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Works by Mount Saint Mary's Alumnus to be Featured in Exhibit

Three works of art from the collection of Mount Saint Mary's College and Seminary have been loaned for an exhibition, "The Women of the Cornish Colony, Part II," at the Cornish Colony Gallery and Museum in Cornish, NH. The works are by renowned artist and Mount alumnus John LaFarge, who graduated from the college in 1853 and went on to a distinguished and influential career as a painter, watercolorist, and muralist, and whose landscapes, figures, and stained glass windows still adorn churches, colleges, museums, and private collections. LaFarge had a significant influence on the artists' colony in Cornish and taught some of its residents.

John LaFarge was born in 1835 in New York. When he was 15, his father sent him and his three younger brothers to what he felt was the more vigorous environment of a country school, Mt. St. Mary's. Upon graduation, LaFarge desultorily practiced law even after an 1856 trip to France and Germany, where he began to paint and draw in earnest. By 1860 he had abandoned the practice of law and devoted himself completely to art. He rocketed to fame in 1876 after his murals for Trinity Church in Boston were unveiled, and the next years were filled with commissions from individuals and institutions, including the Vanderbilts, William Whitney, James J. Hill, Henry Clay Frick, the United Congregational Church in Newport, Harvard University, Bowdoin College, and the Union League Club, St. Thomas Church, the Church of the Incarnation, and the Brick Presbyterian Church, all in New York. His collaborators included Augustus and Louis Saint-Gaudens, Henry Comfort Tiffany, and Stanford White. This was the great age of decorative arts, and LaFarge embodied its spirit, as he seamlessly blended art, architecture, and stained glass to create soaringly beautiful and inspiring spaces. LaFarge was the first to exploit the nuances and range of expression provided by opalescent glass, which was picked up and exploited commercially by Louis Comfort Tiffany. At his death in 1910, he was acknowledged as a Renaissance man and as America's only old master of still lifes, landscapes in watercolor and oil, stained glass, and decorative arts.

A former schoolmate and friend of LaFarge, Dr. Charles Carroll Lee, who graduated from the Mount in 1856 and practiced medicine in New York, compiled a collection of European and American artwork. In 1947, Dr. Lee's son, Washington cardiologist Dr. Thomas Sim Lee, donated his portion of his father's art collection to Mt. St. Mary's in his father's memory. The American works donated by Dr. Thomas Lee included two paintings and several drawings by John LaFarge. Three of these drawings will be part of the exhibit at the Cornish Colony Museum. The Nativity is a pen and ink study for two large murals flanking the altar in the Church of the Incarnation in New York, and consists of two panels framed in gold. LaFarge also painted a large mural of the Ascension of Christ for the altarpiece of the Church of the Ascension in New York, and a study for that work will also be on view. The museum will also be exhibiting a delicate watercolor of a mother and child, commissioned by Dr. Charles Carroll Lee in 1888.

The founding of the Cornish Colony dates to 1885, with the arrival of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. In the next few years, nearly 100 noted artists, writers, and thinkers joined him, drawn by the beautiful countryside and inspired by the idyllic views of the Connecticut River valley. These residents and visitors included Thomas and Maria Dewing, Stephen and Maxfield Parrish, Henry and Edith Prellwitz, Helen Farnsworth Mears, Frederic Remington, Isadora Duncan, John Singer Sargent, and future first ladies Ellen Axon Wilson and Edith Galt Wilson.

The exhibit will run from May 24 to October 26, 2003. The Cornish Colony Museum is located at "The Mastlands," about one-half mile south of the Plainfield/Cornish boundary on Route 12A, Maxfield Parrish Highway. The Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site is about two miles further south. During the exhibit, the museum will be open Tuesdays through Saturdays 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and on Sundays from noon to 5:00 PM. There is a fee for admission. For more information, call 603/675-6000.

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