.
From The Cornucopia: Being A Kitchen Entertainment and Cookbook

Autumn Apple Soup

A lovely soup to make when “the frost is on the pumpkin.” Its heavenly aroma will scent your home better than any potpourri.

½ cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 tablespoon flour
3 cups chicken broth
1 ½ pounds apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
½ cup light cream
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
4 to 6 thick lemon slices
4 to 6 fresh sprigs of mint

Sauté the onion in butter in a large saucepan until the onion is transparent, but not browned. Stir in the curry powder and cook 1 minute. Stir in the flour. Gradually add the chicken broth, stirring constantly. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add the apples, and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Puree the soup, lemon juice, and mint in a blender or food processor. Return the mixture to the saucepan and stir in the cream, salt, and white pepper. Reheat without bringing to a boil. Serve immediately, garnishing each serving with a slice of lemon and a sprig of mint.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

From A Celebration of Herbs: Recipes from the Huntington Herb Garden

Succotash

Since Mrs. Lincoln’s recipe for succotash is very lengthy and includes (among other ingredients) a hefty eight pounds of corned beef and a six-pound chicken, we won’t reprint it here. But readers are encouraged to consider adding a simpler version of this historic American dish to their own Thanksgiving celebration. The Pilgrim Fathers—and Mrs. D. A. Lincoln—would approve.

Lisa Blackburn is communications coordinator at The Huntington.

Remembering Gettysburg

Photographs like Timothy H. O'Sullivan’s On the Battlefield of Gettysburg, showing bloated dead bodies, made war painfully real for many Americans. (1863, printed ca. 1891) The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Photographs like Timothy H. O’Sullivan’s On the Battlefield of Gettysburg, showing bloated dead bodies, made war painfully real for many Americans. (1863, printed ca. 1891) The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

On Nov. 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the greatest speeches in American history: the Gettysburg Address. It was a delicate moment in the young nation’s identity. The Civil War had been raging for two years and the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1–3, 1863) had claimed 50,000 lives. For the first time, the country required a national cemetery. In dedicating the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Penn., Lincoln uttered his now famous words:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

Lincoln’s address continued for another minute or so, containing a total of ten sentences, a tiny snippet of dialogue compared to the main speech of the day, famed orator Edward Everett’s two-hour discourse. Yet in the ensuing months, years, and now decades, it would be Lincoln’s words, not Everett’s, which played over and over again in the minds of American schoolchildren, war veterans and others trying to make sense of the Great Conflict.

According to Civil War scholar David Blight, artist John B. Bachelder (1825–1894) walked every inch of the Gettysburg battlefield to render this map, showing roads, railroads, houses and places where officers were killed and wounded. (c. 1863) The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

According to Civil War scholar David Blight, artist John B. Bachelder (1825–1894) walked every inch of the Gettysburg battlefield to render this map, showing roads, railroads, houses and places where officers were killed and wounded. (c. 1863) The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Today, more than 150 years later, America’s deadliest war continues to maintain a tenacious hold in our national conscience. Earlier this month, another president, Barack Obama, recalled the sacrifices so many made at Gettysburg when he posthumously bestowed the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest honor, on Civil War Union Army First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing.

As Obama described, it was July 3, 1863, the third day of the battle, and Cushing had been wounded twice. With Confederate soldiers just 100 yards away in what is now known as Pickett’s Charge, Cushing refused to abandon his position, continuing to give orders to his battalion, saying he’d “fight it out, or die in the attempt.” Moments later, his attempt ended. He was 22.

On this day 151 years ago, Lincoln showed an uncanny sense for which words would best soothe a rattled nation. But in one crucial aspect, his remarks missed the mark. Lincoln predicted: “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here.”

On the contrary, we remember Lincoln’s words — so eloquently stated, so long ago.

Implements of Modern Warfare (1875) shows one man’s fascination with Civil War objects. L.M. Buehler collected these items at the close of the war and made them into a curiosity cabinet that official Gettysburg photographer William H. Tipton called “the only one in the world.”  The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Implements of Modern Warfare (1875) shows one man’s fascination with Civil War objects. L.M. Buehler collected these items at the close of the war and made them into a curiosity cabinet that official Gettysburg photographer William H. Tipton called “the only one in the world.” The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

In recognition of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, The Huntington has held a number of commemorative events, including exhibitions, conferences, and lectures.

In 2012, The Huntington held a photography exhibition, “A Strange and Fearful Interest: Death, Mourning, and Memory in the American Civil War” and a concurrent Library exhibition, “A Just Cause: Voices of the American Civil War.” You can still visit the website of “A Strange and Fearful Interest,” which includes many of these images as well as commentary by historians such as Gary Gallagher, Joan Waugh, and David Blight.

