Nostalgia: Hiding in Plain Sight | The Fine Art of SPS

Discovering the hidden – and prominent – arts gems on campus . . . On a beautiful fall day, Arts Department Chair Colin Callahan led the Alumni Horae team on a walking tour of fine arts highlights at SPS. Among the gems Callahan shared are paintings, sculptures, mobiles, and a window. The pieces are scattered around the grounds, adding culture to building interiors and brightening the outdoors. They add to the beauty of the School in many ways and are symbols of St. Paul’s School’s commitment to the arts and arts education. Can you identify the locations of our hidden treasures? (See answer below.)

Photos: Sally Keating '72

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Porthole Portrait of George Washington 

Rembrandt Peale  (Oil on Canvas)

Maurice Roche (Form of 1905), 4th Baron Fermoy and the maternal grandfather of Diana, Princess of Wales, donated the Peale portrait to the School in 1917. The painting is one of several replicated by the artist as he tried to perfect the image of America’s first president. But it was Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of Washington that became the standard likeness of the president; it is the one featured on the $1 bill.

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A Marshy Landscape

George Inness (Oil on Canvas)

This landscape by noted nineteenth-century painter George Inness, who came of age in the era of the Hudson River School artists, was originally located in Hargate (now the Friedman Community Center). It disappeared over Anniversary Weekend 1995. A year later, in July 1996, SPS Safety Officer Glen Killam was watching a local news broadcast of a raid on the Londonderry, N.H., home of a young attorney, when he spotted the Inness painting among the dozens of stolen items being removed from the suspect’s house. The School was able to recover the painting and bring it back to Concord. The Inness painting was a gift from The Reverend Henry Martyn Saville of the Form of 1887.

A. Ohrstrom Library

B. Schoolhouse

C. Rectory

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The Castaways Await the Lifting of the Fog 

N.C. Wyeth (Oil on Canvas)

Wyeth’s painting, given to St. Paul’s in 1958, was created as an illustration for the 1874 Jules Verne novel The Mysterious Island, published by Scribner’s. The image is part of the St. Paul’s School Library Association collection.

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The Parable of the Mustard Seed

Hans Gottfried von Stockhausen (Stained Glass) 

Dedicated on May 12, 1988 (Ascension Day), the “Newest Window” was crafted to commemorate the 100th year of the Chapel of St. Peter and St. Paul – a 50th Anniversary gift from the Form of 1938. A German stained-glass artist, von Stockhausen became known for his painted glass representations of biblical and mythological stories. Rector Kelly Clark and his wife, Priscilla, visited von Stockhausen in the summer of 1987 to check on the window’s progress. The window’s theme is education and, according to an Independent Study of the Chapel windows done by David Fleishchner ’91, it “presents a view of one the patron saints of the School along with the symbols of the educational process here. There are three scenes portrayed: Paul’s conversion; the Sower, the Seed, and the Soil, and the Mustard Seed . . . students are encouraged to grow to their highest aspirations, from beginnings however small.”

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Death and Youth

Daniel Chester French (Marble)

Installed on January 26, 1929, sculptor Daniel Chester French’s majestic and sweeping Death and Youth, memorializes the 48 St. Paul’s School alumni who lost their lives in World War I. In 1924, the Joint Committee of Trustees and Alumni of St. Paul’s voted unanimously to accept a design by French, who was already well known for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. French’s design took the form of a massive, benevolent angel cradling a dying boy. His sword broken at the hilt, the youth has closed his eyes at the instant he passes from one life to the next. Little known to the general public because of its placement on a private school campus, generations of St. Paul’s students have been privileged to stand before it to consider the themes of heroism, leadership, and sacrifice. 

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Resting Moon

Joseph Wheelwright ’66 (Granite)

Presented to the School in 1995 by members of the Form of 1966, in honor of deceased formmates C. Grant, Jr., N. Gagarin, A. Saltus, and C. Warntz, Resting Moon is the work of Wheelwright, a Boston-based sculptor who maintained a deep appreciation for nature and the moon. Resting Moon (the “Moon Rock”), carved from granite, was intentionally dropped into the woods, so that walkers would come upon it and, eventually beat a path toward it. In a March 1995 letter of thanks for the artistic contribution to School grounds, then-Rector David Hicks congratulated Wheelwright on his work, writing, “It is quite fantastic and adds immeasurably to the mysteries and surprises in our woods.”

