If you love that which is handmade, homemade, made with love, you are probably drawn to collections of folk art. There are lots of people, however, who turn their noses up at items made by untrained makers and at “craft,” in general.
The wealthy parents of Electra Havemeyer Webb were just those kinds of people. They collected “real” art of Europe and Asia and brought their daughter up to appreciate the best of the best.
Electra Havemeyer Webb
But what Electra thought was best didn’t follow her parents’ tastes. Electra was drawn to art in unusual places. In the early 1900s, this pioneer collected American quilts and samplers. Figureheads of ships. Decoys and advertising art. And historic New England structures that she had brought to the museum she founded, the Shelburne Museum.
This fine museum of folk art and Americana is the Shelburne Museum, located just south of Burlington, Vermont.
The museum is made up of the 18th and 19th century buildings that Electra found and had moved to the museum grounds. These buildings, as well as more traditional galleries, serve as home to the thousands of items in the collection.
Today, at the Shelburne Museum “impressionist paintings, folk art, quilts and textiles, decorative arts, furniture, American paintings, and a dazzling array of 17th-to 20th-century artifacts are on view.”
If you visit New England, and there are dozens of excellent reasons to do so, treat yourself to a visit to Shelburne Museum. Go in the summer or fall, when the whole museum is open and you can wander the campus and spend time. You’ll be amazed at the art you see there, both old and new:
The buildings themselves are beautiful examples of craftsmanship and the range of folk art is stunning.
Iconic round barn
Another classic barn
The Webb name on a weathervane
Fox and hound weathervane
Figurehead for a ship
The museum has more than 400 early quilts, as well as hooked rugs, coverlets and samplers.
Patty Yoder hooked rug
A poor photo of a fab Amish quilt
Quilt close-up–made by a man!
Made by a 9-year-old
Dozens of coverlets
This current exhibit features the work of John Bisbee, a Maine artist who makes all of his work with nothing but 12-inch nails!
Interior of Hearsay
Hearsay, throwing shadows
The other current exhibit combines old glass from the museum collection with newer pieces by contemporary artists.
The antique glass
Trompe l’oeil painting of the glass
Wall of antique bottles
Handblown bull’s eye window panes