Anna B. Carolan: Gallerist and Founder of the Woodstock Museum of Art, Part 2
Updated: Sep 23, 2022
Gerald Leake (1885-1975)
Portrait of Anna B. Carolan, c. 1950
In 1942, Anna B. Carolan retired from teaching at Boys High School. That year she took a limited role at the Woodstock Artists Association; showing in the summer exhibitions and serving on the sponsoring committee of the organization’s film society. The following summer she opened The Little Gallery in The Nook on Tinker Street (now the Center for Photography at Woodstock). For decades the establishment doubled as an eating place and display space for fine art and crafts. The Woodstock historian Alf Evers noted that as early as the 1920s the “walls were covered with hasty little landscape and flower paintings run up by the colony artists for the tourist trade”(1)
The arrival in town of The Little Gallery was announced in late May in the Kingston Daily Freeman.(2). Carolan organized five exhibitions the first summer, including paintings, watercolors, drawings, sculpture and ceramics. Among the approximately thirty artists to show there were Woodstock stalwarts Henry Mattson, John Crampton Nichols, Walter Sarff, Marion Greenwood, Hannah Small, Alfeo Faggi, Peggy Dodds, Carl Walters, Anton Refregier, Dorothy Varian and Karl Fortess. Carolan also mixed in the work of younger and less established artists active in town, including Leila Copeland, Emilio Grau Sala, Christine Martin, Raisa Robbins and Lena Butler Stewart.
The most important exhibition to be held the first summer was Oils and Gouaches by George C. Ault, which was on view from July 26-August 7th. This was the first solo exhibition of Ault’s work held since his large and successful show at the prominent Downtown Gallery in New York City in 1928. The exhibition at The Little Gallery featured ten works, including such major examples of Ault’s art as Old House, New Moon; Black Night: Russell’s Corners; and Wastelands: Winter.
George C. Ault (1891-1948)
Old House, New Moon, 1943
Yale University Art Gallery
George C. Ault (1891-1948)
Black Night: Russell’s Corners, 1943
Pennsylvania Academy of the
Fine Arts Museum
George C. Ault (1891-1948)
Wastelands: Winter, 1940
Ault spent his early years in Cleveland, Ohio, and London, England, where he studied at the Slade School and the St. John’s Wood School of Art. On resettling in America in 1911 he painted idyllic rural landscapes of New Jersey in an Impressionist influenced style. Upon moving to New York City in 1922, he achieved success with showings of his Precisionist cityscapes at the J. B. Neumann Gallery, the Whitney Studio Club, and the Downtown Gallery.
In the early 1930s Ault began to spend summers in Woodstock. In 1937 he and his wife Louise permanently settled in town.(3) The artist came in quest of seclusion and tranquility; it was only in 1943 that he made forays into the art life of the upstate community. That year Louise Ault conducted a series of interviews with local artists, which were published in the Poughkeepsie Sunday New Yorker. This resulted in her husband’s presence in the art colony coming more out in the open. Ault began to forge friendships with Henry Mattson, Alfeo Faggi, and John Ruggles, and for a brief period attended openings and cocktail parties. Faggi brought some of his friends to Ault’s home, including Carolan, who after seeing some of his recent work invited him to exhibit.
