JASNA in Portland OR, Part Three

 Victoria here, reporting on the final three break-out sessions I attended at the JASNA AGM. Mary Hafner-Laney’s (right) topic was “I was tempted by a pretty-colored muslin”: Jane Austen and the Art of Being Fashionable.  A capacity audience enjoyed her talk about fabrics and fashions of the regency era, the dresmakers and home-sewers, period patterns and costs.Mary had assembled collections of fabrics and excrpts from a fashion magazine, La Belle Assemblee, and showed her fashion doll, one of the techniques used by dressmakers to suggest styles to their customers. We had rather a mad dash at the conclusion of her talk for the excellent hand-outs she had assembled. Some of us will share ours at the December birthday luncheon.

 Next, I went to hear Sarah Parry, of the Chawton House Library, whose topic was “This roof was to be the roof of an abbey!”: What is Northanger Abbey?  Ms. Parry’s entertaining talk described a number of stately homes built out of abbeys, some of which Jane Austen certainly saw. The school she attended in Reading was housed in part of a former abbey.

Parry also told the amazing story of Fonthill Abbey, which was not an abbey at all, but a gothic fantasy structure erected by one of those eccentric characters in the period, William Beckford.  The tower was 276 feet high and eventually collapsed.

In the final round of break-outs, I attended the always-popular Susan Allen Ford’s talk on “Ingenious Torment: Reading Instructive Texts in Northanger Abbey.”  She told us of the many influences in Jane Austen’s novels of various books on proper behavior and advice to young ladies. Austen sometimes parodied the information in these instructive texts, as when Mrs. Morland, upon the abrupt rupture of Catherine’s romance with Henry, admonishes her simply to “live and learn.”

I can add some information to a previous post on Team Tilney.  I found a report on Austenblog from one of the participants, with lots more information, including the identity of Henry Tilney and the text of some of the presentation.

Click here to read and enjoy.

During the Evening’s Bal Masque, several interesting speakers gave talks that tempted many of us away from the dancing.  Elsie Holzworth of the Chicago chapter spoke about the connections between Jane Austen and Edgar Allen Poe.  Who knew?

But it is undeniable that their paths might have crossed while Edgar lived in London as a lad.  Jane Austen’s relatives lived near Poe’s home and the children might well have played together in the park. As so often with the details of Jane Austen’s life, we cannot be entirely sure, but the possibility is intriguing — little Edgar, perhaps listening to Jane reading a story to her nephews … or engaging in a lively game of baseball, as Catherine Morland was said to have done in Northanger Abbey.

My regret at this AGM (as at all the others) is that I couldn’t listen to more of the presentations. For each of the five break-out sessions, there were six or seven speakers, any of which I would have loved to hear.  Now, I have next year to look forward to, in Fort Worth, TX, October 13-16, 2011, celebrating 200 years of Sense and Sensibility .
For more informations, click here.

JASNA in Portland OR, Part Two

Victoria here with a short post on the break-out session I co-presented on Friday, October 29, 2010, at the JASNA AGM in Portland, OR. Kim Wilson, author of Tea with Jane Austen and In the Garden with Jane Austen, (right) and I spoke on “About Those Abbeys: In fact, literature and landscape.”
Starting with a brief history of monasticism in England and the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, we then focussed on what happend to the former abbey buildings and why they were considered so spooky — and/or picturesque.

When the abbeys and priories were closed, their land (about one-fourth of all of the nation’s arable land — the REAL reason Henry seized them) was sold and most of the buildings adapted for other uses or semi-destroyed. At right, Lacock Abbey, converted into a stately home and now run by the National Trust.

Ruined abbeys, castles and wild landscapes appealed to the writers of gothic fiction, so popular in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  Mrs. Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho is the novel Jane Austen parodied in Northanger Abbey.  Terrible secrets are hidden in the ruins, dangerous forces threaten the innocent heroine, but all comes to a happy ending when she is rescued by a worthy hero.  Such stories were all the rage in JA’s day and many were set among the imagined clanking chains, ghostly moans and dark passages of ruined abbeys.

