Newport Art Museum

Newport, RI



A Grand Landscape in Miniature: Images of Paradise from Newport Area Collections


Three miles east of downtown Newport, a picturesque coastal region of Middletown has been known since the eighteenth century as Paradise. Writing about this area in August 1876, the novelist Henry James eloquently observed: "One great charm of Newport scenery is its modesty: it has no massive cliffs that extort wonder and admiration, its hills are hardly more than gentle undulations; it has no rich abundance of trees growing at the water's edge, there is nothing but a stretch of yellow meadow grass rolling gently to the water, with here and there a softly rising hill. It is like a grand landscape in miniature."

The topographical charm of Paradise long has drawn artists who depicted the area in paintings, prints, and book illustrations. "A Grand Landscape in Miniature " features a hundred of these works owned by Newport area public and private collections. Among the more noted American artists represented are John LaFarge, William Trost Richards, William Morris Hunt, Edward Mitchell Bannister, and John Frederick Kensett. In addition, there are works by many lesser known artists who lived or worked in the area, including the sisters Louisa Clark and Helena Sturtevant, noted art teacher William Holland Drury, and Jane Maria Hunt, the elder sister of Richard Morris and William Morris Hunt. The exhibition also includes examples of wood engravings and lithographs from illustrated guidebooks and periodicals, along with a souvenir porcelain pitcher showing a view of Purgatory Chasm.

The exhibition is divided into five subject areas: Whitehall (the historic residence of Bishop George Berkeley), Hanging Rock, Sachuest or Second Beach, Purgatory Chasm, and Paradise Farmlands. An introductory section includes nine rare watercolor and pencil drawings of Paradise from an album by John Bernard Gilpin, who served as British Vice-Consul to Newport from 1802-1832. The drawings date from 1814, making them the earliest known landscape views of the area. Donated to the Newport Historical Society in 1910 by Gilpin's daughter, these works are being exhibited for the first time.

The guest curator of the exhibition is Dr. James L. Yarnall, director of the La Farge Catalogue Raisonné, adjunct professor at Salve Regina University, and a historian specializing in the history of Middletown.

Images from top to bottom:

David Maitland Armstrong (1836-1918), The Last Valley--Paradise Rocks, 1877, Oil on canvas, 13 1/4 x 28 1/2 inches, Preservation Society of Newport County, Collection at Kingscote

Armstrong was born near Newburgh, New York and trained in law at Trinity College in Hartford. While practicing law at New York beginning in 1862, he started spending summers in Newport. In 1866, he married the sister of John Neilson, a wealthy New Yorker who had brought his family to summer on Paradise Avenue since the start of the Civil War. Armstrong took up painting in 1867 while in Rome as consul-general to the Papal States. In 1878, he undertook art studies in Paris and headed up the American art department for the Universal Exposition of 1878. After returning to New York a year later, he devoted himself full-time to art, specializing in stained glass.

Frederick William Quartley (1808-1874), Purgatory, 1870, Colored wood engraving on paper, 9 1/2 x 6 3/4 inches, Collection of the Redwood Library and Athenaeum (RLC.PAP.MISC.223). First published in Appleton's Journal, vol. 3, no. 43, January 22, 1870, page 101; subsequently used in 1872 in the serial Picturesque America, part 16, page 371

Born in Bath, England, Quartley took up wood engraving at age sixteen and studied in Wales and Paris. He emigrated to America in 1851 after the death of his wife, and settled in Peekskill, New York. He provided illustrations for a number of publishers, including Appleton & Company, publishers of Appleton's Monthly and Picturesque America (1872).

Frederick Rondel (1826-1892), Second Beach, 1883, watercolor on canvas, 18 1/2 x 28 1/2 inches, Collection of St. George's School, Middletown, RI

Rondel was born in Paris where he studied under French Romantic landscape painters. He emigrated to America during the 1850s and eventually settled in New York City. He accepted a teaching position at the National Academy of Design and, during summer months, made the circuit of popular watering places including Newport. His landscapes were exhibited at the National Academy of Design, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Boston Athenaeum between 1855 and 1877.

Revised 10/24/99

Read more about the Newport Art Museum in Resource Library

For further biographical information on selected artists cited in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 11/1/10

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