Thursday, April 30, 2009

"I bought it yesterday" The Lipman Folk Art Collection Comes to Cooperstown

By: Paul D'Ambrosio, Vice President and Chief Curator
Two years after the purchasing the Nadleman collection of American folk art, in 1950, Stephen Clark made his usual Saturday morning visit to the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, ending up as always in Lou Jones’ office, where he said, “Have you heard of the Lipman Collection?” Jones replied that he had, having known the Lipmans for some time. “Well” said Clark, “What do you think of it?” Jones said, “Next to Nina Little’s it’s the great collection.” Clark replied “I did something I shouldn’t have done without consulting you first. I hope you don’t mind. I bought it yesterday.”

Jean Lipman was well known as the long-time editor of Art in America, in which she had featured Clark’s Henri Matisse collection in 1934. Lipman was also a pioneering collector; and her pieces among others had illustrated her influential books American Primitive Painting and American Folk Art in Wood, Metal, and Stone in the 1940s. Clark purchased 334 paintings and sculptures from the Lipmans for $75,000, exactly twice what Mrs. Lipman had paid for each item.
As Clark set about collecting folk art, he did so with an eye honed from years of collecting Modernism, and recognizing in folk art the aesthetic similarities to modern art, which Lipman described as “the unselfconscious ability to develop the purely aesthetic qualities of abstract design.” In this regard it makes perfect sense that he would be enthralled with the works that Lipman had collected.

All of a sudden the museum’s folk art collection was one of the largest and most important in the country. The Lipman collection included landscapes, townscapes, schoolgirl pieces, weathervanes, cigar store figures, nautical carvings, and trade signs.

One of Lipman’s favorite pieces, Winter Sunday in Norway, Maine, was purchased from an antique dealer for 50 cents and sold to Mr. Clark for one dollar.
Lipman owned two great Peaceable Kingdoms by the Quaker minister and artist Edward Hicks, the earlier one incorporating a border with the paraphrased verse from Isaiah, and the later noteworthy for its unified and dramatic composition.
The Lipman Collection was especially strong in sculpture, and included a unique Cigar Store Figure with African features, reportedly made by a freed slave by the name of Job in Freehold, NJ.
After the acquisition of the Lipman Collection, the lower level of Fenimore House, a former swimming pool in Edward’s mansion, was filled in to create state-of-the-art galleries for all of the folk art holdings. (see photo below)

Top: Winter Sunday in Norway, Maine, ca. 1860, Artist Unidentified, Collection of Fenimore Art Museum, Gift of Stephen C. Clark, Cooperstown, NY, N0321.1961.

Middle: Peaceable Kingdom ca 1830-1835, Edward Hicks (1780-1849), Collection of Fenimore Art Museum, gift of Stephen C. Clark, N0038.1961.

Bottom: Cigar Store Figure, Female (African American) ca.1850, attributed to Job, an African American carver from Freehold, NY. Collection of Fenimore Art Museum, Gift of Stephen C. Clark, N0145.1961

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cooperstown Pursuit #5

By: Kate Betz, Manager of Public Programs
When did the first automobile motor into Cooperstown?

1900? 1904? 1907?

Don’t peek below the picture until you’ve guessed!

1900: Yes, you got it! July 30, 1900 heralded one of the village’s biggest changes as the first automobile drove into Cooperstown. In her 1923 autobiography, 95 year-old resident Charlotte Prentiss Browning remembered, “automobiles opened up a new world to all of us, especially to the young people, with whom touring became instantly popular.”

1904: So close! By 1904, residents were used to the sight of cars roaring down their streets. The Freeman’s Journal reported, “two gentlemen of this village owning fine horses are offering them for sale because of the ‘red devils on wheels’ now so frequently encountered.”

1907: Good guess! Some residents and many travelers were already using cars to navigate in Cooperstown by 1907. During this year, Arthur C. Crist opened Cooperstown’s first public garage on Main Street. The village even proposed a speed limit and gave its first speeding ticket to “Vincent from NYC” for $10.

Cook of Cooperstown advertisement for Cole and Ford Cars, The Freeman’s Journal, March 19, 1913

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Eunice Pinney Mourning Pictures

