1890 (Irvington-on-Hudson, New York)
1981 (Hot Springs, Virginia)
Photo submitted by Theresa Damewood
Often Known For
figure, portrait and genre painting
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|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|The following is from Sara Lu Snyder, March 2003|
Christine Herter was born into a family that was devoted to the arts, involved significantly in the medical sciences, and contributed much to the cultural history of this country. Her early life in this prominent family shaped her career as an accomplished landscape and portrait artist, musician, patron of the arts, philanthropist and founder of the Garth Newel Music Center.
Christine's paternal grandfather, Christian Herter, and his brother, Gustav Herter, were well known as leading New York designers of furniture and decorative arts in the mid-to-late 1800s. By 1875, furniture from their firm, Herter Brothers, was in great demand by American's wealthiest families including the Vanderbilts, Morgans and Goulds, and the firm was supplying furnishings for the White House. Their elaborate work can still be seen in Morgan Library and the Metropolitan Museum.
Her parents were Susan Dows Herter and Christian Archibald Herter, M.D., a noted physician and biochemical research scientist, who founded the Journal of Biological Chemistry (1905) and was a founding trustee of the Rockefeller Institute and the American Society of Biological Chemists (1908). Dr. Herter included space for a laboratory in the house he built on New York's Madison Avenue in 1893 and employed a staff of formally trained chemists, bacteriologists, and physicians whose production would make the laboratory of world-wide importance within a very few years. Money for equipment and staff for the laboratory was Susan Herter's contribution; her father was David Dows, principal shareholder and sometime vice-president of the Rock Island Railroad, as well as the country's largest grain merchant.
Among the scientists Dr. Herter recruited was Henry Drysdale Dakin, who took over the laboratory after Herter's death in 1910 and whose contributions to medicine and the science of biochemistry were significant, especially in the area of antiseptics (Dakin's solution). In 1916, Dr. Dakin married Susan Herter, moved the laboratory to Scarborough-on-Hudson, and worked there until his death in 1952, one year after the death of his wife, Christine's mother.
Christine's parents were deeply concerned with music and the arts and provided a thorough education in those areas for their children. Dr. Herter was an amateur cellist; his wife a pianist and the two older daughters, Christine and Mary (Polly) became accomplished violinists. A number of professional musicians in New York at the time were friends of the Herters and often joined them for evenings of chamber music. Regular Sunday afternoon recitals were also given on a pipe organ that had been built into the street floor of the house as part of the original architectural plan.
The Herter daughters also studied the visual arts, and it was through a connection of Christine's uncle Albert, himself a painter of some fame during his lifetime, that at age 13 Christine began studying painting with Albert's friend, William Sergeant Kendall. Kendall had also done a number of portraits for the extended Herter and Dows families and was well known for his portraits of mothers and children, especially of his own wife and children. His paintings of family fall in four principal categories: mother and child, girl and mirror, tree pictures and youthful nudes. One of his most widely known was a painting of his wife reading a bedtime story to daughter Elizabeth titled The End of the Day (1900). In 1913 he succeeded John Ferguson Weir as head of the Department of Fine Arts at Yale University.
Christine continued her art studies in Paris until the World War I was declared. When she returned to this country, she enrolled in the Yale fine arts department and pursued painting lessons with Sergeant Kendall for a number of years. She received the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Yale in 1915.
After Sergeant Kendall's divorce from his wife in 1921, he left the position at Yale in March 1922 and married Christine shortly afterward. He became unhappy about the growing dominance of modern art in New York City, so the Kendalls moved to Bath County, Virginia where they built the large house named Garth Newel, stables and an indoor riding building, now a concert hall, where they raised and trained Arabian horses. Both continued their painting, enjoyed the horses and participated in musical evenings with friends. Mr. Kendall, 21 years older than Christine, died in 1938 at age 69. He had suffered severe injuries in a riding accident in 1937 and was bedridden until his death.
After her husband's death, Christine moved from the large house, now known as the Manor House, to a smaller cottage and later to a new house built on the south end of the estate. She continued to paint and to have a daily set schedule for horseback riding and playing the violin. During World War II, she volunteered her time at The Greenbrier hotel (which had been converted into a military hospital) by doing sketches as a therapeutic exercise for the wounded men and their families. Several of the artistically talented young men studied painting with her at Garth Newel as well.
John Woodzell, who was raised at Garth Newel, remembers her as a "kind, gentle, gracious and compassionate" person whose generosity was spread widely, especially during the Depression. She loved Bath County "with its natural beauty and good people. Her beloved Garth Newel and the things she could have and do there afforded her everything she ever wanted and more than she expected out of life. She traveled throughout the world and saw many places, but each time upon her return she always expressed her love of home, and that she had never seen any place in her travels so beautiful. Her most adored spot in the world was at Garth Newel on the knoll west of her house looking down Dunn's Gap at sunset. Many of her excellent sketches and paintings were done at that location."
