Page 1

For the Record

THE ART OF LILY SPANDORF NOVEMBER 21, 2015–SUMMER 2016 A co-production of the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum and the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.

For the Record ARTIST, JOURNALIST, AND ENTREPRENEUR Lily Spandorf created a unique record of Washington, D.C., from 1960 until her death in 2000 at age 86. The Austrianborn master of the documentary quick sketch restlessly roamed the city, producing thousands of ink-and-watercolor paintings of changing streetscapes, soon-to-bedemolished buildings, and breaking news events.

In 1988 a selection of Spandorf’s watercolors were collected into an exhibition and book titled Lily Spandorf’s Washington Never More by Mark G. Griffin and Ellen M. McCloskey. While For the Record presents Never More highlights, it also presents the first collected public display of Spandorf’s many celebrity portraits, commissions, and illustrations to reveal how she made her living as a working artist. Below: Miriam Johnson, Lily Spandorf Painting in West Potomac Park, April 1969.

ARTISTIC VISION Lily Spandorf painted quickly and, by her own account, compulsively. Her style was impressionistic, picturesque, and literal at a time when most artists were working in the abstract. While her contemporaries often worked from photographs, Spandorf preferred to work on site, describing her technique as “loose washes of color later defined with line,� using gouache, watercolor, and ink.

TAKING INITIATIVE As a working artist in post-World War II Europe, Spandorf created drawings for advertisements and murals for restaurants. In Washington she paid the bills with commissions from publishers, private organizations, and wealthy patrons. Often she took the initiative by making a sketch or painting, then selling it either to the parties involved or to a periodical interested in its news value. She began illustrating newspaper stories in 1960 and as a member of the National Press Club, she frequently sketched their news-making lunchtime speakers, including D.C. delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. Many of her works can be found in newspaper archives today.

Above: Lily Spandorf, Municipal Fish Market (detail). Top left: Spandorf, restaurant muralist, poses for a publicity photo in London. Bottom left: Lily Spandorf, Eleanor Holmes Norton. National Press Club Archives

DOCUMENTARIAN & PRESERVATIONIST Accidentally—and then deliberately—Spandorf began recording buildings that were being demolished, such as the Old Botanic Gardens office, or whose historical contexts had been erased for modern construction. The paintings, which she dubbed her “Never Mores,” eventually brought her the acclaim of the historic preservation movement. Right: Lily Spandorf, Old Botanic Gardens Office.

Lily Spandorf “The lickety-split painter who can make you a sketch of any Washington street faster than you can cross it.” — Judith Martin, “Lily Reverses That Proverb: Her Art Is Faster than Time,” The Washington Post, 1966

Above & Below: Lily Spandorf, Collector’s Corner Gallery (detail). Cover: (top) Lily Spandorf, Peoples Drug, 7 Dupont Circle, ca. 1970, (bottom): Lily Spandorf, Municipal Fish Market.

Museum Information Location

Albert H. Small Center for National Capital Area Studies

The museum is located at the corner of 21st and G streets, NW, four blocks from the Foggy Bottom Metro Station (Blue, Orange, and Silver lines). For directions and parking information, visit

The center is open by appointment only Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, 11:30 am–4 pm. Please email to make an appointment.


Public Programs

Mon, Wed–Fri: 11:30 am–6:30 pm Sat: 10 am–5 pm Sun: 1–5 pm Closed Tuesdays and university holidays.

Admission $8 suggested donation for non-members. Free for museum members, children, and current GW students, faculty, and staff.

Accessibility The museum is wheelchair accessible and designated garage parking is available nearby. Visit museum.gwu. edu/accessibility for more information.

Museum Shop Visit the shop for unique jewelry, home décor, books, and gifts from Washington, D.C., and around the world that support the museum’s educational mission.

Arthur D. Jenkins Library

For the most up-to-date list of the museum’s educational programs visit

Exhibition Tours Free walk-in tours highlighting selections from current exhibitions are offered each Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 pm (textile tour) and 2:30 pm (Washingtoniana tour). To schedule a docentled tour for groups of six to forty people, call 202-994-5578 at least four weeks in advance.

Join or Donate Support from members and donors is the driving force that allows the museum to continue its work bringing art, history, and culture alive for the GW community and the public. To join or renew a current membership, or to make a donation, visit or call 202-994-5579.

Stay in Touch Follow the museum online for more information about works on view, programs, and behind-thescenes activities.

The reading room is open Wed–Thu 1–4 pm and by appointment. Please contact the librarian before your visit at


Lucinda P. Janke and Jane Freundel Levey, co-curators. Assistance from Anne E. Dobberteen and Anne McDonough. The curators are grateful to Mark G. Griffin and Ellen M. McCloskey, co-authors of Lily Spandorf’s Washington Never More. Thank you also to Matija Balanc; filmmaker Barr Weissman; and John Suau, Executive Director, and Adam Lewis, Communications Director, Historical Society of Washington, D.C. The George Washington University Museum Studies Program students designed this exhibition under the direction of Barbara Brennan, Co-Director, Graduate Exhibit Design Certificate Program, and Andrew Scott, Adjunct Professor of Exhibit Design. Student team: Laura Augustine, Laurel Gates, Adrienne Iannone, and Victoria Otero.


All images appear courtesy of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., unless otherwise noted.

In Memoriam

Lucinda P. Janke, 1943-2015 GWTM_1516_10

For the Record: The Art of Lily Spandorf  

Guide to the George Washington University Museum's exhibition (November 21, 2015 through Summer 2016)

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you