March 29, 2022

The Art of Diplomacy

Irena Wiley was a diplomat's wife. But she was also an artist who used her art to reflect the humanity of the many people she encountered all around the world.

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Bill Adair is an artist who purchased Wiley's pieces at a junk auction nearly 35 years after she died. This special episode of Consolation Prize is their story--how Wiley's work brought the humanity of devastated people to the fore, and how Bill's work has brought Wiley's work to the fore

Further Reading

Irena Wiley, Around the Globe in 20 Years: An Artist At Large in the Diplomatic World (David McKay Co. Inc., 1962).


Producers: Frankie Bjork and Abby Mullen
Guest: William Adair
Voice actors: Cassidy Cash, Daniel Hutchinson, and Kelly Therese Pollock
Music: Andrew Cote


ABBY MULLEN: This is a story about art. It’s about how art connects, and illuminates. It’s a story about an artist who went all around the world in the service of U.S. foreign relations, and it’s about the surprising afterlife of the art she made. I’m Abby Mullen and this is Consolation Prize, a podcast about the United States in the world through the eyes of its consuls. Today we’re veering into unfamiliar territory, for us at least, into the world of 20th century diplomacy, after the creation of the modern foreign service in 1924. I want to make it clear that the story you’re going to hear today is only a tiny fraction of this truly remarkable life. We’re leaving out so very much. And you’re not going to hear much of my voice at all today. Instead, you’re mostly going to hear from the artist herself, voiced by an actor, and from the man who is trying to give her art new life in the places where she created it.

[Waltz in A minor, B. 150, Frederic Chopin]


WILLIAM ADAIR: I normally buy frames at the Tuesday junk auction, not far from my studio. And one day it was a cold February and no one was there. And no one was bidding. And so the auctioneer said, “Bill, look at those drawings, why don’t you raise your hand?” So I flipped through them. And I raised my hand. And there was no one else bidding for them. So I ended up bidding against myself a few times to get the price up. And I got them for a song basically. They were in the detritus of junk of humanity. And so I, I didn’t know what to do with them. I put them on a shelf when I came back to the studio, and I forgot about them. About a year later, somebody from GW called, we’ve, we’ve taken kids from there as interns before, and wanted to know if she could go to a conservation school and get some experience by volunteering with me. So she came in one Saturday and quite frankly, I really didn’t know what to do with her. Her name was Genevieve Bieniosek. I had her take them apart and clean them and mat them and do different things to try to figure out what we could do with them. And all of them were signed, but the signature was illegible. In one of the pieces, it was matted. And it was an acid bearing mat, so we took it apart. And inside of it was a postcard from Hyde Park, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s home, presidential library’s there. And there, legibly was her name written, printed on the postcard, a sketch of FDR, Irena B. Wiley.

Irena Wiley sitting in front of an easel drawing a portrait; behind her is many more portraits framed along the wall.
“IrenaW,” Wiley Family Photographs, Gold Leaf Studios,

ADAIR: I’m William Adair. I’m the owner of Gold Leaf Studios. And I’m the owner of about 90 paintings and drawings of Irena Wiley’s. 

ADAIR: So we googled it. And literally, the floodgates opened. The next stage was to try to sell them because we’re in the business of buying and selling art and frames. And the more I realized how important she was, the less I wanted to sell them. The more I was intrigued about the story, rather than any cash reward. After all, I didn’t have a lot in them, so I didn’t have to worry about it too much. We began to mat them. I had them conserved by a colleague of mine at the Folger Library. Frank Mowery was a paper conservator and he, he took the entire batch, and deacidified them. They were moldy, they were stuck together, they, they clearly had been in a basement somewhere from our initial assessment. That was in a portfolio and the drawings ranged from unbelievable detailed black and white drawings from the 20s that resembled the work of Picasso and Léger, not the cubist but the more solidly drawn material.

ADAIR: We, we decided that they needed some special treatment. And then I began to frame them really beautifully and admire them, put them up in my wall and basically try to figure out where we’re going. So I hired a curator from, a friend from the National Portrait Gallery, Molly Grimsley, the registrar. Molly said, “Annabelle Champion is here with the National Portrait Gallery in London. I’d like you to meet her.” And she came in and she said, “Hey. Can I have a job?” And I hired her on the spot. I appointed Annabelle to be the curator of the project, and she basically did the most fantastic job up and running with it. We were looking for a copy of Irina Wiley’s book that we had read about. So Annabelle went to the local bookstore, and walked in, it was a used bookstore, secondhand books. And she found a copy of her book and so she brought it back. And the inside cover was written, “This book belongs to Senator Claiborne Pell.” He died. Books were sold, they bought it. And of course, I became excited because he was mentioned in the book as one of her collaborators in art and culture. So that was a wonderful moment of serendipity again. I began to really fully appreciate the depth of her diplomacy. 

