Colonial Williamsburg museum to mark 60 year folk-art legacy

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D2016-JBC-0527-0002 1931.101.1 Washington and Lafayette at the Battle of Yorktown, Artist: Reuben Law Reed, America, Massachusetts, Acton, Probably 1860-1880, Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller
Washington and Lafayette at the Battle of Yorktown, as rendered by American artist Reuben Law Reed, probably between 1860 and 1880. (Photo courtesy Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum)

From antique toys to “Antiques Roadshow,” a cultural cornerstone of the Historic Triangle will turn 60 in 2017 and celebrate all year long.

John D. Rockefeller Jr. established the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum in 1957, according to a release.

On the verge of its sixtieth year, it has almost 7,000 pieces dating from the 1720s to the present – a legacy that will be heralded during the yearlong tribute.

“In the six decades since the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum opened its doors, our collection of American folk art has grown dramatically, providing a breadth and depth that was likely unimagined in 1957,” Ronald L. Hurst, Colonial Williamsburg’s Carlisle H. Humelsine chief curator and vice president for collections, conservation and museums said in a release. “The exhibitions and programs planned for 2017 will brilliantly showcase this stunning array of American art in ways that will delight museum goers and honor Mrs. Rockefeller’s pioneering vision.”

The museum’s anniversary programming launches with an exhibition at the Winter Antiques Show in New York at the Park Avenue Armory from Jan. 20-29.

The exhibition, titled “Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum: Revolution & Evolution,” will showcase pieces from the collection, including ceramics, sculpture, drawings, paintings, furniture, weathervanes, needlework, quilts and toys.

Other anniversary programs will follow.

Little dog at AARFAM
A portrait of Mrs. Seth Wilkinson attributed to Wilkinson Limner in New York, probably between 1827 and 1830. (Photo courtesy AARFAM)

Spring Offerings

Starting on May 6, the museum will host an exhibition titled “We the People: American Folk Portraits,” with roughly 50 portraits from the collection.

The exhibition will highlight new acquisitions, including John James Trumbull Arnold’s 1850 portrait of Mary Mattingly, William Anderson Roberts’s 1868 portrait of the Russell Girls with Cat, and “Portrait of the Smith Family,” an 1807 piece attributed to Capt. James Smith.

On Monday afternoons in May and early June, art museum staff will discuss objects from the collection in a forum titled “Folk Art Focus.” Topics will include quilts, paintings, sculpture and pottery.

Also in May and early June, Saturday-morning visitors can make toys inspired by the antiques on display in “German Toys in America.”

And on Saturdays at Bassett Hall, the Rockefellers’ Williamsburg home, a program entitled “A Neighbor Stops By” will focus on the wife of former mayor George P. Coleman. She and the Rockefellers became friends during the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg.

Summer Programs

Folk art couple at AARFAM
George and Martha: Exselenc Georg General Waschingdon and Ledy Waschingdon, attributed to the Sussel-Washington Artist, Pennsylvania, circa 1780. (Photo courtesy AARFAM)

Monday visitors can get in on “Colonial Williamsburg Collects,” a guided tour that explores how and why the museum has collected certain objects.

During “Folk Art Fridays,” museum-goers can create a piece of folk art inspired by the works in the collection and by crafting between the 1830s and today.

On Saturdays, Bassett Hall will present “Abby’s Art at Bassett Hall.” Guests can tour the house and the cottage, learn about one of Rockefeller’s favorite art forms, which she called “theorems,” and make one of their own.

A community day at the museum on June 3 will offer folk-art tours and folk-music performances. At 5:30 p.m., Ken Farmer, an antiques appraiser, will speak about being on PBS’s “Antiques Roadshow” as a folk-art expert.

An introduction to folk art, titled “America’s Folk Art,” will open July 1 and spotlight more than 30 pieces of furniture, sculpture, paintings, weathervanes and ceramics from the collection.

Items to be shown include an early 20th-century decoy, a face-shaped jug from around 1850, an 1847 carved walking stick by Virginia’s Thomas Purkins and an early 20th-century weathervane shaped like Lady Liberty.

Book Launch

In November, Colonial Williamsburg will publish an illustrated book about the museum’s collection, the first such book in more than 25 years. The 160-page text, compiled, edited and introduced by Hurst, will highlight paintings, carvings, toys and needlework, with contributions from curators at Colonial Williamsburg. At a cost of $24.95, it will available in time for the holidays.

To learn more about the museum, go here.