Monday, January 28, 2019

Shelburne Museum (#1) - Burlington Vermont

Back in August, our travel and exploration experience on this particular day was the Shelburne Museum just south of Burlington Vermont.  This museum is definitely unique.  It encompasses 39 structures on 45 acres and each of those structures is filled with an overwhelming collection of objects ranging from the practical to the whimsical and from fine art to folk art…

The museum was founded in 1947 by Electra Havemeyer Webb.  She was born in 1888, daughter of Henry Osborne Havemeyer, President of the American Sugar Refining Company and Louisine Elder, an art collector, feminist, suffragette and philanthropist.  Both parents were important collectors of European and Asian art.  By the age of 19, Electra decided to follow in her parent’s footsteps as regarded collecting object of art.  However, she focused on a collection of objects that had been part of American life and her collection filled her homes in New York and Shelburne Vermont. 

In 1911, a year after marrying James Watson Webb II, a member of the Vanderbilt family, Electra really began expanding her collection. 

This rather low key and modest building houses the visitor’s center, admissions desk and gift store for the Shelburne Museum. 

When she first started the museum in 1947, at first it was a place to preserve her family’s collection of horse-drawn carriages.  It didn’t take long for Mrs. Webb to realize that she could create a “collection of collections”. 

She gathered historic and relocated buildings from throughout New England and New York that she could use to display her varied collections.  Landscapers worked with her to ensure that the museum grounds would be as welcoming as the buildings she’d procured. 

My goal is to present readers with a representative view of Shelburne Museum, its buildings, grounds and exhibits.  It will take 3 separate posts to my blog site to complete the picture…

We started out in the Electra Havemeyer Webb Memorial Building.  For some reason we didn’t take a picture of this large Greek revival style building.  It’s probably because it is one of the few ‘new’ structures on the museum’s property.  Duplicating the appearance of an 1843 home in Orwell Vermont, this memorial building was completed in 1967. 

This large structure is home to the museum’s European paintings collection.  These paintings are displayed in 6 period rooms relocated from Electra and J. Watson Webb’s 1930s New York City apartment at 740 Park Avenue.  The 2 photos above show the study with 2 of its paintings.  It’s a beautiful and luxurious room…and those hunt related paintings are perfect for it. 

This is the relocated living room from the Webb’s former Park Avenue apartment.  Tasteful with paintings and a photograph of the Webb’s on the right wall.

The Webb Memorial Building is much more than 6 rooms and a terrific collection of European paintings.  It also features European and American bronzes, special pieces of furniture and paintings by American western artists such as Charles Russell and Harry Jackson…

I’ve just featured a few of the paintings in the building, otherwise this posting would stretch on for a couple of weeks…

This is “The Grand Canal, Venice”, also called “Blue Venice”.  It was painted by Edouard Manet in 1875.  For much more on this famous impressionist painter, go to

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot painted “The Greek Girl” in the early 1870s.  Corot was a French landscape and portrait painter as well as a printmaker.  He was very prolific producing many, many paintings.  To view a few of his painting to learn about him go to

Louisine Havemeyer met impressionist painter Mary Cassatt in Paris in 1874.  They became lifelong friends.  This painting completed by Cassatt in 1895 is titled “Louisine Havemeyer and Her Daughter Electra”. 

I don’t believe that I’ve ever seen a Tiffany designed chair before.  This one came from the Havemeyer home on 66th Street in New York City.  It was designed and constructed by the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company in 1991 – 1992.  

This portrait entitled “Mrs. James Watson Webb” was painted by William Merritt Chase in 1880.  She and her husband James Watson Webb were the parents of William Seward Webb.  William married Eliza Osgood Vanderbilt and in turn, they were the parents of J. Watson Webb II, who married Electra Havemeyer.

These fine examples of art glass were on display in the Webb Memorial Building’s Tiffany Room… I love art glass, ceramics and pottery.

Since my better half loves horses, I have to slide in horse related art or photos whenever possible.  This 1923 painting by Franklin Brooke Voss is entitled “Five Horses, Webb Stables”.  From left to right, we have Miss Jacob, Naughty Girl, Eve, Pinto and Natalia.

The design of this couch or divan is so ornate that I thought it deserved inclusion in this post.

This was a very tasteful bedroom from the Manhattan apartment as recreated in the Memorial Building.  I especially like the small desk by the window…and paintings are everywhere.

This is another painting by Mary Cassatt.  It was completed ca. 1900 and it’s titled “Mother Rose Nursing Her Child”.  Cassatt frequently focused her work on women, particularly on the bonds between mothers and children.  To view some of Cassatt's paintings go to

This is the second floor landing and hallway in the Memorial Building.  I love the stairs… The painting at the end of the landing was painted by George Munzig in 1889.  It’s titled “Lila Vanderbilt Webb and Her Son J. Watson Webb”, Electra Havemeyer’s future husband. 

Lila Vanderbilt Webb and her husband, Dr. William Seward Webb built nearby Shelburne House and created Shelburne Farms in the 1890s.  But that’s another story…

Did I mention that I really liked this elegant staircase!  This is a view looking up to the second floor.

So ends my much abbreviated tour of the Electra Havemeyer Webb Memorial Building and its exhibits.  To learn more about it, you can go to, or

Next we moved on to the Webb Gallery.  It was built on the Museum grounds in 1960 and it underwent a major renovation in 2014.  It’s the primary showcase for the Museum’s collection of American art.  The ongoing exhibition is called “Painting a Nation: American Art at Shelburne Museum”.

