It was 1980 and Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago was invited by Daniel J. Terra to participate in the much anticipated opening of the Terra Museum of American Art in Evanston, Illinois.  I thought it would be an interesting event if we recreated the garments that were in some of the American Impressionist paintings.  After the paintings were hung on the brick walls (I love art on brick walls!) I went to the Museum to decide which paintings I would use.

imageDaniel J. Terra in his Museum in Evanston, Illinois circa 1980. Photo credit unknown.

We did 10 or 12 interpretations as well as planning the event which was a benefit for The Easter Seal Society Women’s Board at a black tie sit down dinner in the galleries. I chaired the event with my partner in crime on many events, Beverly Dowis Blettner and Ann Gillcrist (I don’t think I am spelling her name correctly, sorry!) was President of the group. Beverly and I were members of the Women’s Board and did several major events for them as well as working on their annual Telethon, Dan Terra was on the Main Board of the charity. The invitation featured the magnificent Lotus Lilies painting seen below.  I fell in love with this painting and wanted it for the cover of the invitation as well as using the lotus flowers for the centerpieces. Remember this was 1980, where my florist found lotus lilies I have no idea but the effect was superb.  They were floated in low bowls in the center of each table. We did green tablecloths and napkins and George Jewell Catering did an exquisite all American menu with American wines.,0,2278,1447/20141029hofrick103040mag.jpg?resize=994%2C663

Charles Courtney Curran, a detail from “Lotus Lilies,” 1888, from the Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection.

“After Charles Courtney Curran and Grace Wickham married in 1888, the young couple vacationed on Lake Erie’s southern shore. The artist, who grew up in Sandusky, Ohio, painted his bride and her cousin drifting in a rowboat through a cove filled with flowering water plants. He called the picture “Lotus Lilies.”

Grace Curran shared her husband’s love for the outdoors. She described that memorable summer day in the rowboat on Old Woman’s Creek in an 1897 St. Nicholas magazine article:

“The lotus spreads broad, velvety blue-green leaves in wide masses, and the huge, pale-yellow blossoms lift their queenly heads on high, and breathe forth on the air a delicate fragrance,” Mrs. Curran wrote”.  Quote from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 1, 2014.

imageLou May in a pink pleated gown with parasol and ballet flats posed in front of her painting, In the Garden (Good Morning) by Frederick Frieseke probably 1912-1913.  The models were stationary and did not interact with the guests who wandered throughout the galleries during cocktail hour.

I was a bit nervous regarding Mr. Terra’s reaction (he had a reputation for not being easily pleased!) to my selection of paintings and the models in modern garments. He was thrilled, thank heaven, and asked me to be involved in the opening of the Museum when it moved to it’s Michigan Avenue location in 1987.  We did a totally different event for that opening. A selection of the Collection is now on long-term loan to the Art Institute of Chicago.


Gail in a peplum white reembroidered lace two piece suit in front of The Seamstress by Joseph DeCamp 1916.

Photographs of the models from the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago




  1. Gloria Groom February 10, 2017 / 2:16 pm

    Wonderful! This brought back fond memories of our Nordstrom’s (or outside Nordstrom’s) event for Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity. GG

    • nenasnotes February 10, 2017 / 2:27 pm

      That was a fun event at the Shops at Northbridge.

  2. Marcia. Buchanan February 11, 2017 / 11:50 pm

    What a wonderful event and idea! Wish I had lived here at the time to see it!

    • nenasnotes February 12, 2017 / 12:27 am

      It was a fun evening. Those were the days of innovation.

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