[Rustic Wedding Symphony, Op. 26 – II. Bridal Song, Karl Goldmark]


MULLEN: John Cooper Wiley has just been appointed part of the diplomatic legation to Moscow. But first he needs to take care of some important business.

WILEY: It was a warm Mediterranean day in April. We were solemnly seated, John and I, on huge gilded and most uncomfortable armchairs in the Renaissance room of the town hall of Toulon. This unimpressive and jet-propelled ceremony was the culmination of months of red tape, paper work, endless preparation. If you must be married abroad, choose any place on the map, even a lamasery in Tibet, but don’t get married in France…

WILEY: In the next twenty years we were to be stationed in Russia, Belgium, Austria, Estonia, Latvia, Colombia, Portugal, Iran, Panama, and Washington, not counting trips to Turkey, Lebanon, China, Japan, and Greece, and to almost all the countries of South America.

[music ends]

Photograph of Irena and John sitting on a couch and holding hands; a large portrait hangs behind them on the wall.
“Irena and John, Iranian Embassy,” Wiley Family Photographs,
Gold Leaf Studios,

ADAIR: She was the wife of John Wiley, a highly skilled diplomat. He was appointed to go to Moscow. Exciting moment for Irina Wiley, his new wife. She was from Poland, from Lodz, Poland. She was the daughter of a very wealthy merchant, a Jewish merchant. And in the 20s, they were some of the most successful people in their town and she was a very notable person; she went to the Sorbonne, she went to the Slade school in London. She was one of the artists, a beautiful artist. And John Wiley was a guy from Indiana, who was a diplomat. And she spoke many languages. And I just want to say that there is always the power behind someone. And it is, in my opinion, she was the mastermind behind his success. 

[“Under the Double Eagle,” J. F. Wagner] 


MULLEN: John Wiley is serving as the U.S. charge d’affaires and consul general ad interim at the U.S. Legation to Vienna. Adolf Hitler is beginning to move into Austria in what is called the Anschluss. Wiley is charged with closing down the American legation, but first he has to deal with the flood of people trying to leave Austria ahead of Hitler.

[music ends]

NEWSREEL: From Innsbruck to Brenner Pass, Austrian independence was crushed beneath the heels of goose-stepping Nazi Legions. The hand of friendship is extended with a mailed fist, with the now historic lifting of the border gate, the tragic symbol of surrender. Millions jammed country lanes and city streets to gain a glimpse of the man who proclaimed himself a leader of a peaceful country of 7 million. Here we witness the history making march that has shaken the entire world. True, a peaceful invasion, but one of submission rather than a triumphant conquest by the Nazi Legion. Through the tranquil, colorful town of Linz march and ride the army of gray-clad invaders heralding the approach of the new dictator, returning to his native land for the first time in 24 years.

WILEY: It is not the physical or even the moral suffering that I remember most vividly of this nightmarish period. It is what the degradation did to some people.

NEWSREEL: [chants of ‘Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!’]

WILEY: Circe transformed men into swine. Hitler in one day transformed them into cringing brutes. From under flat stones, from the cracks of walls, emerged the underground Nazis, the card-bearing Austrians. Their day had come, they seized the keys of the city.  They assumed the right of life and death over all who were not their kind. And how they used their power! To see primeval cruelty emerge in civilized man terrifies the soul.

[“Lacrymosa,” Requiem, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart]

WILEY: John understood so well the importance of human dignity that the first thing he did after Hitler had seized Austria was to assemble the entire staff of the legation, from counselor to office boy. He told them: ‘Thousands of people are coming to ask for help. For most of them there is little or nothing that we can do. You will be tired, overworked and irritable, but I still ask you always to treat each of them with sympathy, courtesy, and when you can’t do anything for them, when nothing else is available, give them your time and sympathy so that here at least they will be respected human beings and not hunted animals.’

WILEY: During the first few weeks I helped out, stamping visa applications, thus releasing the office boys for more important work. The problem was to get visas for refugees so that they could leave Austria. It was impossible to help everyone. Being a sculptress, I decided in so far as possible to concentrate on artists. If a hopeless visa applicant was a painter, a sculptor, a musician he would be sent directly to me. Then with the help of the Quakers, the Jewish Joint Relief or other diplomatic missions, and many private citizens, I would try to get the required visas, visas for any place of refuge in the outside world.