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Lizard Rock

Adrian Smith ’93 (Granite)

 

The “Lizard Rock” is a pleasant little surprise along the path that follows Library Pond behind Sheldon. Sculpted in place by Smith for a Sixth Form Independent Study Project (see profile, below), it has become an iconic piece of artwork for SPS community members and visitors. Determined to find on campus a stone that spoke to him, Smith settled on one that had a spine like a lizard and began carving each afternoon. Smith has gone on to a career as an artist, specializing in stone carving on slate. 

An ISP by Adrian Smith ’93, the “Lizard Rock” has become an SPS icon

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Left: Smith carved a pelican for his grandfather, Ethan
Allen Dennison '33. above: Carving Buddhas in Nepal.
Right: Relief carving a grasshopper in slate.

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 It turns out that the second sculpture Adrian Smith ’93 ever created (in his now more than two decades as a stone carver) is his most famous. It’s a little-known fact, but Smith holds the venerable status as the carver of the “Lizard Rock.” The playful stone creature can be found on the path behind Sheldon, its spiky back to Library Pond. Completed as a Sixth Form Independent Study Project, the Lizard Rock came to be as Smith scoured the campus for a stone that “spoke to me.” Smith was inspired by a large rock he spied by Library Pond, one with a spine that resembled, to his eye, a lizard. 

“It was that project,” Smith says, “that had an enduring influence on my life.” Though he studied environmental science at Middlebury, still contemplating the idea of a career as an artist, Smith continued to carve stone in the summers. Fresh out of college, he spent three years in Nepal, teaching English and completing an unplanned study of the artistic process with a master stone carver.

“After the lizard, I never stopped stone carving,” Smith tells Alumni Horae. “I learned to carve stone Buddhas in Nepal and now have a gallery on Martha’s Vineyard [Adrian Smith Stone Carving, www.stonesmith.org], where I show my work.” Hardly prolific, Smith laughs when recalling that he carved three pieces in three years during his initial time in Nepal. He now spends half of each year there, teaching, volunteering in earthquake relief efforts, and admiring the stone temples that cascade across the landscape of the South Asian country. 

Smith grew up in an artistic family. His father was an architect, who entertained his children (including Isabel Smith Margulies ’94) with drawings on napkins. Adrian’s favorite teachers through his schooling years were always the ones who taught art. No matter where he turned, art always seemed to be there. These days, Smith’s preferred carving surface is slate, a stone he finds more consistent. His creations range from custom headstones to carvings of wildlife, including lobsters, fish, and crabs inspired by his Atlantic Ocean surroundings. He has a particular affinity for making images of birds, with a fondness for the texture of their feathers carved into the slate. He also holds dear a carving he made of a pelican for his grandfather, Ethan Allen Dennison '33, completed near the end of the older man’s life as a thank you for introducing Adrian to St. Paul’s. 

Ironically, the one thing Smith has not carved since his SPS days is another lizard. Though the first of his two stones carved at St. Paul’s was an alligator head (he found a rock that resembled one), he insists he has since evolved. “That was it for reptiles,” he says. “I’ve been moving up the evolutionary ladder ever since.”

When Smith decided to complete an ISP in his Sixth Form spring, he said he was “fascinated with Michelangelo’s idea of ‘liberating the figure imprisoned within the stone.’” As his adviser, former longtime faculty member Tim Miller approved of both the rock and the location selected by his student, and Smith got to work, spending the majority of afternoons in the spring of 1993 carving his lizard stone in place, along the banks of Library Pond. “The department had no carbide-tipped chisels,” he recalls. “Each afternoon, I pounded all the steel chisels the School had until they were blunt, and then ground them to points for the next day.” 

