An Architect and a Painter (Women's History Month)


More picture books about women in history!  

Georgia in Hawaii: When Georgia O'Keeffe Painted What She Pleased
 
by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Yuyi Morales.
Harcourt Children's Books, 2012.

Georgia in Hawaii tells one episode in Georgia O'Keeffe's life:  her 1939 trip to Hawaii.  She was invited by the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (later Dole) to paint two paintings extolling the virtues of the pineapple and its juice.  Georgia wanted to paint in the fields, but the company wanted her to paint indoors, using a pineapple for a model.  Georgia had other plans, and toured Hawaii, painting flowers and whatever she felt like painting.  She presented her floral paintings in lieu of pineapples, which did not please the Hawaiian Pineapple Company.  According to the book, she did eventually paint a pineapple.  Amy Novesky's text is easy to follow.  You don't get much background story on O'Keeffe.  The story told in this book is very specific, but that does make it easier for children!  Yuyi Morales's illustrations are beautiful.  In her notes at the end, she explains how she used O'Keeffe's own paintings, from different points of her career, as a starting point for her own in this book.





For more on Georgia O'Keeffe, you can visit the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum online.

Julia Morgan Built a Castle by Celeste Davidson Mannis,
illustrated by Miles Hyman.
Viking, 2006.

As a huge fan of classic film, especially the silent era, I've read many a film book or biography that reference William Randolph Hearst's magnificent San Simeon estate. It was here that Hearst and his mistress, film actress Marion Davies, entertained the rich and famous from all over the world. I'd even read Marion Davies's autobiography, but I'd obviously never read one on Hearst. Somehow, I seem to have missed the fact that the architect behind the castle at San Simeon was a woman! Julia Morgan was the daughter of a Bay Area engineer, who dreamed of being an architect someday. She studied engineering at the University of California at Berkeley, enrolling in 1890, the only woman in her class. She went to work for her favorite teacher, an architect, after graduation, longing to attend the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. When she caught word that the school might start accepting female students, Morgan boarded a ship and moved to Paris, where she waited for the school to open its doors to her. Once she finally achieved her Paris education, Morgan returned to California. She helped rebuild San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake. (Her buildings, it must be said, withstood the quake!) She had completed over 450 building projects before meeting newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst in 1919. San Simeon was a massive, ongoing project. It was built so high on a hill that roads had to be constructed in order to even begin construction on the estate. Morgan oversaw the building herself.  Sleeping quarters had to be provided onsite for the workers, cooks hired to feed them.  Movies were brought up to the hill to entertain them on the weekend!  The estate at San Simeon was never completely finished, but it still stands as Hearst's and Morgan's crowning achievement.






The focus in this book is Julia Morgan and her career.  Hearst and his famous guests are definitely background information.  (And no worries - there is no mention of Hearst's personal life in the book.)  I didn't know anything about Morgan before reading this, but I feel like I learned a lot.  Celeste Davidson Mannis's text managed to keep the 7-year-old interested, too.  (It was a bit wordy for my easily-distracted 5-year-old.)  Miles Hyman's illustrations have a sun-kissed glow about them, in keeping with Morgan's life in California.  

After reading the part about the 1906 earthquake, I showed my daughters these two clips on YouTube.

San Francisco, before the quake...



and after the quake.


After reading this, for my own benefit, I found the episode of the old A&E show America's Castles about the Hearst Castle at San Simeon on Netflix streaming.  And just for fun, I'll leave you with the unofficial hostess of San Simeon, Marion Davies.  This is my favorite clip from her film The Patsy, where she imitates other famous movie stars.  The Lillian Gish impersonation is my favorite.




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Comments

  1. FASCINATING!!!! i had no idea about Georgia even going to Hawaii, and what a random idea for a picture book eh? How cool! I want a picture of pineapple for my house.

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    1. That would be random, too, wouldn't it? ;o) It's a lovely picture book.

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  2. Awesome, these are great resources for if I ever go back to teaching, as well.

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    1. I admit I gravitate more toward fiction, so I'm enjoying this shift in focus. Thanks for the encouragement! And if you find any I've missed by the end of the month, let me know! :)

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  3. Amazing post! We visited Hearst's Castle when I was five, and I still remember it, very vividly. Someday I want to go back. My brother, sister and I used to play that we had an indoor swimming pool after that trip. (Silly, the things we remember.) I did watch the American Castles one Sunday afternoon a year or so ago, and fell instantly in love with the library. I want that library :)

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