Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mini Holiday

Took a little break for the last few days, but I am back. How refreshed I am is rather questionable, as flying these days is like taking an obstacle course with the devil. Didn't have time to research Fenn's possible work in Paris, as French are as unhelpful as everyone is saying, especially about someone who is not French :)

I will try to find something online, but I doubt Paris and France in general holds any importance in Fenn's work, as he studied in Italy.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I receive this ominous-looking envelope from the government, and you know that bad feeling you get? People who have been audited know what I am talking about, right? Oh, never mind.

Anyway, the envelope, thankfully, is not from the IRS, but from the Department of Interior, and it is a copy of the filing with the National Register of Historic Places that the archivist promised me. What a great surprise! And get this, it contained a copy of the original article by Sheldon from The Magazine of Art in 1886 about the House, with the illustrations of both exterior AND interior. Check out the Hall as originally built and today. This keeps getting better and better...

Also, I have been searching for The Magazine of Art from 1885, as the reprint of the article was stating. Been looking into the wrong year.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Due to kindness of a complete stranger...

And a fellow history buff, I've received some articles about Fenn's that I haven't seen before. Thanks B.S.C. They were all published in NY Times and I would have found them eventually, since I am doing a systematic search of each individual source. But, it was nice to received this because it feels like I have an assistant :) There were also some documents from the Montclair Preservation or Historic Society, as it is known now.

So, the picture of Fenn's and their life in Montclair is coming along. Will keep you posted.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Speaking of details...

This is an illustration of the actual painting that was exhibited in 1888. The image is from the catalogue. I wasn't very careful when I was making copies, as I didn't think I would scan and publish them. That is the reason it's a bit crooked. The asterisks means that the artist did the illustration. Amazing, right?

History - Part II: Who Was Harry Fenn? Timeline

1866. - American Society of Painters in Water Colors is instituted. Fenn, Harry (Henry) was elected as a Member.

1867-8. - First exhibit of the Society (image to the right). Fenn exhibited the following works:
  1. Toilers of the Sea
  2. Sketch Near Genoa (owned by J.T. Fields)
  3. Church Porch, Levington, England (owned by J.T. Fields)
  4. Pietra Santa Lucca
He is listed as having residence in Montclair, N.J.

1868-9. - Second exhibit. Fenn is showing the following works:
  1. A Tomb on the Apian Way, Roman Campagna
  2. Study of Boats, Port of Venice, Gulf of Shezzia (owned by Samuel Wilde)
  3. A Winter Study, Montclair, N.J.
  4. A Twilight Study, Near Portland, M.E.
  5. By the Well
He is listed as having residence in Montclair, N.J.

1871-2. - Fenn exhibits the following:
  1. The Mouth of the St. Johns River, Fla.
  2. Study from the Sister Islands, Niagara
Still residing in Montclair.

1873. - Fenn exhibits:
  1. The Ghetto, Rome
  2. Entrance to Watkin's Glen (owned by Dr. J. W. Pinkham)
  3. Cavern Cascade, Watkin's Glen (owned by Dr. J. W. Pinkham)
  4. Goat Island, Niagara
Still residing in Montclair.

1875. - Listed as residing in England.

1876. - Listed as residing in England.

1877. - Listed as residing in England. This is the year the Society also started accepting advertising in their catalogues. They are also starting to list prices.

1878. - Fenn exhibits the following:
  1. The Lower Soko, Tangiers, Morocco $200
  2. Carigan Head, Donegal, Ireland $150
Fenn is listed as residing in Egypt.

1879-80. - Fenn is still in Egypt. There are no works exhibited.

1880-1. - Fenn is in Egypt.

1881-2. - Fenn is listed as Non-Resident Member for the first time. There is no location listed. Also, interesting tidbit: it appears that someone was going through the catalogues in 1913. There was a piece of calendar from January 1913 inside the catalogue as a bookmark with words "Sorted".

1883. - Fenn is back. He is also listed as Catalogue Committee Member, probably because he spent the last few years illustrating books. The following works are exhibited:
  1. Marshall's Creek, P.A. $350
  2. The Star Inn, Yarmouth $100
  3. A Surrey Cottage $100
  4. A Connemara Cabin $250
  5. To Fetch a Pail of Water or Little Mabel on Midsummer's Day $125
  6. The Orchard Lane $175
He was residing at 16 West 23rd Street, NYC. I will check on Monday if that address still exists or rather is it still the original house, which I doubt.

