As Hartford Stage opens a show dedicated to the life of Chick Austin, the museum he memorably directed is also touching base with its past.
The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art plans a four-month exhibit focusing on Austin's legendary Scarborough Street house, as well as his cultural significance in Hartford.
Austin's house was a gathering place for celebrities during the 1930s, when one might find Salvador Dalí, Aaron Copland or Buckminster Fuller visiting.
The museum is attempting to bring that heady era back to life.
The exhibit, which opens Saturday, has three parts.
The first focuses on the contrasts between a house modeled after a 16th-century villa and one decorated in black linoleum floors and chrome light fixtures.
The exhibit illustrates the difference between the rococo and modernist furniture and is augmented with Austin family letters and memorabilia.
The second part of the exhibit focuses on the Atheneum's efforts to restore the house, which was designated a national landmark in 1994. The exhibit shows how original fabrics and wallpaper were matched.
The third part examines Austin's role as director of the museum and as an artist and performer.
Correspondence with Gertrude Stein, Le Corbusier and Mondrian are presented, as well as Austin's own paintings, watercolors and theater designs.
Those hoping for a closer look at Austin's house, which is 86 feet wide by 18 feet deep, will get their chance to see that the home is not merely a flat façade, as one urban legend claimed.
The museum will offer a limited tour of the Austin house on Nov. 9 and Dec. 7. Groups will explore the character of Austin through his home and its newly restored furnishings. The program will conclude with a tea served in the Austin House dining room.
MAGIC FAÇADE: THE AUSTIN HOUSE opens Saturday and runs through March 9 at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 600 Main St., Hartford. Advance enrollment is required for the tour and tea at the Austin House. The admission price is $80, $70 for members. Information: 860- 278-2670, Ext. 3049.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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