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The then 18-year-old Smith received compliments and inquisitive stares and questioning from the grounds crew as he chipped away at his reptilian creation. Now, as he approaches his 25th SPS Anniversary, Smith is pleased to know of the Lizard Rock’s iconic status at St. Paul’s School. “One of the things that has always attracted me to stone carving is the enduring legacy of it,” Smith says. He’s proud that faculty children sometimes “feed” offerings to the lizard, from pine cones to sticks and leaves. “To this day, that remains the greatest compliment to the work.”

 Snow on East Bank   Neil Welliver   (Oil on Canvas)   Painted in 1981, this large (96 x 96) oil painting was donated to the School by E.B. Smith ’62. Welliver was best known for his large-scale landscape paintings, inspired by the deep woods near his home in Belfast, Maine. With its placement on the second floor of Ohrstrom Library, the painting faces the School’s own natural oasis, which likely would have inspired the artist.

Snow on East Bank

Neil Welliver (Oil on Canvas)

Painted in 1981, this large (96 x 96) oil painting was donated to the School by E.B. Smith ’62. Welliver was best known for his large-scale landscape paintings, inspired by the deep woods near his home in Belfast, Maine. With its placement on the second floor of Ohrstrom Library, the painting faces the School’s own natural oasis, which likely would have inspired the artist.

 Large Calder Mobile   Alexander Calder   (Sheet Metal)   Given to the School by the family of Nicholas Gagarin ’66, this piece is the larger of the School’s two Calder mobiles. The artist was renowned for his development of sculptures of discrete movable parts, including freestanding, open-air metal sculptures, designed to move with the wind. Calder’s mobiles were made of sheet metal and metal rods, intended to be kinetic, movable, playful, and colorful. This piece was created in 1968, during a period of transition for Calder, who increasingly began producing monumental sculptures.

Large Calder Mobile

Alexander Calder (Sheet Metal)

Given to the School by the family of Nicholas Gagarin ’66, this piece is the larger of the School’s two Calder mobiles. The artist was renowned for his development of sculptures of discrete movable parts, including freestanding, open-air metal sculptures, designed to move with the wind. Calder’s mobiles were made of sheet metal and metal rods, intended to be kinetic, movable, playful, and colorful. This piece was created in 1968, during a period of transition for Calder, who increasingly began producing monumental sculptures.

 Educating the World   Romero Britto   (Digital Print on Canvas)   This brightly colored print was donated to the School in 2016 by Lincoln Cheng ’66 to provide color and lively artwork to the walls of the newly christened Friedman Community Center. Britto is a Brazilian neo-pop artist, who combines “elements of cubism, pop art, and graffiti painting in his work, using vibrant colors and bold patterns as a visual expression of hope and happiness.” The Friedman Community Center, as the new hub of community life at the School, is the perfect location for Britto’s work to be on display.

Educating the World

Romero Britto (Digital Print on Canvas)

This brightly colored print was donated to the School in 2016 by Lincoln Cheng ’66 to provide color and lively artwork to the walls of the newly christened Friedman Community Center. Britto is a Brazilian neo-pop artist, who combines “elements of cubism, pop art, and graffiti painting in his work, using vibrant colors and bold patterns as a visual expression of hope and happiness.” The Friedman Community Center, as the new hub of community life at the School, is the perfect location for Britto’s work to be on display.

 Plode   John Bisbee   (Galvanized Steel)    Plode  (as in explode) is a modern, natural piece, commissioned through a gift to the School by former trustee Catherine Blaffer Taylor to welcome visitors to the Athletic and Fitness Center. It was installed along the path leading to the building in 2013 to capture the energy and dynamism of the athletic activities associated with the building. The large gaps between the pine-cone-resembling spiked orbs are intended to collect the debris scattered by Mother Nature, whether leaves, snow, or bird nests. The sculpture is made of 24 one-foot spheres in two tons worth of 12' galvanized spiral-shank spikes. It took five men on the ground, including the artist, and one operating a forklift to assemble the piece.

