Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Travels of Eel Spearing at Setauket

By: Christine Olsen, Registrar
Many paintings in our permanent collection have devoted fans and when they are removed from exhibit we inevitably receive inquiries as to their whereabouts. Paintings need to occasionally be relocated to storage in order to prolong their life as well as to allow for other works in our collection to be seen in the finite gallery space, and sometimes paintings go out on loan to exhibits at other museums. Of course, the positive outcome of loaning a painting from our collection to another institution is that it will exponentially increase the visibility of the painting and further educate the public about folk art and the collections at Fenimore Art Museum.
To the chagrin of our visitors our most well-known painting Eel Spearing at Setauket by W.S. Mount will go on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and subsequently the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, for the exhibition “American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765-1915”. The painting left this week and will not return to Fenimore Art Museum until June 2010. You can see an exhibition description on the Met’s website.
It takes a lot of time and work on the part of both institutions to make a loan happen; I have been preparing for this particular loan for over two years. Loan agreements were signed once the conditions of the loan were finalized between institutions, I completed a condition report on the painting and our conservator made sure it was secure and safe to travel, a specialized crate was fabricated and the painting packed, insurance coverage was established by the borrowers, and shipping with a fine arts handler was scheduled. Because of the importance of this painting, I couriered the painting to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and we will oversee installation and deinstallation at each venue; a perk of the job! I must be intimately familiar with the condition of the painting in case something changes during the loan period, as well as specific installation and display requirements. Fortunately, the borrowing institutions have excellent security, art handling, and conservation staff that will make my job easier.

If you want to see Eel Spearing at Setauket in a different context or have never seen the painting and would like to, I highly recommend you take a trip to either the Metropolitan Museum of Art or LACMA for this exhibition. You won’t be disappointed, and we just might gain a devoted fan!
Above: Eel Spearing at Setauket, 1845 by W. S. Mount. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY. Gift of Stephen C. Clark.

3 comments:

American Folk Art @ Cooperstown said...

Thanks for getting it there safely, Christine! I'm going to be at the opening on Monday and will do a post about it next week.

Paul D'Ambrosio
VP & Chief Curator

bklynharuspex said...

I work at the Met (though I don't speak for it) and look forward to seeing "Eel Spearing" and all the other lovely painted guests that will be part of our exhibition. It's good to see your explanation of the value of travel for works of art -- why it's worth subjecting them to the stresses, however minimized, of travel, and removing them for a while from their closest fans. As you say, and not to bully you with numbers, tens of thousands of people will be able to see and enjoy your Mount for the first time while it's here in Manhattan. And every exhibition tells a new story, shines light (metaphorical and physical) on the artworks from a slightly different direction.

By the way, I wish I could get up to Cooperstown to see your "America's Rome" exhibition. It looks great.

bklynharuspex said...

Your patrons should know, as of course you do, that your painting is in the very first room of the exhibition, in the company of Copley's great painting "Watson & the Shark" (from the National Gallery), a beautiful Eakins, two Winslow Homers, and "Fur Traders Descending the Missouri" by George Caleb Bingham: all scenes, as the curator Carrie Barratt puts it, of Men In Boats (or, in the case of Watson, falling out of boats).

I'm very happy to have made its acquaintance and look forward to more time with it and the rest of the exhibition.

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