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When art speaks to you

When art speaks to you

Art - Hillwood Estate
Listen to this story:
  • Marjorie Post’s dedication to art collection and curation at Hillwood Estate serves as a testament to the transformative power of travel with meaning, fostering cultural appreciation and understanding.
  • The article highlights Post’s efforts in promoting diversity and inclusion through her eclectic art collection, which features works from various cultures and backgrounds.
  • Through the universal language of art, Post’s legacy continues to inspire visitors at Hillwood Estate to embrace diversity, unity, and personal growth, leaving a lasting impact on intercultural understanding.

“Travel with meaning” is a phrase that can be interpreted in many ways. It could mean traveling with a purpose or goal in mind, traveling to learn about different cultures, or traveling to make a positive impact on the world. Traveling with meaning can be a transformative experience that broadens your perspective of life, people and the world at large. 

A perfect example of “Traveling with meaning” occurred for me recently when I was visiting with a friend in the nation’s capital, and I was told that there was a very special place that I needed to visit. The excursion that followed brought me to Hillwood Estate Museum & Gardens located on Linneal Avenue in northwest Washington, D.C.  The pristine estate boasts 13 acres of exquisite formal gardens which surround a 36 room mansion which speaks elegance, culture, and old world history. This artful treasure is the former residence of businesswoman, socialite, philanthropist and collector, Marjorie Post, which upon her passing, was donated by her request to be a museum to educate and inspire the public.

Marjorie Merriweather Post (1887-1973) was the only child of C.W. Post – founder of Postum Cereal Company (now known as General Foods Corporation). Post’s love for art began when she inherited her father’s business empire and immense fortune at the age of 27, making Post the wealthiest woman in the United States for much of her lifetime. With nearly unlimited resources, Post became involved in many philanthropic ventures which included supporting the Red Cross, funding a U.S. Army hospital in France and funding and personally supervising a Salvation Army feeding station throughout the Great Depression.  Though fully engaged in helping humanity around her flourish even in difficult circumstances, her great passion for art brought her to live much of her life in the pursuit of its collection and curation. Ms. Post held that art speaks to all of us, and firmly believed in the importance of spreading diversity and equality through art and in sharing this message with others. 

They say when art speaks to you – listen.

In the case of Marjorie Post’s vast and varied collection, her art speaks to everyone who enters her purposeful and carefully curated sanctuary. She collected many modes and genres of artwork, including paintings, sculptures, and decorative objects from all over the world. She espoused that art is a universal language that transcends cultural barriers and gathers people together. Post also held that through the utilization of the power of the arts, people will not only better recognize and understand their differences, but also perceive and understand their alikeness and community despite those outward differences.  

The procurement of her personal art collection drew Ms. Post to many international settings and eventually even created an opportunity for her to facilitate diplomatic relations between American and Soviet officials. One of the ways in which Post helped to develop U.S. diplomatic aims was by thoughtfully designing and hosting formal dinners at different residences, which included her home, Hillwood Estate, in Washington, D.C. 

During her time abroad, she assembled a vast collection of imperial Russian works of art, which are still displayed today at Hillwood, exactly as she curated them. One of the largest categories of Post’s art collection — which includes Fabergé eggs, a crown, furniture, silver and gold works of art, and rare and valuable liturgical items -– is porcelain. Ms. Post frequently received gifts of Russian porcelain as tokens of her time in the Soviet Union. In return, Marjorie Post gifted numerous Soviet officials with American porcelain and glass, mirroring the diplomatic practice of exchanging gifts.

Together with being the most comprehensive collection of Russian imperial art outside of Russia, Post’s art acquisitions also contain a distinguished 18th-century French decorative art collection. Her artworks at Hillwood include works by renowned artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Pablo Picasso, while simultaneously promoting lesser-known artists from diverse backgrounds. Because of Marjorie Post’s eclectic and inclusive love of all art, it brought her to actively seek out, purchase and artwork by African-American, Native American, and Asian artists as well.

Post’s passion for promoting diversity and equality through art continues to inspire people today. Her collection and the Hillwood Estate itself, serve as a reminder of her dedication to celebrating and preserving any and all cultures through the mediums of beauty and art. The Hillwood Estate Museum continues to educate and inspire visitors about the importance of diversity and inclusion through its purposefully various public exhibitions and programs.

Through Hillwood Estate and its vast art assemblage, Marjorie Post has left a valuable legacy that continues to promote intercultural understanding and appreciation by continuing to support and celebrate past and present diverse artists and their works. Each piece of art tells a unique story that connects us to different cultures and broadens our perspectives. 

Ms. Post loved to have a fresh orchid from the Hillwood gardens at her breakfast table. 

After visiting the Hillwood Estate, the orchid has become for me a symbol of inclusivity and diversity which brings people together and is a testament to the power of art to unite us all. As I sit and contemplate the orchid I now have at my own breakfast table, I am thankful to Ms. Post and my Dear Friend who introduced me to Hillwood. 

Following in Marjorie Post’s footsteps, wish we can use the universal language of art to promote diversity, understanding and cross-cultural unity. Art has the power to transcend barriers and bring people together. It is up to us to embrace and celebrate its diversity. 

Inspiration is so powerful and quite often unpredictable, sometimes you feel it in nature’s patterns, sometimes you can find it in a child’s laughter or after visiting a beautiful place like Ms. Post residence. It’s inspired me to think about what else can be done, how each business or family trip can be meaningful. It’s not just about the destination, it’s about the journey – the people you meet, the stories you collect, and the growth you experience.

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