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July 8, 2013

TT: Restoration

Mrs. T and I moved to a new apartment in upper Manhattan two and a half years ago, but we've spent so much time on the road since then that we're still living out of boxes and have yet to buy more than a few essential pieces of furniture. As a result, we never got around to rehanging the Teachout Museum (the tongue-in-cheek title of our collection of works on paper by American midcentury modernists) until this weekend, when we gritted our teeth, rolled up our sleeves, and hung twenty-one pieces in a row.

These are the five that are now on view over the living-room couch:


Clockwise from lower left, they are:

• Milton Avery, March at a Table (drypoint, 1948)

• Richard Diebenkorn, #32 (etching, 1965)

• Joan Mitchell, Composition Jaune/Grise: Fields (lithograph, 1990)

• Hans Hofmann, Woman's Head (undated etching)

• John Marin, Downtown. The El (etching, 1921)

Seen from another angle:


Hanging between the windows:

• Jules Olitski, Forward Edge (lithograph, 1995).

Hanging behind the chair:

• Fairfield Porter, Broadway (lithograph, 1972).

On the dining-room wall:


Clockwise from upper left:

Wolf Kahn, untitled (monotype, 2001)

Jane Freilicher, Late Afternoon, Southampton (color hard ground etching with spit bite aquatint and drypoint, 1999)

Nell Blaine, "Jestina's Reds" (lithograph, c. 1990)

Neil Welliver, Night Scene (woodcut, 1981-82)

* * *

Here's something that I wrote about "Downtown. The El" in an essay called "Living With Art" that appeared in Commentary in 2004:

I look lovingly at my copy of "Downtown. The El" each time I pass by, marveling at the chain of coincidence by which this exquisite specimen of prewar American modernism passed from Marin's hands to mine. How many people have owned it? Did the last owner care for it as much as I do? Or was it hung in a dark hallway, there to be ignored and gather dust? Whatever its provenance, it has taught me a priceless lesson, which is that living with a work of art is the ultimate test of its quality--and the ultimate way of appreciating its beauty. I am lucky to own "Downtown. The El," and luckier still to have wanted to own it. I hope someone else will want it as much, someday.

It shames me to confess that these beautiful objects have been propped and stacked against the walls of our apartment for months and months, gathering dust and going unseen. What an unalloyed joy it is to have brought them back to life at last!

Posted July 8, 2013 12:00 AM

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