Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Rich Interior Life

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Rich Interior Life

Article excerpt

Cool weather and shorter days signal evenings tucked into a cozy chair with a good book, and also the beginning of the holiday shopping season. You can get a twofer with "Impressions of Interiors: Gilded Age Paintings by Walter Gay," the handsome publication that accompanies the new exhibition at The Frick Art Museum.

Gorgeous full-color pictures of opulent rooms in refined homes have unique presence because Gay (1856-1937) was an insider whose own homes often became his sitters. The story of his and wife Matilda's life among expat literati and the Parisian privileged is icing on the cake.

Gay spent his childhood in Dorchester, near Boston, where his father, a Harvard-educated lawyer, was elected to the Massachusetts Senate. His three brothers were successful businessmen, a career Gay sampled, but his passion for art, and the encouragement of teachers, led him to move to Paris to study in the atelier of Leon Bonnat, whose students included Americans Thomas Eakins and John Singer Sargent.

In France, he met Matilda Travers, a wealthy heiress who shared his interest in the fine arts and love of the French cultural milieu. They married in London in 1889 and set up housekeeping in Parisian apartments and countryside chateaus, integrating easily into the company of fellow American expatriates and European society.

The book's publisher, D Giles Limited of London, specializes in well-designed museum publications, and that sensitivity to finery is reflected in the 222-page book. Essays are informative and readable, and the careful scholarship, index (an endangered resource), and brief artist biography and chronology ensure this catalog will be added to reference libraries as well.

The beautiful book and equally rich exhibition are the results of a four-year "labor of love" by members of the staff, said Bill Bodine, director of the Frick Art & Historical Center, at an opening event Saturday. The project impetus was a commission by Helen Clay Frick, who had invited Gay to paint The Frick Collection in New York, her family home at the time. He completed three paintings between 1926 and 1928. For each one, he received $4,000, the equivalent of $53,000 apiece today. …

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