Some of Christine's paintings hang at Garth Newel now and others are in private collections. One of her most visible works locally is "The Resurrection" in the ceiling of the Apse and Chancel of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Hot Springs. In addition, Christine wrote two books about art: "Dynamic Symmetry: A Primer and Defense of Art", both published by W. W. Norton & Co. She was among the group that founded the Bath County Regional Art Show, serving as vice-president of the organization and co-chairman with Elinor Hopkins of the first show in l965.
Christine wanted her property to be used for a worthwhile purpose, so in the 1960s she turned the upper part of the place over to the Girl Scouts of America to be used for summer camping. After several years the Girl Scouts found that it was too much to maintain, so Christine regained possession. She had always wanted to have a musical entity that could establish itself at Garth Newel and provide her beloved chamber music.
It was through a mutual friend that she met Luca and Arlene Di Cecco, the founding members of the Rowe String Quartet. Beginning in 1973, the Di Ceccos began bringing their students to Garth Newel for instruction during the summer months, and the Rowe Quartet presented several concerts during the year.
From this beginning, through the vision and devotion of the Di Ceccos and many other musicians and support staff, Garth Newel Music Center has developed into a unique venue for chamber music performed by world-class musicians in the rustic, acoustically excellent music shed that once held the Arabian horses. The music is accompanied by gourmet cuisine, fine wines and the good company of concertgoers who enjoy the natural beauty of the grounds and the intimate setting in which chamber music originated.
Who or What is Garth Newel?
Almost all first-time visitors to Garth Newel ask the question: Who or what is Garth Newel? The answer is that Garth Newel, meaning "new home" or "new hearth" in Welsh, is not a person. Instead, it is the name given to this 114-acre estate by its former owner, William Sergeant Kendall, when he moved to Bath County in the early 1920s with his young bride, Christine Herter Kendall. Mr. Kendall, an artist whose paintings remain in a number of important museum collections, was chairman of the School of Fine Arts at Yale University until he resigned his position to move to this idyllic place.
Christine Herter, first cousin of Eisenhower's Secretary of State Christian Herter, was born in 1890 and grew up in New York City in a family that was devoted to the arts, involved significantly in the medical sciences, and contributed much to the cultural history of this country. Her early life in this prominent family shaped her career as an accomplished landscape and portrait artist, musician, patron of the arts, and the philanthropist who would later be the founder of Garth Newel Music Center.
Christine's parents, Susan Dows Herter and Christian A. Herter, M.D. provided a thorough education in music and art for their three daughters. Dr. Herter, a noted physician and biochemical research scientist, was also an amateur cellist; Mrs. Herter was a pianist and both Christine and her sister Mary ("Polly") were accomplished violinists. They studied with prominent New York musicians of the day, including the Kneisel Quartet that often performed at the Herters' home. The family ensemble spent many evenings playing chamber music.
At age thirteen, Christine began to study painting with William Sergeant Kendall, a colleague of her uncle, Albert Herter, also an artist. Kendall was well known for his paintings of mothers and children, especially his own wife and children, and had done a number of portraits for the extended Herter family. He had studied with Thomas Eakins in both New York and Philadelphia and with many other prominent artists in this country and in France. His paintings won coveted prizes throughout his life, and he taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts before taking the position at Yale in 1913.
Christine continued her painting studies in Paris until World War I began. She then enrolled at Yale, where she studied with Kendall and was awarded the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1915. Christine's work also won prizes and was included in a number of exhibitions.
Sergeant Kendall and his wife divorced in 1922 and he later married Christine. The couple moved to Bath County and first lived at Gramercy Farm. After completing construction of their large house, "Garth Newel" in 1924, the Kendalls raised, trained and rode fine Arabian horses, pursued their painting, and enjoyed musical evenings in their home with friends. Unfortunately, Mr. Kendall suffered serious riding accidents, first in 1931 and again in 1937, the latter so severe that he did not recover. He died in February 1938 at age 69.
After her husband's death, Christine abandoned the large house now known as the Manor House, moved to a smaller cottage and later to a new house built on the south end of the estate. She had a set daily schedule for painting, horseback riding and playing the violin and was known in the community as a very kind, gracious and generous person. During World War II she volunteered at The Greenbrier, which had been converted to a military hospital, by doing sketches as a therapeutic exercise for the wounded men and their families. Several of the artistically talented young men studied painting with her at Garth Newel as well. Some of her many paintings hang here at Garth Newel, and others are in private collections. One of her most visible works locally is "The Resurrection" in the ceiling of the Apse and Chancel of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Hot Springs. In addition, Christine wrote two books about art: Dynamic Symmetry: A Primer and Defense of Art, both published by W. W. Norton & Co. She was among the group that founded the Bath County Regional Art Show, serving as vice-president of the organization and co-chairman with Elinor Hopkins of the first show in 1965.
Christine wished her property to be used for a worthwhile activity and donated much of it to the Girl Scouts of America in the l960s to be used for summer camping. After several years, the Girl Scouts found that it was too much to maintain, so she regained possession in1969 and began the search for another use for the property. She had always been especially interested in finding an established musical entity that could have its home base at the farm and provide for her and the community the chamber music she grew up with and continued to love.
