17 Aug

Is Now The Dream?

From the other side of the world

“Though these are but the faces of dolls, I am entranced with their unique expressions, and the secrets and mystery they suggest. It is left to the imagination to flesh out each one more fully and hear her poetry from across the centuries.”

– Pat Brown

Is Now the Dream? Hina-ningyō Portraits + Landscapes, on display in our downstairs gallery from January 17th through May 6th, features the work of Pat Brown, a local Austin photographer, who explores the cultural aesthetic of Japan, both past and present.

Hina-ningyō—hand-crafted Japanese dolls collected by the photographer—represent members of the Japanese imperial courts. The photographer’s work brings out the unique expressiveness in each doll, revealing the human and poetic dimensions of their unchanging and timeless expressions.

The title of the exhibit is taken from a poem written by a woman who served in the court of Empress Tokoku, who lived in the 12th century. Describing the decline of her court and thus her way of life, she writes:

Is now the dream?
or was long ago the dream?
I wander on, lost—
unable to convince myself
that this is reality.

Landscape and architectural photographs of Japan round out the exhibit, suggesting what one might have seen during the Edo period prior to Commodore Perry’s opening of Japan to the West in the 1850s, and thus, at the same time Abner Cook was completing our historic house in a young Austin, Texas.

ReceptionFeb. 3 (3)
Kita-Ku, Kyoto
Lady Izumi
Mount Fuji from Hakone
ReceptionFeb. 3 (5)
Prince Kinashikaru
Black Pine - Takayama
Ono no Komachi
ReceptionFeb. 3 (2)
Chiyojo II
Blossoming Tree - Takayama - Hachikemmachi
The Shinkyo Bridge Spanning the Daiya River, Nikko II

Is Now The Dream? Opening Reception: Saturday, February 3rd 4:00 to 6:00pm

Join us and local photographer Pat Brown from 4pm to 6pm on Saturday, February 3rd for a special look at this exhibit. Complimentary refreshments served.

15 Aug

Experience’s Treasures

What our collections say about who we are

Why do we collect? What do we collect? What does it mean to have a collection? In an age defined by consumerism and the easy availability of things, how do we determine which objects we will carry with us through life?

Consider it from our perspective: the only reason that the objects in our collection (whether they date from the nineteenth century or before) have survived is because they were prized for their beauty, their inherent monetary value, their utility, or because of their owners’ sentimental attachments. In most cases, objects fit into more than one category and serve to show us the human dimensions of their particular histories.

The Sonnenberg collection, on display in our gallery from September 2nd through December 17th, presents a century of one family’s collecting, and explores the ways in which the objects we hold on to document our interests and our journeys through life. Throughout their lives, the objects the Sonnenbergs have prized are not simply things, they are signposts for meaning in both relationships and experiences. An eclectic collection that features fine art, folk art, and ephemera, Experience’s Treasures will challenge viewers to consider our relationship to the objects that surround us in our own lives.

Basket Small
Ark small
Women small
Uncle Sam small
Sailor small
Rooster Small
Coyote small
Ceramic Guys Small
Bowl small

Experience's Treasures Opening Reception: Saturday, September 23rd 4:00 to 6:00pm

We invite you to join us for an evening of conversation about the questions we raise in this exhibit. Complimentary beverages served.

11 Aug

Friends Trip – Granite and Green Mountains: American Art and History Up East

Join the Friends of the Neill-Cochran House Museum for a six-day adventure in the history and artistry of New England.

The granite of New Hampshire and the Green Mountains of Vermont embraced an impressive range of artistry around the turn of the 20th century, including poets Robert Frost and E E Cummings; painters Winslow Homer and Maxfield Parrish; and America’s foremost sculptor in this period, Augustus St Gaudens, who anchored an artists’ colony at Cornish. An itinerary related to these figures will complement visits to famed houses from Georgian times to Frank Lloyd Wright.

