The new Bennington Museum - Get into It!

The museum offers thirteen galleries of permanent and changing exhibits from the newly installed masterworks by Anna Mary Robertson "Grandma" Moses in the Grandma Moses Gallery to new paintings by Paul Feeley, Helen Frankenthaler and Jules Olitski in Bennington Modernism. 

In the Ada Paresky Education Center, Bennington Museum is proud to present one of the largest and most complex wall drawings by Jarvis Rockwell.  And, of course, in Gilded Age Vermont, we have the wonderful 1924-25 Wasp Touring Car.  But, that is just a part of the wonderful exhibits on view at the Bennington Museum.  From Regional Artists to Self-Taught Artists, from art of the 18th century to art of today, Bennnington Museum is every changing to bring you, the visitor, something new and something for everyone.

We continue to celebrate a wide-ranging collection of American art, focusing on the arts of Vermont, ranging from 18th-century portraits and decorative arts to Folk Art, Vermont landscape paintings, and 20th-century Modernism.  Here visitors encounter the largest public collection of Grandma Moses paintings in the world, the largest collection of 19th-century Bennington pottery, as well as fine and decorative arts, military artifacts,
and the Bennington Flag, one of the earliest‘stars and stripes’ in existence.

Grandma Moses Gallery

On view year round is a selection of works by Anna Mary Robertson Moses (1860 - 1961), who became known to the world as Grandma Moses, one of America's most noted folk artists. 

This winter the Bennington Museum orchestrated an agreement with Galerie St. Etienne in New York City, the Kallir Family Foundation, and a private collector to borrow masterworks by Anna Mary Robertson “Grandma” Moses -  Taking in Laundry, In Harvest Time, Sugaring Off, (1943) and Hoosick Valley (From the Window).  Now on view in the museum’s Grandma Moses Gallery, they are joined by many of the paintings owned by the Bennington Museum, which is home to the largest public collection of paintings by Anna Mary Robertson "Grandma" Moses (1860-1961) in the world. The newly installed gallery arranges Moses’ work in inter-related groupings to convey the full breadth of her work in a more cohesive manner than previously exhibited.  As the best-known ‘primitive’ artist of the twentieth-century, Grandma Moses is often seen as exceptional, and outside the mainstream of American art history.

Moses was born into a Greenwich, New York farming family.  Her father, Russell King Robertson was both a farmer and amateur artist.  It was common among folk artists of all periods to share their artistic talents with family members and pass along their gift to younger generations. Anna Mary and her siblings were encouraged by their father to paint, though she, and others, found this to be a frivolous pursuit.  At the age of 27, Anna Mary met and married Thomas Salmon Moses.  After spending the first several years of their marriage in Virginia, in 1905 they returned to New York and settled on a farm in Eagle Bridge naming it “Mt. Nebo.”  It was here that Thomas died in 1927.  As tending to the farm became more physically challenging for a woman in her seventies, Anna Mary Moses began stitching and giving her embroidered pictures away.  As her arthritis graudally worsened, she turned to painting.  Thus began Grandma Moses' career as an artist.

In 1938, Moses' paintings were “discovered” in the Women's Exchange at Thomas' Drug Store in Hoosick Falls, New York by Louis J. Caldor, a discerning New York City art collector.  He went about purchasing all of the paintings Moses had completed.  That same year Alfred Barr, the founding Director of the Museum of Modern Art, declared that modern art was comprised of three distinct but equal “movements”: Cubism/Abstraction, Surrealism/Dada, and Self-Taught or “Popular” Art. Today, the last category in this group comes as a surprise to many.  It was within this context that Grandma Moses first gained entry to the New York art scene.

In 1939, three of her paintings were included in a group exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.  Her first solo exhibition What a Farm Wife Painted, organized by Otto Kallir at his Galerie St. Etienne in New York City, was held the following year when Grandma Moses was in her 80th year.  Kallir specialized in modern Austrian masters, but was also interested in the work of self-taught painters due to the rising belief that their work was “purer” and “more original” than that of trained painters.  Within a few years, with Kallir's assistance, Moses had become a household name and her art was instantly recognizable to millions of Americans. Having Galerie St. Etienne as her exclusive representative, her celebrity status grew internationally as well. What followed was nothing short of a rags-to-riches story for this elderly painter.  She passed away on December 13, 1961, at the age of 101.

