Principle Gallery and Alexandria’s Rich History

When you make a visit to Old Town Alexandria, and to Principle Gallery in particular, you are walking in the footsteps of some of early America’s most historically significant figures. We are amazed and humbled to be immersed in the area’s vibrant history in this way, and we’re incredible excited to share with you a brief piece written by Edward Moser, historian, author, and operator of Tours of Old Town. Please enjoy! See the end of the post for links to both Edward’s tours and his two books!


The Principle Gallery and Alexandria’s Rich History
by Edward Moser

The Principle Gallery is in the middle of everything an art, architecture, and history lover could want.

Just down King Street from it is the Torpedo Factory, a World War One, and Two, munitions factory now transformed into artist studios where visitors can watch sculptors and painters conjure up their creations in their own places of work. Across King St. from it is the imposing tobacco and ship sail warehouse, now a Starbuck’s, of George Washington’s military aide, Colonel John Fitzgerald. He and George co-endowed the nearby St. Mary’s Church, the first Catholic cathedral in the American South, and resting place of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution.

A half block up King St. is the tourist information center, once the house of Alexandria magnate William Ramsey. He moved this former mansion by barge along what was then the Potomac River, now King St. landfill, and deposited his abode by crane at that spot! Across the street is the Market Square and City Hall, designed by Benjamin Latrobe, the architect of the original U.S. Capitol Building. Except for its far side, which burned down in 1871, and was rebuilt by Adolph Cluss, the architect of D.C.’s Smithsonian Castle and the National Portrait Gallery. At the meeting hall of City Hall, George Mason dreamed up something called the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Across from it is the Carlyle House mansion, the real-life setting of the recent Civil War-era TV series, Mercy Street.

Then there’s the Principle Gallery itself, built and inhabited by another colonel of Washington’s revolutionary Army, George Gilpin. He was something of a Renaissance Man. Just before the Revolution he served on the local Committee of Public Safety, the Virginia equivalent of the Minutemen militia. He fought with valor at the major battle of Germantown, Pennsylvania, around the time of Valley Forge.

After the war he helped run the port of Alexandria, then one of the nation’s busiest, and backed Washington’s plans to build a canal from Georgetown to Alexandria, the Potomack Canal, later the C&O. He was a member of Washington’s masonic lodge, now marked by the soaring George Washington Masonic National Memorial at the other end of King St. President Thomas Jefferson appointed him as a court officer involved in aiding the town’s widows and orphans.

Gilpin was part of the effort to lay the boundary stones of the new capital city of Washington, which until 1846 included the town of Alexandria. One of these stones, laid by African-American surveyor Benjamin Bannecker, remains near the Wilson Bridge one mile to the south. Also a farmer, Gilpin sold G.W. the tons of corn he used for his whiskey distillery, recently reconstructed, at Mount Vernon, and also was the largest single purchaser of the spirits.

Most importantly, Gilpin was a cousin of a wealthy, charming, and keenly intelligent widow, Martha Dandridge Custis—and introduced her to George Washington, her future husband. George Gilpin and George Washington were friends for decades: G.W. would often dine and stay over at the Gilpin house. Gilpin was one of six pallbearers at Washington’s funeral, held at the imposing Christ Church a few blocks from here. That lovely English country church was designed by James Wren, a relative of Christopher Wren, the architect of London’s St Paul’s Cathedral.

The Gilpins and the Washingtons, as Virginia gentry, had fine tastes in the fine arts, and that tradition is proudly carried on by the Principle Gallery. If you like art and history, take the time to explore the historic and finely crafted Colonial and Federal era town homes and public buildings of Old Town. Then come inside our gallery to partake even more in the finer things in life.

Moonlit Night over Old Town Alexandria, VA by Craig Hudson Photography


Ed Moser is the operator of Tours of Old Town, found at meetup.com– click here for more information!

Ed is also the author of “A Patriot’s A to Z of America: Things Every Good American Should Know,” and “The Two-Term Jinx!: Why Most Presidents Stumble in Their Second Terms, and How Some Succeed- Volume 1, George Washington- Theodore Roosevelt.” Click on either title to purchase from Amazon!

