1920s watercolor adds to The Mount’s growing art collection documenting Edith Wharton’s life

December 4, 2002

Lenox, Mass. (December 4, 2002) — Celebrated author Louis Auchincloss has donated a 1920’s watercolor painting of Edith Wharton’s gardens in France to The Mount, adding to the historic estate’s growing collection of art and artifacts documenting the life of one of America’s most important authors.

“This is a significant acquisition and we are very grateful to Louis Auchincloss, who has now made two important donations to The Mount’s collection,” said Stephanie Copeland, president of Edith Wharton Restoration, the non-profit organization responsible for continued restoration efforts at The Mount. Auchincloss is the author of more than 50 books, including a 1971 biography of Wharton.

The watercolor is a rare view of Pavillon Colombe, one of the two homes Wharton purchased in France after leaving America in 1911.

“It fills a gap in our collection, as we have very little dating from these years,” Copeland said.

The donation also is significant because the watercolor, painted by Englishman Robert Norton for Wharton, is now reunited with a complementary Norton work already at The Mount.

The two watercolors, which are framed as a pair, depict Wharton’s extensive gardens at Pavillon Colombe, her house in St.-Brice-Sous-Foret, near Paris. They offer rare views of the 1769 estate, where Wharton lived during the summer and autumn between 1919 and her death in 1937. In 1997 the painting donated by Auchincloss was displayed in the exhibition “Edith Wharton’s World” at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Both watercolors were acquired by Wharton’s cousin and executor Frederic Rhinelander King upon her death. He later gave Auchincloss one painting, while the other was inherited by his son Jonathan LeRoy King, who donated it to The Mount in 1990.

Copeland said that the two paintings will be displayed in restored rooms at The Mount. They will join The Mount’s growing art collection, which today includes:

  • An important portrait of Edith Wharton as a young child, donated by Auchincloss in 1998. This charming work – one of only four known portraits of Wharton and her earliest known image – was displayed this season in Edith Wharton’s Library, decorated by designer Henrietta Spencer-Churchill as part of The Mount’s Centennial Celebration.
  • Three portraits of Wharton’s family by the American artist John Whetton Ehninger, donated by Jonathan LeRoy King in 1988. These depict Wharton’s father George Frederic Jones and her two brothers, Frederic Rhinelander Jones and Henry Edward Jones.
  • And, 15 original painted oil panels by several artists that are set into the walls of The Mount. Conservation work has been undertaken on these panels and eight were on display this season in the newly restored Main Staircase, Den and Dining Room.

The Mount is a National Historic Landmark notable for its stature in American architecture and design as well as for its original owner, author Edith Wharton. Opening for the 2003 season in May, The Mount’s main house has been restored and 90 per cent of its formal gardens rebuilt and planted. In addition, The Mount will continue its exhibition of rooms decorated by leading designers, who have demonstrated the timelessness of Wharton’s design theories by adapting the ideas in her landmark 1897 book The Decoration of Houses for the 21st century.

For information on The Mount, visit www.EdithWharton.org.