Talks from “Civil War Lives,” a 2011 conference that brought together some of the nation’s most renowned Civil War scholars for a two-day event, can be found on iTunes U.

In addition, many lectures exploring themes relating to the Civil War are available in a special page on iTunes U, “Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War.”

Diana W. Thompson is a freelance writer based in South Pasadena, Calif., and a regular contributor to Huntington Frontiers magazine.

Making History

Library, botanical, and art collections aren't the only treasures at The Huntington. Take Education director Catherine Allgor, for example.

Library, botanical, and art collections aren’t the only treasures at The Huntington. Take Education director Catherine Allgor, for example.

One of the great things about working at The Huntington is that we’re surrounded by all this cool stuff: on any one day, we can walk outside and see roses, orchids, cycads, bonsai, penjing and puyas. Walk back inside and it’s Houdon’s Diana, Cassatt’s Breakfast in Bed, or Gutenberg’s Bible. But there’s more. Aside from the great collections, there are some remarkable people doing some pretty remarkable work. Catherine Allgor, head of our Education team, is one of these.

Not yet two years into the job, she has proven to be quite a force here at The Huntington. She’s led her talented team in some exciting new directions—from launching the college-level seminar series Huntington U to embarking on a new teacher training program to help local Pasadena Unified School District educators learn inquiry-based teaching techniques. All the while, she’s so approachable and hilariously funny that it’s sometimes hard to remember that she also happens to be one of the world’s experts on a very interesting slice of history: first ladies of the United States.

Allgor leads a teacher training session for Pasadena Unified School District educators.

Allgor leads a teacher training session for Pasadena Unified School District educators.

Google her and you’ll see—she’s all over the place, a frequent commentator on television and other media. Before coming to The Huntington, Allgor was a history professor at the University of California, Riverside, teaching classes running the gamut from women’s history to race and slavery. She also taught at Claremont McKenna College, Harvard University, and Simmons College. And her 2006 book, A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation, is right where PBS turned when making “Dolley Madison,” part of its American Experience series.

Pretty impressive all this. So it came as no surprise when the National Women’s History Museum recently elected Catherine to their board of trustees. Never been to that museum, you say? In fact, it’s really amazingly easy to get there:  the museum is located online at nwhm.org. Its mission: to educate, inspire, empower, and shape the future by integrating women’s distinctive history into the culture and history of the United States. But its online address is only a first stop on its way to a much more ambitious goal: to build a world-class, permanent museum on or near the National Mall.

You can visit the National Women's History Museum at nwhm.org.

You can visit the National Women’s History Museum at nwhm.org.

“It is a chance to bring women’s history into the public conversation,” says Allgor.  “I’m an educator. I want students of all stripes to be able to see quite readily that women have made history, too. They comprise one half of the great American narrative.” So Allgor, and a bunch of very smart and very dedicated cohorts, go forward with their work cut out for them: find a proper site, make a convincing case, and raise the money to create a space that honors women in U.S. history.

We couldn’t be happier about Allgor’s most recent honor and are thrilled to have such a dynamo leading the educational charge here at The Huntington. Kudos, Catherine!

Susan Turner-Lowe is vice president for communications at The Huntington.

Harvest Time on the Ranch

Visitors sample freshly picked carrots (and get a taste for the delights of home gardening) during a recent open house on the Ranch.  Photos by Letizia Ragusa.

Visitors sample freshly picked carrots (and get a taste for the delights of home gardening) during a recent open house on the Ranch. Photos by Letizia Ragusa.

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.”
–Henry David Thoreau

Tucked away in a lesser-known corner of The Huntington, on a half-acre site that once served as a gravel parking lot, sits a garden known as the Ranch. This demonstration garden is literally bursting with the sights, smells, and sounds of a mostly edible landscape designed to thrive in the hot, dry climate of Southern California.

Throughout the year, the garden functions as an outdoor lab for adult and children’s classes, professional development workshops, and symposiums. But during the peak growing seasons—from spring planting through the fall harvest—the Ranch holds monthly open houses where families can explore, learn, and pick up fresh ideas. The final open house of the year took place in late October. Judging by the feedback, it inspired a whole new crop of enthusiastic gardeners—”natural resources” of the very best kind.

Ranch coordinator Kyra Saegusa shows off a Georgia candy roaster squash weighing 21 pounds. Fruits and vegetables grown on the Ranch are donated to the local Friends in Deed food bank.

Ranch coordinator Kyra Saegusa shows off a Georgia candy roaster squash weighing 21 pounds. Fruits and vegetables grown on the Ranch are donated to the local Friends in Deed food bank.

