Situated on a historic 42-acre estate and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Westglow Resort & Spa is serenely nestled in the shadow of Grandfather Mountain and the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Constructed in 1917, the estate was originally the summer home of famed artist and writer Elliott Daingerfield. The focal point of the estate is the historic Manor House, built in the Greek Revival style of architecture and featuring many original Daingerfield furnishings and works of art. Westglow remained in the Daingerfield family until 1978 when Glynda Valentine purchased the estate as a private residence. As a pioneer in fitness and well-being, Glynda first realized the potential of converting Westglow into a retreat for wellness and relaxation, and Westglow Resort & Spa was born. Longtime members Bonnie and Jamie Schaefer continued that legacy with their acquisition of the resort in 2006, initiating a massive restoration and renovation to create the world-class resort that Westglow is today.
Westglow was once the summer retreat of writer and artist Elliott Daingerfield. One of America’s best-known landscape painters at the turn of the 20th century, Daingerfield gave the estate its name. He once described the experience of looking out over the rolling mountains — the same vistas that today’s guests view from the The Mansion at Westglow nearly a century later — this way: “The glow sinks down, the dark grows deep: Then I hear a voice in the slumberous air, the soft, sweet sigh of closed wings: My soul uplifts in silent prayer, for I know the message the Spirit brings.”
Daingerfield dedicated much of his artistic life to depicting images of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Southwest. He and his wife first visited Blowing Rock in 1886 and spent every summer thereafter in the small village. Westglow is the setting for his well-known work The Sisters, an undated work likely painted between 1920 and 1926. The grounds and gardens of Westglow appear in several of his paintings. The rhododendrons, so well-known to the Blowing Rock area and still visible in the gardens of Westglow today, were featured in at least one of Daingerfield’s still-life creations.
The Sisters, circa 1920 – 1924
Although The Sisters is not dated, it was probably painted around 1920-1924. The setting is Westglow, the third and most elaborate of Daingerfield’s summer homes, located just outside Blowing Rock. The Greek Revival structure has been described as a “repeat of the Fayetteville home of his youth, with considerable betterments and no lack of pretense toward ostentation” (Stacks, 1984). The landscape of Westglow became part of Daingerfield’s repertoire. In this painting, it plays a supporting role, enhancing the narrative suggested by the figures. The grounds and gardens appear in several paintings after 1916, and the rhododendrons that grew in the gardens became the subject of at least one important still-life composition. (Nancy Rivard Shaw)
Maidens Bathing, circa 1895
Elliott Daingerfield began summering in Blowing Rock in 1886, and drew his early subjects from the surrounding landscape, eventually building three houses there, including “Westglow.” By 1895 he was well on his way into a fantasy world, and had extended his choice of subjects far beyond the fields of North Carolina, to include allegory and mythology. His settings were no longer bucolic, but dense, filled with haunting shadows, nymphs and satyrs, gods and goddesses, tremulous moods and glowing color. He began applying varnishes and glazes between layers of paint to give a lustrous transparency to his surfaces, and developed a procedure of scraping heavy impastos of pure color over crusted patches of paint. Some of his most evocative memory pieces, like Maidens Bathing, were inspired by his discovery of the philosophies and art of the Symbolists, and their attempts to capture personal feelings and moods, particularly as they concerned mysticism and the spiritual. Daingerfield explored many of the Symbolists’ favorite motifs, including pagan themes such as that depicted here, but he was primarily concerned with feeling and expression. In Maidens Bathing, the rich intensity of the color and light, and the wild grandeur, transmit to the viewer the sense of mystery and spiritual excitement that the artist experienced in the presence of nature. (Nancy Rivard Shaw)
Daingerfield Watercolor, 1910 – 1920
Daingerfield often incorporated moonlit imagery and shadowy forms into his landscapes. This nocturnal scene demonstrates his skills as a watercolorist, and captures the lonely beauty of the hours of darkness. While the view was inspired by the landscape around Blowing Rock, it was painted in the studio rather than outdoors, the artist drawing on memory, intuition and feeling to determine his composition and the overall mood.
(Nancy Rivard Shaw)
Sunset Through the Greenwood, 1918
In the latter part of his career, between 1916 and his death in 1932, Daingerfield returned to the rustic, Barbizon-influenced imagery of his youth, painting suggestive, and very tranquil landscapes drawn from the scenery around Westglow. He described his time at Blowing Rock during these years as idyllic, a refuge from the turmoil of New York City, and a constant inspiration for his art. Daingerfield valued his personal response to the natural world, and in these late works, sought to express in paint the subtle tonalities and modulations of its hushed, still moments: the last light of day, the moonlight, the first rays of dawn. Seeking to transport the viewer from the visible world into the realm of the spiritual, he adopted a rich, chromatic palette, and enveloped his scenes in a mysterious, shadowy atmosphere that obscured forms and created an otherworldly ambiance, an approach that is demonstrated in Sunset Through the Greenwood, in which he evoked the transient moment before sunset. (Nancy Rivard Shaw)
Receiving the Victors, 1895 – 1905
In the early 1890s, Daingerfield’s interests turned increasingly to religious and allegorical themes. By 1895 his pictures were based on literary subjects drawn from classical mythology or the Bible, and were sometimes accompanied by his own poems. Influenced by the English Pre-Raphaelites, he developed an interest in the Virgin Mary, and painted a number of scenes from her life, including several Madonna and Child pictures, culminating in The Life of the Madonna (private collection), which won the National Academy’s Thomas B. Clarke prize for figure painting in 1902. That same year, he was commissioned to create a series of murals for the Lady Chapel of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in New York City. These murals – The Epiphany, depicting the Adoration of the Magi, and The Magnificat, showing the Virgin following the Annunciation – were completed in 1906. (Nancy Rivard Shaw)
Sunset Moon Rising Above Fog Clouds, circa Early 20th Century