American Folk Art Museum Logo

Folk Art and American Modernism

July 18–September 27, 2015
Exhibition

The Invention of Folk Art
In the early years of the twentieth century, a group of young and pivotal American modernists began to equate the straightforwardness, abstracted forms, and delight in color of early folk art with the new modernist art they had studied in Europe and were pioneering in America. Folk Art and American Modernism traces the journey of these weathervanes, portraits, decoys, hooked rugs, theorem paintings, and other forms of folk art from the fishing shacks of the Summer School of Graphic Arts established in Ogunquit, Maine, in 1911 to the walls of major art museums beginning in the 1930s, and culminating in the establishment of museums such as the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum in Colonial Williamsburg and the American Folk Art Museum in New York City.

The exhibition highlights folk art owned, collected, and exhibited by such early art-world luminaries as curator Holger Cahill, dealer Edith Halpert, and the first director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Juliana Force, as well as artists Elie Nadelman, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, and Charles Sheeler, among others, whose own work is shown alongside the folk art that inspired them. In regarding folk art as art and as evidence of a “usable past,” these trailblazers led their generation in preserving a continuous American artistic tradition of which they considered themselves a living part.
—Elizabeth Stillinger and Ruth Wolfe, co-curators

The Ogunquit Modernists
Elie and Viola Nadelman
Marguerite and William Zorach
Juliana Force and the Whitney Studio Club
Charles Sheeler
Isabel Carleton Wilde
Holger Cahill
Edith Halpert
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller
Index of American Design
Jean and Howard Lipman

Organized by the Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York

Images, from left:
Charles Sheeler (1883–1965), Interior, South Salem, New York, 1926, oil and fabricated chalk on linen, 33 1/8 × 22 1/8″, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, gift of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, 31.344. Digital Image © Whitney Museum, N.Y.

Elie Nadelman (1882–1946), Woman at the Piano, New York City, c. 1917, stained and painted wood, 35 1/8 x 23 1/4 x 9″ (including base), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Philip L. Goodwin Collection, 105.1958. Copyright © Estate of Elie Nadelman. Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, New York.

Bernard Karfiol (1886–1952), Making Music, Ogunquit, Maine, 1938, oil on canvas, 32 x 40″, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, promised gift of Bunty and Tom Armstrong, 2000.TA.1 (L). Ex coll. Robert Laurent, Edith Halpert.

Mary Ann Willson (active 1815–1825), Maremaid, Greene County, New York, c. 1815, 17 1/4 x19 3/4 x1 1/8″ (framed), watercolor on paper, Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, gift of Stephen C. Clark, N0085.1961. Ex coll. Jean and Howard Lipman. Photo by Richard Walker.

Attributed to The Beardsley Limner (possibly Sarah Bushnell Perkins, 1771–1831), Oliver Wight, probably Massachusetts, 1786–1793, oil on canvas, 31 1/4 x 25 1/2″, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, museum purchase. Ex coll. Isabel Carleton Wilde.

Artist unidentified, Winter Sunday in Norway, Maine, Probably Maine, c. 1860, oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 31 1/2 x 1 3/4″ (framed), Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, gift of Stephen C. Clark, N0231.1961. Ex coll. Jean and Howard Lipman. Photo by Richard Walker.

Gould and Hazlett Company, Archangel Gabriel Weathervane, Charlestown, Boston, 1840, gold leaf on iron and copper, 28 1/2 x 71 1/2 x 6″, Kendra and Allan Daniel Collection. Photo by George Kamper, www.gkamper.com.

Attributed to Abraham Heebner (1802–1877), Exotic Bird and Townscape, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, c. 1830–1835, watercolor and ink on paper, 13 1⁄4 x 11 1⁄4 x 1″ (framed), collection of Jane and Gerald Katcher. Ex coll. Edith Halpert.

Artist unidentified, Federal Sideboard Table, New England, 1810–1830, paint on wood with brass knob, 34 7/ 8 x 26 x 20″, American Folk Art Museum, museum purchase through the Eva and Morris Feld Folk Art Acquisition Fund, 1981.12.6. Ex coll. Jean and Howard Lipman. Photo by John Parnell.

Joseph Pickett (1848–1918), Manchester Valley, New Hope, Pennsylvania, 1914–1918, oil with sand on canvas, 45 1/2 x 60 5/8″, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, 1939, 541.1939. Ex coll. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, New York.

Artist unidentified, Horse Toy, probably Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, c. 1860–1890, paint on poplar, 11 3/4 x 12 3/8 x 3 1/2″, American Folk Art Museum, New York, gift of Ralph Esmerian, 2013.1.29. Ex coll. Edith Halpert. Photo © 2000 John Bigelow Taylor.

Credits

The exhibition is supported in part by Becky and Bob Alexander, Joyce Berger Cowin, the David Davies and Jack Weeden Fund for Exhibitions, the Leir Charitable Foundations, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and Marvin and Donna Schwartz.