Itinerary Overview –  June 25-30, 2017

Portland, Maine

City Tour
Wadsworth-Longfellow House (1785ff., childhood home of the famous poet)
Portland Museum of Art with special private visit to Winslow Homer’s Prouts Neck Studio
Portland Head Light


McPhaedris-Warner House (1716, earliest urban brick house in northern New England)
Moffatt-Ladd House (1763 elegant Georgian mansion; Portsmouth furniture; NSCDA property)
Lunch with New Hampshire Colonial Dames
Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion (1740ff., harbor-side home of first royal governor)

Lake Champlain

Shelburne Museum of Art (exceptional fine art and vast collections of American material culture)
Vermont State Capitol at Montpelier

Dartmouth, Cornish, Plymouth, Windsor

St Gaudens Studio (home, studio and gardens of America’s greatest 19th-century sculptor)
Cornish-Windsor Bridge over the Connecticut River (longest wooden covered bridge in the US)
Calvin Coolidge Homestead (1870? boyhood home and site of Coolidge’s Presidential oath-taking, 1923)


Currier Museum of Art, internationally renowned collection of European and American art    Zimmerman House (1950, Frank Lloyd Wright), observing the Wright 150 Robert Frost Farm (time permitting)

Featured Historic Hotels

2 nights in Portland at historic Regency (1895) in the Old Port District
3 nights at Inn at Mill Falls, Meredith NH, on Lake Winnipesaukee

Other inclusions

Porterage, breakfast daily, 2 lunches, 3 dinners, all ground transportation (chartered coach daily), museum admissions, guides and gratuities

Additional Costs

$200 gift to support operation and programs of the historic Neill-Cochran House Museum (Abner Cook, 1855)
Airfare via United Airlines (schedule pending) via Portland and/or Manchester; travel protection

Click Here to download a form with more information, including notes on different costs and accommodations. Then be sure to reserve your spot by mailing the printed form and your deposit to:

Karen Bluethman, Heart of Texas Tours
8501 Silver Ridge Drive
Austin, TX 78759

Have questions or concerns? Contact Karen Bluethman at (512) 345-2043 hottours@sbcglobal.net.

11 Aug

The Woman Must Marry, Else How Live: The Culture of Weddings from 1850-1950


The meaning of getting married

The American Wedding evolved alongside the material culture and social norms of the United States and the individual communities within it. The wedding ceremony did not exist as a fixed concept in most people’s minds until the middle of the 19th century. Weddings were the pragmatic products of their immediate environment rather than public celebrations–and displays of wealth.

This exhibit traces the culture of weddings as they took place in Texas from the beginning of the wedding as a common set of standards in the 1850s to the dawn of the more public and elaborate wedding that we experience and know today in the 1950s. Incorporating period textiles as well as original texts on the planning of weddings in the 19th century and the etiquette of courtship, we turn our focus not only on the material aspects of weddings but also on the social context in which men and women were married. As the setting and styling of the wedding evolved, so did common ideas of what men and women ought to do–including whether their love for each other was an indispensable part of a good marriage.

From the pragmatic ceremony staged at home (and sometimes without a minister or member of the clergy) to the publicly advertised gathering at a large civic space and from the practical union of a man to a woman whose vocation was the rearing of children to the centering of love and romance in the common understanding of weddings, we get married just as we live. The more we look at the historic context of weddings, the more we see that the way we understand the symbolism, pragmatism, and social implications embedded within the moment at which a marriage begins is not absolute but rather anchored in our own present.

Cake Topper Final
Jones Wedding Dress (with bride, too) (657x900) (2)

The Woman Must Marry, Else How Live? Opening Reception, Thursday, March 2nd, from 6:00 to 9:00pm

Amplify Neill-Cochran with complimentary cocktails by Freedmen's, a history of weddings, and live demonstrations of History Lab experiments.

