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Share Belmont with Someone You Love!

Belmont: The Love Story

He was one of the most successful painters of his time, sought out by the rich and famous. She was a beautiful, young art student, and his biggest fan. They fell in love on an ocean liner and spent their lives sharing art.

More than a hundred years later, the story of Gari and Corinne Melchers lives on in their home, Belmont. Be a part of this story. Come and explore this unique historic home, tour stunning studio and art galleries, visit the restored gardens, shop in our museum store, and explore our trails. Share it with someone you love!

Puzzler of a Painting No More!

Dutch Bachelor at His Breakfast

Dutch Bachelor at His Breakfast

I’m delighted to provide an update to my earlier post Another Conundrum of Connoisseurship! regarding a painting, Dutch Bachelor at His Breakfast, sent to me for inspection this past June.  An art collector sent me a watercolor to examine, at that time untitled.  I‘d never laid eyes on the painting before, but it has all the hallmarks of an early Melchers.  What perplexed me was the signature it bears: “ J. G. Melches.”  Not only is it missing the “r”, but it bears no resemblance to Melchers’ bona fide autograph.

Why would a genuine Melchers have a “bad” signature?  Occasionally Melchers failed to sign his works. If this was the case with Dutch Bachelor, did someone later forge the signature to eliminate doubt?  Well that backfired!  The inconsistency of an artist’s known signature always casts doubt on a piece.

There was still another possibility to consider.   Despite the attempt at a Melchers signature, the picture could easily pass as the work of Melchers’ American colleague in Holland, George Hitchcock, of which Belmont has several examples.

Admittedly, I was stymied. Certainly it had to be by one or the other artist, for the setting of the painting was the studio the two shared in Holland, but their subjects and styles were so interchangeable at this stage of their careers that I wasn’t sure I could ever reach a proof positive attribution.

The watercolor is such a charming evocation of “old Holland” that its owner thought it would be best appreciated in a museum in the Netherlands.  When the various parties showed no interest in the piece, perhaps put off by the spurious signature, the owner offered it to Belmont, if for no other reason than to serve as a study piece! We accepted with gratitude.  Now I was really motivated to nail down the attribution!

Happily, that day came this week when I followed a lead to an article published in an obscure journal dating to 1885, The Art Amateur.  It was too much to hope for, but buried in an extensive review of an American Watercolor Society exhibition was a description of the very same painting I had sitting on my desk!

It reads:

We point, in illustration, to “A Dutch Bachelor’s Breakfast” (686), by J. G. Melchers, an exceedingly clever Hollander. . . .  Pure wash is the rule. Wherever the white of the paper will serve a useful purpose it is retained. Notice the masterly way in which it is made to do service in giving the light to the tea-cup the bachelor holds in his hand. What substance there is in the figure of the picturesquely attired servant girl who is doing the offices of the breakfast-table; how well balanced in color and composition is the entire picture!

With that came the solution to the mystery and a valuable addition to our collection!  As for the signature, it’s certainly a deliberate forgery.

5 Things You Missed If You Didn’t Attend #BelmontArtAfterHours

1. Free admission to a live concert by The Acoustic Onion
2. Free admission to the Studio
3. Stafford County’s Adventure Brewing Co.
4. Stafford County’s Potomac Point Vineyard & Winery
5. UFO food truck

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We had our first ever Art after Hours here at Gari Melchers Home and Studio on September 24 and it was a major success! The perfect fall weather mixed with great music, delicious food, local beer and wine, made for a wonderful evening. We had the band set up on the lawn right in front of the sunroom doors, the food truck was parked inside the gates across from the house, and the winery and brewery had tents set up on the back of the lawn. Our guests were able to enjoy the beautiful evening surrounded by Belmont’s charming gardens and the Rappahannock River.

The Entertainment
The Acoustic Onion, a local four member band known for their unique interpretation of 60’s and 70’s hits, entertained a crowd of over 100. They have built a diverse fan base on the strength of their energetic old school rock and roll, and some guests even brought their dancing shoes and grooved on the lawn! Many also brought lawn chairs and blankets to relax on the grass and listen to the far-out tunes.

Guests were able to stroll through the Studio and galleries after hours; many told me they had never been here before. I had some friends come to the event and was tickled by how truly interested they were while walking through the Studio. Some, who hadn’t visited Belmont since their youth, were able to reconnect with and appreciate the museum in a new way. I think this event allowed young adults to learn about Gari Melchers, appreciate Fredericksburg’s rich history, and hopefully look forward to future events here!

