Not long ago I came across a graphic novel by the talented artist and illustrator Leanne Shapton entitled Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry. The book tells a love story in the form of an auction catalogue. Implicit in Shapton’s inventive and engaging format for charting the course of a romance is a commentary on the tendency to attach a price tag to every one of our possessions. It’s a useful caution at a time when contemporary art and “limited edition” designs are regarded as investment instruments first, and only secondarily (if at all) as, respectively, manifestations of cultural and philosophical inquiry, and elegant and imaginative solutions to practical needs such as a place to sit. One more reason to appreciate antiques and the art of earlier days. . .
More fundamentally, what Shapton points out is that the things we choose to own say quite a lot about us. This issue of The Magazine ANTIQUES includes several articles about collections that reveal much about the character and personality of the people who built them. There are two pieces that touch on the estimable Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. Visitors to this year’s Winter Antiques Show in New York will enjoy an exhibition of objects from the folk art museum that bears her name in Colonial Williamsburg—a striking display and a reminder of the breadth of interests of a woman who was also a founder of the Museum of Modern Art. Then there is an excerpt from David B. Warren’s new biography of the Houston philanthropist and patron of the arts Ima Hogg, a book that offers a fresh look into the life of this remarkable, ever-curious, and resilient woman. Something of the nature of another interesting, enigmatic Texan can be discerned, Elizabeth Pochoda writes, from his inspiring collections, which embrace art from Old Masters and artists of the present day, along with treasures of early American furniture and silver.
Last, at the risk of “burying the lead,” as we say in journalism, I want to draw your attention to our feature about the artist Jacob Lawrence by Elizabeth Hutton Turner, a professor of art history at the University of Virginia. Turner has for years made a special study of one of Lawrence’s lesser-known series of narrative paintings: Struggle. . .From the History of the American People, which depicts events in the early decades of the republic. The Peabody Essex Museum and Turner will shortly announce a plan to bring together and exhibit all thirty panels from the Struggle series in 2020. There’s just one hitch: five of the paintings are missing. Their locations and the identities of their owners are unknown. It is the dearest hope of Turner and the folks at PEM (and ours at the magazine, too) that coverage of their project will bring to light some or all of the missing paintings. Keep a sharp lookout.