Hi everyone! Last week I wrote about a drive my sweet husband and I took from Albany to Bennington. We passed some beautiful old barns and other assorted buildings. We had plans to visit the Bennington Museum, which has the largest collection of Grandma Moses paintings in the world.
The museum also contains collections of Revolutionary War artifacts, the Gilded Age, Vermont painters, and Bennington Pottery.
The building, which sits high on a hill, dates from 1855 and was originally home to a Catholic church.
Before entering the museum one is met by some beautiful art, like this driftwood stallion sculpture, Tres Bien, by Rita Dee (2014).
This handsome bell, manufactured in Troy (NY), also sits outside the museum. We visited Troy’s 2nd Street not too long ago.
And this attractive statue, The American Spirit, by Vermont sculptor Clyde Hunt, portraying Lincoln with one hand on a woman’s head and the other on a boy’s head.
Since we had come especially to see some Grandma Moses, we headed for her exhibit first. I’ve not quite figured out how she ended up in a Vermont Museum, because she spent most of her life over the border in New York (about 45 minutes from Albany). She did stay in Bennington on a couple of occasions to help nurse sick relatives at her daughter’s home there, and she also painted a few Bennington scenes, including one of the Battle of Bennington. So I understand why the town feels partial to her.
We learned that her “art career” had its beginnings in self-designed needlework projects, like this one of Mt. Nebo on the Hill. This is the property she and her husband owned, and where her great-grandson, Will Moses, lives and paints today. In the Bible, Mt. Nebo is the place Moses climbed to get a view of the Promised Land. Isn’t that interesting, given their last name was Moses? I found that out by accident when I Googled “Mt. Nebo.”
This piece, Sugaring Off (1943), depicts one of Grandma Moses favorite subjects. The vibrancy of her paintings and the joy they give the viewer are really quite remarkable. A completely self-taught artist, she was “discovered” by NYC collector Louis Caldor, who passed a display of her paintings in the window of the local drugstore.
This piece was unfamiliar to me, but I love it–that checkered house is something, isn’t it? It shows up in several of her works. About painting, Moses once said, “I like to paint something that leads me on and on into the unknown, something that I want to see away on beyond.” Her landscapes almost always do that, lead us beyond the human activity in the foreground to the beautiful, usually mountainous, regions far and away. (Old Checkered House, 1943)
Grandma Moses’ Schoolhouse
Walking through the museum, one moves from the gallery filled with Grandma Moses’ paintings into the school house from Eagle Bridge, where she, her children, and some of her grandchildren actually attended school. Pretty amazing.
A McGuffey’s spelling book was on hand for children to look at.
All kinds of things that you’d expect in an old-fashioned school room.
Back in the corner of the schoolroom is an area where children can touch and play with a number of fun, antique items, like tins, bake ware, boxes, old bottles, and more.
Including this neat, old checkerboard.
Bennington pottery is not an unfamiliar name to those of us in the vintage and antique business. Bennington has been the sight of pottery production since the 1800s, and it still is. In fact, just before we toured the museum, we popped into their store on County Street, and found contemporary versions of their famous pottery. The piece above was presented by the founder of Bennington Pottery to his son, upon his graduation from college.
This type of salt-glazed jug with cobalt blue, hand-painted decoration, highly collectible today, would not have been uncommon back in the 19th century. Though something this large and ornate would have cost a considerable sum.
The Gilded Age
The Gilded Age in America occurred during the last quarter of the 19th century, generally corresponding with the Victorian Era in Great Britain. It was a time of both great wealth (for a few) and great poverty (for many), characterized by opulent spending on the one hand and slum dwelling on the other. On the plus-side, it saw the rise of labor unions, the shortening of the work day, and a move toward protective child labor laws. The items in the Museum’s collection, like this beautifully detailed empire sofa, reflect the opulence of those times.
I’m very enamored with this beautiful painting by Frederick MacMonnies, May Palmer (1901-02). Her auburn hair, the yellow flowers, and her gorgeous dressing gown against the spring green grass and trees combine so perfectly, so spectacularly, really.
Anything Tiffany must be mentioned and praised. Don’t you agree? The simple beauty of this acorn lampshade is just stunning.
Arthur Wilder, an accomplished Vermont painter, trained under Thomas Eakins in New York City and received praise from Hudson River School Painter, George Inness. This painting, Calvin Coolidge Birthplace, hung in the White House when Coolidge was president. Wilder owned The Woodstock Inn (VT) for many years and filled its rooms with his beautiful artwork.
Horace Brown, another Vermont impressionist, was also a member of the state legislature, where he worked tirelessly to protect the Vermont landscapes that he loved. (Old Lyme Kilns)
particularly of Grandma Moses. We highly recommend a visit.
75 Main Street, Bennington, VT 05201
Learn more about Grandma Moses here: