Elizabeth Kornhauser, Metropolitan Museum of Art
This ADAF Lecture will take place on Zoom, click here to register for the online event.
Rufus Hathaway, Molly Wales Fobes, 1790 A whimsical fantasy portrait The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Marsden Hartley, Sustained Comedy, 1939 A whimsical, tormented self portrait The Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
The 1920s witnessed the collision of Americana and modernism. The 1924 landmark exhibition of “Early American Art,” curated by artist Henry Schnakenberg at the Whitney Studio Club, provided institutional acknowledgment of what was later called “folk art.” Holger Cahill curated folk art shows at the Newark Museum in 1930 and 1931, followed in 1932 by “American Folk: The Art of the Common Man in America, 1750-1900” at the Museum of Modern Art. The American Art Association’s landmark Girl Scout exhibition in 1929 showcased loans from pioneer collectors. Some of those collections would later be made available to the public for appreciation and education by such luminaries as Henry F. DuPont (Winterthur), Francis P. Garvan (Yale University Art Gallery) and Electra Havemeyer Webb (Shelburne Museum).
Dr. Kornhauser’s story of individual collecting to institutional acknowledgment to museum recognition begins with Hamilton Easter Field (1873-1922), member of a well-to-do Brooklyn family, who studied art and lived in Europe from 1894 to 1902 and 1905 to 1910. In Europe, Cubists inspired the painter, patron and collector to admire both abstraction and the “primitive.” He also met his protege and principal heir, Robert Laurent (1890-1970), in Europe. After the Field and the French youth arrived in America, they established a seasonal Summer School of Graphic Arts in Ogunquit, Maine, in 1911. Laurent and Field furnished the small fishing-shack studios in Maine with locally sourced American folk portraits, ladderback chairs, carved decoys, weather vanes, spatterware, schoolgirl samplers, quilts and hooked rugs, objects which were attractive, readily available and inexpensive.
Dr. Kornhauser will focus on Robert Laurent as the first practitioner of direct carving in modern American sculpture, and how folk art influenced him to balance naturalism with abstraction. She will discuss Laurent’s work including the carved chest at The Met, and his role as an important collector of folk art.