Beer and Wine
The beer and wine came from Stafford County’s own Adventure Brewing Co. and Potomac Point Winery. I was lucky enough to meet with Stan, one of the owners of Adventure Brewing, and he let me taste a few of their delicious beers. When I tasted their Pumpkin Patch Ale, I immediately knew it would be perfect for this event. It just put me in the fall spirit. They also served their most popular brew, Expedition IPA. Potomac Point Winery brought two whites and two reds to give our guests a nice variety. If you haven’t checked out these two local businesses, you really should.

Food
Who doesn’t love a good food truck? I thought that it would be the perfect dinner option for our first Art after Hours! The UFO food truck sold their ultimate sliders and fusion tacos inspired by classic sandwiches such as the Reuben, Fish Sandwich, and Buffalo Chicken Sandwich. I ordered the Big Foot Barbeque Tacos which has Pulled Pork topped with Sweet Thai Chili Sauce, they were delicious. The Folks at UFO take these tried and true items and elevate them to create “out of this world” food. Everything that I tried, which happened to be quite a bit because I nibbled on all my friends choices, too, was SO GOOD. We even talked about becoming UFO groupies and following them around town so we can taste it all!

The event was a huge success and left guests asking when we are having our next Art after Hours. I had a few conversations with people who had never been to Belmont about how, when we grow up somewhere, we don’t always pay attention to the historic hidden gems. I think this event allowed a younger generation to experience Belmont and others to see it in another light. We plan on hosting another one in the spring, so don’t miss it!

Drink in the Creativity

paint

On Thursday, August 20th, PB Mares, a regional accounting and business consulting firm, held a retreat for its administrative staff. In the morning they had a conference and after lunch, they decided to do a Wine & Design event. This is the first one we have held here at Gari Melchers Home & Studio, but hopefully not the last! If you’ve never heard of Wine & Design, it’s a popular new party idea. “Our wine and paint parties are designed to offer you a chance to peek into your creative side during a fun night out on the town. We provide almost everything you’ll need: paint, canvases, brushes, corkscrews and cups. All you have to bring is an open mind and your favorite beverage.”

New LocationWine and Design On Wheels can bring the party to any private venues such as houses, corporate offices, event centers, and more. They can also host the party at restaurants, bars, and wineries! They offer private parties and public parties where anyone can sign up! In a few weeks we will actually be neighbors with their new studio! Michelle Flynn, the owner of Wine & Design Fredericksburg is opening a studio on Washington Street (down the street from us) where you can hold your party or sign up for one of theirs!

I have been seeing my friends posting pictures of themselves at different restaurants with wine glasses and their surprisingly, very good, painted canvases of sunsets, crabs, umbrellas, and flowers. Now, I’m not saying that my friends aren’t capable of painting these subjects, but attending an all-women’s college, we all dabbled in arts and crafts quite a bit, and I know some of those ladies can’t paint THAT well. This is why I was so excited when the women of PB Mares told us they wanted to host a Wine & Design party here! I wanted to see how this was all done and how my not so artsy friends, were somehow now painting like Gari Melchers 🙂

PaintMichelle, the instructor Jayme, and her helper, Timmy all arrived at Belmont with 21 canvases, brushes, and paint. The canvases already had sunflowers sketched on them with a pencil, so that the party goers had an outline to follow. Timmy came around and squirted paint on everyone’s plates. The paint bottles looked like water bottles which make it really simple and mess free! Whenever someone needed more paint or a different color, she would just raise her paint brush and Timmy would go over and squirt some more paint on her plate!

collageJayme had a finished sunflower painting on an easel for the women to look at, as well as painting one with them! She would talk them through the painting, explaining what strokes to make with the paint brush and what color to use, step by step. If anyone had any questions or needed any help, Jayme and Timmy were right there! I noticed that they didn’t squirt all the colors onto the plates at the start of the lesson; they waited until they are actually needed. I’m guessing this helps ensure that the paint doesn’t dry on the plate and it helps eager artists to not get too far ahead without instructions from the teacher.

Group Shot

The whole party took about 2 hours, which Timmy said is about the average time depending on the size of the group and the difficulty of the painting. When the PB Mares women were all finished, they went outside and took a group photo. Look how beautiful their sunflowers are. Everyone kept remarking on how much fun they had and how easy Wine & Design makes it. If you’re looking to have a team building retreat or a fun girl’s night, Wine & Design is a great option. And we can hold it for you right here at Gari Melchers Home & Studio, call (540) 654-1848 for more details about renting our pavilion!