We’re opening this exhibit in conjunction with our fundraising efforts for Amplify Austin 2017. (Read more about Amplify Austin here) Proceeds we raise during this event will go towards our $3,000 goal to fund another year of History Lab, our free, hands-on take on the history of technology and the arts.

We’ll be accepting live donations during the event by credit card, but you can also schedule your donation online anytime before March 3rd at 6:00pm.

11 Aug

Remembered By Hand: Family Histories Illuminated

The Crazy Quilt Comes to Life

In a blaze of kaleidoscopic color, the late 1870s saw a fad rush in that took the United States by storm.  In a few short years, the crazy quilt was born, reached its zenith, and began a slow descent towards obscurity.  But within those years, the crazy quilt was king.  Magazines raved and shared tips and patterns for quilting.  Companies sold templates for embroidery, appliqués aimed directly at crazy quilters, and even grab bags of crazy quilt fabric.

Most crazy quilts share several characteristics.  First, they are not really quilts at all.  There is no “quilting,” that is to say, no stitching of a top fabric to a bottom fabric through a layer of batting.  Crazy quilts typically had no batting, often were never finished, and where finished had a silk or cotton backing that only loosely connected to the top.  Crazy quilts also typically featured silks and velvets, unlike most patchwork quilts, and elaborate embroidery stitching covered seams within blocks as well as between them.  Many quilts incorporated lace, appliqués, ribbons, hand-painted fabrics, and even beads and mirrors.  They provided women the opportunity to share their needlework skills in a context far more elaborate (dare we say flashy?) than a patchwork quilt or even a sampler.

The Centennial Exposition: Cultural Influences

Though precedents do predate the 1870s, the cultural phenomenon of the crazy quilt emerged directly from the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876.  This World Fair had a great influence on American culture, with millions visiting the fair and even more exposed to the exhibits through magazine articles.  Among other new trends, the Fair coincided with the first mass-marketing of Japanese culture outside of Japan.  This can be seen in the emphasis on printed fabrics, vibrant and exuberant color, and the many fan motifs incorporated into the quilts.

This exhibit brings together six crazy quilts from the Neill-Cochran House Museum’s permanent collection.  All of the quilts share characteristics, most notably an emphasis on velvet and silk fabrics and embroidered seams.  However, there are notable differences between the different quilts as well.  Some are backed, while others appear unfinished.  One quilt incorporates small mirrors, another pipe cleaners, and several are hand-painted.   All of the quilts reward close inspection and speak across the 100+ years since their creation to share the stories of their makers.

The preservation of some elements of our quilt collection is funded in part by a grant from the Quilter’s Guild of Dallas, Helena Hibbs Endowment Fund.

This exhibit will be on view from February 7th – February 25th, timed to coincide with quilt exhibitions by the Briscoe Center and the Texas Quilt Museum.

06 Mar

May 1: Sunday Funday: Lightbulbs, Leyden Jars, and More

“Is that a good idea, or is it actually a lightbulb?”Electricity 2

When the Neill-Cochran House was built, having ample indoor light at the flip of a switch was practically unimaginable. This month, we will conduct simple (and safe!) experiments with static and dynamic electricity while we imagine what life was like for Austinites before, during, and after electricity’s increasing availability in the beginning of the 20th century.

With help from staff, kids can experiment with two early means of generating electricity: the Leyden Jar (static) and the Voltaic Pile (dynamic). We will also be able to build and test our own experimental light bulbs using batteries, graphite filaments, and glass jars. Rounding out the day’s displays, demonstrations of a Wimshurst machine and a simple electric motor/generator will let us look closer at both forms of electricity at work.

Free Electrical Knowledge: Bring your own container!

WimshurstBring one glass jar (no lid required) to complete your home-made lightbulb, or just borrow one of our jars while you’re here. For a more advanced project, bring a smooth-sided jar with a plastic lid to build a Leyden jar (similar to a battery, but for storing static electricity). We’ll have a few examples available to experiment with as well.

