Georgia Museum of Art

University of Georgia

Athens, GA




A Bountiful Plenty from the Shelburne Museum: Folk Art Traditions in America


"A Bountiful Plenty from the Shelburne Museum: Folk Art Traditions in America" will be on view at the Georgia Museum of Art from May 12 until July 1, 2001. The Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont, houses one of American's premier collections of folk art. The collection was brought together by Electra Havemeyer Webb (1888-1960), who began acquiring before World War I, long before folk art was recognized as anything more than everyday objects. Mrs. Webb's flair for collecting these special objects, which include trade and tavern signs, cigar store figures, weathervanes, ships' carvings, carousel figures, decoys, scrimshaw (carved or engraved articles made by whalers usually from baleen or whale ivory), quilts, primitive paintings, and sculpture, continued throughout her life and led to the museum's founding in 1947, (left: Elizabeth Lombard Paine, Table, 1816, painted birch, maple and white pine, 33 1/2 x 32 1/4 inches)

A Bountiful Plenty will explore folk art of the 18th and 19th centuries. Mrs. Webb selected her pieces for the maximum impression of their richly decorated surfaces, and the 85 objects in the exhibition reflect this richness well. The makers and artists in this exhibition were not factors of selection for Mrs. Webb, and while some were well-known, most were undiscovered, Interestingly, their reputations and importance continue to grow. Of particular interest are some notable names from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries: Edward Hicks, Erastus Salisbury Field, William Matthew Prior, Anna Robertson (Grandma) Moses, Samuel Robb, John Cromwell, Louis Jobin, Gustav Dentzel, Wilhelm Schimmel, and James Lobard, who are experiencing increased interest in their work. (left: Coolidge, George Washington on Horseback, c. 1780, carved polychromed wood and leather, 23 x 22 x 7 inches)

Organized by the Trust for Museum Exhibitions, A Bountiful Plenty from the Shelburne Museum will look beyond the current argument between folklorists and anthropologists on one hand and art historians on the other. The aesthetics that drove Mrs. Webb to collect will offer a more complete social and art historical understanding of the 18th- and 19th-century American culture that shaped this art. She was one of the first to answer the question, "is it art?" Folk art's role in the development of modern American art will be on full view, and its artistic merit, or why Mrs. Webb knew such objects to be art, will be easily understood.

Prior articles on this traveling exhibition:

Read more about the Georgia Museum of Art in Resource Library Magazine

Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 5/23/11

Search Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art.

Copyright 2011 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.