Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Electra Havemeyer Webb on Paul's Shelburne-Fenimore Scorecard

Two years ago today I blogged about a visit to the Shelburne Museum, which has one of the great folk art collections in America, assembled by Electra Havemeyer Webb. You can read my take on the collection in my post from August 24, 2009. At the time I compiled a personal scorecard comparing our collection with theirs from my point of view. Here are the results as I saw it:

Folk Art Scorecard: Fenimore vs. Shelburne

Portraits: Fenimore
Landscapes/townscapes: Fenimore
Schoolgirl art: Shelburne
Quilts: Shelburne
Sculpture: Shelburne
Ceramics (stoneware): Fenimore
Ceramics (redware): Shelburne
20th century: Fenimore

The gist of it is: we are better in paintings; they are better in sculpture.

Well, now I have a "response" from Mrs. Webb herself. Posthumously, of course, since she passed away in late 1960 (just a couple of months after our benefactor, Stephen C. Clark, died). In a letter written to Edith Gregor Halpert, who ran the Downtown Gallery in New York and sold American folk art since the 1920s, Electra reveals her reaction to our collection from a visit to Cooperstown. The letter, which came to my attention from my colleague at Shelburne, Jackie Oak, is dated October 8, 1954 and reads as follows: 

"….I have just returned from Cooperstown and, except for maybe one or two pieces of sculpture, I am very satisfied with our collection…but I do think they excel in the paintings in variety and class…."

Great minds think alike. Thank you, Mrs. Webb.


  1. I am a contemporary folk artist whose work, among others, is offered in the Shelburne Museum's new (as of last year) gallery in the Diamond Barn, located inside the grounds. I love the energy of folk art created at any age and wherever you can find it! Glad to have two flagships in this genre, and so glad to read your blog.


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