It seems like every time I delve into a folk art painting the stories it reveals completely reshape the experience of viewing the artwork. This transformation is even more radical when on occasion I am asked to write an entire essay on a piece. Such was the case with a 1740 portrait of Annetje Kool, a young Dutch-American woman painted by Pieter Vanderlyn in the mid-Hudson Valley town of Esopus.
Annetje looks so unassuming. Looking at her placid likeness, you would hardly guess that she lived on contested ground; the frontier of two great European empires.What secrets is she hiding?
At the time of her wedding, Annetje had a six-year-old child by an unnamed father. We don't know whatever happened to the child, who is not mentioned in any period records.
The artist, Pieter Vanderlyn, has some secrets of his own. What connection did he have to the Dutch Slave Trade in Africa and the Caribbean? Why did he start preaching in the 1730s? Why were his sermons illegal?
Pieter's grandson, John Vanderlyn, was one of America's greatest history painters. What long-forgotten story from his childhood likely inspired one of his most famous paintings, Marius Amidst the Ruins of Carthage?
Unlike scores of other posts that I've presented here over the past two years, the answers to these questions will have to wait. I will give them in person at a unique new Symposium to be held here at the Fenimore Art Museum on October 1. Information about the Symposium can be found here. You can even register online.
This Americana Symposium highlights the stunning collection of American folk art assembled over thirty years by Jan Katcher, a retired pediatric radiologist. We will exhibit the collection at the museum from October 1 - December 31.
If you live in the Central New York area, please try to come. We will have a wide range of speakers who are leaders in the field, presenting on topics ranging from Shaker artworks to Jewish folk art to painted furniture to weathervanes. If you cannot come, please pass the word on to others that might be interested.
I do hope you can make it here on October 1 to hear some remarkable stories unfold. In the coming days I will post more pictures from the Katcher Collection to give you a sense of what you can see and hear about at the museum this fall.