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Historic New England awards twenty-seventh Book Prize

Nov 8, 2021

The 2021 Historic New England Book Prize goes to Boston’s Apollo: Thomas McKeller and John Singer Sargent edited by Nathaniel Silver.

Historic New England has also selected two Honor Books for recognition this year: Maine and American Art: The Farnsworth Art Museum, by Jane Bianco, Michael K. Komanecky, and Angela Waldron, and Frederick Law Olmsted: Plans and Views of Communities and Private Estates edited by Charles E. Beveridge, Lauren Meier, and Irene Mills.

Boston’s Apollo: Thomas McKeller and John Singer Sargent tells the story of the extraordinary collaboration behind one of John Singer Sargent’s renowned late masterpieces.

The book brings into focus the links between John Singer Sargent and Thomas McKeller, an African American model for the artist between 1916 and 1925. McKeller was the principal model for Sargent’s murals in the rotunda at the Museum of Fine Arts. Sargent’s nude studies and sketches from this project attest to a close collaboration between the two men that unfolded over nearly ten years. The catalogue is significant for art history, New England and Boston history, and Black history because it helps us see this mural cycle and related sketches and paintings anew.

Honor Books

Maine and American Art: The Farnsworth Art Museum provides a rich and full picture of Maine’s central role in American art from the early nineteenth century to the present.

Published for Maine’s bicentennial, the book considers hundreds works of art from the Farnsworth Art Museum’s impressive holdings and details how the state has figured prominently in the development of American art. The volume includes works by Andrew Wyeth, Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keeffe, Francesco Clemente, Robert Rauschenberg, Louise Nevelson, and Alex Katz, among others. The book also considers Lucy Copeland Farnsworth’s distinctive vision to create a museum, library, and historic house.

Frederick Law Olmsted: Plans and Views of Communities and Private Estates is full of original plans and historic photographs. This beautifully illustrated collection is the first comprehensive presentation of Olmsted’s design concepts for communities and private estates.

Master landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted is renowned for his public parks, but his entire body of work also included residential communities, regional and town plans, academic campuses, grounds of public buildings, zoos, and cemeteries.

See a complete list of past Book Prize winners.

Celebrate the Winners

Celebrate the annual Book Prize and hear remarks from the winners during Night of Prizes, a virtual program on November 23, at 6:00 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Advance registration is required. The link for the program will be sent with your order confirmation. Night of Prizes is made possible by support from Historic New England’s Friends of the Library and Archives.

About the Book Prize

Historic New England’s Book Prize is awarded to a book that advances the understanding of life in New England from the past to today by examining its architecture, landscape, and material culture. This also includes works in the decorative arts, archaeology, historic preservation, the history of photography, and other related subjects.