Thursday, December 31, 2009

Visit Zorn & Bertha Palmer & Spring

I am reflecting on how we spent last New Year's in the Swedish countryside in Dalarna. This year's Christmas card from my mother-in-law is pictured above in front of the traditional Swedish Christmas Goat, really more a pagan reminder of seasonal shifts. The card reproduces a painting by Sweden's greatest painter, Anders Zorn, whose home and studio are part of the world-class Zorn Museum in Mora (home to the world-famous Vasaloppet cross-country ski race that embodies the area's history of locals' land-owning bravery and solidarity) .

Many times I have heard of Zorn's fame through a tale about the staggering cost of a 19C portrait of Chicago's reigning Society Grande Dame after the 1871 fire, Bertha Palmer...surprisingly, the most interesting web link about her is Wikipedia's which details some of her progressive work on behalf of women & children and landscape. She had the Zorn portrait commissioned in 1893 to celebrate her position as head of the Columbian Exposition's Board of Lady Managers so vividly documented in The Devil and the White City (a must read for fans of the grandaddy of American landscaping: Frederick Law Olmsted). I finally saw Zorn's portrait of Bertha Palmer with its marvelous rendering of white on white at the Chicago History Museum's exhibiton of Mrs. Palmer's fashion. If you can get there this weekend before it closes on January 4, 2010: do so! Since photos are not allowed in the exhibit, the only place I could locate an illustration of the portrait on the web is this blog post (you will have to read nearly to the end) by a former Chicagoan who appears to move in the same social circles where Bertha held court.

And so now that I've cited 2010, here's a gesture to celebrating the New Year: a hyacinth with promise of (despite bad economy/war/partisan bickering) SPRING.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice Cheer

(Well, the lighting was low at Ikea...)

On this short day of long darkness, I hope this image inspires your inner sun.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Landscaping at the de Young

At the de Young Museum in San Francisco: fantastic architect and internal landscaping. Outdoor plantings more problematic to me. For one, the modern style does not integrate with the period sculpture. Secondly, all I think is "monoculture and high maintenance". Which means an unsustainable plant palette and high labor costs. Plus, there is a lot of turf that wants irrigation, although that probably comes more reliably from nature in San Francisco.

I know this was a challenge given the needs of public landscaping in the context of a new building and venerable collection...transitions between diverse styles (all the while incorporating circulation and heavy foot traffic) invite divine inspiration and minute problem solving.