Technique Tuesday: Surrealism

What is it?

Today we’re covering a fun topic that we’ve touched on somewhat before: Surrealism! Surrealism is an artistic and cultural movement that originated in Paris in the 1920’s, and established a genre that artists are still exploring today. The art historical movements of the early twentieth century are truly fascinating, but as this is just a blog post, I’ll do my best to give a brief explanation of Surrealism’s nascence. Following the first World War, an especially brutal experience for many countries around the world, a generation of both civilians and former soldiers were left disillusioned and emotionally scarred. Reality, which art had for so long sought after so desperately, was suddenly quite painful, and the opportunity to step back from that and explore a different, more internal world appealed to many creatives during this time. The field of psychology was also rapidly growing, and the theories of famous psychologists like Sigmund Freud, such as notions of the subconscious mind and dream analysis, were becoming widely known. Several French artists and writers were inspired by the idea that the subconscious contained answers to fix the broken world around them, and that representation of these ideas, so different from reality, could jar society out of some of the long-held beliefs and structures that had led to such damage. Therefore, these writers and artists began to create bizarre, illogical scenes that evoked aspects of dreams and un-reality and elements such as odd juxtaposition, strange changes of scale, and elements of pure fantasy.

Examples from art history:

One of the names that comes to everyone’s mind when Surrealism is mentioned is Salvador Dalí. Dalí was an eccentric Spanish painter whose combination of excellent, classically-based draftsmanship and bizarre, unsettling imagery has had a lasting impact on artists even today. Below are a few of Dalí’s best-known Surrealist works:

(left to right) Salvador Dalí, “Swans Reflecting Elephants,” “Caravan,” “The Persistence of Memory”

Many other artists, including writers, photographers, filmmakers, and musicians took part in the Surrealist movement, but the work of the Surrealist painters is what has arguably made the most lasting cultural impact. Here are a few more examples from artists Max Ernst and Rene Magritte:

(left to right) Max Ernst, “Napoleon in the Wilderness,” “The Elephant Celebes”; Rene Magritte, “The Lovers,” “Golconda”

While some Surrealist painters, like Ernst and Dalí, created images that were more fantastical, some, like Rene Magritte, painted oddly familiar, ordinary looking scenes that had a major twist to them, and often an unsettling one. This is one of the aims of Surrealism–to get you to think differently! For instance, we know that a mirror reflects what is in front of it, but what if that reality was twisted a bit? Well, this is a concept that has inspired some Principle Gallery artists, too!

(left) Rene Magritte, “Not to Be Reproduced”, (right) Louise Fenne, “Mirror Portrait No. 2”

Examples from Principle Gallery:

(left to right) Michele Kortbawi Wilk, “Who’s Afraid,” Laura E. Pritchett, “Projection,” Francis Livingston, “Mating Season”

Elements of Surrealism pop up in the work that we carry here at Principle Gallery, and it’s always a thrill to see the creativity these artists are expressing, as well as the reaction from the viewers. There are two artists who show primarily at our Charleston, South Carolina location who use elements of Surrealism quite often in their work– Karen Hollingsworth and Anna Wypych! Click any collage to see it larger!

(left to right) Karen Hollingsworth, “Depth,” “Voyagers,” “No Boundaries”

 

(left to right) Anna Wypych, “Sea Color,” “Steely Eyes,” “Giant Girl”

Check out these artists, and many more, on the website for Principle Gallery Charleston!

 

by Pamela Sommer

Root to Bloom Opening Reception

After months of promotion, nearly a thousand submitted artworks, and tons of preparation, we finally held the opening reception for the juried exhibition “Root to Bloom: The Places Artists Call Home” last Friday evening. With over 70 artists included in the show, we were hoping that a few would be able to join us for the evening–and we received a huge and pleasant surprise! Over 40 of the included artists joined us to celebrate the show opening on Friday, and between the artists, their friends and family, and the gallery’s circle of collectors and friends, it was quite the bash!

