Monadnock In Winter: William Preston Phelps

Monadnock From Stone Pond - Wm. Preston Phelps

Monadnock From Stone Pond – Wm. Preston Phelps

“Phelps, during a visit some 2-3 years before he reacquired his homestead, saw the mountain (Monadnock) through new eyes, and was to be excited and inspired by what he saw. Here were the things he had known from boyhood, which had grown into his soul, and which though they had laid dormant for years had awakened to vigorous life. From that moment he worked under the influence of a new inspiration. He studied the mountain with eyes of a lover. In sunshine and shadow, in storm and in calm he watched and noted and painted.”

Had a nice visit to the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester the other day, including a chance to see one of the original, iconic renderings of one of the most-painted mountains in the world. “Mount Monadnock from Stone Pond” was painted c. 1900 by William Preston Phelps, (1848-1923), New Hampshire native and the “painter of Monadnock.”

Suddenly coming face-to-face with Phelps’s work at the Currier was a pleasant surprise: White Mountain Art and Artists proclaims: “Mount Monadnock from Stone Pond is among the finest known examples of Phelp’s work.   It survives in excellent condition and exemplifies the fine technique and refined aesthetic sensibility that are the hallmarks of his best works.”

And it seems appropriate to note during this especially hard winter that this exceptionally hardy (if troubled) Yankee preferred this season above all others to pursue his art, according to the fascinating biography by Edie Clark on the excellent Monadnock Art website:

Preston was especially fond of painting in winter, which was a cold and forbidding endeavor. To make himself comfortable, he built a traveling studio that could be transported on horse-drawn sled or wagon. The shelter was equipped with easel, paints, canvas, and a small oil stove. This enabled him to work outdoors for long periods of time. Though the summer seasons would have permitted him to work outdoors with less of an encumbrance, it’s interesting that so many of his canvases capture the mountain in the winter, in ice, in snow, the afternoon light casting pink shadows onto the blueish snow.

The whole story is worth a read, which includes the sorry tale of what Phelps considered to be his true masterpiece, which could not be farther removed from snowy New England landscapes:  A massive (7′ x 12′)  1886 painting of the Grand Canyon, that he painted on location, as was his habit.   The painting has been lost to fate, but remarkably, just a month ago a 9″ x 12″ Phelps Grand Canyon study turned up on eBay, claiming: “This particular one may well be the only surviving work of the Canyon by Phelps. A “plein aire” painter, he took huge canvases into the open, and built shelters around them to complete his landscapes on site.”   And fetched a tidy $7500…

A Phelps Pfind?

A Phelps Pfind?

On the Road – PRPD, Digital Lincoln, and Cuban Jazz


PHILADELPHIA – All quiet on the blog front lately, thanks to a combination of travel, deadlines, and Harpers Ferry business. But I’ve been saving up a lot of thoughts to share about the PRPD Conference last week in Minneapolis (PRPD stands for Public Radio Program Directors, now the biggest confab in pubradio) and some recent Nooze of the World (Radiohead’s “free” downloads, for starters). And there will doubtless be lots to share about the next couple of days here in Philly, where I’m a guest of the Rosenbach Museum and Library. They’re a fascinating operation with some interesting and varied stuff in their collection, including the Maurice Sendak Gallery (which for copyright-CYA reasons are not snapped for this blog but you can see them here).

Anyway, I’m in town to brainstorm with them about another significant part of their collection – a huge troves of materials around the 16th U.S. American President – Honest Abe’s letters, speeches, and other writings. The Rosenbach is looking to create a “Digital Community” based on the life story, ideas and words of Lincoln. That’s what I know so far, at least. Can’t wait to roll up the sleeves and dig in….once the effects of the Non-Dairy Creamer wear off…

Oh, and Cuban Jazz….this is also a blog about music, remember? One of the highlights of the Twin Cities trip was a visit to the excellent – and somewhat renowned – Dakota Jazz Club (in the bottom floor of the massive Target headquarters) to hear the Cuban emigre Nachito Herrera. All the ingredients for a Great Night Out..excellent company with co-owner Lowell Pickett, and WBGO Jazz 88 PD Thurston Briscoe, an outstanding meal, and Nechito’s wizardry on a variety of keyboards, rollicking through an oh-so-Cubano charged night of rhythm and moods, ranging from light classical to Heavy Weather. One of the many highlights: hearing Nechito accompanying his 16-year old daughter in a lights-out rendition of Besame Mucho. Mucho indeed!

If You’re Going To San Francisco….


…Flowers in your hair are no longer necessary (what, you don’t remember the song by Scott McKenzie?), but do make a point to check out the History of Audio exhibit in Terminal Three (mostly United Airlines gates). Word has it that it was put there to coincide with the AES convention last October, and it runs through the end of this month. So maybe I’m the last to find out about it. But if you are even remotely interested in how sounds to us over the radio, television, in movie theatres, and our homes, it’s absolutely terrific. Of course, also a trip down memory lane for the RoeDeo (Dr. Wizard dryly noted that it was a slightly more organized version of what’s lying around in the attic), with (mostly accurate) biographies and photos from the Golden Age of Hi-Fi, and earlier, including such luminaries as Lee De Forest, FM Radio inventor Edwin Armstrong, Henry Kloss, Edgar Villchur of AR fame,



Ray Dolby, and the brilliant English visionary Alan Blumlein.
And the “stuff,” of course: (grabbed from the SFO website:)

One hundred and thirty years of audio inventions are on display—from Thomas Edison’s first sound recorder, to systems that produce theater-quality sound in your home and digital players that put a thousand songs in your pocket. The importance of sound in our lives is evident in the many inventions that are closely associated with the generation that enjoyed them—the Victrola, the hi-fi stereo system, the eight-track player, the Walkman, and presently, the iPod. The only constant is change, and as the development of sound technology continues, one day even the iPod will seem as quaint as a wind-up gramophone.


My favorites included a 1946 “disc cutter” for making your own home 78s (in case you thought a DVD burner was a new idea!), a vintage 8-track tape recorder, and, from 1956, an early Ampex 2″ video tape machine bought by CBS and in use for decades. The thing looks bulletproof. And the piece de resistance: An original
“Highway Hi-Fi” for playing records in your brand-new 1956 Chrysler – replete with a photo of a beaming Lawrence Welk using one in his new Hemi ragtop. Priceless.