Brushing with Greatness

_dsc3072Lou and I are lovers of art, and the most favorite memories I have of our early marriage was the collection of paintings from contemporary American artists to English landscape and still life artists to the wonderful Dutch masters of the mid-17th century street and country scenes. Several of the paintings shown here are ones that I chose to have copied by wonderful miniature artisans specializing in replicating paintings and the mediums in which they were painted originally. Two we particularly admire are by British artist Leslie Smith. He painted the Dutch street scene pictured bottom left after the original by Adrianus Eversen and the summer landscape (top right) by Marinus Koekkoek.

The gallery is full of artwork by an abundance of artists in a variety of mediums—oils, watercolors, pastels, pen and ink, pencil sketches, and more. Lee-Ann Chellis Wessel’s Madonna and Child, was painted with egg tempera on a wood panel after 15th century Italian painter Sano di Pietro’s version. I lived in Italy and Malta for five years and fell in love with religious art after traveling from museum to museum and cathedral to cathedral. Lee-Ann, an IGMA Fellow since 1989, has also visited those venues and studied there. Her reproduction is one of my most cherished pieces in the collection.

whitecropAnother outstanding artist whose work is featured here is Johannes Landman. The Canadian artist is extraordinarily skilled at replicating the 17th century Dutch still life like this piece (left) based on the work of Willem van Aelst’s Still Life with Fruit and Crystal Vase. Originally from Holland, the self-taught IGMA artisan takes inspiration from the Dutch masters and from his grandmother who was a painter. Another of his pieces, a reproduction of Jan Anthonisz van Ravesteyn’s Portrait of a Young Boy with a Golf Club and Ball (below) is magical to me. Be sure to click these images to see them up close._dsc5104


A question I am frequently asked in regard to artwork is “How do I choose where a particular painting will be displayed?” When I select a painting in miniature for a particular setting, it can be for different reasons. Usually it has to do with the period of a vignette or the colors used in a room, which dictate the painting I will choose. Sometimes I will take a painting and build a scene around it . . . other times I will fill the room with furniture and then choose a painting that is compatible with the subject matter to help create ambiance. Leslie’s Apples and Grapes in a Pierced Bowl (left) after James Peale’s original, would easily add to any room, don’t you agree?




It seems so strange and wonderful to me that every painting finds its home exactly where it is supposed to be. I knew the portrait at your right, an egg tempera of Princess Alexandra by John Hodgson, was deserving of its own vignette in the Fine Arts Rotunda as soon as I saw it. Other paintings in the collection waited for their perfect spot for years. When I try different paintings in a certain location I always end up choosing one that completes the setting and I say to myself, “This painting was just waiting to be placed there. How incredible that it hasn’t been used in the past.” I seldom move paintings around as once they have found their spot I am very pleased with the results.

In my houses, room boxes and vignettes, it’s important to be able to convey a certain atmosphere. I like to say that these creations are my canvas and all of the miniatures that I collect are the palette or brush strokes that help me to realize the finished setting. The items that go into completing that setting are what make a house a home and make one feel comfortable looking at it. I have had visitors tell me that they would like to cross the thresholds of many a room and live in them. That is exactly what I visualize when I’m creating a setting. Is it warm and inviting? Are there interesting items that invite the viewer to make up an action story about this setting? Does it remind them of a time in their past or the present to which they can relate? The imagination can run wild! That is what I like to picture myself doing—moving into those specially created rooms and living in a miniature world.

dsc_0063Everything in the gallery is my favorite for one reason or another, but some of the more special paintings are copies of ones that we have in the museum or home. The 1/12-scale reproduction of Aaron Corwine’s self-portrait by Leslie is one that we use for teaching scale to students when they come into the gallery. It is in a setting along with the Harry Smith replica of a Mason County 1790s chest sitting just above its full-size counterpart. When we talk to visitors about the miniatures being one-twelfth the size of the original, they can see the relationship.

I have tried taking painting classes in miniature and while I enjoyed learning the techniques, it is not where my talent lies. It makes me appreciate more the talent of those who have chosen this field and I am in awe of their results in miniature. I think I will continue to enjoy taking what they have created to make my own special moment in time. I hope you can come to the gallery someday to see for yourself the hundreds of pieces of artwork reproduced in 1/12 scale by some of the most talented miniaturists in the world. You will certainly be amazed at the technique and skill and hopefully be moved by the beauty and historical significance.Kayesignature

Posted on November 1, 2016 in Collecting Miniatures