[“Scenes from Childhood, Op. 15: X. Almost Too Serious,” Robert Schumann]

ADAIR: They were lined up at the, at the consulate. Many of the drawings I have are, in watercolors, are hers while she was in the waiting room sketching these poor people. Basically sentenced to death if she couldn’t get them an exit visa. So she took their names and called people in the United States. So she was just shooting in the dark from the hip, calling a name, the same name and saying, “Would you sponsor this person?” And she would, and they would say yes. So they put their address down on the exit visa, and they would get to the Nazi controlled train station, airports. And with that name on it, then the Nazis would call and verify that this was true, and all the paperwork is in line, and these people were got out. Hundreds of them. I asked her nephew, Tony Szulc. I said, “Tony, your, your aunt was really a remarkable person. What are you most proud of for her?” And he said, “Well, we’ve talked about it, the family. And we really admire her for many things. But we’re the most proud for the unknown people that were saved. Hundreds, if not 1000s.”

A watercolor painting of a child cradled in their mother's lap in Vienna awaiting visas to leave the country.
“058.Visa Applicant, Vienna,” The Collection, Gold Leaf Studios,

[piano music]

WILEY: I remember particularly one day, shortly after Hitler had taken over Vienna, that John telephoned me, saying: “The SS are at Professor Freud’s house. I am worried about him. Take the car with the flag flying and go there at once. I’ll see what can be done to protect him, but hold the fort in the meantime.”

WILEY: …Off I went. When I got to Freud’s house, I had to push past two armed SS men who guarded the door to his apartment. There in the front room I was faced by a scene of vandalism and destruction, which later, alas, became an everyday sight. Six SS men were pulling books off shelves, tearing out the pages, and throwing them on the floor. The rest were breaking furniture. John had explained to me the psychology of brutality, and advised me that the only way to deal with bullies was to bully even more. So with a rude and commanding voice, I told them to stop immediately and asked to see the officer in charge. He was not there. I commanded them to get out immediately and, strangely enough, they did. Of course, I had no business there. Freud was not an American citizen, and the SS could have thrown me out. John was right, a show of authority left them flustered and uncertain.

WILEY: I then looked for Freud and found him in his library, which being at the far end of the apartment had not yet been reached by the SS. He was sitting calm and undisturbed behind a huge desk which was entirely covered by his collection of Egyptian statuettes.

WILEY: From time to time I tried to talk to him about his future. I told him that John wanted to help him get out of Vienna and asked where he wanted to go. He brushed these questions aside and resumed his talk about Egyptian religions. Only once did he flare up. It was when I asked him if he would like to go to America. “To America, never. The country where psychoanalysts have taken my thoughts and my theories and then prostituted them. Never! Never!” I stayed with him for a few hours until John had somehow or other arranged with the Nazi authorities to leave him in peace. Freud later left for England. Wealthy friends paid a substantial bribe to the Gestapo.

[piano music slows and continues in the background]


MULLEN: While Germany is invading countries throughout Europe, the Soviet Union is advancing more quietly into the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. John and Irena Wiley are appointed to Estonia and Latvia just as the Soviets move in.

ADAIR:They moved to Estonia. He was the minister, he was the ambassador there, having had experience with the Bolsheviks in 1919. And the Soviets were doing what they’re doing today. They are taking over their neighboring countries. And Irena was childless at this point. And she wanted to adopt a child that was going to be shipped to Siberia on the trains. They just basically went in and rounded everybody up and put them in cattle cars and shipped them all to Siberia.

[music slightly picks up speed]

WILEY:After the Russians had been there a week, our doorbell rang in the middle of the night and in came the wife of the Cabinet minister, hiding under a shawl a two-year-old girl. She told us that her husband had already been arrested and deported and that her turn would probably come next. Would we please take her little girl as our own? I took the child and promised to take care of her. John was still in the office, as all were working endless hours, but I knew that even if this was a violation of some State Department regulation, John would approve. When he came back and was presented with lovely, blue-eyed blond Trudy, he accepted with calm and a smile this unexpected paternity.

WILEY: The difficulty was that if the Russians knew that we had Trudy, they would make trouble. Since the child was not an American citizen, we would have been helpless. We kept her sleeping in her room during the day and at night we played with her in the garden. That period has remained in my mind as the “sleepless month.” But the GPU never discovered the child.