So it happened that a mutual friend arranged a meeting between Christine and Luca and Arlene Di Cecco, who at the time were cellist and violinist of the Rowe String Quartet, founded by them after prominent international careers as solo and chamber musicians. For the Di Ceccos, it was love at first sight. The Di Ceccos and Christine were captivated by the mutual artistry, dedication, and creativity.
At Christine's urging, the Di Ceccos began a chamber music study program for their students in the summer of 1973, and the Rowe Quartet began giving the first of many concerts in the acoustically excellent shed that had once been the indoor training and show ring for the Kendalls' prize Arabian horses. Pleased by the viability of her vision, Christine arranged for repairs to long-abandoned buildings and soon created the Garth Newel Music Center Foundation, with a board of directors, to support the artistic endeavors she so cherished. Though quite elderly by then, she was rejuvenated in spirit by her pleasure in the music that sounded all around her. Her ninetieth birthday was an occasion celebrated by audience and musicians alike during a Sunday afternoon concert in August 1980.
Christine died in June 1981, bequeathing the real property and a modest fund for property maintenance to the Foundation. For its artistic and educational mission, Garth Newel Music Center was to depend on other private sources and public funding to meet its budget. The Di Ceccos, with their small staff, devoted themselves to the continued development of Garth Newel as the only center strictly for the study and performance of chamber music in Virginia. As it has developed, the Garth Newel experience that they nurtured is unique not only to Virginia but also to the nation.
Demands of this mission led to the disbanding of the Rowe String Quartet and the establishment of the Garth Newel Chamber Players, with resident musicians and guest artists. Under the Di Ceccos' direction, the Summer Chamber Music Festival grew from a season of a half-dozen concerts in the mid-to-late 1970s to a season featuring concerts every Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon from July 4th weekend through Labor Day weekend. Today optional gourmet dinners also are available after the Saturday evening performances.
Midway through the summer season, a number of outstanding young string and keyboard students arrive at Garth Newel for an intensive five-week Chamber Music Study Program. An additional Garth Newel activity that has gained much popularity is the Chamber Music Holiday Weekend, during which guests stay in the renovated Manor House and cottage, enjoy leisure activities in and around Bath County, and spend each evening enjoying a chamber music performance. Cocktails, a gourmet dinner, and good company round out the evenings during these weekends that are scheduled throughout the year.
Scheduled among the holiday weekends are the Celebrated Composers Series in the fall and spring; the Adult Chamber Music Retreat, a workshop for proficient amateur musicians who are coached by the resident professional musicians; and several special holiday weekends celebrating, for example, the fall foliage. Another innovative program is the Cooking School that provides four days of culinary classes with chamber music concerts and elegant meals. For several years Garth Newel also has sponsored overseas musical holidays.
The vision of Christine Kendall; the vision, talents and dedication of the Di Ceccos; the talents of the resident artists; the support from the administrative staff and the warm reception by ever-increasing audiences have combined to create a special integrity, intensity and intimacy for the music and fellowship. Here, musicians work with their colleagues toward the highest artistic standards while surrounded by the natural beauty of the setting. They are inspired and refreshed in their music making, and communicate in a very personal way that same inspiration and refreshment to audiences. As Luca Di Cecco has said, "The location is so beautiful it affects the music. We try to keep our approach so that people who might not have an opportunity to hear classical music can come and like it."
Indeed, Garth Newel has been described as "Virginia's cultural jewel" by Francis Church, music critic of the former Richmond News Leader. "Even those who are not interested in chamber music can get hooked on it at Garth Newel," he says. "You're in the loveliest, most unspoiled area of Virginia; there are no noisy crowds, and you can enjoy the finest in chamber music, that ultimate musical art form."
After more than a quarter century of indefatigable effort and artistry, Arlene and Luca Di Cecco have retired. From this 30th Anniversary Year forward, Garth Newel looks to the spirit and energies of its patrons, a new generation of resident artists, and dedicated staff members to continue the legacy in this new era.
What, then, is Garth Newel? It continues to be a "new home" with a new life, where the entire experience for artist and audience alike amounts to one of great joy and cultural civility.
"I shall pass on to others the joy of participation and satisfaction . . . for seeing to the future excellence and, indeed, the growth of the Garth Newel Music Center."
Christine Herter Kendall
Robert Austin: William Sergeant Kendall, An American Master, 1983; essay included in the catalogue for the William Sergeant Kendall exhibition held at Owen Gallery, New York, from April 15-June 19, 1998.
Robert M. Hawthorne: Christian Archibald Herter, M.D., (1865-1910). Presented at the 166th National Meeting, American Chemical Society, Chicago, IL, 29 August 1973. Christine Herter Kendall Papers. The author interviewed Christine and her sister Polly for this article.
John E. Woodzell: Remembering Christine Herter Kendall, February 2003. Mr. Woodzell was raised at Garth Newel. His father, Clyde, was responsible for the training and care of the horses; his mother assisted Christine. Josephine Woodzell died in June 2002 after having spent 72 years at Garth Newel.
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