When first-time visitors enter the Ranch, they immediately experience a pleasant rousing of the senses from the hum of bees and hummingbirds, the pungent aroma of herbs and native sages, and the sight of butterflies, lizards, and finches busily making their way around the garden. Here visitors can learn more about their favorite foods, rekindle memories of fruits and vegetables savored during childhood, and discover new foods that grow well locally. Children are delighted when a staff member offers them a taste of a fresh carrot that has just been pulled from the ground or a juicy cherry tomato, plucked from the vine and still warm from the sun. (Most of the harvest is donated to a local nonprofit, Friends in Deed, for their community food bank.)

Ever since the Ranch’s monthly open houses began in 2010, they’ve given Huntington visitors the opportunity to get a close-up look at the process of growing food sustainably in an urban setting. People can take away ideas and inspiration for their own gardens—whether they’re looking for the right kind of fruit tree to plant, wondering how to incorporate natives and drought-tolerant plants into an existing garden, or wanting to know the basics of growing fruits and vegetables at home.

Tangy pomegranates are an autumn favorite. The trees are easy to grow at home and are well suited to our dry climate.

Tangy pomegranates are an autumn favorite. The trees are easy to grow at home and are well suited to our dry climate.

“The Ranch is an easily relatable space,” says project coordinator Kyra Saegusa. “For some people it’s an entirely new way of looking at what a garden can be, full of delicious bounty, a great wildlife and pollinator habitat, beautiful to look at, and extremely livable.” Visitors see a space that is both productive and aesthetically appealing without being meticulously manicured. They have no difficulty imagining replicating parts of it in their own gardens, and Saegusa has heard from countless individuals and families who have done just that.

Gardening also teaches important lessons about the role each individual plays in the ecological process. Plants, insects, soil, and the gardener work together in a balanced and harmonious cycle that, in the end, produces nutritious food that supports life. Additionally, gardening offers lessons about patience, acceptance of things that can’t be changed, the value of failure, and living in the moment. Not everything grown will flourish, and that’s okay, because it teaches gardeners to look more critically at their methods, to try something different, and to push themselves to face challenges. Waiting has its own rewards. The peaches that have been watched closely all summer or the melon that’s growing on the vine will taste so much better for having been nurtured, anticipated, and then picked right at the height of ripeness. It’s the best kind of satisfaction.

Ideas and inspiration blossom on the Ranch. Mark your calendar for March 28 when the monthly open houses return.

Ideas and inspiration blossom on the Ranch. Mark your calendar for March 28 when the monthly open houses return.

Each season brings something new to the Ranch. Now that fall’s harvest of pomegranates, persimmons, and figs is winding down, staff and volunteers are gearing up for spring. Until then, the monthly open houses will go on hiatus while the soil is prepared for next year’s crops, seeds are sown, and several advanced workshops in native plant propagation are held. But mark your calendars for the fourth Saturday in March when the Ranch will throw open its gates again, inviting Southern California gardeners to come in and get inspired.

Letizia Ragusa is a horticultural intern for the Huntington Ranch project.

A Magic Brew?

Henry Fuseli’s The Three Witches, recently acquired by The Huntington, is currently on view on the second floor of the Huntington Art Gallery.

Henry Fuseli’s The Three Witches, recently acquired by The Huntington, is currently on view on the second floor of the Huntington Art Gallery.

It’s as if Henry Fuseli (1741–1825), the Anglo-Swiss artist who created the recently acquired painting The Three Witches (1782), had concocted a magic brew to ensure his canvas would eventually end up among The Huntington’s treasure trove of artworks. Recipe: Take a picture that would be at home in The Huntington’s rich holdings of late 18th and early 19th century British painting, add a handful of connections to William Blake, Joshua Reynolds and other artists well represented in the collections, sprinkle in a thematic element tying the work to The Huntington’s Shakespeare materials, stir well and…poof, The Three Witches.

The dramatic and mysterious oil painting, portraying the three witches from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, is a fine example of Fuseli’s artistry as a master of light and shadow who favored the supernatural. The work had been in private hands until being purchased by The Huntington. It is currently on view in the Huntington Art Gallery, after several months of in-house conservation treatment.

One of the Huntington Library’s most prized possessions is this first folio edition of William Shakespeare plays published in 1623.

One of the Huntington Library’s most prized possessions is this first folio edition of William Shakespeare plays published in 1623.

The painting will complement two related installations, “Wrestling with Demons: Fantasy and Horror in European Prints and Drawings from The Huntington’s Art Collections” (Works on Paper Room of the Huntington Art Gallery, open now through Dec. 15, 2014) and “Eccentric Visions: Drawings by Henry Fuseli, William Blake, and Their Contemporaries” (second floor of Huntington Art Gallery, opening Nov. 22, 2014–March 16, 2015).

