Cat Ryan submits-
Joey, Good Morning Gloucester is really something! After my post about local artists and art displayed in City Hall and the White House Collection, the artist, proprietor, FOB, and fun Pauline Bresnahan sent me a picture with a note. She was thinking about art at the State House:
“Yesterday the Mayor was sworn in at the State House (for the Seaport Economic Advisory Council) and she put some photos on FB and I was wondering who did the painting over the Governor’s shoulder in the photo that I attached and am sending to you?”
Here’s Pauline’s attachment
The dramatic harbor scene is on loan from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and was created by JONAS LIE (1880-1940), The Fisherman’s Return, ca.1919, John Pickering Lyman Collection, Gift of Miss Theodora Lyman.
You read that correctly. His name is ‘Lie’. I know, located in the State House—the state capitol and house of government—the symbol of the Commonwealth of MA, politics and its people—it may seem at first an unfortunate selection when you read the surname.
Not to worry, his painting skills and life story are a great fit for the State House.
Lie was a well-known early 20th century painter and his peers considered him a master. One example of his stature and connections: Lie, Stuart Davis and Eugene Speicher were charged with the selection of paintings as members of the Central Arts Committee for the legendary exhibit, American Art Today at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Holger Cahill was their Director. Artists John Gregory, Paul Manship and William Zorach selected sculpture. John Taylor Arms, Anne Goldthwaite and Hugo Gellert selected the prints and drawings.
Is there a Gloucester, MA, connection? You bet –and one you can see in many of Lie’s works. He was a summer traveler to Cape Ann before WW1 along with other New England locales through the 1930s because he was a mainstream American artist of his time. He had a studio on Bearskin Neck and lived on Mt. Pleasant in Rockport. Later the studio was Max Kuehne’s.
Lie was born in Norway to an American mother, Helen Augusta Steele of Hartford, Ct. His Norwegian father, Sverre Lie, was a civil engineer. One of his aunts was the pianist Erika Lie Nieesn and he was named after an uncle, the major Norwegian writer Jonas Lie. After his father died in 1892 he went to live in Paris with family, before joining his American mother and sister in New York City the following year. They settled in Plainfield, NJ. After art studies, Lie found work as a shirt designer, took more classes, exhibited and received prizes. William Merritt Chase bought two works in 1905. In 1906, he traveled back to Norway to visit family and again to Paris. He was deeply inspired by Monet. When he returned he resumed his art career. He admired the Ashcan artists and their American style. Another trip in 1909 to Paris, Fauvism and Matisse.
Lie painted the engineering project of his time, the building of the Panama Canal. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Detroit Institutes of Art acquired a work from this series. The rest were eventually gifted to West Point in 1929 as a memorial to US Army Corps of Engineers Colonel George Washington Goethals, Chief Engineer of the building of the Canal. Goethals was credited with having the forethought to ensure that a record of the project was preserved in art. Art form(s) actually. Leave it to the engineer to appreciate the art and beauty in industry. Right?
Lie was invited as a guest of General Goethals along with Joseph Pennell who created the gorgeous etching portfolio The Building of the Canal, 1912. Goethals also selected artist William B Van Ingen to paint 4 large murals, mounted on site in the rotunda in 1915. The Panama Canal opened softly the preceding year, on August 15, 1914 as World War 1 eclipsed any coverage.
Lie was involved with the installation of the famous Armory show of 1913, and 4 of his works were exhibited. In the printed matter, his name shows up alphabetically between Fernand Leger and George Luks. See the 1914 journal advert. Charles Hawthorne urged summer students to Provincetown while the New York School of Fine and Applied Art hoped that students would paint with ‘Jonas Lee, one of America’s foremost painters’. He was quite active in the arts community. He organized the Society of American Painters in 1919. He purchased a home in the Adirondacks to be near the hospital where his wife sought treatment for and eventually succumbed to TB. In 1933 he gave Amber Light, a painting of FDR’s yacht to the President, his friend.
Lie is known for his vivid color and impressions of New England harbors, boats and coves, painted during summer visits, his New York City scenes, landscapes, seasons, Utah copper mines, and the Panama series.
What about the Governor’s suite, the historic restoration, the Governor’s portrait, protocol and tradition?
The Massachusetts State House includes the state legislature and the offices of the Governor. The 1798 building was designed by Charles Bulfinch and was designated as a National Historic Landmark* in 1960. This magnificent landmark needed an overhaul and major renovations. Restoration has been happening throughout the structure, mostly for the first time in a century. It’s difficult to invest in heritage and modernize facilities without public criticism. Years of research span terms. The Governor suite in particular came under fire for its historic restoration. It was expensive.
“The executive office now looks like it did in 1798, Petersen said. It cost $11.3 million to renovate and restore these 19,000 square feet of the State House, including the lieutenant governor’s office, constituent services on the second floor, and what will soon be an emergency response room on the fourth floor. The executive offices now have temperature control, wireless Internet capability, sprinklers, blast-resistant storm windows, security cameras, including some with facial recognition, and sensors that can detect if a room is occupied.”
Daunting! I can understand why Governor Baker selected the former Chief Of Staff’s office for his everyday office. “I want a regular office where I can spill a cup of coffee and not worry about it,” the governor said.
The Jonas Lie painting is prominent in nearly every ceremonial signing and photograph because it’s hung directly behind the Governor’s desk. It is difficult to find any mention of the artist and painting. When staging formal photographs if there is a featured artwork in the frame, it is my recommendation and hope that credit to the artist and artwork are listed along with people featured in the photograph.
The State House is working on their website and there’s a great virtual tour. Visit https://malegislature.gov/VirtualTour
So what does the Governor see from his vantage of the signing seat during ceremonies and meetings? More tradition, history, and art. Each incoming Governor selects a portrait of a former Governor which is installed above the mantel and across from the desk. Former Governor Patrick’s choice was John Albion Andrew, Massachusetts 25th Governor. Governor Baker selected former Governor John A. Volpe, a North Shore Wakefield native, who served 1961-63 and again 1965-69, the first 4-year term in MA. He resigned midterm in his final year to accept President Nixon’s appointment to head the Department of Transportation. You can read more about it here http://www.nga.org/cms/home/governors/past-governors-bios/page_massachusetts/col2-content/main-content-list/title_volpe_john.html
The incoming Governor selects this portrait fairly quickly. Volpe’s national policy led to Amtrak. With the winter and MBTA crises at hand, comparisons can be drawn…I will ask! I haven’t been in the Governor offices. But Fred Bodin and I had a great look around earlier this year and Senator Tarr gave us a brief impromptu tour. Ask him about the Cod. There was an installation of local artists in the hall outside the Senate Chamber.
*Boston has 58 properties with National Historic Landmark designation. Gloucester has 2: Schooner Adventure and Beauport. City Hall should/will have this designation.
Link to yesterday’s post https://goodmorninggloucester.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/this-is-what-gloucester-looks-like-at-the-white-house-and-city-hall-its-all-local/
Also find it at Joey_C’s twitter http://t.co/upEgxcTajq