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Household Taste

by Charles Eastlake

Primary authority on what was proper, beautiful, efficient in all aspects of mid-19th-century interior design. Originally published in 1868. Over 100 illustrations.
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One of the Country's Oldest Museums
by Bob Brooke


Founded in 1842 in Hartford, Connecticut, the Wadsworth Atheneum is one of the oldest continually operating public museums in the country. Undermined by debt and crumbling building, it almost ceases to be. Museum Director Susan Talbott pulled the institution out of the abyss as part of a $33 million renovation.

The Museumís collection ranges from the decorative arts to old masters and the Hudson River School, from impressionism to most of modernism and the sometimes still shockingly new. After a complete overall, the Wadsworth Atheneum now boasts 17 new galleries, adding 27 percent more space, achieved by moving all storage to the basement.

The Museum was the first American museum to mount a Picasso retrospective and the first to buy a Mondrian. Talbott indicates a portion of ceiling in her office. It is an extension, above it a "tiny little gallery that was an electrical closet, now a boudoir to show off our 18th-century silver. Those are the little things, the jewels," she says.

The Atheneum contains larger treasures. Willem de Kooning's Montauk I and Jackson Pollock's Number 9 are among a collection of abstract expressionism part-donated by Tony Smith and now shown with his sculptures. Curator Patricia Hickson's contemporary wing is organised like a generous primer: Robert Rauschenberg and Cindy Sherman share space with a beautiful and disturbing work by an Iraqi-American, Ahmed Alsoudani, spun from the aftermath of a Baghdad car bomb. There is also room for video, currently the hour-long STREET by James Nares, a hypnotic portrait of hypermodern Manhattan life.

Upstairs, past wall drawings by Hertford native Sol LeWitt, Robin Jaffee Frank's Coney Island exhibition collects high and low art, ephemera and carousel horses, all to tell the story of the Brooklyn pleasure resort from the Civil War to the modern day. A Joseph Stella from 1914 - Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras - explodes from the wall, the polite cubo-futurism of Severini or Nevinson shoved through a particle accelerator. After that, the show is a blast.

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