2015-07-16 / Opinion

Led Astray by Incomplete Reporting

To the Editor:

For the first time in several years, I found this year that I would be able to enjoy the Fourth of July holiday in Newport. To my delight, I found lots of interesting information in the insert entitled “Washington Square Celebrates” in the June 25 issue of Newport This Week.

I just wish that what was published had all been accurate.

As a huge fan of art and of both George Washington and Gilbert Stuart, I devoured all of James Merolla’s article, “Stuart Portraits of Washington Still Greet Visitors.” I was delighted to learn so much about Stuart’s daughter, Jane, and her painting of Washington that is also in the Colony House. The article was extremely enlightening about both artists and their lives.

Mr. Merolla’s article included this paragraph:

“To see the paintings and tour the Colony House, visit on July 4, from noon-3 p.m.”

I inferred from Mr. Merolla’s article that the building would be open during the specified time.

I went online and could find no other information about how to see these paintings. The website for the Newport Historical Society contained no specific information about other days or times that Colony House would be open to the public.

On Saturday at 1:15 p.m. I arrived at the Colony House to find every door locked. Eventually I located a small sign on one corner of the house that instructed me to call the Brick Market Museum & Shop to obtain tour information. What Mr. Merolla did not report is that entrance to the Colony House is by appointment only. Fortunately, I was able to join a tour at 2 p.m.

After entering Colony House and touring the first floor, my enthusiasm was dampened when I learned that Jane Stuart’s painting had been removed from its customary display position to protect it from the summer humidity. It now sits in the same room as her father’s (a truly magnificent painting of George Washington), but it is covered in cloth so it is not available for viewing.

The tour guides said they could not lift the cloth because the oil from their hands might transfer to the painting and damage it.

I might add that the staff in the Brick Market Museum & Shop that day was not forthcoming about Jane Stuart’s painting. When I complained about not being able to find information about Colony House tours online, one staff member pointed out a brochure of 2015 tours (that I obviously could not have read prior to coming to the shop) and acted as if I must be truly stupid. Now I see from the brochure that tours are available on the hour between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and that they start at the Brick Market Museum & Shop.

Mr. Merolla might have discovered that the Jane Stuart painting was unavailable for viewing at this time if his research had been more thorough, and he should have been more specific about how to tour Colony House on the Fourth. If he knew this information and did not publish it in his article, then he disappointed at least one reader.

Shirley Wilson

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