Chinese Tea Culture
As I begin my thoughts about Chinese tea and its rich history, I start with a quote from the English playwright Arthur Pinero (1855–1934): “While there is tea, there is hope.” Although these words may seem trivial in the face of all the challenges 2020 has given us, I remain optimistic. We can find hope in any number of places. For example, many writers have noted that drinking tea often allows one to find inner peace. In 1937 Lin Yutang wrote in his book The Importance of Living, “There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.” I encourage you to try and find a moment of peace and hope in perhaps an unexpected place: a cup of tea.
"Excitement of the Quest"—A Neoclassical Vision
Did you know that 2020 marks the bicentennial of the Taft Museum of Art's historic house? Two hundred years ago the oldest part of the museum’s footprint began to take shape. Around 1820, a simple four-sided home was built for Martin Baum (1765–1831) and his wife, Ann Sommerville Wallace Baum (1782–1864), forming the core of what would become one of Cincinnati’s most historic buildings. With that, it seems only fitting that we explore the predominant style of the early 1800s: Neoclassicism—an artistic approach that embraced the ideas of ancient Greece and Rome. Classical ornament and a preference for order and symmetry were hallmarks of this new style, elements that are reflected in the Taft’s architecture and its American furniture.
Collection Connection | Limoges Meets Beijing
In 2014, the Taft Museum of Art accepted a remarkable gift of 89 pieces of Chinese painted enamel copperware. The late Reverend Compton Allyn left these rare treasures to the Museum in his will. Made by painting colorful diluted glass paste onto copper forms, the enamels in Reverend Allyn’s collection illuminate a story of cultural exchange between East and West.
The Inside Story | The Tafts and Cincinnati Art
The special exhibition A Splendid Century: Cincinnati Art 1820–1920 highlights the impact made on art in the city by the former residents of the Taft Museum of Art’s historic house. Charles and Anna Taft were the last of these residents. In 1900, after Anna inherited her father David Sinton’s $20 million estate (over $500 million today), the Tafts became philanthropists and art collectors who made a lasting mark on visual art in the Queen City.
The Inside Story | A Splendid Century
By the 1840s, artists had begun coming to Cincinnati from the surrounding region to learn more about art, as well as to exhibit and to sell their work, and many born in the city enjoyed success. In 1840, a writer for the New York Star asked, “Cincinnati! What is there in the atmosphere of Cincinnati, that has so thoroughly awakened the arts of sculpture and painting?
Balancing Wanderlust with Stay-at-Home: Two Works by J. M. W. Turner
The English landscape painter J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851) found endless inspiration in his travels. On his journeys throughout the United Kingdom and Europe, Turner filled hundreds of sketchbooks with tens of thousands of drawings and watercolor sketches. Back in his studio, he used this material—along with his memory and imagination—to create detailed oil paintings and watercolors. The Taft Museum of Art has brilliant examples of both in its collection.
The Inside Story | Solved: The Mystery of the Unknown Cabinet Maker
This 18th-century notice poses a slew of tantalizing questions. First, was this the same Porter Clay who made the Taft Museum of Art’s early Kentucky sideboard? If so, where did Clay run off to? Was he captured? When did he come back to Lexington? Finally, did he avoid a jail sentence, and, if so, how? Such questions abound in an intriguing story featuring a runaway furniture maker, spiked with notes of nepotism and Kentucky luxury.
The Inside Story | Oz Visits the Queen City
In 1900, L. Frank Baum published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This illustrated “modernized fairy tale” for children stars Dorothy, a farm girl from Kansas. Swept away in a cyclone to the fantastical land of Oz, she and her dog Toto encounter munchkins, witches, and flying monkeys. Along with the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion, Dorothy travels the yellow brick road to see the Wizard—who ultimately turns out to be a fraud from Omaha—and inadvertently slays the Wicked Witch of the West with a bucket of water.