“If we only look for it, we are surrounded by the beautiful always. Cherish it, love it. Take it into your hearts and it will be your very life”. —Adelia Armstrong Lutz
Adelia Armstrong was born in 1859 to a father who had a passionate interest in the arts. Adelia followed in his footsteps and showed significant talent at an early age. At a local fair in 1873, the 14-year-old artist won the first-place prize for pencil drawing. Adelia’s education became a priority for her father who sent her to study at Miss Pegram’s School in Baltimore and later the Augusta Female Seminary in Virginia. Adelia went on to study at both the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia and the Corcoran in Washington, D.C.
Adelia exhibited a talent for copying masterworks. By the time she was 25 years old, she was considered to be an emerging star and earned prominent exposure in larger cities. She exhibited at the 1884 World Cotton Centennial in New Orleans and over the next few years her work received praise from several major newspapers. A Washington arts journal noted that she “has been overwhelmed with compliments by the best judges of painting in the city…we confidently predict for Miss Armstrong a national reputation.”
In partnership with the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection, there are now 29 works of art by Adelia Lutz on display at Westwood. The collection showcases her three primary painting subjects: masterwork copies; portraits; and flowers. Most are located in Adelia’s original painting studio.
“The picture [a copy of R. Burnier’s Woman and Cows] is one of Miss Armstrong’s greatest efforts and must place her in the leading ranks of Tennessee artists.” – Knoxville Daily Tribune 12.19.1885
A HOUSE FILLED WITH ART
In 1897, Adelia played a central role in the formation of the progressive new Knoxville Art Club, later renamed the Nicholson Art League (NAL). The NAL was the city’s first visual-arts organization and was unusual among artistic or intellectual associations of the era for including both men and women. Its members included: architect George Barber (1854-1915), nationally known for his mail-order Victorian house designs; Joseph Knaffl (1861-1938), a successful art photographer famous for his “Knaffl Madonna”; Lloyd Branson (1854-1925), best known for his portraits of Southern politicians and depictions of early East Tennessee history; and Catherine Wiley (1879-1958), the impressionist who would become the most famous of them all.
In this tradition, Westwood showcases a range of artists in addition to Adelia Lutz.
Westwood’s collection includes paintings by several contemporary Knoxville artists such as Cynthia Markert, Eugenia Dulin, Linda Lee, Edward Hurst, Joe Parrot, Mike C. Berry, and Mark Martin.
Adelia collaborated with artist and close friend C. Mortimer Thompson (1858-1939) on fresco paintings that covered many interior walls and ceilings of the house. The East Parlor is often referred to as the Fresco Parlor because it is the only room in the house that has been completely restored. Evergreene Architectural Arts helped reveal glimpses of other frescos throughout the house. Thompson was a fellow member of the NAL.
Antique Slag Lamps
Westwood is home to an impressive exhibit of antique slag lamps from the collection of John and Nancy Coates. These beautiful lamps have incredible detailing and each one is its own work of art.
Several family pieces remain in the home, including Adelia’s long studio table which now serves as the dining room table. Other pieces include a family sofa that was originally at Bleak House, a marble-topped “biscuit table” in the kitchen, and the fully restored c. 1890 family piano by Sohmer & Co. A mahogany grandfather clock was hand-carved by Ellen Bolli Van Gilder, another NAL member.
Westwood is rich with architectural detail. The fireplace mantel designs were in collaboration with C.B. Atkin whose local company became the largest producer of hardwood mantles in the world. Beautiful stained glass windows were installed throughout the house and no detail, from the hand carved woodwork to the loveliest hardware design, was overlooked.
A collection of family memorabilia includes many books and photos, John and Adelia’s French Limoges wedding china, an assortment of silver pieces, and other interesting examples of Adelia’s painting skills which include include: a hand-painted book cover; hand-colored family photos; the studio fireplace tiles on which she painted portraits of some of her favorite poets and authors; and the dining room wainscoting which exhibits a delicate bouquet of flowers.