Thanks to Fred Dicker for having me on his Talk 1300 radio show today -- that would be the second half of his Dec. 24 podcast -- to promote the Gordon Granger book. He knows a lot about the Civil War era, and is a skilled interviewer.
Fred broadcasts out of the state Capitol, specifically the LCA (Legislative Correspondents Association) on the third floor, between the Assembly and Senate, where he works for the New York Post and I used to for the Daily/Sunday Gazette of Schenectady. The ever-gracious Jean Gutbrodt was holding down the fort at the LCA on Christmas Eve, and I also chatted with some reporters working on the pre-holiday: Susan Arbetter, Jimmy Vielkind, Rick Karlin, Michael Virtanen.
I have to admit that opening up the skylights at the top of the Assembly and Senate staircases was a good idea (I had been privately skeptical about the expense), continuing the laudable, bipartisan restoration of the Capitol undertaken by the past four governors and the Legislature.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo deserves credit for displaying more and better labeled artwork. Now when you enter the building from Empire State Plaza, you are greeted in the lobby by paintings of Washington and Lafayette and a bust of U.S. Grant (though for some reason there is no sculptor listed for the latter). Still there is the bust of Christopher Columbus, which I believe was installed in the prior Cuomo administration on the initiative of the current governor's mother, Matilda.
But it's upstairs on the second floor that the art comes into its own. The new Hall of New York has some wonderful paintings on loan from around the state. And the Hall of Governors is much more accessible, introduced with the dazzling full-length Gov. George Clinton by Ezra Ames, at the Senate staircase entrance. Inside, I was struck by two more full-length portraits: a young, handsome Gov. William H. Seward, still at the dawn of his enormously productive career, by Chester Harding (although I'd dispute the label describing Seward as a leading abolitionist before the Civil War -- although he was a lifelong antislavery man, he would not have embraced that label then); and at the far end of the hall, a rather ominous looking, cowlick-haired William Sulzer, the only governor to have been impeached -- and perhaps unjustly so -- painted by Leo Mielziner. Mario Cuomo's portrait is finally there, but none yet of Eliot Spitzer or David Paterson. I liked Douglas Volk's relaxed, cross-legged version of the Happy Warrior, the great Al Smith.
I see the "Irrepressible Conflict" (Seward's phrase) exhibit is still on at the State Museum, at the other end of Empire State Plaza. It has the best, largest version I have ever seen of an iconic, very beautiful photo: Grant, deep in debt, 10 days or less before he died of cancer, is working on his memoirs at Mount McGregor.