WILEY: The serious problem was how to get the child out of Latvia. We tried to adopt her officially, but this would have taken many months, and we were obliged by the Russians to leave within a few weeks. To put her on our passport without formal adoption was against American law. We were desperate, since, of course, under no circumstances would we leave Trudy. I had visions of wrapping myself and the child in a large American flag and, thus protected, sit out the war in Latvia. Salvation came from a very kindhearted Danish chargẻ d’affaires. Denmark’s citizenship laws luckily are more humanitarian and elastic than ours, with much discretion left to their chiefs of mission. When he heard of our dilemma this charming Dane had his housekeeper adopt Trudy, giving her a new surname, and putting her on the housekeeper’s passport. She was leaving for Sweden very soon and would take the child to Stockholm. From there, friends of ours would bring Trudy to Washington to meet us.

WILEY: We did not keep Trudy. The night before her planned departure for Stockholm, her mother came and took her away. For weeks, she tried to bear the idea of parting, probably forever, from her only child. But when the moment came she could not. With a heavy heart I watched her leave the safety of the legation with her child fiercely clasped in her arms. She was going to try to get out of Latvia through the “green frontier” into Germany.

[“Scenes from Childhood, Op. 15: XII. Child Falling Asleep,” Robert Schumann]

ADAIR: The George Washington of Estonia, General Laidoner and his wife were shipped as well. And Irena was quite friendly with them and tried to help them but to no, no prevail.

WILEY: I own a black scarf of lovely Chantilly lace. The scarf is light and soft, but for me it is a hair shirt because, woven in the intricate design of human despair, is a recollection of my inadequacy, my failure, in keeping a promise.

WILEY: It had to do with our friends, the Laidoners, who lived on a small country estate just outside Tallinn. A few days after the Soviet occupation, they let us know they wanted to see us.

WILEY: We drove immediately from Riga to their place. Their three boxers greeted us joyously at the door. The general and his wife were as urbane outwardly as though nothing untoward had happened. The General took John for a walk to show him more than a thousand young trees he had planted. He gave no indication that he did not expect to see them grow to maturity. In the meantime Mrs. Laidoner talked to me alone in the garden.

WILEY: Women are not soldiers. We do not live by the same code as men, perhaps because we had nothing to do in drawing it up. Our heroism is not in pretending that we do not care and that we are not afraid. When we were left alone, Mrs. Laidoner handed me the lovely black scarf and said: “This lace has been in our family for three generations. I will never be able to use it again. I want you to have it and to think about me when you wear it.” I was taken by surprise and said, “But why won’t you be able to use it?” She looked at me with eyes filled with grief and acceptance. “Don’t you understand, don’t you see that this house, this garden are already our prison, that any minute we will be deported?”

WILEY: We left the Laidoners and returned to the legation. That night they were deported. They entered the Communist darkness at midnight. It was some months before we reached Washington. I am sure that Mr. Roosevelt did everything he could, but to no avail. They were probably already dead. There was no charge, no indictment, no trial. They were simply eliminated, obliterated. General Laidoner’s crime was patriotism.

[music ends]

ADAIR: I just wanted the people, I wanted people to know about Irena Wiley, that’s really my motivation not really to sell this stuff. But it’s just that because of these things happening, I felt it was my personal obligation. I don’t know why, but I just, I just felt compelled. And so we kept throwing stuff against the wall and nothing happened. State Department straight arm, Polish embassy straight arm. I was lamenting this to one of my colleagues in, in my field is a man named Peter Sep. And Peter and I have worked together for 40 years. He is the gold leaf supplier. And I just happened to be talking one day and I said, “Peter, aren’t you, weren’t your parents from some Eastern European country?” And he goes, “Yeah, yeah, we were Estonian, Bill.” And then he got really excited about what I told him and he gave a grant to the Estonia House, which he was a member, in New York. That was, enabled us to contact the Estonian Museum, have enough money to frame everything, and mat it properly, and ship it to Estonia. And it went to five museums in Estonia. 

[Estonian news station detailing one of the exhibits of Irena Wiley’s work in Tallinn at the Laidoner Museum, in the Estonian language]

ADAIR: And the show was going to come down and there was just enough money left. And the curator really wanted me to come. And it was in August in Washington, and you know, that’s not a happy time here with the heat and humidity. And the thought of going to, you know, close to the Arctic Circle was wonderful. So I bit the bullet and did it. And I never regret that trip at all. It was one of the most eye opening, heart wrenching episodes in my life. 