Shortly after meeting Ault, Carolan committed to buying Old House, New Moon for $200, and gave the artists $25 towards its purchase.(4) The artist and his wife were in economic distress, and the sale buoyed their hopes and spirits. According to Louise Ault, at the end of the exhibition Carolan did not mention or keep her promise, and failed to finalize payment, and instead acquired a smaller, unidentified, work for $50.(5) The Ault's disappointment over failing to sell Old House, New Moon led them to “not so much as mention [the lack of its sale] between us. . . . it was too frightening to be forced to realize that that which meant so much to us could be whimsy in another.”(6) This was one of a number of disheartening experiences Ault had with art dealers over the course of his career. Following his showing at The Little Gallery, Ault placed some of his paintings on consignment at the Rudolph Gallery in Woodstock. After gallery owner Rudolph Fiolic offered the artist advice on what, and how, to paint, the two men clashed.(7) Ault cut off his relationship with Edith Halpert of the Downtown Gallery because of similar circumstances. Louise Ault remarked that as “abruptly as it had begun, the experience of selling work [in Woodstock] ended; once more the channel to a public closed.”(8)
Over the course of 1942-1948, Carolan organized wide ranging exhibitions of paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture and ceramics at The Little Gallery. The principal members of her stable were John McClellan, Mariquita Villard, Edna Thurber, John Crampton Nichols, Eugenie McEvoy, Alfeo Faggi, Harry Tedlie, Frank T. Brokenshaw (known as Brock), and Louise Brokenshaw. Carolan also exhibited the work of André Ruellan, Edward Edwards, Stuart Edie, Doris Lee, Judson Smith, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, and Bradley Walker Tomlin, among others. She organized mostly group exhibitions but devoted solo showings to the work of Villard (1944 and 1946) and Nichols (1945). In the summer of 1948, Carolan moved The Little Gallery into her studio off Library Lane near the center of the village.(9)
Former Woodstock Museum of Art,
Studio and Home of Anna B. Carolan,
Reynolds Lane, Woodstock, New York
In June 1949, Carolan closed The Little Gallery and founded the Woodstock Museum of Art. She was spurred to create the museum by a talk she heard in the summer of 1947 on the subject of museums, given by Juliana Force, former director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, at the Woodstock Art Conference.(10) She began to consider the idea of forming a permanent collection while directing the Woodstock Art Gallery in the summer of 1941. At that time she floated the idea of donating “the net proceeds [of the space] toward a fund for the purchase of works of art for a permanent collection.”(11) In the course of directing The Little Gallery she was “convinced that there was a genuine need for an art museum in Woodstock. . . .”(12)
Marguerite Hobart, Henry Mattson
and Anna B. Carolan
Announcing Start of
Woodstock Museum of Art, 1949
From “Start New Village Art Museum,” Kingston Daily Freeman,
January 28, 1949. p. 7.
Carolan founded the Woodstock Museum of Art with the help of Henry Mattson, Marguerite Hobart and Reverend Harvey L. Todd, whose exact roles in the founding and operation of the museum are not known. Mattson settled in Woodstock in 1916, and went on to achieve national renown as a marine and portrait painter. Between 1923 and 1948, he painted a series of self-portraits inspired by artists ranging from Rembrandt and El Greco to Pablo Picasso. Many of his self-portraits were acquired by museums, and a major example was acquired by Carolan from an exhibition in 1940 at the Woodstock Artists Association (an image of this work has not been located).(13)
Henry Mattson (1877-1971)
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
[Example of a self-portrait by Mattson]
Hobart passed away in March 1949, shortly after the founding of the museum was announced. Early in life she toured the country as a vocalist with various opera companies. She and her former husband, the cellist Paul Kefer, were among the first musicians to locate to the Maverick art colony in nearby West Hurley. Reverend Todd was minister of the Dutch Reformed Church in Woodstock from 1924-1958, and during this period he was often at the center of things happening in the town. For a period he was the head of the Historical Society of Woodstock.
Advertisement for the
Woodstock Museum of Art,
From the Kingston Daily Freeman,
June 30, 1962, p. 11,
The Woodstock Museum of Art was headquartered in the first floor studio of Carolan's two story home off Library Lane (now 9 Reynolds Lane). Museum visitors were directed to “take the first right turn off Library Lane to the dead end where Carl Walter’s [terracotta] lion guards the [inner] entrance.”(14) Carolan decided to jump right in with the museum “rather than wait until there are sufficient funds for constructing a special type of building to house the works of art to be selected through the year . . . .”(15)
Interior of Former
Woodstock Museum of Art,
with Paintings by Reginald Wilson
and Dmitri Petrov
[The Petrov was not originally in the collection of the Woodstock Museum of Art]
The Catskill Mountain Star reported in 1949 that “Miss Anna B. Carolan feels that she is filling a long-felt want in establishing the Woodstock Museum of Art in her spacious studio on Library Lane, Woodstock. For six summers, Miss Carolan operated her own gallery in the village and has earned the respect of art lovers for her discrimination in choosing objects for exhibition. The new project will afford more extensive scope, in that the elastic collection will not be limited exclusively to Woodstock artists. The nucleus will be a Henry Mattson self-portrait, a painting which he considers his best work.”(16) The Ulster County Townsmen further reported that “Although [her studio] serves as the home of the Woodstock Museum of Art, she hopes someday to move it to a permanent, modern building more suited to the needs of a museum [and that] someday the museum will come to fulfill her hopes as a permanent exhibition space for established artists, leaving the galleries for younger, upcoming artists.”(17)
Advertisement for the
Woodstock Museum of Art,
Temporary Location Miss Carolan’s Studio, July 1950
Woodstock Artists Association Archives
The Woodstock Museum of Art opened to the public on June 30, 1949. The first exhibition consisted of loans from private collections. The lenders included Mr. and Mrs. Roland d’Albis, Mr. and Mrs. John H. Striebel, Mr. and Mrs. Howard Barnes, Mr. and Mrs. Walter P. McTelgue, Therese Kessel and Mariquita Villard. Among the artists represented were Mattson, Speicher, Faggi, Brock, Dodds, McEvoy, Tedlie, and the Frenchman Jean Dufy.
