Sunday, August 23, 2015

I Got Him to an Art Musuem!

One of the museums I really wanted to see in Williamsburg was the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and, surprisingly, Sid also wanted to go along.  It is one of the largest collections of American folk art.  Since folk art is defined as art by untrained artists and that's what I consider myself to be, I was looking forward to visiting.

The museum
The building itself is a historic structure and looks like a courthouse or something.

Cat carousal figure
I've never seen a cat on a carousal, let along one holding a fish!

Dollhouse made in a cigar box
There was a large collection of doll houses in a special display. One of the docents told us they are very rarely displayed, so I feel fortunate to have been able to see them.  Difficult to take pictures of, some of the houses were huge.

Gourd banjo
Made from gourds and animal skins, early banjos were introduced and used by blacks.

The quilt displays were fantastic.  Many patterns that I recognized and some of the tiniest stitches I've ever seen.

Yellow leg shore bird
You know how I love the shore birds!

Tobacconist figures
I've only ever seen Indians, but apparently other figures were used to advertise specific types of tobacco.

Weather vane
You can't imagine the variety of weather vanes there are.  I think the most unusual one, besides the Statue of Liberty shown here, was a train with 3 cars!

Portrait of a baby in a red chair
There were rooms of portraits, some better than others.  This one is one of my favorites.

Along with the portraits were some very interesting facts about portraiture in the 1600 and 1700s.  We had been told at another place that artists pre-painted the bodies, then added the heads when he had a specific commission.  Not true. Artists generally worked up the head first before going on to the bodies and backgrounds.  Unfinished portraits that survive are frequently with heads and nothing else; conversely, no oil painted headless bodies have ever been found!

Also, do you know why so many subjects of portraits are unsmiling?  People back then, not unlike today, wanted to  be shown with a pleasant expression on their faces, but to have displayed a broad grin or smile would have been associated with an unbecoming lack of self-control.  And some expressions in portraits of elderly people may reflect the fact that false teeth were far rarer that they are today, giving the person a surly or ill-tempered expression.

Sid spent quite a lot of time in the other side of the museum which is home to the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.  Primarily southern furniture from the 17th, 18th and 19th century, he enjoyed looking at the construction of the pieces, as well as the huge firearms collection they were displaying.

We easily spent a half a day going through this museum and I could have stayed longer.  I was a little disappointed by the lack of paintings other than portraits and there were less carvings than I expected, but it was still worth seeing.

Until next time...

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