Here are some of the far-reaching associations connecting the work to The Huntington’s collections:

British painting: The Three Witches will be in good company alongside titans of late 18th and early 19th-century British painting housed in the Huntington Art Gallery. Fuseli is one of the most celebrated, notorious and inventive artists of the period. “Given the fame of The Huntington’s collection of 18th-century British painting, it may come as a surprise that we did not already have a painting by Henry Fuseli,” said Kevin Salatino, Hannah and Russel Kully Director of the Art Collections at The Huntington. “Finally we do.”

Sir Joshua Reynolds painted Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse (1783-1784), portraying the Welsh actress who became famous for her role as Lady Macbeth. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Sir Joshua Reynolds painted Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse (1783-1784), portraying the Welsh actress who became famous for her role as Lady Macbeth. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

William Shakespeare: The painting depicts a pivotal moment in Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth (act 1, scene 3) when the protagonist encounters the demonic trio who foretell his fate, “All hail, Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter!” Fuseli clearly followed the playwright’s description when painting the witches’ mannish features: “… you should be women, And yet your beards forbid me to interpret / That you are so.” Visitors can view The Huntington’s first folio edition of Shakespeare’s collected plays, including Macbeth, in the Library’s permanent installation, “Remarkable Works, Remarkable Times.”

William Blake: Fuseli befriended and supported the English poet, artist and printmaker, who embraced his mentor’s visionary and eccentric style as well as his love of the obscure. The Huntington’s Blake works include his illuminated manuscript of the Book of Genesis among many other treasures.

William Blake shared Fuseli’s passion for fantastic, supernatural themes, like this c. 1806 pen and watercolor Satan, Sin, and Death: Satan Comes to the Gates of Hell. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

William Blake shared Fuseli’s passion for fantastic, supernatural themes, like this c. 1806 pen and watercolor Satan, Sin, and Death: Satan Comes to the Gates of Hell. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Sir Joshua Reynolds: Fuseli moved to London in his 20s where he caught the attention of painter Joshua Reynolds, the artist behind The Huntington’s Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse among other works in the collection. Reynolds praised Fuseli’s artistic talents, predicting that with study, Fuseli would become “the greatest painter of the age.” On Reynolds’ advice, Fuseli made an art pilgrimage to Italy in the 1770s, where he studied the works of the great masters, especially Michelangelo and changed his name from his Swiss-born name Füssli, to the more Italian-sounding Fuseli.

A student of Fuseli’s, John Constable went on to paint his monumental View on the Stour near Dedham (1822), on view in the Huntington Art Gallery. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

A student of Fuseli’s, John Constable went on to paint his monumental View on the Stour near Dedham (1822), on view in the Huntington Art Gallery. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

John Constable: In 1790, Fuseli was elected to the Royal Academy, later becoming Professor of Painting and then Keeper. Among his students in his long career was John Constable, represented at The Huntington with the monumental View on the Stour near Dedham.

Fuseli’s finest works rarely come up for sale and The Huntington had long waited for such an opportunity. This Halloween is a time to celebrate a certain trio of enchantresses. All hail three witches…

Diana W. Thompson is a freelance writer based in South Pasadena, Calif., and a regular contributor to Huntington Frontiers magazine.

Two Singular Men, One Berlin

Don Bachardy in 1991, posing in front of his portrait of novelist Christopher Isherwood (1983). Photo by Marilyn Sanders, reproduced by permission. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Don Bachardy in 1991, posing in front of his portrait of novelist Christopher Isherwood (1983). Photo by Marilyn Sanders, reproduced by permission. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

When critically acclaimed portrait artist Don Bachardy (b. 1934) visited Berlin earlier this month to explore the city where his late partner, novelist Christopher Isherwood (1904–1986), lived from 1929 to 1933, the trip was likely bittersweet. Berlin offered Isherwood the freedom to live his life as an openly gay man when doing so wasn’t possible in his native England. It also provided the material for one of his best-known works, Goodbye to Berlin, a semiautobiographical account of his time in pre-Nazi Germany. Yet the two men never toured the northern German city together, and Bachardy surely felt his beloved’s absence.

Bachardy went to Berlin to celebrate Isherwood’s life and legacy during a series of events coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the writer’s most celebrated novel, A Single Man, which recounts a day in the life of a lecturer at a Los Angeles university whose long-time partner has died. It was also the 75th anniversary of Goodbye to Berlin, which was later adapted into the play I Am a Camera and the award-winning musical Cabaret. New German editions of both works are also being issued this month. The events in Berlin included a reception at the U.S. Embassy, and a celebration of Bachardy’s 80th birthday and what would have been Isherwood’s 110th birthday.