Stoneleigh Abbey, an estate inherited by Jane Austen’s relatives, was built on the property of an ancient abbey, and landscaped in the early 19th century by Humphrey Repton. Jane Austen visited here and mentions Repton’s schemes for landscapes in her novels.

 Stoneleigh is open to the public today and part of the tea shop is located in the old abbey undercroft.

We know that Jane Austen visited Netley Abbey in Hampshire while she was living in Southampton.  It was a popular venue for picnics and walks, as were so many of the abbey ruins spread over the entire British Isles. One of the most famous, below, is Tintern Abbey, maybe best known from the paintings of Turner.
More reports from Portland coming soon.

At the JASNA AGM, Portland OR, October 2010

It was an exhilarating experience to be with 600+ Jane Austen fans in Portland OR from October 27-31, 2010, for the yearly AGM on the topic of “Jane Austen and the Abbey: Mystery, Mayhem and Muslin.” At right, a collection of costumes on exhibit in the Milsom Street Emporium.  Frankly, I was much more interested in all the books on sale — but I tried to be judicious in my choices.
Team Tilney
 A pre-conference offering was the presentation:
 “Team Tilney Explains It All,” a light-hearted look at the (beloved) hero (center) of Northanger Abbey.

Our hero

 Team TilneyL l-r, Margaret Sullivan, Kelly Brown, Henry Tilney, Heather Laurence, Lynn Marie Macy.
Stephanie Barron
On Friday afternoon, the AGM officially opened with a talk by Stephanie Barron, author of the Jane Austen mystery series.  She analyzed Northanger Abbey as a mystery plot by which Catherine and Henry learn about each other and grow toward a lasting relationship, a very clever take on the novel.
Ms. Barron has a new book, Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron, which promises to be another fascinating read for those of us who love her imaginative style.  She said she combs through Austen’s letters for kernels of information she turns into her stories. 
In between sessions, our colleagues in the Wisconsin chapter of JASNA sold our wonderful 2011 calendars. Here, l-r, Area coordinator Liz Cooper, Susan Richard and Yolanda Jensen stand by to make the sales. If you are interested in all the dates in Jane’s life and in her novels, they are here!  For more information, click here and click again on Merchandise.
Farleigh Hungerford Castle
 Janine Barchas of the University of Texas, Austin, spoke on Bluebeard’s Castle. She suggested that Jane Austen had probably visited the ruins of Farley Hungerford Castle near Bath. A period guide to Bath and its environs was owned by the Austens and contained information the castle and its bloody history, which could well have been one of JA’s inspiratons for Catherine’s suspicions of mayhem at Northanger Abbey. 
The next break out I attended was –MINE! Kim Wilson, left, author of Tea with Jane Austen and Jane Austen in the Garden, and I presented “About Those Abbeys…in Fact, Fiction and Landscape.” I will post about our talk soon. This is a picture of Kim and me at a previous event. I was too busy with our power point to take photos.
The evening presentation was by popular speaker Jeff Nigro, Area Coordinator for the Greater Chicago Chapter of JASNA.  His topic was “Mystery Meets Muslin: Regency Gothic Dress in Art, Fashion and the Theatre.”  As always, Jeff (a Chicago Art Institute staffer) was knowledgable and charming.  I show him at right in his modeling debut from the Philadelphia AGM in 2009 (because I forgot my camera at his talk this year.)
The next morning, Saturday, we prepared for a busy day. Juliet McMaster gave the opening plenary talk on “A Surmise of Such Horror: Catherine Morland’s Imagination.”  As with Jeff’s talk, the audience was charmed, amused and illuminated by Juliet.

She is a leading Austen scholar, as well as an artist and playwright.  She and Jeff exhibit the best of what AGM’s provide: worthwhile talks that also entertain.  Just like Jane Austen’s novels.