Preschool Palette

Green is the Color of Spring

Me reading

Me reading “Green,” by Laura Vaccaro Seeger in Gari Melchers’ Studio.

Hello Belmont Blog readers! My name is Tramia Jackson and as the Education Assistant and newest staff member here at Gari Melcher’s Home and Studio at Belmont, my first task was to develop May’s Preschool Palette program. Needless to say, I was nervous, but excited about this fun challenge. In May’s book Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, the author explores all things green from forest green and sea green, to faded green and pea green. She even throws in a few fun pages to highlight what’s not green with “wacky green,” featuring a green and white Zebra and “no green” with a snow white winter scene and no green in sight. Seeger also uses peek-a-boo cut outs and creative color placements to create the perfect green-themed I-Spy book with surprises on every page.

This book was the inspiration for two Preschool Palette art projects that explored green’s ubiquitous nature. The color green is everywhere in our world, and in our imagination. Not only did I want children to find green objects in the world around them, I wanted students to be able to notice the many different shades of green as well.

So for their first project adults were given scissors and brown paper bags, while students were given a scavenger hunt of green leaves and foliage. Groups were instructed to find, clip, and collect during their garden walk. Students were challenged to look closely at the shapes and shades of plants labeled “long green,” “spikey green,” and “heart green.” Using the grid of green in Seeger’s book for inspiration, students placed their snipped cache of shapes and colors along with green tissue paper on clear contact paper divided into grids along the rows of windows in the Pavilion. “The tactile and visual experience kept the kids and parents thoroughly engaged,” said one parent. “Kids love sticky things!” Next, it was time for students to mix their own shades of green.

Exploring different shades of green.

Exploring different shades of green.

For centuries painters have mixed pigments to form the perfect shades of colors for their canvases. Indeed, one of the main tasks for beginning painters is to ‘get to know’ their paints and colors. “I’m sure that one of the first exercises that Gari and Corinne did as art students was to become intimately familiar with many color combinations by mixing and testing various shades of red, blue, and yellow. So why not do the same with preschoolers!”

Each student was given a palette of blue, yellow, and white tempera paint and instructed first to create their starter shade of green in the center paint well. They then proceeded to add globs and dabs of blue, yellow, or white to their mixtures, stopping only to paint shades that appealed to them. For added texture students bounced sponges, and dragged popsicle sticks and plastic forks in the wet paint. The result, once dried and tape removed, would be a grid of “all green,” similar to what is found in Seeger’s book, but totally unique to them. A practice that many artists have done for centuries and an activity the Melcherses would have loved.

Group Tour

Group Tours & So Much More!

Group TourCan you think of a better way to enjoy time with friends than with a tour of Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont? Often described as a hidden gem, our site has something for everyone ─ antiques, art, history, gardens, and a beautiful museum shop.

The ladies of Heart of Virginia visited us in late March for one of these outings. They began their day by watching our orientation film and taking a docent-led tour of Gari and Corinne Melchers’ historic home filled with all their treasured belongings. From there they moved to the Studio where they were introduced to Melchers’ art then allowed to explore the three galleries at their own pace. Belmont has the largest collection of Melchers’ artwork in the world so there’s always something new to see!  A delicious catered, family-style lunch in our light-filled pavilion followed by an illustrated talk given by our curator topped off their day.  Many in the group vowed to return with their spouses.

We offer group tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning at 10:30 am and 1:00 pm and request a minimum of 15 people with a 21 day advance registration confirmation. Group tours are $10 per person; tour leader and bus driver are free. We also have several group tour enhancements to choose from: Guided Garden Tour, Curator Talk, and Lunch.

Book your group tour today!

Gallery

Let’s Face It! Remembering Gari Melchers

Hang around artists long enough and you’re bound to have your portrait painted. That explains why there are so many portraits of Gari Melchers by his friends in the collection at Belmont.

When an early portrait of Gari Melchers recently surfaced, I got to thinking about all the renderings of him I’d seen over the years. The variety of sketches, paintings and sculpture not only complements the photographic record we have of him, but as subjective invention, they also hint at the strong and affectionate bond that existed between Melchers and his associates. Here are several, but by no means all the examples.

