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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-05-25
- Reviewer: Staff
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. His handwritten, anecdotal narrative wraps around colorful watercolor sketches on stationery. 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.” He notes that Bess and Harry Truman’s white gingerbread Victorian still has wallpaper stains from the president using the wall to lift himself up from his chair; their favorite books are also on display. Warm, accessible, and harmonious, this book marries history with art for a uniquely American vision. Illus. (July)