An astute business executive, committed philanthropist, and discerning collector with impeccable style and savoir-faire, Marjorie Merriweather Post fervently hoped that future generations would find inspiration in how she lived and what she accomplished.
Post’s legacy lives on at Hillwood, her former 25-acre estate in northwest D.C. preserved as a museum to display her vast and varied collection of art — famously including extensive collections of Russian imperial art, including Fabergé eggs, and 18th-century French decorative art.
Yet a new special exhibition sheds light — reportedly for the first time ever — on the innovative and intrepid women and women artists represented in Post’s collection at Hillwood.
In Post’s male-dominated era from roughly a century ago, and certainly that of her pre-20th century predecessors, women’s access to academies and official artistic institutions was restricted in most Western societies, and further relegated to just a few gender-appropriate forms and techniques, including fashion, embroidery, and lace.
Yet a small contingent of valiant women managed to push forward and eventually serve as influences and inspiration for generations of women to follow, including Post.
Determined Women: Collectors, Artists, and Designers at Hillwood features nearly 100 items from the permanent collection, dating from the 1700s all the way up to today.
The exhibition builds on The Houses and Collections of Marjorie Merriweather Post: The Joy of It, a glossy book published last fall and written by Hillwood’s curatorial team led by Chief Curator Wilfried Zeisler, who curated Determined Women.
The exhibition is grouped into four sections, opening with a look at the Post family women — including Post and her three daughters — viewed through photographs, portraits, and other memorabilia.
That’s followed by a section that focuses on more than twenty influential women as seen through their objects and portraits — a wide-ranging grouping including proto-feminist women from the Age of Enlightenment as well as both ancient and modern rulers — ending with one of Hillwood’s newest acquisitions, a contemporary ceramic piece with images of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Kamala Harris, and Stacey Abrams.
Additional contemporary pieces from the museum’s collection, works by Isabelle de Borchgrave and Cindy Sherman inspired by historic pieces collected by Post, will also be on display for the purpose of juxtaposition as well as demonstration of the continued talent of women artists today.
A short section focused on historic awards honoring women, such as the Order of St. Catherine, and awards won by Post, such as the Legion of Honor, serves as a kind of prelude to the fourth and final section, which presents Hillwood in a new light and perspective — as a women’s art collection.
Narrowing the scope to those works of portraiture, fashion, and interior design created by women artists and designers on commission by Post — fashion designer Ann Lowe and interior designer Eleanor Stockstrom McMillen Brown among them — this section helps to reveal the significant presence of women in Post’s collection at Hillwood, particularly impressive given her time and era.
“Marjorie Post was a resolute woman, forging her way in a society where women were typically in the background,” says Kate Markert, Hillwood’s executive director, in a press release.
“This greatly informed her collecting, and while she is known to have had an eye for beauty and a taste for exquisitely crafted objects, her focus on female creators and subjects is a lesser-known aspect of her holdings.”
On display through June 23. Hillwood Estate is at 4155 Linnean Ave. NW.
The suggested donation is $18. Visit www.HillwoodMuseum.org or call 202-686-5807.
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!