Monday, September 14, 2009

THE BRICK HOUSE

Aesthete's Lament recently had a fascinating post about , Mrs Paul Mellon's extraordinary garden library at Oak Spring, Upperville, Virginia:
http://aestheteslament.blogspot.com/2009/08/dream-house-mrs-mellons-garden-library.html

More about the library at its own website:
http://www.oakspring.org/

The library is one of several structures on the Mellon's extensive property. I had the opportunity to visit the Mellon's estate about 20 years ago. Although I did not visit the library I had the great privilege to spend an afternoon at the Brick House, a large house on the property that the Mellons used as a gallery for their collection of British sporting art and their large group of Degas waxes. The guests that day were myself, my brother Charles and our friend Kristin Leachman who is a neighbor of the Mellon's. There was no "tour guide" and in fact we had the house completely to ourselves. We were simply visiting as neighbors and art lovers (I am told, though, that the requests to visit submitted by many eminent art historians over the years were declined). The d├ęcor was reminiscent of an English country house with walls carefully painted with oil glaze over pale ground in a delicate striated effect. There were very large rooms (a large gallery with several sporting paintings by George Stubbs) and very small ones (a cozy den or reading room with little ivory ornaments displayed on the lamp table). The Degas gallery was pale pink and green with the waxes, including the Little Dancer, displayed on open pedestals (no plexi covers). Degas' fingerprints were easy to discern on the wax. After Mr. Mellon died in 1999 the collections were dispersed with the sporting art going to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art and the Yale Center for British Art and the Degas sculptures going to the National Gallery of Art. After the dispersal of the collection a little booklet was sent out as a reminiscence of the Brick House, to those who had enjoyed its pleasures (see scan of cover below). The booklet tells some of the history of the house:

The Brick House at Oak Spring, Upperville, Virginia was completed in 1941 as the residence of Paul and Mary Mellon. The architect, William Adams Delano of New York, had been persuaded by the Mellons to copy the principal exterior features of the Hammond-Harwood House in Annapolis Maryland . . . the house was occupied by the family until the death of Mary Mellon in October of 1946. . . . Paul Mellon and Bunny Lambert Lloyd were married in 1948 . . . they decided to turn the Brick House into a library and gallery . . .

The black-and-white photo below is from the Gottscho-Schleisner archive where there are many photos of the Brick House, however they were taken soon after the house was built and before it was remodeled by architect Page Cross in 1961. Nevertheless there are great pictures to be seen in the archive at the Library of Congress:
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/gottscho/index.html




1 comment:

Andrea said...

We, at the Hammond-Harwood House have seen this amazing building! For us it a real double take. It is not the only Hammond-Harwood House inspired design out there. There is one in Shaker Heights and one being constructed - as we speak - in Texas.It just proves that good design is still recognizable and still considered worthy of immitation.

Carter Lively, Exec. Director Hammond-Harwood House