Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hillstead House

Terry and I drove to Hillstead House, in Farmington, Connecticut. Theodate Pope Riddle refurbished a small house on this property and then she assigned architects to build this colonial home. Theodate's father, Alfred Pope, was an industrialist and art collector who financed the building's construction. Theodate oversaw the design and construction. After I finished this sketch, Terry and I went on a guided tour so we could view the one of a kind art collection. When Theodate died, her will stipulated that the property must be used as a closed art collection. Art never leaves the collection. The dining room had several gorgeous Monets and Manets. There were Degas pastels and paintings in several rooms. My favorite was a painting of ballerinas in pink with several more dancers in the far wings. In an upstairs bedroom an early Monet of two sailboats fills a spot above a fireplace. On a table in the same room is a black and white photo of a New York City Hotel on fire. Our guide explained that Alfred Pope loved his art collection so much that he traveled with his paintings. When he returned to his hotel, he found the building on fire. He then petitioned people in the street, saying he would pay them if they would climb a ladder and save the art. Amazingly the black and white photo shows someone carrying the Monet painting of the sail boats down a ladder. We were able to witness the Monet painting being saved from the ashes.
This home has an amazing and priceless art collection. Our guide told of an instance when Alfred bought a painting from Whistler. When he unpacked the painting at home, he discovered the painting was unsigned. He wrote Whistler asking for a signature. Indignant,Whistler refused, saying the butterfly mark was signature enough. The butterfly mark is so subtle that most guests couldn't see it. Whistler etchings lined the wall up the stairwell. It was refreshing to see so much art all in the collectors home.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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