Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose: The Story of a Painting by Hugh Brewster, mysteriously found its way into my shopping bag on Saturday (along with a few other books) as I was Christmas shopping for the nieces and nephews at the Nelons-Atkins Museum Store. It tells a charming tale about John Singer Sargent and the creation of this famous painting, now in the Tate Gallery in London. The narrator is five-year-old Kate (Katharine) Millet, a young girl who was originally to be a model for Sargent but was replaced by Polly and Dolly Barnard, whereupon she makes a little song: "I hate Polly, and I hate Dolly. Now they're here I'm not very jolly..." Kate is soon reconciled with her friends, though, and Sargent eventually paints a portrait of her.

Brewster's book is wonderful for both children and adults, combining Kate's observations with period photographs, art work, and other details related to the story, along with interesting background information about the artists who gathered at the village of Broadway, Worcestershire in the mid-1880s, including Edwin Austen Abbey, Alfred Parsons, Francis Davis Millet (Kate's father), Frederick Barnard, and the American novelist Henry James.


Hugh Brewster said...

Dear Fiske:

Many thanks for your posting about Carnation,Lily. It's gratifying to see that adults as well as children appreciate the book. The song that inspired the title of the painting is very charming and catchy. It's amazing that it has disappeared from the repertoire. I tracked down the sheet music and, since no recording exists, hired some musicians and made one. You can hear it on my website www.hughbrewster.com

Fiske said...


Thanks so much for visiting my blog and posting your comment. I found the song on your News page and enjoyed it very much. It's cool to hear the song that inspired Sargeant's painting. I am going to add a link to your site. Guess I'll have to start a writer's blog. :-)

If you should happen to visit the Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City, please stop by the Museum Store and introduce yourself to my wife Elly (the store manager).