Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hotel art

If you're like me, you're seldom inspired by the art you find in hotel rooms or lobbies.  Crude landscapes or still-life attempts are ignorable at best, and can often become offensive if you stare at them too long.  I think good art is much more attractive than a bare wall, but I also prefer a bare wall over bad art.

I am pleased to report that bad art is no longer synonymous with inexpensive hotels.  Our recent stay at a Quality Inn in Omaha, Nebraska exceeded my expectations in several ways, not the least of which was the wall decoration.  While waiting in the lobby at check-in, the library opposite the check-in desk caught my eye as being more refined and inviting than what one normally finds in a cookie-cutter chain hotel, but I ignored (perhaps out of habit) what was hanging on the walls.  Later, while walking from the lobby to my room, I noticed something familiar out of the corner of my eye: Martin Luther.

Or rather a print based on Hans Holbein's famous portrait of Luther.  The inscription beneath the image says:

Engraved by C.E. Wagstaff
From the original Picture by Holbein
in his Majesty's Collection at Windsor
Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge
London, Published by Charles Knight, Pall Mall East

The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge?  Who knew such a thing existed?  Formed in 1826, the organization "published inexpensive texts intended to adapt scientific and similarly high-minded material" for the working and middle classes in England (according to Wikipedia).  Several other similar portraits produced by the SDUK were displayed in that hall including this image of one of my favorite mathematicians.

This image of Sir Isaac Newton was engraved by E. Scriven from the original picture by Vanderbank, which at the time was in the possession of the Royal Society.  The SDUK only remained in operation until 1848, but some of its art lives on in Omaha!

The Quality Inn gallery wasn't limited to portraits, as quite a few of the images had an architectural bent.  This photo of the chapel in Farnham Castle in Surrey is quaint enough to make you want to visit the castle, and appears to be part of a series of plates.  This wasn't the only Farnham Castle image in the collection, but it was one of my favorites.

The art collection isn't the only thing going for this hotel.  The beds are comfortable, the rooms are quiet, the air conditioning is cold, and the complimentary hot breakfast was delicious -- but then, maybe the endless supply of bacon had something to do with that.


  1. wow! What great art for a hotel! It is usually so atrocious!

  2. Frankly, simply the name of Farnham Castle is enough to make me want to visit it, picture aside. But yes, the picture does add strength to the desire. :-)
    Having a picture of Martin Luther hanging in a hotel is a new one for me!

  3. I always figured they put stuff up that no one would want to steal and that is was why it was so bad!

    -Mrs. B

  4. So if you were designing a hotel lobby, what would you put on the walls?

    Mrs. B

  5. Good question, Mrs. B. I think I'd be hard pressed to improve on most of the art in this hotel, although a few Pre-Raphaelite prints wouldn't hurt...