THE HOUSE TELLS THE STORY: HOMES OF THE AMERICAN PRESIDENTS
by Adam Van Doren
with a foreword by David McCullough
This book is a sparkling, captivating look at the history of the American presidents through the landmark houses they lived in. Abundant and engaging watercolors and illustrated letters chronicle Van Doren’s compelling painting trips to these sites. Featured residences include those of FDR, JFK, Harry Truman, Woodrow Wilson, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and George Washington, among others.
Homes of living presidents, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter—each of whom Van Doren corresponded and personally met with-- are also included, and the artist/author offers rare and illuminating insights into these historic figures.
The House Tells the Story is a fresh take on a subject that has been covered in print before, but never like this. This book is a vivid, personal journey across America through the lens of Van Doren’s and McCullough’s brush and pen, whose stories brings these presidents to life. McCullough, who once aspired to be an artist himself-- but chose to “paint with words” instead- is an indispensable collaborator and guide.
Gorgeous paintings and lucid historical commentary converge brilliantly in this collection of illustrated letters from watercolorist Van Doren (An Artist in Venice) to his collaborator, historian and Pulitzer-winning author David McCullough. Van Doren visited 15 presidential homes over three years, painting the residences and gaining insight into the former presidents’ private lives through their personal effects…A trained architect, Van Doren speaks knowingly of scale, harmony, and proportion. Franklin Roosevelt’s Hyde Park home is the first entry, and Van Doren emphasizes its accommodations for F.D.R.’s wheelchair, iconic convertible, and beloved dog, Fala. The much-visited Mount Vernon and Monticello are also included, with Van Doren noting his admiration for Thomas Jefferson as “a sort of American Leonardo da Vinci.” Warm, accessible, and harmonious, this book marries history with art for a uniquely American vision. Illus.
(Publishers Weekly, starred review, July, 2015)
The doors of 15 presidential homes are opened to readers of this book, an illustrated tour winding through history with stops at residences both stately and modest. Adam Van Doren’s watercolor paintings of such homes as George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate and the Kennedys’ Hyannis Port compound are displayed in full-page panoramas and handwritten,I llustrated letters that Van Doren sent to Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough when he visited each home.
Along with showcasing an array of architectural styles, “The House Tells the Story” includes narratives with telling details — such as the stains on the wallpaper of Harry Truman’s Independence, Mo., home where he used the wall to lift himself from his chair — that provide insight into the daily lives of these men. Also including a painted peek into the White House, brief biographies of all 50 presidents, a gallery with small illustrations of all their residences, and a forward by McCullough, this book does indeed tell a story, one that is architectural, political, and personal.
(The Boston Globe)
Van Doren masterfully combines his considerable artistic and literary talents to create an engaging and revealing portrait of the American presidents.
(Gay Talese, author of The Kingdom and the Power, Unto the Sons)
If there’s still some open space on your coffee table,The House Tells the Story: Homes of the American Presidents should be on your shortlist. Artist Adam Van Doren paints and writes his way through the private dwellings of 15 US leaders, from Mount Vernon in Virginia to Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, Texas – plus the White House, where all but the first president lived. The author’s paintings are the main attraction. They vary from full-page formal portraits to smaller casual compositions that illustrate his handwritten letters updating historian David McCullough on his presidential peregrination… This is a coffee-table book after all, and an accomplished, handsome, and even quite useful example of the genre, particularly if you are contemplating a heritage vacation.
(The Christian Science Monitor)
AN ARTIST IN VENICE
An Artist in Venice, with a foreword by Simon Winchester and a preface by Theodore Rabb, chronicles Van Doren's experience painting in that city for more than a quarter century. It includes a number of reproductions of his work, and received praise from bestselling author Stacy Schiff who writes: “A charming prose poem, effortlessly informative and sublimely illustrated.” An Artist in Venice has received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly and was recommended by the Boston Globe.
Architect and artist Van Doren offers a love letter to Venice in this elegant and slender volume, and he sings his praise to the city through majestic prose and 23 beautiful watercolor paintings of Venice. He quickly discovers, after wandering into San Giacomo di Rialto, perhaps Venice’s oldest church, that the city has one "great transformative advantage: Mediterranean light," which offers a new way of seeing the city’s architecture, the history of art, and his own painting. Van Doren praises numerous artists from whom he draws lessons as he explores the city. James Whistler captures the "sweet serenity [of Venice] with perfect pitch." He admires deeply John Singer Sargent’s watercolors of Venice that exhibit his "supreme confidence with color." Van Doren takes John Ruskin as his model, confessing that Ruskin was an "artist of architecture" whose writings convinced him that he could become a painter. In all of his paintings, he has attempts to keep in mind the lesson of one of his teachers: "Keep it simple. Don’t try to make it more complicated than it already is." Clearly, he’s learned his lesson well.
In his new memoir, An Artist in Venice ...[Van Doren] pulls off the not-inconsequential feat of conjuring some of the best-known views in the world with fresh eyes… [in his] painting of the Basilica San Marco… the light will resonate with anyone who has crossed the Piazza San Marco early on a summer's evening… [and] his architectural training gave him a talent for insinuating precision with the fewest possible brush strokes. Mr. Van Doren's book is much more than a monograph; it's also a lively account of living in the city and of some of his adventures while visiting more than a dozen times over the past quarter century.
Venice, a city that has captured the imagination of artists and writers over the centuries, made a painter out of Adam Van Doren, who arrived in 1987 to study its architecture. Van Doren, a master of light and grandson of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mark Van Doren, is an amiable companion as he goes about exploring the city, sketchbook and notebook in hand. An Artist in Venice (Godine) succeeds as a memoir of discovery and a portfolio of paintings and sketches. His dreamy, richly hued works, none more than six and a half inches tall, are beautifully reproduced.
What makes An Artist in Venice exceptional is Van Doren’s paintings and his words.