Come visit us this Sunday from 1pm-4pm,

and while you’re exploring, be sure to try our scavenger hunt, check out our new gardens exhibit, listen to our new friends The Barns Owls, and enjoy a glass of homemade & fresh-squeezed lemonade on the front porch! If you’re new to the museum, remember that you can find free parking in the museum lot accessible from 23rd street in between San Gabriel and Leon (aka, behind the museum!)


05 Mar

April 28: Friends Trip: American Epics

American Epics: Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood

Art inSight day trip benefitting Friends of the Neill-Cochran House Museum

BentonJoin art historian Karen Pope for a day trip to Fort Worth to view and discuss the first major exhibition in more than twenty-five years to feature the life and works of the renowned American painter Thomas Hart Benton (1889 – 1975). Entitled “American Epics: Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood,” this exhibit, on view at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, explores the previously overlooked relationship between Benton’s art and movie making. Benton’s awareness that movies were the best and most popular means of telling American tales inspired a signature artistic style that melded centuries-old traditions with movie-production techniques to create images that appealed to a broad range of Americans.

The exhibition brings together nearly 100 works by Benton, including more than thirty of his paintings and murals, as well as a selection of his drawings, prints, and illustrated books in juxtaposition with scenes from some of Hollywood’s greatest films. In these works, Benton reinvented national narratives for 20th-century America and captivated the public with his visual storytelling. The Peabody Essex Museum organized this exhibition in collaboration with the Amon Carter Museum and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Also on our itinerary:

During the remainder of our day in Fort Worth, we will visit the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame and have a western lunch at Reata, Sundance Square, and time to visit either the Kimbell Art Museum or the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. We will return to Austin in the later afternoon with discussion and refreshments en route.

Ticket Pricing and How to Register

Your registration includes chartered coach transportation, museum admissions, lunch, snacks, and readings. Register by sending a check for $100 per person to:sponsor1b

Karen Pope
Art inSight
PO Box 5730
Austin, TX 78763-5730

Full schedule and departure details will be sent to all registrants. You may give your place to a friend; refunds unlikely less than 10 days before the trip. All proceeds benefit the Friends of the Neill-Cochran House Museum.

For questions about this event, please contact us using the form below:

05 Mar

April 10: Susan Rather and the American School

The American School: Artists and Status in the Late Colonial and Early National Era

DT56 (1500x1097)What did it mean to be an American artist in the 18th- and early-19th-century transatlantic world? In this first comprehensive art-historical study of the subject, Susan Rather examines the status of artists from different geographical, professional, and material perspectives: portrait painting in Boston and London, the trade of art in Philadelphia and New York, the negotiability and usefulness of colonial American identity in Italy and London, and the shifting representation of artists in and from the former British colonies after the Revolutionary War, when London remained the most important cultural touchstone.

BenjaminWestNGA (2) (1232x1500)The book interweaves nuanced analysis of well-known artists (John Singleton Copley, Benjamin West, and Gilbert Stuart, among others) with accounts of non-elite painters and ephemeral texts and images such as painted signs and advertisements, all well represented in this richly illustrated book. Throughout, Rather questions the validity of the term “American,” which she sees as provisional—the product of an evolving, multifaceted cultural construction.

An Afternoon with the American School

Sunday, April 10th
Refreshments served at 2pm; talk begins at 2:30pm

Dr. Rather will speak on both the contents and the process of creating the book and will sign copies after her talk. Copies will be available for sale with a 10% discount for current members of the Friends of the Neill-Cochran House Museum. Cash, check, and credit cards all accepted.

This is event is free to attend. We encourage your RSVP online or by contacting us.

About the Author

DSC03923_1024 (287x401)Susan Rather is Professor of Art History at The University of Texas at Austin. Her recent book was published by Yale University Press in association with the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.

