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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.

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Monday, 28 October 2013

Boston Impressions

Saturday, October 28th., Boston.

The Puvis de Chavannes (blue going so well with marble) are the most beautiful things in America..

From the beginning, the intention was that the library's imposing grand staircase and loggia be decorated with murals. Thus it was decide to engage Puvis de Chavanne's's services. Convincing the aged painter to undertake the commission proved no easy task, but finally, on July 7, 1893, Puvis signed a contract for the murals that guaranteed him 250,000 francs, the equivalent of the then-unparalleled sum of $50,000. A year later, he began working on the Boston murals and asked for more detailed measurements. He also requested, and was sent, a sample of the marble to be used in the staircase so that he might harmonize his palette with the surrounding architecture. 

Puvis's oversized murals were executed on canvas in a specially designed studio at Neuilly. The Inspiring Muses was the first mural to be painted. It was exhibited at the Salon du Champs-de-Mars, then rolled and transported to Boston in October 1895, and finally mounted on the east wall of the loggia a month later. During the following year, the other eight panels were completed, exhibited in Paris, shipped, and installed. In fact, the artist himself never saw his works in situ. The arrival of the murals in Boston was met with much fanfare and celebration.

     Yesterday. Pre-revolutionary homes still occupied by same families at Cambridge.
     Auto-drive - continuation after public library. Parks. Fen-like park. Skirting Brookline - richest per capita. Mrs. Jack Gardner's house with a screen to cut off school.
     Women chauffeurs.
     Pleasure roads only.
     Yacht clubhouse overlooking old harbour. 4-masted schooner.
     Boston is a circular city repeated ad infinitum.
     Harbour 6-masters.
     Then vast wool warehouses.
     "Coffee and spices".
     Then circular streets. Elevated. Tram cars.
     Fearful racket.

     To Boston Yacht Club; in an old warehouse.
     Low ceilings - great beams.
     Extreme and splendid nauticality of this club.
     Wheel of Spray in which the regretted Slocum wafted himself around the world.
     Huge, square port-hole (faced with arm-chairs with great wide arms), across which ships are continually passing.

     The Boston Yacht Club was founded in 1866 by three Dartmouth alumni who sought a venue for yacht racing that would provide "that spirit of comradeship, of courtesy and chivalry, of sympathetic joy in a common sport". 90 original members began the club. In 1874 the first clubhouse was opened at City Point in South Boston, membership then numbering 250 with over 80 yachts. Through a series of club mergers, the Boston Yacht Club grew and, by 1910, the club operated from six different stations: Rowe's Wharf in Boston, Hull, City Point in South Boston, Marblehead, Dorchester, and Five Islands in Sheepscot Bay, Maine.

"Best thing about Boston is the 5 o'clock train to New York." (Thomson)
     I had no glimpse of real Bostonians, 'old Back Bay folks' who graduate between Beacon Street and State Street and Somerset Club and never go beyond. Confusing New England with the created universe.
     Navy Yard. Constitution built 1799. Roomy, much metal. 
     Then into Italian Quarter, curving tram-liney streets, cobbled; (Italian signs up and down), and so gradually into business quarter, which I saw yesterday with Corrigan: (all previous part of morning so different from this).         

Legend of Paul Revere floating like a mist through Italian streets.
     Paul Revere's signal church spire. (Closed because only 6 in congregation?)
     Old State House. Beautiful building. Massacre close by. Lion and Unicorn on the roof.
Boston is finished. Complete.

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