Plode

John Bisbee (Galvanized Steel)

Plode (as in explode) is a modern, natural piece, commissioned through a gift to the School by former trustee Catherine Blaffer Taylor to welcome visitors to the Athletic and Fitness Center. It was installed along the path leading to the building in 2013 to capture the energy and dynamism of the athletic activities associated with the building. The large gaps between the pine-cone-resembling spiked orbs are intended to collect the debris scattered by Mother Nature, whether leaves, snow, or bird nests. The sculpture is made of 24 one-foot spheres in two tons worth of 12' galvanized spiral-shank spikes. It took five men on the ground, including the artist, and one operating a forklift to assemble the piece.

 Turkey Pond Mural   Colin Callahan   (Oil on Canvas)   In 2008, Arts Department Head Colin Callahan made it possible for SPS rowers to feel like they’re on Turkey Pond – even when they are not. Callahan’s panoramic mural of Turkey Pond, dedicated to longtime SPS crew coach Chip Morgan, adorns three sides of the ergometer room in the Athletic and Fitness Center, making students feel like they are rowing down the slot of Turkey Pond. Members of the SPS Facilities team created the boards and giant mounts, while Pete Cole ’91, president of Gamblin Artist’s Colors, helped defray costs on the high-quality oil paints Callahan used. Using his own digital photos to depict nearly every angle of the Turkey Pond course, Callahan applied Gesso to prepare the surface for the paint on each of the 12 panels, measuring roughly 3' x 2' to 3' x 10'. On close inspection, the murals reveal many details usually reserved for the rowers’-eye-view, including the 1,500-, 1,000-, and 500-meter marks.

Turkey Pond Mural

Colin Callahan (Oil on Canvas)

In 2008, Arts Department Head Colin Callahan made it possible for SPS rowers to feel like they’re on Turkey Pond – even when they are not. Callahan’s panoramic mural of Turkey Pond, dedicated to longtime SPS crew coach Chip Morgan, adorns three sides of the ergometer room in the Athletic and Fitness Center, making students feel like they are rowing down the slot of Turkey Pond. Members of the SPS Facilities team created the boards and giant mounts, while Pete Cole ’91, president of Gamblin Artist’s Colors, helped defray costs on the high-quality oil paints Callahan used. Using his own digital photos to depict nearly every angle of the Turkey Pond course, Callahan applied Gesso to prepare the surface for the paint on each of the 12 panels, measuring roughly 3' x 2' to 3' x 10'. On close inspection, the murals reveal many details usually reserved for the rowers’-eye-view, including the 1,500-, 1,000-, and 500-meter marks.

 Small Calder Mobile   Alexander Calder  (Sheet Metal)   It’s the story behind the smaller of the two Calder mobiles in the School’s collection that makes it most intriguing. During a visit to Calder’s Connecticut studio with legendary SPS arts faculty member Bill Abbé in their Sixth Form year, members of the Form of 1957 selected the small, hanging mobile from the artist’s collection and presented it as a class gift to the School. When the new gallery is complete next year, the smaller Calder mobile will move into that new space, making it more accessible for community viewing.

Small Calder Mobile

Alexander Calder(Sheet Metal)

It’s the story behind the smaller of the two Calder mobiles in the School’s collection that makes it most intriguing. During a visit to Calder’s Connecticut studio with legendary SPS arts faculty member Bill Abbé in their Sixth Form year, members of the Form of 1957 selected the small, hanging mobile from the artist’s collection and presented it as a class gift to the School. When the new gallery is complete next year, the smaller Calder mobile will move into that new space, making it more accessible for community viewing.

Answer Key

Porthole Portrait of George Washington: Schoolhouse; A Marshy Landscape: Schoolhouse; The Castaways: Rectory; The Parable of the Mustard Seed: Chapel of St. Peter and St. Paul; Death and Youth: Chapel of St. Peter and St. Paul; Resting Moon: Woods along Lower School Pond; Lizard Rock: Path along Library Pond; Snow on East Bank: Ohrstrom Library; Large Calder Mobile: Exterior, Friedman Community Center; Educating the World: Friedman Community Center; Plode: Exterior, Athletic and Fitness Center; Turkey Pond Mural: Ergometer Room, Athletic and Fitness Center; Small Calder Mobile: Gates Lounge, Athletic and Fitness Center