Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Always Open Your E-Mail


LACMA is showcasing its newborn Arthur and Lucia Mathews collection (on the second floor of the Arts of the Americas building, where it's easy to miss). The San Francisco-based couple were tonalist painters who turned to design after the 1906 earthquake. LACMA had nothing by them until last year, when Nancy Daly (ex-chair of the museum's board of trustees and wife of ex-L.A.-mayor Richard Riordan) promised one of Arthur Mathews' best paintings, Monterey Cypress, California. It has now been donated and is shown in a frame reproducing a lost original. Then curator Wendy Kaplan got an e-mail out of the blue from William J. Zeile of Arlington, Virginia. "I noticed from the LACMA Web site that your museum recently received as a promised gift a landscape painting by Arthur Mathews. I am writing to inquire whether the museum would be interested in receiving as a gift other works of art connected with Arthur and Lucia Mathews, specifically some pieces of Arts & Crafts furniture that will soon come into my possession from my late father's estate."

Zeile, great-nephew of a San Francisco businessman who partnered with the Mathewses, let Kaplan take her pick of the family's heirlooms. The trove includes two impressive pieces of painted furniture and a large floor-standing candelabra. (Above, a c. 1910-1915 painted chest.) The Mathewses' aesthetic, termed "California decorative," is no more exciting than that sounds, but these are prime examples of it. Moral: Always open your e-mail.

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