A passport photo (ca. 1929) from around the time Isherwood first travelled to Berlin. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

A passport photo (ca. 1929) from around the time Isherwood first travelled to Berlin. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The Huntington holds several drafts of A Single Man among its archive of Isherwood materials that comprises diaries, photographs, audio and videotapes, as well as letters from W. H. Auden, Truman Capote, E. M. Forster, and others. The Huntington acquired the material from Bachardy in 1999 along with 50 of his own works—drawings and paintings depicting the couple’s friends from literary and cinematic circles, including Julie Harris, Aldous Huxley, Anaïs Nin and Dorothy Parker. These portraits were displayed in The Huntington’s 2005 exhibition “Celebrities, Friends, and Strangers: Portraits by Don Bachardy.”

“Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy are internationally recognized in their fields, and The Huntington is honored to hold significant collections of their work. The two collections form superb research resources, and we expect scholars to take advantage of them for many years to come,” said Sue Hodson, The Huntington’s curator of literary manuscripts.

Bachardy’s sketch of author and poet Dorothy Parker (1962). Copyright reserved. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Bachardy’s sketch of author and poet Dorothy Parker (1962). Copyright reserved. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Important items selected from the Isherwood archive appeared in a major exhibition held at The Huntington in 2004 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the writer’s birth, “Christopher Isherwood: A Writer and His World.” These materials were also the basis for a major biography, Peter Parker’s 2004 Isherwood: A Life. More recently, the archive helped produce The Animals: Love Letters Between Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy (2013), edited by Katherine Bucknell, and Liberation: Diaries, Vol. 3: 1970–1983 (2012), the last in a series of Isherwood’s diaries, also edited by Bucknell. A new volume of essays, The American Isherwood, edited by James Berg and Chris Freeman, drawing on these same materials and containing an essay by Hodson, will be published in December by University of Minnesota Press.

The Huntington joins in the celebration of these two singular men and their remarkable legacy of art and literature.

Diana W. Thompson is a freelance writer based in South Pasadena, Calif., and a regular contributor to Huntington Frontiers magazine.

Drought-Tolerant Delights

The profusely flowering Leucophyllum langmaniae 'Lynn's Legacy' is one of many drought-tolerant plants that will be available at the Fall Plant Sale, Oct. 24–26. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

The profusely flowering Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Lynn’s Legacy’ is one of many drought-tolerant plants that will be available at the Fall Plant Sale, Oct. 24–26. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

If you’re a garden lover in Southern California, there’s probably one thing on your mind as the fall planting season gets underway: drought. Finding ways to cut back on watering in the garden has become a high priority for everyone in the region. (Learn what The Huntington is doing to conserve water here.) One unexpected benefit is that many home gardeners are growing California natives and drought-tolerant species for the first time. These plants are transforming the residential landscape in beautiful ways.

At this weekend’s Fall Plant Sale at The Huntington, which gets under way Friday, Oct. 24, shoppers will have a wide selection of water-wise options to choose from, among other offerings. Sale manager Louise Guerin reports that we’re featuring many more natives and dry-climate plants this year because of the growing demand. And there’s lots of diversity within those categories, from gorgeous flowering shrubs and trees to grass-like sedges. The range of options might surprise people.

Take Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Lynn’s Legacy’ for example—one of Guerin’s favorites. A native southwestern shrub, it features mounds of silvery green foliage and profuse, long-lasting blooms in a delicate shade of lavender. It may be hard to believe that such a lush-looking plant requires only minimal irrigation, but it’s true. Other attractive specimens in the same genus are L. zygophyllum ‘Cimarron’ and L. frutescens ‘Heavenly Cloud’, which will also be available.

Southwestern native Tecoma 'Sunrise' is a tall shrub that blazes with summer color. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

Southwestern native Tecoma ‘Sunrise’ is a tall shrub that blazes with summer color. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

California natives such as Arctostaphylos and Ceanothus will be prominently featured in the sale for those looking for true “local color.” But Guerin points out there are also excellent water-wise choices from other parts of the world with climates similar to our own, including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Central and South America. The graceful shrub Grevillea ‘Moonlight’, an Australian native with spidery, ivory-colored flowers, is just one of many examples.

We asked several other members of the Botanical staff to share some of their personal picks at the sale. Tim Thibault, curator of woody plants, is an expert on trees and large shrubs. One of his favorites is Tecoma ‘Sunrise’, a flowering shrub that can grow to about 8 feet in height, bearing summer flowers in a rich gold hue. Another of Thibault’s favorites is X Chitalpa tashkentensis ‘Pink Dawn’, an intergenetic hybrid (a cross between different genera) involving the local desert species Chilopsis linearis, or desert willow. This small tree offers a broad leaf canopy and a long flowering season of showy pink blooms.

