The Gilded Age: Exploring the Arts, Architecture, and Social Activism

Sat. March 24, 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

UVa Harrison Institute / Small Special Collections

UVa Central Grounds, 160 McCormick Rd, Charlottesville, VA 22904

Sponsored by: Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation


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Denise Kiernan (The Last Castle), Donna Lucey (Sargent’s Women)and Johanna Neumann (Gilded Suffragists) share their highly-regarded works on the fine arts (John Singer Sargent’s portraits), architecture (the Biltmore estate in Asheville, NC), and the women’s suffragist movement (seen through the involvement of women in New York’s social class) during the Gilded Age.

Why Should You Attend?

“If you inherited billions, how would you spend it? Don’t bother building America’s largest and most lavish home. It’s already been done in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, where more than a million visitors a year stroll the grounds of Biltmore Estate. Yet only in the pages of Denise Kiernan’s The Last Castle will they come to know George Vanderbilt, the bookish heir who began Biltmore in his 20s, and his determined widow, Edith, who kept it alive as a working estate and a time capsule of the Gilded Age. In the pages of The Last Castle, Kiernan serves up a true tale of American excess, generosity, and perseverance.” —Bill Dedman, New York Times bestselling author of Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune

“In Sargent’s Women . . . [Lucey] does . . . what she does best, creating a rollicking snow globe version of an almost unimaginable world of wealth, crackpot notions of self-improvement and high-flying self-indulgence.” —Amy Bloom, New York Times Book Review

“Imagine, if you will, you’ve managed an invitation to a society event in Gilded Age Manhattan. In her compelling study of personality and social power, Johanna Neuman introduces you to the women in the room, all fashionable, most wealthy beyond imagination, and yet all politically powerless. These are not the women we think of as leaders in the fight for women’s right to vote, yet here they are in this fascinating study, dressed to the nines, disarming to the patriarchy, and determined. Both socialites and activists, they shaped an age when fashion and celebrity became weapons of radical change.” —Marc Pachter, Director Emeritus, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

The Festival appreciates the support of the Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation for this program.