[“Oiga Ja Vasemba,” Estonian folk music]

ADAIR: I was at the last venue in a town called Haapsalu. And everything was there, beautifully done. And we were waiting for the town, the mayor and the local people in the press to come and there was a pretty big reception crowd coming because this was a big deal for their town. And so the mayor comes in and starts talking about the show and diplomacy and how art is a device for bringing people together. And how wonderful she said that this event was for their country and for their people as a nation. It recalled all of the times of their national pride before the Soviets had taken over. And she said, “Oh and by the way, General Laidoner’s wife survived the, the time in Siberia during the war, she was one of the few people who actually survived. And when she came back, she lived in the town of Haapsalu as an older woman.” And here’s the kicker right now. She turned to me and she said, “And isn’t it wonderful that these two friends are together again?”

[music ends]

ADAIR: I didn’t quite realize how important that statement was. As a conceptual artist, I have been exploring the ideas quite frequently nowadays that the, the perception of this the moment when she said that, I actually felt that they were together and it became a quest for me to continue finding the proper home for her artworks. 

[“Song from the South of Iran”]


MULLEN: After World War II, the Soviet Union began pushing for even more territory, including its southern neighbor, Iran. John and Irena Wiley were sent to Iran in the midst of this tense time for the country.

Our ambassador in Tehran states that the Soviet propaganda build-up against Iran is so similar to that which preceded the annexation of the Baltic States as to be alarming. He says that the Soviets have established a juridical case for intervention in Iran under the treaty of 1921 and that, in his opinion, the question of their return to Iran is only one of timing. He points out that the USSR might well make a move in Iran in order to regain the initiative after its recent setbacks and, particularly, the conclusion of the North Atlantic pact and believes that the Soviets might well be able to reoccupy Azerbaijan and terrorize the Iranian government into removing itself from the western orbit without the risk of a shooting war.

DANIEL HUTCHINSON: Summary of a telegram fromJohn Wiley, March 17, 1949

WILEY: From the time of Peter the Great the czarist regime had coveted Iran (then called Persia), both for its value as a borderland and for its strategic position in the traditional Russian aim to encircle Turkey, reach India and dominate the Persian Gulf.

WILEY: The Communist regime of Moscow inherited this geographical objective and made a vain effort to extract Hitler’s promise of a free hand in November, 1940. After the war, in 1946, it required the hue and cry of the General Assembly of the United Nations, backed by President Truman, to induce the Red Army to withdraw from Iranian Azerbaijan.

WILEY: Stalin, however, continued to place obstacles in the way of the stabilization of Iran and to oppose Iran’s links of friendship with the West, especially with the United States.

Irena and John stand next to the Shah of Iran with many members of the Iranian military behind them.
“John, Irena, and Shah of Iran,” Wiley Family Photographs, Gold Leaf Studios,

WILEY: The Soviet propaganda war reached fever pitch during our official stay in Teheran, in a period of hot and irritable peace along Iran’s whole northern frontier. The political pot, at certain moments, threatened to boil over. To watch for every sign of unrest, every movement of troops, every blast on the Soviet radio or in the Communist press of Iran, was like following the zigzag course of a fever chart of a patient in a hospital.

ADAIR: We had a small presentation at the Center for Diplomacy. And it was when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. They were just developing it. And she said to me, “This is really remarkable work. What a great discovery.” And she was particularly interested in the paintings that Irena had done when they were in Iran in the 1950s. They, we have drawings of, paintings of the Shah of Iran, of many notable people. Secretary Clinton said that if things could be normalized between Iran, it would be wonderful to send this show to Tehran as a moment in time of our diplomacy. And this is what brings people together who are warring. Art is the healing device for humanity. 

[music ends]

ACT 5: VIETNAM, 1968

[gentle piano music plays]

MULLEN: Irena Wiley published her memoir, Around the Globe in Twenty Years, in 1962. That’s what you’ve been hearing excerpts from. John Wiley died in 1967.

OBITUARY: New York Times, February 3, 1967. John Cooper Wiley, former Ambassador and a member of the Foreign Service for 38 years, died this morning at the Washington Hospital Center after a short illness. He was 73 years old. At various times, Mr. Wiley served as Ambassador to Colombia, Portugal, Iran, and Panama. He was the American charge d’affaires in Vienna at the time of the German takeover in 1938, and he was the United States minister to Latvia and Estonia two years later when the Soviet Union invaded those countries. He is survived by his widow, the former Irena M. Baruch.

