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The way things work: “Portrait une famille” (Part 2)


Entries in “The way things work” category are usually about the mechanics behind or within some element in the Agincourt story. Often it concerns the role played by an object in developing a character or event, in this case the painting by Gabriel Spat titled “Portrait une famille”.

Yesterday’s entry outlined the process of identifying the artist Gabriel Spat, whose on-line bio was sketchy at best. But today I’ll turn to the characters actually in this family portrait and how the painting came to be in Agincourt.

  • Howard’s aunt Mary-Grace Tabor married Kurt Bernhard while she was living in NYC, studying to be a Montesorri teacher. The painting shows the Sobieski family, parents of his first wife Clothilde, who were vintners in the Alsace-Lorraine. A lot of this is already treated in “History as Genealogy” and “Family Trees“. And all of that is put into perspective in an entry titled “Relativity“.

  • Three of Spat’s paintings in the Community Collection are treated separately here, here and here. Each of these has come from the Bernhard connection and together they reinforce the link between Bernhard and his European origins. The story of his first wife’s death during the Nazi occupation of Paris has yet to be told, but I suspect it will involve her burial at Pere Lachaise cemetery.
  • Inherent in all this is the Community Collection itself, a community resource that began innocuously enough with a one-time exhibit at the G.A.R. Hall in 1912 organized by Amity Burroughs Flynn. The CC contains well over eighty pieces.
  • In the page titled “The Community Collection” you will find more detailed information about the collection itself and the circumstances behind its creation. Perhaps more important, however, is the pattern of information in each entry, how to detect what is “real” from what is fiction, and ultimately what each piece contributes to the overall narrative.

In the end, I suppose, the thing that gives me greatest pleasure is the search, not only for information about Gabriel Spat, for example. But also for giving more meaning to this wonderful work of art; of giving names and faces to the anonymous family recorded in the work itself—people unlikely to ever be known, otherwise; and to add both depth and breadth to Agincourt’s history and its multiple and varied connections with the outside world.

1 Comment

  1. […] The complex story of how Spat’s impressionist family portrait came to be in the community collection could in an introduction to “the way things work.” Which was followed by a TWTW 1.2 expansion. […]

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