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Earlier that day, Meg Aiken was awarded the Social Media Choice Award for all of the votes on her painting, “Home Away from Home.” Friday evening, Victoria Kilcullen of Christie’s International Real Estate presented a Christie’s-sponsored award to Carl Ahlman for his landscape, titled “View.”

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(left) Meg Aiken, “Home Away from Home”; (right) Carl Ahlman, “View”

Gallery director Clint Mansell then handed out the awards and cash prizes for the top three paintings in the show, which included Kerry Dunn’s “3w4e44455555eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” in first place, Corey Pitkin’s “Groundhog’s Day” in second place, and Christine Lashley’s “Yellow and Gold” winning third place.

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(left) Kerry Dunn, “3w4e44455555eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee”; (middle) Corey Pitkin, “Groundhog’s Day”; Christine Lashley, “Yellow and Gold”

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Principle Gallery offers its sincere thanks to everyone who participated in this amazing exhibition, and to all those who attended the incredible reception on Friday. If you haven’t yet had a chance to see Root to Bloom in person yet, be sure to stop by! The exhibition will be hanging through the end of November. If you can’t come by in person, please enjoy the digital preview on our website here!

Principle Gallery staff with guest juror Teresa Oaxaca

Principle Gallery staff with guest juror Teresa Oaxaca

Congratulations!

It’s springtime! The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming…and the Portrait Society of America is announcing its yearly award winners! We are just weeks away from the PSOA annual conference, and thrilled to share that several Principle Gallery artists have been selected as finalists or received certificates of excellence their annual International Portrait Competition!

So here’s a big congratulations to Mia Bergeron and Gavin Glakas, whose paintings (“Harborer,” and “A Look Into the Setting Sun,” respectively) were awarded Certificates of Excellence in the competition!

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(left) Mia Bergeron, “Harborer”; (right) Gavin Glakas, “A Look Into the Setting Sun”

We’d also like to extend a huge congratulations to Susan O’Neill and Casey Childs, both of whom are finalists in the competition! Below are the artworks that earned them this honor:

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(left) Casey Childs, “Phylis Vandernaald”; (right) Susan O’Neill, “Lissome”

The Portrait Society’s annual conference is in Reston, VA this year, and will take place April 14-17, so to all the attendees, Principle Gallery offers a warm welcome to our neck of the woods!

There have been several other Principle Gallery artists making a splash lately as well! Congratulations to Valerio D’Ospina on his recent feature in Design Milk (click here to check it out!), Geoffrey Johnson on making the cover of the May American Art Collector issue (see it here!), and to Jorge Alberto, who just had a painting accepted to the 2016 International Juried Show of Contemporary Trompe l’Oeil and Still Life to be held at The John F. Peto Studio Museum in Island Heights, NJ!

We are so proud and thrilled to work with such a talented group of artists! Keep up the amazing work, everyone!

Perspective of a Model

Perspective of a Model

Following Friday night’s demo with Teresa Oaxaca we asked our lovely intern Barbara to share her experience as a model for Teresa. Here is what she had to say.

My favorite part about interning at Principle is the rare glance into an artist’s creative world. You can read up on their background or ask them about their techniques, but I think that an artist’s process is too personal and particular to try to comprehend. This past Friday though, I got a pretty cool glimpse into that world—by modeling for Teresa Oaxaca at Principle’s live demo. This was the first time I’ve ever modeled for anyone and it was definitely a daunting job. I wasn’t sure if I could sit in a chair for two and a half hours, and maintain the same expression and stare throughout. Though I was a little stiff the next day, I’m so glad I decided to model for Teresa.

Visitors watch Teresa work.

I remember entering her name into the gallery’s inventory and uploading her work onto the website. Then, she was just a name associated with some amazing paintings, but such close exposure to Teresa in her element made me realize that artists are normal people. They have their individual practices and preferences—some like to eat sushi before they work and some line up their paintbrushes in a specific order. I used to think of an artist’s vision as intangible, something I couldn’t recognize without a textbook’s explanation. But in watching Teresa work, I saw that vision unfold: it was in her quick dabbing on the palette, in her rocking back and forth behind the easel, and maybe even in my own posture and expression. That’s why I think demos are such a valuable, interesting experience. You get this unique exposure to artwork as a cumulative product of the artist and their surrounding atmosphere. And then that seemingly mysterious and foreign process of an artist becomes a little more relatable.

