Elizabeth: For the Beauty of it

July is quickly coming to a close, which means this should be my “July Short Story” post, but it isn’t.

As we may have mentioned a time or two here on the blog, we’re off to the annual Romance Writers’ of America conference in sun-drenched (aka hot and sticky) Florida this week.  Today was a chance for several of us here at 8LW to spend some time together bonding, brainstorming, and recharging our creativity before the conference officially kicks off.

To do that, we headed off to Winter Park to the Charles Homer Morse Museum of American Art.  The Morse, according to its website, houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany, including jewelry, pottery, paintings, art glas, leaded-glas lamps & Windows, along with his reconstructed chapel interior from the 1893 Chicago Exposition and art & architectural objects from Laurelton Hall, his Long Island country estate.

I hadn’t heard of the museum before this visit and I had been unaware of the range of Tiffany’s work; thinking of him predominately in terms of lamps.  After today, I have both a new understanding and a new appreciation of his work.

One of the most interesting things about the museum was not what was in it, but the people who were behind its very existence.  The museum was founded by Jeannette Genius McKean in 1942 and dedicated to her grandfather, Chicago industrialist Charles Hosmer Morse.   Hugh McKean, her husband, was the museum’s first director. Both artists themselves, Jeannette and Hugh directed their lives and tremendous philanthropical resources toward  the building and support of the museum collection.    Upon their deaths, they left an endowment, intended to continue to support the museum in perpetuity.

Why did they do all that?

I’m sure they had many reasons, but the one that Hugh mentioned in the short introductory video that we saw at the museum – the reason that really resonated with me – was the importance of beauty, both creating it and maintaining it for others to experience and enjoy.

I really liked that.

In a world where decisions are often driven by monetary concerns or the need to exert power or control, it’s refreshing to think of the value of beauty, for its own sake.   I know I felt mentally and creatively recharged after seeing the collection today, and I’m glad to have had the chance.  I even found a pretty print in the museum gift shop to take back home.  I’m planing to put it above my writing desk for those moments when I need a need a shot of beauty.

So, have you practiced your own art today?  I’m pretty sure the world can use all of the beauty it can get.

3 thoughts on “Elizabeth: For the Beauty of it

  1. When I was doing my 1890s story, I’d read a couple books about a woman who worked for Louis Comfort Tiffany. Clara Driscoll was her name. Fascinating story about how a lot of her designs were chosen. She wound up marrying twice (and they seemed rather complicated marriages), then she had to stop working (Tiffany didn’t allow married women to work for him), and I think she wound up in Florida, designing more ephemeral things like scarves. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clara_Driscoll_(Tiffany_glass_designer) I wonder if she knew these patrons of the arts?

    But yes, beautiful things. It’s good to write things that shine and make other people smile. I’ve got to do that before the end of August.

    • Interesting, Michaeline. I knew he had a worksohop of artists working for him – Huch McKean was one of those artists at one time – but I did not know about the “married women” part. I wonder what the reason was behind it?

      • I’m pretty sure it was just the times. A married woman needed to be available to direct her husband’s household in the days before electronic appliances — and if they were too poor for that, then she had to be available to wash dishes and clothes, and all the other million things. Pretty good deal! The workload doubles, but you get to abandon your day job . . . . And then, of course, there was pre-birth control pregnancies to worry about. They probably didn’t know this, but I’m sure working with lead IS a no-no for pregnant women. It sounds like it was a very physically demanding job, and the novel & biography made it sound like Tiffany enjoyed a lot of drama in the work place, so psychologically, it probably wasn’t the best, either.

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