Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Gari Melchers' Home and Art Studio

Belmont Estate in Falmouth, VA

Last weekend, Peter and I took a road trip down to Fredericksburg, VA to continue our tour of small towns, all two of them, haha. (You can read about our first adventure here.) Anyway, on the way down we stopped at the Belmont estate, the country home and art studio of painter Gari Melchers. To be honest, I had never heard of Gari Melchers until earlier this year, despite studying lots of art history in school. As it turns out, most people have never heard of him. He was primarily a portrait painter and made a good living painting commissioned portraits, most notably of Teddy Roosevelt.

Belmont estate in Falmouth, VA
Belmont estate in Falmouth, VA
spring house on the Belmont Estate home of Gari Melchers
barn on the Belmont estate in Falmouth, VA
The house and grounds are beautiful. We saw one girl getting her graduation photos taken outside, and it's no wonder. I wasn't able to take photos inside the house (you can take a peek at the website if you're interested). But I did take lots of photos in Gari Melchers' studio and art galleries, which were the most interesting parts of the tour for me anyway.

portrait by Gari Melchers
The Bride portrait by Gari Melchers
art studio of Gari Melchers
art studio of American painter Gari Melchers
art studio of Gari Melchers
Gari Melchers' art studio

I was excited to visit because I thought it might be a bit like Museo Sorolla in Madrid, which is one of those places that left an indelible mark on my brain, and even though it's been years, I still think about it. There's something about walking inside an artist's space and seeing paint spatters, brushes scattered around, worn wooden easels, and random trinkets that I find endlessly intriguing and inspiring.

I'm not sure if Belmont really had the same impact for me personally. Everything was set up very much like a historic house museum, with roped-off rooms, docent-led tours, and even a 15-minute informational video at the beginning. All of the women we met working at Belmont were very nice, and our tour guide was well informed and willing to answer any questions, but it all felt more like being in a museum or diorama than actually being in the space where Gari Melchers lived and painted, if that makes sense. I remember Museo Sorolla as being much more immediate and informal, being free to roam around and get up close to everything. It felt almost as if Sorolla and his family had just been there that morning. Anyway, that's how I remember it.

I'm definitely glad we went to Belmont, though, because spending an afternoon looking at art in a beautiful home is always time well spent. If you're ever in this part of the country and you like historic houses and antiques, you should definitely plan a visit.

I have lots of photos of the town of Fredericksburg too, but I'll save those for another post. xo, Mary


  1. I'm totally agrees with you on the studio experiences and the feeling of creative genius still there! Love all your photos... and definatelly will pin promote and share them! madrid in my next list of the summer vacations... fingers cross it will be next year:)

  2. The grounds are really beautiful! It's always fun to take a peek inside an artist studio!

  3. This still looks like it was a cool place to visit! The grounds look stunning--all those flowers. It seems like an inspiring environment. I get what you mean, though, about visiting an artist's space. Most of the homes I have visited have been those of authors--William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, and Carl Sandburg's home in North Carolina, to name a few. Sometimes, the homes are free to explore. You can see where they wrote things, what they typed on. You see the plot lines they wrote on the wall ... literally. You can walk about the grounds and get a feel for what it was like for them. And, other times, things are so closed off, and you're left with a guide. They can be very helpful, yes, but sometimes, you want to "experience." You want to feel that you're breathing the same air that they did.