Dr. McMaster pointed out how Henry Tilney relished Catherine’s freshness. The naive Catherine, who has lost herself in gothic novels, is susceptible to Henry’s teasing about the horrors awaiting her at Northanger Abbey. But after he catches her snooping and realizes she actually believes she will find evidence of terrible crimes committed there, he chastizes her. And with his gentle teaching, she grows to appreciate realy natural beauty and truth, gains confidence in her instincts and grows into the kind of woman he can not only admire and tease but love.  This is a very rough approximation of Dr. McMaster’s theses, but it will have to do, I’m afraid. Above and right is Dr. McMaster in the center, with admiring throngs.
I fear I have run out of space, so I will conclude now, and report on other AGM events in Parts Two, Three,  and Four upcoming.

A Morning at the Milwaukee Art Museum

 Victoria here, welcoming you to the Milwaukee Art Museum, one of my favorite hang-outs. In fact, I used to work here writing grant proposals for exhibitions and conservation projects. The building is the iconic winged structure on the shore of Lake Michigan designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, opened in 2001 as the second major addition to the original building by Eero Saarinen (1910–1961), a Finnish-American architect.

One of the current exhibitions on view at the MAM is Intimate Images of Love and Loss: Portrait Miniatures which continues through October 31, 2010. The Koss Gallery is filled with miniatures by British, American, French, Austrian and Argentinian artists and photographers.  Click here for more information.

One of my favorites is this portrait, A Young Girl, with her hair unbound and blowing in the wind.  It was painted by John Barry (British, active 1784–1827) ca. 1790. The gift of Richard and Erna Flagg, it is part of the museum’s permanent collection.  Other examples come from the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University, the Charles Allis Art Museum and other local collectors, but cannot be displayed here under the terms of the loans. Sorry, but that is standard operating procedure for borrowed works in an exhibition.

Text panels explain how the works were created, usually painted on thin slices of ivory as illustrated on the left. Because of the nature of the surface, the painting was done with tiny brushstrokes or dots, which can be seen in the gallery in the enlarged photos, right of the slice.

Other text panels show uses of the miniatures for jewelry or bibelots. To the right, Queen Elizabeth II wears two portrait miniatures of her predecessors on her shoulder.

This tiny picture was taken from a painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-92) of Lady Smith and her Children, miniaturized and handsomely framed. Though is it a bit too large to be worn, it could easily have been carried on travels.

This lovely example is by celebrated miniaturist George Engleheart (1750-1829), Woman in a Hat, c. 1790. It is a recent addition to the museum’s collections. Engleheart was a miniature painter to George III and finished at least 25 portraits of the king himself as well as many others.

Here is the MAM’s official photo of the miniature.

George Engleheart, Woman in a Hat, ca. 1790. Gift of Edith Maclay in memory of Frederick H. von Schleinitz.
Photo by John R. Glembin

One of the special events planned during the exhibition was a discussion of Jane Austen’s Persuasion led by Museum Educator Amy Kirschke, at the right of the picture.  Amy leads a monthly book salon at the museum with each book choice related to a current MAM exhibition. She looked to Jane Austen and her oft-quoted statement about her work being like a fine brush on a tiny piece of ivory.

In case you had forgotten (as I had), in Persuasion, Captain Harville has brought to Bath a miniature of Captain Benwick to have it reset as a gift from Benwick to his new fiancee Louisa Musgrove, though it had originally been painted for his late love, Fanny Harville.  This sparks a discussion between Capt. Harville and Anne about the nature of love and fidelity, overheard by Captain Wentworth.  Anne’s expressions further motivate him to propose again to her.  How clever of Ms. Kirschke to find such a perfect example of a miniature in literature.

I was reminded of my recent visit to the Wallace Collection in London where I saw the famous portrait of Perdita, Mrs. Robinson, in which she holds a miniature of the Prince of Wales, her former lover.

Miniatures are ever so fascinating and this exhibition with its wide selection of examples is well worth seeing.