Hello, I’m Pieranna Cavalchini, Curator of Contemporary Art. I love this room because to me it’s the place where I can most feel Isabella’s presence. She put things in here that were all about her friendships—especially with artists. During the later years of her life, it functioned as her office. Her desk is here, between the windows. It’s so lovely to her personal things still on it. She named this room for her dear friend, the artist Dodge Macknight. There are many works by him in this room. If you turn to the wall to the right of her desk, you’ll see one over the doorway. It’s a watercolor of the Grand Canyon. On his travels, he often advised and assisted Isabella with her collecting.
Isabella was a great supporter of women artists—and writers—of her time. Next to the doorway is a bookcase. Inside the bookcase are works by some women writers of her acquaintance. You can peruse the titles if you like. The bronze bust on top of the bookcase is by Anna Coleman Ladd. She’s a really fascinating sculptor because her work crossed boundaries into the medical sphere. During World War I, she was a pioneer in making facial prosthetics for wounded soldiers. We can see her sensitive rendering of the face of her female subject here.
Next to the bust is a portrait of a woman enveloped in white. It’s Isabella. John Singer Sargent made this watercolor late in her life, after she had a stroke. Looking closely at it, it always seems to me like she’s looking beyond: beyond death. There’s something eternal about her shrouded pose. Sargent himself stayed in this room from time to time, because it also functioned as a guest room for visiting artists. Today, the Museum continues to support contemporary artists through a unique Artist in Residence Program. Like Sargent, artists are invited to stay in the Museum, now in apartments located in the New Wing.
Oh, and just a quick mention of the small space you’ll enter if you go through the doorway underneath that watercolor of the Grand Canyon. It’s full of quirky objects, including Isabella’s travel journals. It’s a kind of three-dimensional scrapbook. She called it her ‘Vatichino’—or ‘little Vatican’.