Master Bedroom

At the center of this room is John Ashbery’s brass bed.  That space–where he slept, relaxed with newspapers and sometimes also read and wrote–looks out at a room full of very personal things.  In a sense, however, this room is no more intimate than many of the others in the house, which also contain paintings by friends, photographs from his childhood, and references–in books, decorative objects, and other images–to the homes, cultural figures, and artists he liked most.  Still, there is much to learn about Ashbery, both personally and artistically, from the things he kept and looked at in his bedroom.

He chose this room as his bedroom (for he could have picked any of the other three other upstairs rooms) because of its proximity to the outdoors; there is a door to a small upstairs porch overlooking the garden, which he liked to use in the summer.  The images that line the walls are often by friends–Anne Dunn, Jane Freilicher, Red Grooms, Jean Helion and Neil Welliver among them–but also depict places and ideas that mattered.  For example, Freilicher painted Queen Anne cherries as a birthday present, a fruit which grew both on the Ashbery farm and on Anne Dunn’s French estate where he spent a great deal of time in the early 1960s.  On the wall next to his bed is another birthday present: Philip Bornath’s depiction of the Pultneyville house Ashbery’s grandparents owned on Lake Ontario.  There are also two posters, one of a “Grand Theatre” puppet backdrop and one of a color chart (each color illustrated in one natural and one man-made example), that Ashbery found in the late 1960s in a wonderful store on the Rue Dauphine in Paris.

The number of things in this room that matter both personally and poetically are too numerous to name in this introduction.  It is the space that contains the largest number of icons of any room in the house.