Kathleen Ewing's photography gallery, 3020 K St. NW (under the Whitehurst Freeway) is turning into a browser's paradise. On view at the moment are any number of things that would make splendid Christmas gifts, including:
Some exquisite still-life photographs by French contemporary, Phillippe Blache, ($1.75 each)
15 nostalgia-laden, gem-like images of New York City between 1900 and 1920 by Karl Struss, 96, the oldest living member of the Photo-Secession group, and obviously one of the best ( $250 each or $3000 for the portfolio.)
Vintage 19th-century photographs, including an 1860 print of Alpine climbers by Bisson Freres ( $300) and large numbers of photogravures of Venice in 1860 ( $60)
A poster featuring one of Mark Powers finest images ( $4)
Oversized post-card-type photographs by Christopher James of Boston ( $1 each)
And that's just for starters. The main show at the moment, through next week, includes recent prints from original negatives of works by 19th-century photographers William Henry Jackson and Eadweard Muybridge, both of whom photographed the American West: Enlgishman Francis Frith, who traveled to Egypt in 1858; and Frenchman Eduard Baldus who photographer Paris in the mid-19th century.
All of these images were reprinted at the Chicago Albumen works, founded by University of Chicago photography professor Joel Snyder, who has found a way to reproduce the albumen-coated papers used in the 19th century.
His original goal was to make these rare photographs available for wider study and easy handling, and they are still chiefly of interest for that reason, since the prices, though considerably lower than a vintage print (if one could be found), are still between $175 and $350.
You can, in fact, buy a vintage Francis Frith albumen print of a 19th-century English street for $150. Despite its relatively bad condition, many might well prefer the original.
Area artist Lea Feinstein, who has been a sculptor in residence at Glen Echo Park since 1978, is showing recent work at Georgetown Art Gallery, 2511 P St. NW. The sculpture is the least interesting aspect of the show.
Feinstein has a special way with abstract forms on paper: She can make them sing. In her grid-based watercolors and drawing, here combined with bits of collage, she has made works both tender and powerful, notably in the series called "Variations for Marshall Baron."
She has also begun to expand her color vocabulary with small, torn-paper collages. The results are uneven, but display a fine lyric color and compositional sense. The show closes today.
Art lovers doing the galleries in Alexandria today and tomorrow have an extra treat in store. Hilda Thorpe, the area artist whose recent handmade paper sculptures were a great success, is having an open studio from noon to 8 today and from noon to 6 tomorrow at her spacious digs overlooking the Torpedo Factory. The address is 105 South Lee St., and works will be for sale.
Hull Gallery in Foxhall Square, 3301 New Mexico Ave.NW, is showing a selection of late 19th- and early 20th-century American paintings and watercolors, most of them small, several of them superb, and many of them finest examples are by lesser known artist, among them Franklin D. Briscoe, George Harvey, William Trost Richards and C. K. Chesterton.
But there are also worthy examples bybetter known master Oscar Bluemner (now showing at the Hirshhorn), Charles Demuth, Arthur Dove, William Glakens, Maurice Prendergast and, in a very handsome still life, Leon Kroll. They cost about $1,800 and up, but several are good buys, if you're thinking of giving someone a minor master for Christmas.
Also on view at Hull are some very funny potted plants carved from wood by Edith Lunt Small.
Opening next Wednesday at Hull are the bright, exuberantly brushed paintings of colorful flowers, landscapes and still lifes, by Richmond's pride, Nell Blaine, who just received one of the first Governor's Awards for the Arts in Virginia. That show will continue through January 5.
At Gallery 4, 115 S. Columbus St., Alexandria, Deborah Ellis is showing recent watercolors. Best knownfor her etchings (most memorably, a view of a man in a bathtub) Ellis began working in watercolor three years ago, bringing color into her basically linear vocabularly. Her the renderings of eggplants and turnips, carefully arranged on white paper, are really studies in color composition and light. And though she is not yet a virtuoso in the medium, Ellis shows great ability, particularly in several moody domestic scenes made at a summer retreat in Maine. A glance out of the kitchen window, past a sink full of dishes, for example, is redolent of a relaxed summer day, and something of a vacation in itself. Ellis' show closes today, and will be replaced by Craig English and his Popish silkscreens of vegetable stands, cars and facades, through December.