Peggy Dodds (1900-1987)
Death Mask with Cemetery Stones,
Frame and Roses, 1943
John Crampton Nichols (1899-1963)
Louise Brokenshaw (1907-1992)
Fish Bowl, n.d.
The full extent of the Woodstock Museum of Art’s collection prior to its dispersal in the late 1950s and 1960s is not known. Among the works remaining in the collection of Carolan’s descendants are paintings by Reginald Wilson, Peggy Dodds and John Crampton Nichols, prints by John McClellan, Mariquita Villard, and Doris Lee, drawings by Marion Greenwood and Alfeo Faggi, and a ceramic bowl by Louise Brokenshaw.
Carl Walters (1883-1955)
Sleeping Lion, 1939
Postcard, Woodstock Museum of Art
Eugenie McEvoy (1879-1975)
Taxi! Taxi!, 1928
Collection of Jason Schoen
Harry Tedlie (1888-1953)
Woodstock Artists Association, Gift of the Family in memory of Anna B. Carolan
Albert Heckman (1893-1971)
Clay Banks, by 1954
Lithograph on paper
Included among the works formerly in the collection are Carl Walters’ terracotta sleeping lion, Eugenie McEvoy’s painting Taxi! Taxi!, and the self-portrait by Mattson. Carolan’s nieces and nephews donated Harry Tedlie’s Labyrinth to the Woodstock Artists Association in memory of their aunt. The collection also included Albert Heckman’s lithograph Clay Banks, Doris Lee’s painting Top, and Alice W. Dunbar’s sculpture Ram, as well as an unidentified painting by Yasuo Kuniyoshi.
Alfeo Faggi (1885-1966)
Rabindranath Tagore, 1920
Carolan generally mixed in works for sale with those from the permanent collection on view. Sometimes she temporarily borrowed works from local collectors and artists. In 1953 she borrowed Alfeo Faggi’s bust of the Indian poet, writer, composer, philosopher, social reformer and painter Rabindranath Tagore directly from the local sculptor.
Marion Greenwood (1909-1970)
John J. Carolan, 1931
In 1952, Carolan recalled asking Marion Greenwood to sketch the likeness of her father (discussed in part 1), and congratulated her for winning the Altman Prize at the 127th Annual Exhibition of the National Academy of Design: “To the uninitiated I might add that besides the honor of this prize, there is an award of $1200. Art Digest for April 1st carried a reproduction of Miss Greenwood’s picture ‘Lament.’ Woodstock artists and laymen must be delighted with this young artist’s rise to fame.”(18)
Brock and Louise Brokenshaw in Shady,
Young Girl, c. 1965
Carolan was close friends with many of the artists whose work she exhibited, including Tedlie, the Brokenshaws, Villard, Elfriede Borkman, John McClellan, Edna Thurber, and Madeline Shiff Wiltz. Following Wiltz's death in 1966, Carolan wrote a memorial tribute to her which appeared in the Kingston Daily Freeman. She referred to Wiltz as “a gifted artist, a loyal friend and a loving mother and grandmother.”(19) Carolan frequently visited Brock and Louise Brokenshaw at their home in nearby Shady, and her nieces and nephews sat for Brock in his barn studio, including for the painting featured above. Anna’s family recalls that she paid for the burial of several indigent artists in the Woodstock Artists Cemetery (there are no records of who these may have been).
Anna Carolan (1886-1972)
Miss Billie, c. 1950s
[Painted in Key West]
Beginning in around 1950, Carolan spent the winter months in Key West, Florida, where she associated with many local artists and writers, and had passing acquaintance with Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams. Gerald Leake’s portrait of Carolan dates from her period in Key West. The British-born artist and illustrator settled in Key West in 1949. and received gold medals for his portraits shown at the National Academy of Design and the Allied Artists of America.
Anna’s five great nieces and nephews moved into her home in 1962. In order to partially cover the expense of five new charges, she sold and traded off works from the collection. The museum closed in 1963, when she was turning 77 years of age. Anna died on January 18, 1972. Her five great nieces and nephews in turn took care of her in her later years, allowing her to remain at home rather than at a nursing home. Her death arrived at the time the Woodstock Artists Association was finishing up the groundwork for the formation of its permanent collection (works began to come to the institution in 1974).