Also, the same year Fenn's work appeared in Lizzie W. Champney's book "John Angelo at the Water Color Exhibition." Mrs. Champney was a wife of J.R. Champney, who was Fenn contemporary. In fact, this book contained a lot of works that were in the exhibit. It is "a novel for youth", and you can read it here. Very interesting read. Reminds me of Jane Austen.

1884. - Fenn is still residing at 16 West 23rd Street. He is exhibiting the following:
  1. An Autumn Sketch $60
  2. The Landing $50
  3. A Pennsylvania Bee Colony $125
1885. - Fenn is residing at 141 St. Mark's Avenue, Brooklyn, L.I. Interesting move. This is the year that The House was being finished. He is exhibiting the following works:
  1. Rye and Sorrel $150
  2. Ronda $150
  3. Gardiner's Island $100
  4. "The Lone Hand" $125
1886. - There is no mention of Fenn in the catalogue, except as Resident Member.

1887. - Fenn is listed as residing in Montclair, N.J. again. He is exhibiting the following:
  1. A Corner of the Studio $125
  2. The Green Mosque from the Bazaar of the Meldan, Damascas $300
There is an illustration of the "The Green Mosque" in the catalogue. The details are amazing. While I do like his paintings, I can see why he was more popular as an illustrator.

1888. - Still in Montclair. He exhibits the following:
  1. The Washing Ground of Madrid
  2. A Study of Weeds $60
  3. A Doorway in Granada $200
  4. A Sketch at Montclair $75
This is as far as I got.

If there is anyone out there that can help me track some of this art work, originals preferably, please contact me. Or if you are an owner of any of these works. I would love to see them in person.


After writing and publishing the post from last night, I went to read the email. I got a lovely note from B.S.C. (I am using the initials because I didn't get permission to write their full name) writing about the house they bought recently and the house next door that "looms" over them. Apparently, one of them was designed by Alice Fenn, Fenn's daughter, and the other by Dudley Strickland Van Antwerp, married to Hilda Fenn, another one of Fenn's daughters.

It looks like Fenn's have left a much larger stamp on Montclair than I previously thought...

Friday, July 10, 2009

American Watercolor Society Visit

I had an to opportunity spend several hours at the AWS offices today. I reviewed the exhibit catalogues through 1888. So, only 23 years to go...

Joking aside, it is amazing how much one can discover from turning those pages. Here is a brief timeline of Fenn's whereabouts as seen through AWS eyes:

1867 - Member
1875 - Active Member
1878 - Non-resident Member
1883 - Resident Member
1903 - Active Member
1910 - Active Member
1911 - Active Member (last mention)

Since I feel very tired, I am starting to make some terrible spelling mistakes and my writing is completely uninspired. So, I am going to get some rest and give you the detailed timeline with names of the paintings for sale through 1888 when I wake up tomorrow. Have a good night.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Here is the photograph...

That started us on this journey... Isn't it magnificent?

Next Steps - sooner than expected...

Our thanks to Mark Wright from Wright & Robinson Architects of Glen Ridge for a visit. Mark is actually the person who got us interested in this restoration. In January of this year, he sent a reprint of an article about the House and the photograph of what the House used to look like when it was first built, in it's original location on Upper Mountain Avenue. When we saw this photograph, my husband and I, and all other family members, were stunned by the beauty of it. We all agreed that if there are any funds available in the future, we will use them to return the House to its original appearance.

So, this summer we decided to at least price the project, since chances are we won't have anything available after the backyard landscaping project. But, there is always next year...

It was amazing to walk the house with someone who actually knows architecture, different styles, materials, colors, etc. He agreed with me that it was very much possible Fenn was very involved in the design of the House, judging by the Eastern influences and details we uncovered. He was, after all, an artist with particular tastes. In the article Mark gave me, the author writes about architect's Japanese influences, which are apparent. But, after talking about it, all three of us, Mark, my husband, and I, found Eastern influences which could easily be attributed to the time Fenn spent in Egypt and Pakistan.