By: Michelle Murdock, Curator of Exhibitions During the early 19th century, women painted and embroidered countless scenes honoring departed friends and relatives. They were an expression of the universality of death and a belief in eternal life with a promise of heavenly reunion. Frequently an important part of the curriculum in female seminaries, these mourning pictures derived from late 18th century European and English design sources and typically included grieving figures, funeral urns, and weeping willows.
The daughter of a wealthy resident of rural Connecticut, Eunice Pinney was well-educated and had an unusual exposure to culture for her day. She is believed to have taken up watercolor painting in her thirties and derived many of her subjects from literature such as Goethe’s “Sorrows of Werther,” Homer’s “Iliad,” and the Bible. Over fifty known works survive, most of which were painted between 1809 and 1826. They are particularly important because they are the work of a mature woman, rather than a schoolgirl.
Nine of Pinney’s known works are memorials. Three are in the Fenimore Art Museum collection. (A fourth work in the collection depicts two women sitting in chairs in an interior setting.) In one of the mourning pictures, she prepared a memorial to herself when she was 43 years old, leaving space on the tombstone for her age and year of death. She also rendered a memorial to her sister, Diadama Pinney, and an unusual undedicated memorial picture. She left space on the tombstone for someone to write the name, age and year of death of the deceased person.

Top: Memorial for Diadama Pinney, 1816. Fenimore Art Museum Collection, Gift of Stephen C. Clark, N0351.1961.
Center: Memorial To Herself, 1813. Fenimore Art Museum Collection, gift of Stephen C. Clark, N0075.1961
Bottom:Undedicated Memorial, ca. 1815. Fenimore Art Museum Collection, gift of Stephen C. Clark, N0076.1961

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rome Calling

by: Paul D'Ambrosio, Vice President and Chief Curator I spend a lot of time planning exhibitions; deciding which artworks tell a particular story, negotiating to bring those works together here at the museum, writing or editing labels, and working with the exhibitions staff to create a layout that brings the visitor into the world that the art portrays. My absolute favorite part of this job, however, is sharing that world with visitors after the exhibition is mounted. Over the course of the season I might give dozens of tours and lectures to hundreds of people. When we have exhibitions that are particularly popular, we simply schedule more and I make the time.

The problem is, even if I worked 24 hours a day, it would be impossible to reach more than a few hundred people this way. That is why we are currently exploring other forms of media to reach a far larger number of museum-goers. One of our new social media experiments this year will be cell phone tours of our new exhibition, America’s Rome. In the next few days I will be taping a tour of the exhibition (the paintings haven’t even arrived yet!) so that any visitor to the Fenimore Art Museum can dial in on their cell and listen to me while they tour the exhibition at their own pace. This way, I could reach thousands with the exhibition content that I’ve spent the last two years developing.

Importantly, the cell phone tour will include a feature allowing visitors to leave comments. This is very exciting and unprecedented here. Over the course of the year we plan to find ways to share these remarks with everyone, thus creating a shared product that I alone could not create.
If you get the chance this year, please give the cell phone tour a try and let us know what you are thinking about the topic of the meaning of Rome to America. Together we can make something worth more than the sum of its parts.
Worthington Whittredge. Aqueducts of the Campagna, 1859, Oil on canvas, 33 by 53 ¾ inches, Cincinnati Art Museum, Gift of Caroline Hooper, 1900.1

Friday, April 17, 2009

Mother and Child in Gray Dresses

By: Michelle Murdock, Curator of Exhibitions
Ammi Phillips is recognized as one of the most successful and prolific American portrait painters from the first half of the 19th century. Phillips was born in 1788 in Connecticut and by 1811 he had begun a lifelong career as a portraitist, working in western Connecticut, Massachusetts, and in the neighboring counties of upstate New York. In 1813 Phillips married Laura Brockway (1792-1830) of Schodack, New York, and they settled in nearby Nassau before moving to Troy about 1817. Unlike many itinerant artists of his day, Phillips moved his growing family for years at a time into the communities where he hoped to find potential patrons. By becoming a member of the community he served, Phillips became the logical choice for local portrait commissions, limiting the need to advertise.

Phillips’ painting style evolved over his 50 year career, and scholars classify his works into five time periods. Mother and Child in Gray Dresses is an excellent representation of Phillips’ Realistic Period (1820-1828). During this period, Phillips’ style reflects the conventions of academic painters with whom he came into contact. His palette changed from soft hues to richer colors and dark backgrounds. He cleverly expressed his appreciation for juxtapositions of light and dark color by painting the sitters in white-gray dresses that contrast sharply with the dark gray background. A single light source from the left of the canvas casts the sitters into partial shadow. The artist conveyed his delight with fabrics as he painted the woman's dress with rays of light falling on her sleeves and drenched her fichu (scarf) in more light, making it shimmer and appear transparent.

Mother and Child in Gray Dresses is on view in American Treasures from the Permament Collections until May 6.
Mother and Child in Gray Dresses, ca. 1825, attributed to Ammi Phillips (1788-1865), oil on canvas, gift of Stephen C. Clark, N0267.1961

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Thanks for Helping Us Discover Hidden Treasures!

by: Kajsa Sabatke & Kate Betz
April 4 turned out to be a blustery, snowy day more reminiscent of winter than spring. Thanks to those enthusiastic visitors who came to the museums and joined the staff in Getting Ready for Spring at The Farmers’ Museum and discovering Hidden Treasures at the Fenimore Art Museum!