You may have noticed that this post relates primarily to paintings… Future posts from our visit to Shelburne Museum will cover a hodgepodge of Americana…crafts, toys, decoys, guns and much more and the last one will focus on transportation.

This was an interesting combination… Ca.1835, Johnathan D. Poor created the Murals, fireplace and over mantel from Captain Dudley Haines house (Saunder’s Homestead).  At the bottom, the Fireboard with trees and flowers design was painted ca. 1831.

The artist for this ca. 1830 painting is unknown.  It is thought that the subject may be “Red Jacket; Chief of the Seneca Indians”.

This pair of paintings from 1843 are the work of William Matthew Prior.  Prior was a prolific portrait painter with over 2,000 works to his credit.  In 1840, he relocated to Boston from Maine and he became acquainted with William Miller who led a religious movement supporting equality among races and that slavery was a sin against God.

These paintings of Mrs. Nancy Lawson and William Lawson probably stemmed from Prior’s acquaintance with Miller as well as Prior’s need for commissions for his works.  Note the small painting within the painting of Nancy Lawson…possibly showing the couple taking their final stroll toward heaven. 

John Singleton Copley is considered one of the finest painters from the American Colonies.  This painting from ca. 1760 is of “John Scollay”, a prominent member of Boston society and politics.  Among many others subjects, Copley also painted portraits of John Hancock, Paul Revere and John Adams.  

To view a significant number of Copley’s portrait paintings, go to

Thomas Chambers came to the USA from Britain in 1832.  The date of his painting, “View of West Point”, is undetermined.  Chambers excelled in taking small black and white images from print sources, such as lithographs, and creating marketable and popular oil paintings.  This was probably his most popular work…

This 1816 painting by Thomas Birch is titled “Conestoga Wagon on the Pennsylvania Turnpike”. 

This was the first turnpike (toll road) of importance in the USA.  Because the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania couldn’t afford to build it, it was constructed by the privately held Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike Road Company.  Ground was broken on this project in 1792 and it is credited as the nation’s first engineered road.

This is the second painting by Fitz Henry Lane that I’ve featured in this journal about our August 2018 adventures in the Northeastern USA.  The first one was from the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland Maine.

This painting from 1845 is titled Yacht “Northern Light” in Boston Harbor.  Note the busy commercial harbor all around the yacht and the prominent inclusion of the American Flag.

Although Winslow Homer is considered to be one of the foremost painters in America from the 1800s and as a preeminent figure in American art, he really didn’t achieve financial stability until 1900, when he was 64 years old!  This painting titled “Milking” was completed in 1875.

If you would like to view more works by Winslow Homer, just go to

Abbott Fuller Graves painted “A New England Country Grocery” in 1897.  He was tapping into a popular trend when Americans were waxing nostalgic about American generic scenes like this.  Graves created many paintings depicting small town life in the USA, many of which were reproduced on calendars and postcards.  We both really love this painting!

This painting by Victor Dubreuil is titled “Artist’s Palate”.  It was completed in 1880.  Dubreuil has been referred to as “a poor devil who drifted around Time Square in New York…specializing in painting pictures of money because he never had any!”

To view a picture of one of Dubreuil's ‘money’ paintings, you can go to,_oil_on_canvas,_1893.jpg.

This painting, titled “The Hunter’s Dilemma” was completed by Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait in 1851.  Tait was one of America’s most skilled painters of animals.  He lived in New York City but spent many summers in the wilds of the Adirondacks.  In 1852, Currier and Ives reproduced lithographs of his works to publicize his works.  My favorite from my family’s reproduction copy of Currier and Ives was “Life on the Prairie, The Buffalo Hunt”. 

Tait was fairly prolific and some of his works are attainable via various art galleries and auction houses.  I noted a Tait watercolor for sale at an estimated $1,500 - $2,000.  On the other hand, another oil painting was estimated at between $15,000 and $25,000.  

This painting, completed in 1852, is titled “Settling a Bill” is attributed to George Henry Durrie.  If Durrie painted it, it is unusual in that most of his work consists of rural New England landscapes.  Art historians have speculated that this may be Durrie’s attempt to experiment with politically charged subjects, a popular topic at the time.

Are the subjects really settling a bill?  The math on the barn door is erroneous.  The rude profile of Andrew Jackson and the date 1832 (his election) on the barn door, combined with the N and inverted S may have been a commentary on the rising tensions between north and south.  Then of course, the painting included a black subject and the art historians even read into the black and white chickens in the barn.  It all seems a little far-fetched but even as old as I am, I didn’t live in the social and political atmosphere that existed in 1852… 

For those of you who prefer more variety in their Americana collections, the next post will be more to your liking…few painting but lots of collectibles! 

Just click on any of the preceding photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit.

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. WoW that place is the size of a small town.

  2. What beatiful painting David and the house is beautiful too!

  3. What a gorgeos place! You always find the most attractive locations David.

  4. Dear Dave, The house, decorating and paintings are beautiful and so elegant. Thank you for sharing.

  5. That's one large beautiful house! I love “The Greek Girl,” and the Tiffany chair too, very unique! Interesting post, Dave! Thanks!