A favorite with cactus lovers, Weberbauerocereus johnsonii has brilliant yellow spines that are particularly beautiful when backlit by the sun. Photo by John Trager.

A favorite with cactus lovers, Weberbauerocereus johnsonii has brilliant yellow spines that are particularly beautiful when backlit by the sun. Photo by John Trager.

John Trager, curator of the Desert Collections, cares for thousands of dry-climate succulents, quite a few of which will be represented at the sale—from agaves and aloes that make a bold statement in the landscape to flowering hoyas and epiphytic cacti that are ideal for hanging baskets. One of his more unusual choices is Urginea maritima, or sea squill, a bulb that sends up tall spears of white flowers. And for cactus lovers, he singles out for special mention the Weberbauerocereus johnsonii. It’s among the most brilliant of all yellow-spined cacti and is particularly beautiful when backlit by the sun.

Plant conservation specialist Sean Lahmeyer gives high marks to a drought-adapted species from New South Wales, Australia: Acacia stenophylla, the shoestring acacia. It’s a spectacular landscape tree with a weeping, airy canopy that provides filtered sunlight to plants below, preventing sunburn. And if you like parrots, there’s a bonus: The seeds will attract them to your garden.

Nursery assistant Alicia Ruvalcaba, checking out the inventory in the plant sale area, pointed out an assortment of ornamental low-water grasses and sedges that can be used as accent plantings, borders, or as lawn substitutes. Among the standouts is the feathery dwarf red fountain grass, Pennisetum setaceum ‘Eaton Canyon’. She also mentioned a favorite tree from last year’s sale, Cassia bicapsularis ‘Buttercream’, back again this year by popular demand. Several rows of cassias in 2-gallon pots were waiting in the nursery area, covered with masses of buds that looked ready to burst into buttery-yellow bloom just in time for the sale.

A wide selection of ornamental grasses and sedges, like this feathery Pennesetum setaceum 'Eaton Canyon', are versatile players in the water-wise garden. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

A wide selection of ornamental grasses and sedges, like this feathery Pennesetum setaceum ‘Eaton Canyon’, are versatile players in the water-wise garden. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

And if sale-goers need any water-wise landscape inspiration, they need look no further than the Huntington parking lot. Drought-tolerant plants are a key element of the new entry gardens for the Steven S. Koblik Education and Visitor Center, which opens next year. Scott Kleinrock, The Huntington’s landscape design and planning coordinator for the project, has combined to stunning effect such flowering perennials as the California native Salvia clevelandii ‘Winnifred Gilman’, the South American Verbena bonariensis, and the South African Leonotis leonurus (lion’s tail), accenting them with soft mounds of bunch-grasses and sedges, including Muhlenbergia rigens (deer grass), Carex divulsa, and Leymus condensatus ‘Canyon Prince’. Limited quantities of each will be available.

The Fall Plant Sale will be held in the Botanical nursery area and is open free to Members and to Non-Members with general admission. Hours are from noon to 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 24, and from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 25 and 26. Shoppers are encouraged to bring a wagon or cart to carry their purchases.

You can see more photos of plants we’ll be featuring at the Fall Plant Sale on Flickr.

Lisa Blackburn is communications coordinator at The Huntington.

Two American Photographers at Home

This post is co-published with the Getty Iris.


Paul Caponigro (b. 1932), Tralee Bay, County Kerry, Ireland, 1977, gelatin silver print, 9 5/8 × 13 1/4 in. © Paul Caponigro



Paul Caponigro (b. 1932), Tralee Bay, County Kerry, Ireland, 1977, gelatin silver print, 9 5/8 × 13 1/4 in. © Paul Caponigro


It may come as no surprise to you, savvy reader, that the years spent preparing for a major exhibition are fraught with considerable challenges and no small amount of pain. An elusive loan, an uncooperative colleague, an intransigent donor, an unanticipated expense are only a few of the obstacles strewn along the curatorial path. In most cases, the outcome is worth all the trouble. There is deep satisfaction in bringing new or long-forgotten work to light.

As an example, photographer Minor White (1908–1976) was a giant in the field, but he is known today by only a relative few. The breathtaking retrospective now finishing its run at the Getty—which also includes work by White’s former students Paul Caponigro and Carl Chiarenza—introduces the artist to a generation that has never owned a film-loaded camera or printed a picture by hand. White’s deep dedication to his craft and luminous photographs inspire anew.

Exhibitions can also offer the singular pleasure of getting to know a living artist in a meaningful way. Such has been my recent good fortune with not just one legendary photographer, but two. Preparations for “Bruce Davidson/Paul Caponigro: Two American Photographers in Britain and Ireland,” an exhibition co-organized by the Yale Center for British Art and The Huntington (where it opens November 8) began in 2009. Over the past five years, Yale curator Scott Wilcox and I have made at least one annual trip to visit Bruce and Paul at their respective homes.