Congratulations to the winners of the prize drawings:

Gala tickets: Maureen Heffner
Family Fun package: Rudy Fedrizzi
Social Life package: Ester Winsjansen

Thursday, April 9, 2009

John and Abigail Adams - Reunited!

By: Michelle Murdock, Curator of Exhibitions
My colleague Paul D’Ambrosio recently posted a blog about an exhibition we installed in the Great Hall at Fenimore this spring. Two of the artifacts in this exhibition are especially interesting to me: a bronze bust of the second President of the United States, John Adams, and a painting of his wife, Abigail Adams. Although we’ve had these pieces in our collection since 1961 and 1955, respectively, they have never been on view together. It’s so nice to have them reunited once again!

The bust of John Adams was rendered by John Henry Isaac Browere when Adams was 90 years old. In the early 1800s, Browere aspired to create a portrait gallery of national heroes. Through a process of casting the faces of living people, Browere made life masks of famous men and women. Browere worked nearly 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence and captured the likenesses of the Revolutionary War generation just as age and time were taking their toll. John Adams played a leading role in persuading Congress to adopt the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776. He served two terms as George Washington’s Vice President before being elected to the highest office himself in 1797.

First Lady Abigail Adams was the wife of John Adams and the mother of the United States’ sixth President, John Quincy Adams. When the capital moved to Washington in 1800, Abigail became the first First Lady to preside over the President’s House, later called the White House. John Adams frequently sought Abigail’s advice on many governmental and political matters ranging from advocating for women’s rights to the abolition of slavery. Their letters have been most recently published in My Dearest Friend, Letters of Abigail and John Adams, edited by Margaret A. Hogan and C. James Taylor. This portrait by an unidentified artist reflects the stateliness and beauty of a First Lady so powerful that her political opponents called her “Mrs. President.”

Photos: John and Abigail Adams installed in American Treasures:

John Adams (1735-1826), Second President of the United States, Age 90. Cast November 22, 1825, in Quincy, Massachusetts by John Henry Isaac Browere (1790-1834). Bronze, Gift of Stephen C. Clark, N0201.1961.

Abigail Adams (1744-1818), ca. 1795. Artist Unidentified. Oil on canvas, Bequest from the Estate of Frances J. Eggleston, Oswego, New York, N0150.1955.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cooperstown Pursuit #4

by: Kate Betz, Manager of Public Programs
Who chooses to put their initials on their house?

In 1804, William Cooper built the first stone house in the village for his daughter Ann and her husband George Pomeroy. Originally known as “Deacon Place” because of Pomeroy’s respected position in the church, it is now popularly known as Pomeroy Place. Jamie Allen, a Scottish immigrant and stone mason, chose the unusual herringbone design and combination of initials. He was remembered as saying that a couple’s life “like the initials of the bride and groom should be so entwined as to make their union permanent.”
left: Washington Smith photo of Pomeroy Place, Florence Ward Collection, NYSHA Library
Right: Milo Stewart photo of Pomeroy Place, Florence Ward Collection, NYSHA Library

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cooper’s Legacy in Land and Lore

By: Kate Betz, Manager of Public Programs
While Cooperstown’s geography hasn’t physically changed due to the influence of any of its citizens, the history and lore surrounding the town has been profoundly affected by one man: James Fenimore Cooper. Locations throughout Cooperstown and around Otsego Lake still bear the influence—both in name and description—of Cooper’s fictional vision of the area as seen in his five Leatherstocking novels.

This early stereoscopic view shows the site that inspired Natty Bumppo’s cave in Cooper’s The Pioneers. To call the location a “cave” is in fact a misnomer. It is actually merely a natural chasm with no interior section. However, it has become forever associated with James Fenimore Cooper and continues to delight hikers who stumble upon it to this day.

Cooper’s names and influence stretch well beyond geographic features. Not only Natty Bumppo, but Pathfinder, Deerslayer, Leatherstocking, and others have found a permanent home in Cooperstown’s street signs, lake-cruising boats, trolleys and institutions.

Cooper’s stories have also been the inspiration for countless artists since the nineteenth century. To learn more about his influence on 19th-century painters, visit the Fenimore Art Museum on April 4th for our Hidden Treasures event.
Top: Bumppo's Cave, ca. 1870. Robert Dennis Collection of Stereoscopic Views, Photography Collection, Miriam & Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints & Photographs, The New York Public Library.
Bottom: Natty Bumppo II, Otsego Lake, ca. 1865. Smith and Telfer Collection, Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin