A Resembling Portrait?
What, one might well ask, would the patrons and activists themselves say (or have said) about the stories that we (the various authors) have constructed in this book? That, alas, is something we for the most part cannot know. But we have tried to let their own voices be heard more or less unmediated at various points in the chapters and, of course, in the vignettes, always remembering, though, that, as Carolyn G. Heilbrun puts it, women's writings (and interviews) about their own lives are often constrained by "the bonds of womanly attitudes."
But then, there is also no saying that these women's perceptions—even if we could know them in their fullness—ought to outweigh the views presented by the authors here. When Virgil Thomson composed a sonata-portrait of Peggy Guggenheim, she found it "not in the least resembling," yet the possibility exists that Thomson saw something in her as she sat before him in a chair (his usual way of doing a person's musical portrait)—reading, as it happens, his perceptive little sociological essay The State of Music —that simply differed from the image of herself that she preferred to project. Thomson knew and appreciated the contributions that women of means could make to the arts and not least to music. A large number of his 147 musical "portraits" of friends and associates are of women who were patrons, arts organizers, hostesses, or wives of gallery owners, although his verbal descriptions of the sitters (when they exist) make it difficult to know where to draw the line between a rich person who was broadly active in the arts community and one to whom he was personally indebted (and perhaps wished to become more so). The varied list includes Betty Freeman (interviewed in our Vignette B), Mary Reynolds ("from Minneapolis, friend of artists, and a bookbinder"), Helen Austin ("a gracious presence in Hartford all her life"), Cynthia Kemper (president of the Performing Arts Foundation of Kansas City), Louise Crane (heiress of the Crane paper company and organizer of concerts at the Museum of Modern Art), Constance Askew (patron of artists and writers), and Mrs. Chester Whitin Lasell (Thomson's patron in his early years). Thomson's highly individual little pieces seek to capture the particular profile and force—the elegance, determination, "rock-bound" stolidity, or impulsive busyness—that he saw or intuited in each individual woman (or man, for many of Thomson's portraits depict male friends and associates).
The prose portraits, documents, and photos offered in this book represent a similar attempt to evoke a complex living reality: the richly involving, deeply com-
promised, still (to many of us) admirable and much-needed efforts of women—and men—to promote and foster musical art in America.
Before launching readers into the various detailed studies of individual women and groups of women that make up the core of the book, the editor's felt that some readers might find it helpful if the two of us laid out a factual and interpretive framework for dealing with (women's) patronage of art music in America. Our Chapter 1 thus examines, with a wide-angle lens, this rather puzzling American phenomenon: the largely voluntary building up of a demand for, and a means of supplying, a complex and costly, prestigious, "labor-intensive" performing art in a new and cumbersomely large nation. What were—and are, for the phenomenon continues—the (constraining? empowering?) contexts—musical, financial, social, cultural-ideological, psychological—within which art-music activists, especially female ones, devoted, and still devote, time, energy, and money to such a cause?