 

 

 

Gilded Age Vermont

Bennington was a leading industrial town in New England from the mid-nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth century — at its height around 1890 it was home to nearly three dozen individual mills along a two mile stretch of the Walloomsac River. With this industrial boom came economic prosperity. The mill owners built glorious homes, and filled them with beautiful art, furniture and decorative objects.  Summer residents, many from Troy and Albany, New York, brought wealth to Bennington when they built new summer “cottages” or refurbished existing, often historically significant homes. Gilded Age Vermont highlights the industrial and cultural innovation of the region during this time through objects that were either made or owned in Bennington and the surrounding region, or created by artists with connections to the area. Featured in this gallery are elaborate Renaissance Revival furnishings and a stylish parlor organ manufactured by the Estey Organ Company of Brattleboro, Vermont.  Frederick MacMonnies’ sumptuous portrait of May Suydam Palmer and the Martin Wasp, a luxury automobile made in Bennington by Karl Martin between 1920 and 1924 are on view, along with paintings by William Morris Hunt and glass and metal works by Lewis Comfort Tiffany.  Collectively, these objects paint a vivid picture of innovation and prosperity from Vermont’s past.  Drawn primarily from items in the museum's collection, Gilded Age Vermont is devoted to aspects of the permanent collection not cohesively celebrated in the past. 

 

 

Bennington Modernism

“Change – not for the sake of change itself, but changing in order to be a vital, living organization, constantly relevant to the people and to a changing world.” Robert Wolterstorff, Executive Director, Bennington Museum. 

In keeping with this goal of the museum’s mission, the Bennington Modernism Gallery re-opened on February 14 with newly installed paintings by Paul Feeley, Helen Frankenthaler and Jules Olitski.  These join works from the early 1950s through the mid-1970s that were created by a group of avant-garde artists working in and around Bennington, leading the nation in artistic thought and innovation. Among the artists of national and international stature with local ties are Pat Adams, Paul Feeley, Vincent Longo, Anthony Caro, and now iconic works by Helen Frankenthaler and Jules Olitski. Only their embrace of abstraction and a common desire to move beyond Abstract Expressionism, which had dominated the American art scene since the mid-1940s, united this disparate group of artists.  Collectively they explored such diverse strategies as Color Field painting, Minimalism, an early Conceptualism, and even proto-Pop.

Among those new to the gallery are Silver Coast, 1958 by Helen Frankenthaler and Revery, 1965 by Jules Olitski. 

 

Fine Art Gallery

Visitors delight in our collection of Fine Art. For example, Erastus Salisbury Field's Luman Preston Norton or such pieces as Ralph Earl's important 1798 "Townscape of Bennington."  Featured are early folk artists such as Ammi Philips and Oliver Tarbell Eddy, 19th-century artists such as William Morris Hunt and Frederick MacMonnies, and artists of the modern era such as Rockwell Kent and Simon Moselsio.

 

 

Bennington Pottery Gallery & Study Center

Traces the history of pottery which has been made in Bennington since 1785 when Captain John Norton began to produce utilitarian earthenware and stoneware. The Norton pottery grew throughout the 19th century and gained fame for its brilliantly decorated stoneware featuring flowers, birds, and animals.

Regular pottery production ceased in 1894, though the company operated as a wholesaler until 1911. The United States Pottery company (1847 - 1858) produced ornamental objects including yellow ware with Rockingham and flint enamel glazes, agate and granite wares, porcelain and parian. Technically innovative, the United States Pottery Company gained national prominence when its wares were featured in the 1853 Crystal Palace Exhibition in New York City. Today visitors can learn how these various types of ceramics were made by each company and used in Victorian homes.

A study center features an encyclopedic display of production work, along with copies of primary source documents concerning the companies.

The Bennington Pottery Gallery and Study Center was funded in part with grants from the Henry Luce Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Vermont Community Foundation.

 

 

Military Gallery

This gallery focuses on the Revolutionary War battle named after the town of Bennington. Through maps, fine art, and rare artifacts, the display explains the battle and its outcomes, as well as placing it in a broader context of our Colonial past. This gallery also includes a fine exhibition of Vermont-made firearms from 1760 to 1900. Learn about the art and science of gun-smithing in the Green Mountain State.