Teresa's work develops over 25 minute intervals.

I hope you enjoyed my perspective of modeling for Teresa. I would highly recommend coming to Principle’s next demo so you too can get a glimpse into an artist’s creative process. The next one features Robert Liberace and is on May 29th at 6:00-9pm. Below are links to the Facebook event and to the gallery’s website.

Michele, Pam,  Jessica, Barbara, Teresa, and Clint.

Robert’s Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1451121928514100/

Principle’s website:http://www.principlegallery.com/Alexandria

Happy National Ice Cream Day!

In 1984, President Reagan declared July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday in July as National Ice Cream Day. This year, we’re celebrating National Ice Cream Day by sharing some delicious works by Francis Livingston newly arrived at the gallery.

Having worked frequently in illustration toward the beginning of his career, Francis Livingston took on many interesting projects. During this time, a San Francisco design company approached him with an idea to use his artwork on the packaging for Dreyer’s ice cream. The experience of painting a wide variety of flavors of ice cream for this project introduced Francis to the great fun of the subject matter, and years later he began to incorporate ice cream into his gallery work. He’s even had a whole exhibition of his ice cream paintings!

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Blue Berry 12×9 oil on panel

Francis’s work has been featured on packaging of several types, including that of wine, teas, and even a flavor of Grey Goose vodka! While the artwork he creates for galleries is primarily focused on cityscapes, Francis continues to paint ice cream as well. Though he originally worked from photographs when painting for the Dreyer’s packaging, and always works from a photograph in his cityscapes, Francis has now found that ice cream is a subject that he prefers to paint from imagination. The process of choosing colors, cones, numbers of scoops, and toppings is a whimsical creative outlet, and Francis admits that ice cream is the most fun for him of anything he paints. As if ice cream weren’t already a tempting enough treat, Francis’s lush paint strokes, refreshing colors, and creamy texture make the ice cream in these paintings all the more delectable –it’s difficult to look at these works and resist celebrating this holiday by enjoying some ice cream ourselves!

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Short & Tall 12×9, oil on panel

Be sure to check out more work from Francis Livingston by clicking here!

“Life” by Scott Christensen

Sometimes a painting will come to the gallery and will elicit the same response from nearly every visitor when they first view it. In the case of “Life,” by Scott Christensen, that reaction is, “WOW.”

Below is the work, in all its beautiful framed glory, with Asher the gallery dog helping out as a reference for scale.

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This grand, atmospheric landscape of the Georgia marshlands measures an impressive 70 inches by 70 inches, and that’s without the frame! The stunningly beautiful handcrafted wooden frame surrounding the painting brings its total dimensions to about 82 x 82. The stately and colossal nature of the work is just part of its incredible attraction.

The composition itself is lovely and carefully created, as is typical of Scott’s artwork. An instructor as well as a painter, Scott regularly emphasizes the importance of careful composition. His nuanced and wisely restrained color palette has also contributed to his status as one of America’s most respected and renowned landscape painters. “Life” is an excellent example of these qualities in Scott’s art, as the hushed color palette and inviting composition (especially at this large scale) create a mesmerizing effect on the viewer. Frequently-heard descriptors from viewers include words like poetic, ethereal, atmospheric, moody, magical, spellbinding, breathtaking, hauntingly beautiful, romantic, soft, serene– the list goes on and on.

When she saw the piece in Charleston, artist and blogger Barbara Stroud wrote a blog post about “Life” in which she said in praise, “I’m not kidding you when I say we walked into the room and stopped in our tracks. This painting is a stunner.” (You can read more here!) Formerly the M Gallery of Art, Principle Gallery Charleston originally showed this beauty, but we now have the honor of displaying it at our Alexandria gallery! For those of you near enough to us to visit, be assured that “Life” is one of those pieces that, while lovely in photographs, is worth enjoying in its full glory in person.

You can check out a cool video Scott Christensen made of the stages of progress on this work here!