[music ends]

MULLEN: So Irena did what she had done for her whole life: she traveled and she made art.

NEWSREEL: [speaker 1] I was still counting when we left. There is our ambassador Ellsworth Bunker, General James K. Woolnough, Commanding General of the Continental Army Command, and General George S Brown, Seventh Air Force Commander. We better salute and get to work. [cheering]

NEWSREEL: [Bob Hope] Yes, sir, my boy. Nobody showed up, huh? Ladies and gentlemen, here we are in Vietnam. Yes, sir. So much for your bombing halt.

MULLEN: She traveled with the USO on what were called “handshake tours” where celebrities visited soldiers in hospitals and on bases. She didn’t perform with the more famous USO tours like Bob Hope. Instead, she did something much more personal.

ADAIR: She went into hospitals with wounded soldiers, and drew them and sketched them and gave them their drawings. That was her contribution to the war effort, the healing. And so somewhere out there are paintings of US soldiers. And their families, they probably don’t know what they have. But this probably, they’re, I’m sure they’re momentos of, of people in their family. So it’s nice to know that she spread that, that as well.

¾ photograph of Irena in camouflage, smiling at the camera, during her USO tours.
“Irena, Vietnam, c.1969,” Wiley Family Photographs, Gold Leaf Studios,

MULLEN: Somewhere out there, maybe in your attic, there are portraits of Vietnam veterans, drawn by this remarkable woman. 

[soft piano begins]

MULLEN: I asked Bill if he had a favorite of the pieces that he had rescued from that junk auction.

ADAIR: There’s probably one that is the most important drawing. It’s of a mother and child, it’s very empathetic. It’s watercolor with blue and gold and it’s very endearing because the child is looking into the mother’s face. It’s almost like a Madonna and Child thing, but it’s not a religious thing. But Annabelle determined that this was one of the pieces from the, the deportees to Auschwitz. And she lent it. or we lent it to, the to the Jewish Museum for, for a show in New York several years ago. And when it’s all said and done, it would be nice to donate that piece to them, to where they would appreciate it and know what it is. Hopefully all these things that I rescued will come to a final resting spot where it belongs. Who knows? It just takes 60 or 70 years for things to sort themselves out. But eventually everything evens out in the end, I’m convinced, if it’s meant to be. The most important part of these objects are not the objects clearly. It’s, it’s the memory of what happened there.

MULLEN: Usually you’d hear the credits here, and we will get to those in a moment. But this is a different kind of episode from our normal one. There are still people alive today who knew Irena Wiley, and who might have stories to tell us about her. There are also likely people who own pieces of her art, and may not even know it. We want to hear those stories and find that art. So we need your help. The first way you can help is by sharing this episode with everyone you know–on social media, telling your friends, really any way you can. But if you think you might have encountered Irena Wiley at some time, we really really want to hear from you. You can email us at, or you can reach out on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, or you can even leave us a voicemail on our website, Please spread the word–this is just the beginning of our journey into Irena Wiley’s story–so we want to know as much as we can about her. Please help us.

MULLEN: Okay, here’s the credits. Consolation Prize is a podcast of R2 Studios at George Mason University. This episode was produced by me, Abby Mullen, and our awesome graduate intern, Frankie Bjork. Our special guest today was Bill Adair of Gold Leaf Studios. You can see the website that he set up about Irena’s work at Our voice actors for this episode were Cassidy Cash, who hosts a podcast called “This Shakespeare Life”, you should go check it out, Daniel Hutchinson, and Kelly Therese Pollock, who hosts a podcast called “Unsung History”, which you should also check out. The original music in this episode is by, as always, the amazing Andrew Cote, and the quotations that you heard from Irena’s voice come from her memoir Around the Globe in 20 Years, published in 1962 by David McKay and Company. Thanks for listening and please share Irena’s story.

William Adair

William Adair, owner of Gold Leaf Studios, is a frame historian, conservator, and master gilder in Washington, D.C. He received his BFA in Studio Art from the University of Maryland. Since then he has worked at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and curate several exhibits on frames, including the first one in America. In 1991, Adair was awarded the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome where he then spent six months studying frame design. He is the founding Director of the International Institute for Frame Study as well as a founding member of the Society of Gilders. Throughout his career, Adair has working on many exhibitions on frames and gilding and continues to do so while he operates Gold Leaf Studio.