Yale curator Scott Wilcox (background) with Bruce Davidson at Davidson's home in New York City, 2010.

Yale curator Scott Wilcox (background) with Bruce Davidson at Davidson’s home in New York City, 2010.

Now in their eighties, Bruce Davidson and Paul Caponigro are exact contemporaries whose paths had crossed but never converged. Each man blazed a distinct trail within the medium. Bruce was a photojournalist whose celebrated projects have ranged from teenage gang members to the Civil Rights movement, to Spanish Harlem and beyond. Paul’s illustrious career produced a ravishing body of black-and-white photography centered on the natural world.

While the temperamental and stylistic differences between the two are stark, the similarities proved, for me, all the more profound. As boys, they struggled in school and felt personally at sea.  Each got a first camera at age ten. More sophisticated cameras came as a rites of passage when they turned thirteen: Paul for his Catholic confirmation and Bruce as a bar mitzvah gift. They remembered photography, even then, as holding out the promise of a happier life.

Bruce Davidson, Wales, 1965, gelatin silver print, 8 3/8 × 12 1/2 in.,Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Henry S. Hacker, Yale BA 1965, B2009.13.20. © Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

Bruce Davidson, Wales, 1965, gelatin silver print, 8 3/8 × 12 1/2 in.,Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Henry S. Hacker, Yale BA 1965, B2009.13.20. © Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

Both men got swept up in the Korean War’s compulsory draft. The Army sent Paul to San Francisco in 1953, where he met Ansel Adams and his West Coast crowd. The group included the aforementioned Minor White, who invited Paul to visit him in Rochester, New York, where he was relocating to teach. In the years that followed, White became Caponigro’s mentor, teacher, colleague, and friend.

The military was equally pivotal in setting Bruce’s artistic course, sending him in 1956 to Paris, where he met famed street photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. That important introduction ultimately opened the door for Bruce to join the elite Magnum agency, the photographers’ cooperative that Cartier-Bresson helped found.

Beginning in the 1960s, Davidson and Caponigro were deeply influenced by periods of creative exploration in the British Isles. It was this temporal and regional overlap that generated the idea for pairing the two in an exhibition.

Me with Paul Caponigro at his home in Maine, February 2014.

Me with Paul Caponigro at his home in Maine, February 2014.

Early on, Scott Wilcox and I discovered—somewhat incredulously—that despite award-winning, six-decades-long careers, Bruce and Paul had never met. But perhaps this was not as strange as it first seemed. For forty years, Bruce has lived in a comfortable, rambling apartment in New York City, where he has thrived amid the urban scene. Paul favored the wide-open spaces of the Southwest before finally settling more than a decade ago in a snug Maine cabin surrounded by trees. The two finally came face-to-face in mutual admiration at the Yale opening in June of this year.

There is something intimate and lovely about getting to know someone in the context of a home surrounded by a lifetime of things. The experience with these two accomplished artists over a period of years has far outweighed any of the predictable bumps in the road. It became the most satisfying part of the project by far. On the eve of the Huntington opening, I can honestly say (and I’ll speak for Scott here as well): Bruce and Paul, what a joy and a privilege it has been.

Scott Wilcox (center) with Paul Caponigro (left) and Bruce Davidson (right) as they meet for the first time at the opening of "Bruce Davidson/Paul Caponigro, Two American Photographers in Britain and Ireland" at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, June 2014.

Scott Wilcox (center) with Paul Caponigro (left) and Bruce Davidson (right) as they meet for the first time at the opening of “Bruce Davidson/Paul Caponigro, Two American Photographers in Britain and Ireland” at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, June 2014.

Jennifer A. Watts is curator of photographs at The Huntington.

Which Witch?

Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), The Three Witches or The Weird Sisters, ca. 1782, oil on canvas, 24 ¾ x 30 ¼ in. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Purchased with funds from The George R. and Patricia Geary Johnson British Art Acquisition Fund.

Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), The Three Witches or The Weird Sisters, ca. 1782, oil on canvas, 24 ¾ x 30 ¼ in. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Purchased with funds from The George R. and Patricia Geary Johnson British Art Acquisition Fund.

The Huntington’s recently acquired The Three Witches or The Weird Sisters, painted by Henry Fuseli (1741-1825) in about 1782, goes on view tomorrow in the Huntington Art Gallery. It’s one of three full-size color versions that the artist made. The others are at the Kunsthaus Zürich and the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. All three paintings depict the trio of witches from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth who foretell his fate.