Sometimes artists paint one another for amusement. Take for example the anonymous caricature of a dapper Gari Melchers. Is the artist poking fun at Melchers’ ears or his sartorial discomfort (Melchers professed a habitual preference for wearing an old pullover and clogs)? Bel 261

Getting a live model to stay still is a perennial frustration for an artist, which is probably why a furtive companion couldn’t pass up the chance to document Melchers catching forty winks in this quick pen and ink sketch.

Bel 2068

Melchers liked a good jest himself. In his 1897 rendition of Christ and His Pilgrims at Emmaus, he copied this profile portrait painted of himself by fellow American expatriate, James J. Shannon, for the face of Christ.

Bel 1826 color (1)

When models aren’t available or are too expensive, art students usually turn to their classmates as subjects. Melchers was a strikingly handsome young man, with soft grey eyes, a sculpted nose and cleft chin, and a pleasing bow-shaped mouth. No wonder he was sketched so often. By the time his training was complete, he sported a moustache and goatee, and possessed a decidedly cosmopolitan elegance, at least in the eyes of former classmates Fritz Strobentz, an unidentified classmate and Henry Hamel.

In commemoration of Melchers’ first international success, Strobentz again painted his old friend and classmate at work at the site of his award-winning painting, The Sermon, 1886. Perhaps Melchers and Strobentz anticipated a winning streak, for it deliberately documents Melchers at work on the concept for his next major salon entry, In Holland.strobentz painting in church

Which reminds me of the early portrait which recently came to light. A private dealer and art consultant brought another portrait to my attention that was painted by a classmate of Melchers, the Swiss Nabi painter, Felix Vallotton. The Melchers portrait was purchased by the dealer at a Paris sale in 1999 as one of six portraits by Vallotton of former classmates of the Academie Julian in Paris. You can already see in Vallotton’s portrait of Melchers something of the flat, simplified and strongly delineated figuration that typified his later avant-garde style. Melchers looks every bit the serious and introspective painter described by biographers in these years, when he was working so determinedly to make a name for himself at the Paris salon.

GM by Felix Vallotton ca 85-86

shannon portraitBy the time of his marriage at age 43, Melchers was a critical and commercial success, and portraits of him convey a sense of his new found confidence and ease. I refer to James J. Shannon’s Portrait of Gari Melchers as an example. I tend to think of this as a wedding portrait, though that may not have been the official intent. Undoubtedly it was painted around the time of his vows, and his apparel is appropriately stylish and his wedding ring visible. Melchers’ likeness bears an air of dignity and taste, surrounded as he is by old world antiques like the Flemish portrait of an aristocratic girl and the Dutch candle sconce serving as decorative backdrop.

Melchers went on a driving tour of Southern France and Spain in 1904 with two wealthy industrialist brothers, Charles and James Deering. The road systems in Spain were still fairly primitive and the threesome was often beset by punctures and bad weather. Consequently a few occasions called for Melchers, ever the dedicated artist, to climb aboard a donkey and set out for the frontier in order to sketch the natives and surrounding countryside, as recorded here by one of his more artistically endowed traveling companions.Deering's draw

A decade later, while serving as a distinguished professor at the Grand Ducal Academy of Art in Weimar, Germany, Melchers’ German colleague Fritz Mackensen, director of the school, hastily produced a sketch of the artist with his eyes lowered over his reading. The newspapers at this time were full of bad news as the war in Europe escalated, eventually sending Melchers and his wife home to the United States for good.

Bel 2156Emil Fuchs was an Austrian-American painter and sculptor known for his portraits of wealthy socialites. While living in Great Britain in 1915, a wave of anti-German sentiment caused Fuchs to move permanently to New York. He produced this bust of Gari Melchers the following year. Fuchs had surgery for cancer in 1928, and in anticipation of a death with great suffering he shot himself at the Hotel des Artistes in New York on 13 January, 1929. The Brooklyn Museum owns the bronze bust, a plaster copy of which is in the Smithsonian.Emil Fuchs Bust of GM 1916 smithsonian

Back home in the post war years Melchers was depicted in a classically inspired low relief portrait by the eminent American sculptor Paul Manship. By now Melchers was a well-respected representative of the old guard of artists and a leader of several arts clubs and organizations. Manship casts him in profile like the face of a Roman emperor stamped on a coin, an honorable presentation for a distinguished man of arts.

Bel 1924    Manship

But there’s more than one side to a man. The artist’s wife recorded a much older and beefier Melchers at his easel in a droll little pencil sketch from the late 1920s.

Bel 2209