Newport: The City as a Work of Art Lecture SERIES SUBSCRIPTION

October 26, 2021 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm Griswold House

Fall lecture series with Architectural Historian John R. Tschirch

Writers and artists through the ages have created a portrait of Newport through poetry, prose, paint and photographs. They have both recorded and reimagined the city in fact and in fiction, in the process leaving both a historical record and a body of work contributing to making Newport a mythic place. This series of illustrated lectures is based on John Tschirch’s recent book, Newport: The Artful City, which examines the buildings, landscapes and historic districts through the eyes of renowned authors, painters, photographers and illustrators who were inspired by Newport, using its places and people as characters in their own works.

This series of lectures will take place at the Museum on four consecutive Tuesday evenings this fall beginning Tuesday, October 26, 2021. Subscribe to the full series here, or visit each lecture’s event page for tickets to individual lecture dates.

Each lecture will be followed by Q&A with John Tschirch, sale and book signing of Newport: The Artful City, and refreshments on the Museum porch.

Masks must be worn indoors regardless of vaccination status.

THIS JUST IN! Subscribers and ticket holders will have access to virtual livestreams and lecture recordings! 

Lecture I: "Landmarks: Great Sites as the Illustrator’s Dream and the Writer’s Muse"

Tuesday, October 26, 6pm

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Emma Lazarus mythologized the time-worn sites of Newport in their poetry and the illustrators of Harper's Magazine featured places of interest for that new breed of person, the Victorian sightseer. All of these artists secured the city’s reputation as a historic place to be explored and venerated.

Lecture II: "Arcadia: Rocky Coves and Wooded Groves"

Tuesday, November 2, 6pm

The natural features of Newport’s landscape have inspired writers from Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry James to Kurt Vonnegut, all of whom explored the emotional journeys of their characters against the backdrop of cliffs, coves, meadows and orchards. Artists such as John Frederick Kensett, William Trost Richards and Christo and Jean Claude explored the light and natural formations of Newport’s coast and countryside, interpreting these in their own way for their own age.

Lecture III: "Oldport: The Romancing of the Colonial City"

Tuesday, November 9, 6pm

While the Industrial Revolution sped along at full force in the mid-19th century, the colonial districts of Newport appeared to be lost in time, until discovered and celebrated by artists such as the writer Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who used it as the setting for his fictional city of Oldport, and architect Charles McKim, who commissioned an extraordinary series of photographs of the 18th century architecture of the Point, Historic Hill and Thames Street.

Lecture IV: "The Nine Cities: Newport Layer by Layer"

Tuesday, November 16, 6pm

By the early 20th century, Newport presented a complex, many layered urban scene. Colonial, Victorian and Gilded Age buildings made up a remarkable architectural heritage. The impressionist painter Childe Hassam immortalized 18th century buildings, the pioneering photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston captured Gilded Age houses, and the writer Thornton Wilder used the city’s many layers, which he referred to as the “Nine Cities” to craft a heroic, and often-times comic and tragic, journey through Newport.

About John Tschirch

John Tschirch is an award-winning architectural historian, writer, and photographer. He has recently published Newport: The Artful City (Giles Ltd. London, 2020) for which he received a 2021 Victorian Society in America Book Award. His career in the preservation and study of historic landmarks and landscapes across the globe has led him on treks to French chateaux, English castles, Italian villas, Austrian palaces, Croatian fortresses, Argentinian mansions, and the Gilded Age houses of America. In recognition of his service to historic preservation, he was inducted as an Honorary Member of the Garden Club of America and received the 2013 Frederick C. Williamson Professional Leadership Award from the Rhode Island State Historic Preservation and Heritage Commission.

About Newport: The Artful City

Newport: The Artful City is a richly illustrated portrait of Newport, Rhode Island as a work of urban art, from colonial times to the present, both documented and celebrated in the maps, paintings, photographs, poetry and prose of renowned artists and writers.  It includes essays by David J. Silverman, Professor of History, George Washington University, Edward E Andrews, Associate Professor of History and Classics, Providence College, and Eileen Warburton, Independent Scholar.

As one of the most historically intact cities in North America, Newport has a cultural and architectural heritage of national significance. Each of the city’s districts has its own distinct character with street plans and buildings revealing the political, religious, commercial and artistic forces that have shaped Newport through the ages. Stately Colonial squares and bustling wharves, picturesque Victorian villas and scenic drives, opulent Gilded Age palaces for the few and electric streetcars for the many, and preservation movements to honor the past and modernist schemes for a metropolis of the future all tell stories of urban beauty and controversy, of eras of lavish building, urban decay and extraordinary revival.

By John Tschirch. Published by D Giles Limited with the Newport Historical Society, 2020. 240 pages, hardcover.  $44.95

Image Credits
Hero: William Trost Richards, Cove, ca. 1875. Private Collection
Thumbnail: H.D. Perkins, North end of Bellevue Avenue, 1913, photograph, United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site