Looking for a wicked good time? Compare The Huntington’s version of Fuseli’s Three Witches (above) with the two other versions below. Scholars believe The Huntington’s is a study for the two that followed. Which witch is your favorite?

The Kunsthaus Zürich’s Witches (1783):

Henry Fuseli, The Three Witches, 1783, oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 36 in. The Kunsthaus Zürich.

Henry Fuseli, The Three Witches, 1783, oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 36 in. The Kunsthaus Zürich.

And the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Witches (ca. 1783):

Henry Fuseli, 'Macbeth', Act I, Scene 3, the Weird Sisters, ca. 1783, oil on canvas, 29 1/2  x 35 ½ in. Royal Shakespeare Company Collection.

Henry Fuseli, ‘Macbeth’, Act I, Scene 3, the Weird Sisters, ca. 1783, oil on canvas, 29 1/2 x 35 ½ in. Royal Shakespeare Company Collection.

Why do you think Fuseli made the changes he did? He re-cast and re-costumed the characters for one thing. But there’s more. Look closely at the upper left corner of the Kunsthaus Zürich painting. What is that winged-skull-demon thing haunting the upper left?! (It’s also in the Royal Shakespeare Company version, but just harder to see.) Hint: It’s on the movie poster for the 1991 thriller “Silence of the Lambs.” Well, it’s a Death’s-head Hawkmoth, a real insect with markings uncannily similar to a human skull. As an element of the painting, it serves as a portentous symbol of the fate awaiting Macbeth.

Death’s-head Hawkmoth (Image from Wikimedia Commons. Acherontia atropos MHNT by Didier Descouens. File is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

Death’s-head Hawkmoth (Image from Wikimedia Commons. Acherontia atropos MHNT by Didier Descouens. File is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

Thankfully, we don’t have any Death’s-head Hawkmoths in North America. Happy Halloween!

Thea M. Page is director of marketing communications at The Huntington.

A Legacy in Silver

Hudson Roysher at work in his studio in this undated photo.

Hudson Roysher at work in his studio in this undated photo.

“I ask myself: ‘Will this thing last for at least 100 years?’” Hudson Roysher told the Los Angeles Times in 1967. “My work has to be of the best quality that I am capable of at the time.” Roysher, a renowned silversmith whose work is displayed in The Huntington’s Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art, died in 1993, leaving behind a legacy of exquisite craftsmanship—from Buffalo to Syracuse to Los Angeles. Much of his work was created expressly for churches: chalices and candelabras, for instance. In fact, the only existing collection of Roysher’s secular silver now resides at The Huntington, and it is sublime. Said Harold B. “Hal” Nelson, The Huntington’s curator of American decorative arts, “These pieces, along with his papers, embody his lifelong association with The Huntington.”

The silver was a gift from Roysher’s children, Martin Roysher and Allison Wittenberg. It came to the institution in 2012 along with his archives, a treasure trove of material documenting his extraordinary life and career.

A born natural, Roysher was largely a self-taught silversmith who began honing his craft as a teenager and took first prize in the annual Cleveland Art Museum show of 1934 at the age of 23. In the 1940s, Roysher’s architecturally sophisticated and contemporary secular works were sold at Gump’s, the famed San Francisco luxury retailer, while his ecclesiastical works were commissioned by numerous Southern California churches from the 1950s through the 1970s. He led the metals program at California State University, Los Angeles, for several decades and became chairman of the art department in 1971, thus influencing generations of silversmiths through his teaching, writings, and workshops.

Hudson Roysher, Decanter Set, ca. 1948, silver and Sumatra cane. On view in the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art.

Hudson Roysher, Decanter Set, ca. 1948, silver and Sumatra cane. On view in the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art.

“The relationship between Hudson Roysher and The Huntington goes back many years,” said Nelson. “While completing a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Southern California, he spent time researching and writing his master’s thesis here. Furthermore, his wife, Alli, was an art teacher in Pasadena and brought her students to The Huntington on field trips. She later became a docent at the nearby Gamble House and served as one of the first consultants to The Huntington’s special gallery of early 20th-century Pasadena architects Charles and Henry Greene.”

In a few years, Nelson plans to curate an exhibition at The Huntington of Roysher’s work. In the meantime, to get a sense of Roysher’s prowess, make your way over to the American art galleries; on display in the room with the Edward Weston photographs is a spectacular decanter set (pictured above), crafted from silver and rattan. Fans of Roysher were continually astonished by what he was able to do with metal: he was an alchemist extraordinaire. He is said to have once remarked, “Looking at a piece of silver is like looking into a pool of clear water. There is a depth to it that other metals do not have.” Surely one could say that about the artist himself.

Bonnie Taylor is assistant director for donor engagement at The Huntington.