01 Mar

Stitching Memory: American Quilts from the Neill-Cochran House Museum Collection

On Quilts and Stitching Memory

The art of quilting is in many ways the art of stitching memory.  Quilts tell us the stories of families’ lives, both through their use and through their designs.  The quilts in the Neill-Cochran House Museum
collection speak to us of creativity, practicality, and the beauty to be found in the everyday lives of the
artists who produced them.  In some cases, we know a good deal about the quilter, and in others the quilter remains an enigma – anonymous.  In this inaugural exhibit we have placed on display five quilts, which represent different processes (patchwork, applique, and crazy quilting) as well as a variety of
traditional design motifs.  Though very different from one another in appearance and process, all of the quilts on display share great artistic design and detail in the stitching and material choices.

The term “quilt” stems from the Latin culcita, meaning “stuffed sack,” a description of the process of
sewing two or more layers of fabric together to produce a thicker, padded material.  Most quilts have three layers: a quilt top, batting or insulating material, and a back.  Ancient Egyptians produced the
earliest-surviving quilts, though the process is thought to stretch into pre-history.  During the 11th century, quilting came to Europe from the Middle East.  Europeans used quilts not just for bedding, but in clothing as well; knights wore quilted garments under their armor for additional protection and padding.

The art of quilting came with immigrants to the American Colonies.  For early American Colonial women, quilting was a practical means of producing bedding with remnant fabric either left over from another project or salvaged once it no longer served its original purpose.  Remnant fabric even found its way into batting.  Over time, quilts became increasingly elaborate in design, and many were virtuoso displays of both creativity and technique in needlework.

For generations of American women, producing quilt tops was a vital part of building their trousseaus; they finished the quilts after they married and as their families grew.  And quilts were active participants in the story of American migration.  When Abraham Lincoln enacted the Homestead Act of 1862, and Americans began preparations, travel guides encouraged families to carry enough fabric to produce 2-3 blankets or quilts per traveler for the passage across the continent.

As time passed, and the Industrial Revolution brought store-bought products within reach of a larger number of Americans, for wealthier women the tradition of quilting became more a labor of love than of necessity, while it remained a household necessity of others.  Quilts became educational resources in classrooms, depicting alphabets, solar systems, and constellations.  Families also produced quilts to
commemorate significant events such as births and weddings.  The crazy quilt, which is not a true quilt as it contains no batting, dates to this time period when many quilters approached quilting as fabric

The Neill-Cochran House Museum quilts date from the mid-nineteenth century to the 1930s, a time that saw virtuoso skill and craftsmanship as well as a rapidly changing material world.  All of the quilts feature machine-produced fabrics, arranged with great care.  Whether elaborately stitched into a crazy quilt or precisely cut and pieced for an appliqué or patchwork quilt, these objects are a testament to the lives and art of the women who produced them.


Installation - Patchwork Installation - Lone Star Installation - Dresden Plate Installation - Crazy Installation - Applique






















This exhibit is free with any museum admission and on Sunday, March 6th for Sunday Funday.

Join us for a special, behind-the-cordons reception Tuesday, March 8th to benefit our fundraiser with Amplify Austin.

28 Jan

April 3: Sunday Funday: Simple Machines

What’s so simple about machines?

IMG_0793What is a machine? Many of us think of machines as things that do work for us, but this month, Sunday Funday will investigate simple machines, that is, tools that make it easier for us to do the work ourselves. From inclined planes to pulleys, from levers to screws, simple machines are everywhere, including the construction of the 1855 historic house and the implements and tools used to live life in it.

With help from staff and volunteers, kids will be able to engage in daring feats of strength using a block-and-tackle (a system of pulleys and ropes) and a movable fulcrum lever.
The museum and grounds will be open for tours, including a new exhibit from the IMG_0794Austin History Center in the interpretive gallery and a responsive exhibit about the museum gardens and grounds. We’ll also have a machine themed seek-and-find guide for more curious and keen-eyed patrons.

Keeping with the theme and weather permitting, we’ll have badminton and croquet set up on the front lawn: both games using – you guessed it – simple machines! (Third class levers, to be exact)