I was happy to join several friends from Bucks County Illustrators Society and the throngs at historic Strawberry Mansion yesterday evening to see the reopening of the grand home in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. The highlight of the event for us – which topped a tour through the magnificently restored and appointed home – was the second floor banquet room whose panoramic wall mural of old Philadelphia was painted by our good friend Dot Bunn and her gifted colleague, painter Patrick Connors.
Dot was commissioned to paint the scenic port of the city and surrounding countryside as they may have looked in the early part of the 19th century, when Strawberry Mansion was owned by Judge Joseph Hemphill. Dot, Mr. Connors and Dot’s husband Tom tirelessly researched the ships, buildings, flora and fauna of the Delaware River area to create sketches for paintings that would span the entire wall space above the chair rail in the large banquet room. Through this past summer they painted, using a limited and beautifully coordinated color palette, on imported canvas affixed to the walls. (The photos here don’t do justice to the colors – while each element in the mural is easily readable when studying the work directly, the mural blends serenely with the graciousness of the room.)
I especially enjoyed the little vignettes of people and animals throughout the mural – a farmer trundling along in a horse cart, a pheasant suspiciously eyeing the onlooker, a fisherman patiently trolling. There is also wonderful framed portrait of Judge Hemphill painted by Mr. Connors in a neoclassic style, matching the era of the furnishings.
If you are interested in some of the initial steps of Dot’s process, please see our earlier post http://www.bcillustrators.org/work-in-progress-dot-bunns-historical-mural-at-strawberry-mansion/ . Dot used Vasari Classic Oil Colors for this work, and the consensus of the artists was that their effect is outstanding.
The reception was elegantly catered by Brûlée Catering, completing a very fine event. The city of Philadelphia and art lovers are indebted to The Committee of 1926 (who restored and maintains Strawberry Mansion) for preserving this landmark, commissioning Dot’s and Patrick’s outstanding mural, and for hosting a delightful opening for the public tonight. The Mansion is open for tours April through December from Tuesday to Sunday, and I highly recommend it as a newly-restored gem of Philadelphia history.