The East Coast – and a happy chance to see The Peacock Room


Back to the United States to lecture for the Royal Oak Foundation on my new book on English Country House Interiors. I am very well looked after by the Royal Oak team, Jennie and Kristin especially, and am staying at the congenial Cosmopolitan Club – where the librarian is kind enough to let me practice my talk in their beautiful library. My lecture at Scandinavia House on Park Avenue to a lively audience, followed by a reception and then an enjoyable dinner hosted by the Yale Centre for British Art.
The weather this week is very bright and sunny, but there is a bit of a chill – but considering it was snowing last week, one can’t complain. I have a few free hours in the morning of the second day before catching the train to Philadelphia, and spent some time re-visiting the “period rooms” at the Metropolitan Museum, including the plasterwork from Kirtlington, where I lectured in 2009 and the dining room from Lansdowne House, designed by Robert Adam, there are a lot of good 18th-century French rooms too- but the studiolo from the Gubbio palace of Federico da Montefeltro, duke of Urbino.
In Philadelphia, I staying and lecture at the Union League, hosted by Jim Munday, and as I don’t have enough time to revisit the Museum of Fine Arts, visit the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, a wonderful robust nineteenth-century Gothic building only walking distance from the Union League. At Boston, I stay at the Union Club by the state capitol and lecturing at the Athenaeum, a really wonderful private library founded in 1807 and housed in an 1840s classical building designed by Edward Clarke Cabot; at the meal that evening, hosted privately in a very elegant town house only a few minutes walk from the capitol, meet many interesting people and am reintroduced to Judith Tankard who has just written a new book on the gardens of Gertrude Jekyll, mind you the conversation ranges very widely.
My last stop is in Washington, where I lecture at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. I have a few free hours on my last day and visit the Freer Institute to see the Peacock Room created by James Whistler for a London dining room, and also enjoy a few hours looking at the outstanding collections of the National Gallery, which is also one of the finest classical buildings in the city, designed by John Russell Pope – it also has a very good restaurant. It is really quite exciting to see the Capitol, the White House and the Lincoln Memorial, all the architectural icons of the United States.

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