Late in life, Anna B. Carolan became friends with Sharon Cherven, who worked as a waitress at the local restaurant Deanie’s, and did portrait modelling to help pay her way through college. In 1981, Cherven wrote about their friendship and recalled:
“Anna had a tiny art museum just off Library Lane she liked to call the ’smallest museum in the world’ in memory of the French poet Francis Jammes. Jammes claimed he had the world’s smallest museum. It consisted of a view from his window. Anna, an ex-school teacher, . . . worshiped talents greater than her own. Her pride and joy was a thick leather-bound book [since disappeared] in which she kept replies from the scores of famous artists with whom she corresponded.
"Loving gaiety and young people, Anna was great fun. We used to travel all over in her ancient [green Plymouth], Old Henry. When Old Henry died, Anna made a [wreath] for his hood and gave a cocktail party for his wake. When Artie Pepper arrived with the wrecker to haul Old Henry off to his final resting place, he was asked to join the wake. The final burial must have turned out all right in spite of the condition in which everyone left the wake. A few days later, Artie recovered enough to sell Anna a car. It was named New Henry.
A couple of nights per week Anna and I would dine on plain boiled noodles in order to be able to afford a dinner at the old Maverick Inn . . . . A magnificent meal could cost two or three dollars. It was a rustic, country place with red checkered [tablecloths]. The big honor was to be asked to sit at the big round table reserved for the family.
Anna adored sculptor Alfeo Faggi, who had a wonderful studio on Plochman Lane. Faggi was fascinating company and he knew it. Before he would consent to being visited, he would ask, ‘What are you bringing me?’ This invariably meant a trip to the wonderful German bakery [Kirschbaums] on the corner of Rock City Road and the Village Green.
Anna died in the early seventies, and her ‘smallest museum’ is [currently a] home for her nieces and nephews.”(20)
I would like to thank the family of Anna B. Carolan for their assistance in researching and writing this essay. In addition I would like to thank the following people for their valuable help; Kim Apolant, Librarian, Woodstock Public Library; Hannah Frieser, Executive Director, Center for Photography at Woodstock; Mikhail Horowitz; Emily Jones, Archivist, Woodstock Artists Association; Ashley Kranjac, MLIS, Digital Collections Manager, University Archives & Special Collections, Adelphi University; March Avery; the Milton Avery Trust; MacWillie Chambers; Peter D. Hulme; Jonathan Cohen;Janine Mower, Fern Malkine-Falvey; Giles Malkine; and Tom Hambright.
1-Alf Evers, Woodstock: History of an American Town (Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press, 1987), p. 549.
2- “Woodstock, Kingston Daily Freeman, May 27, 1943, p. 4.
3-For a major study of Ault’s life and art in Woodstock see Louise Ault, Artist in Woodstock: George Ault, The Independent Years (Philadelphia: Dorrance and Company, 1978).
5-Ibid., p. 90.
6-Ibid., p. 90.
7-Ibid., p. 150.
8-Ibid., pp. 150-151.
9-In December 1948, The Little Gallery briefly reopened at The Nook for an exhibition of the child Dick Ostrander’s painting Bambi. “Dick Ostrander, 6, Has Painting at Nook Exhibition,” Kingston Daily Freeman, December 15, 1948, p. 18.
10-Peg Hard, “Village Museum Plans Are Started: Artists Announced,” Kingston Daily Freeman, June 28, 1949, p. 7.
11-“Woodstock Exhibit,” Art Digest, 15 (August 1, 1941): 26.
12-“Second Show Now at Wdstk. Museum,” Ulster County Townsman, August 3, 1955, otherwise unidentified article, scrapbook of around 1955, Woodstock Artists Association Archives.
13-Carolan’s purchase of Mattson’s self-portrait is noted in Marguerite Hurter, “Woodstock,” Kingston Daily Freeman, August 3, 1940, p. 12.
14- “Art Museum to Open,” Kingston Daily Freeman, June 27, 1953, p. 10.
15-Hard, p. 7.
16-“Woodstock Museum Fills Long Felt Need,” Catskill Mountain Star, February 18, 1949, p. 1.
17-“Second Show Now at Woodstock Museum,” Ulster County Townsman, otherwise unidentified article, scrapbook for around 1941, Woodstock Artists Association Archives.
18- Anna B. Carolan, “To the Editor,” Catskill Mountain Star, April 18, 1952, p. 3.
19-“Offers Tribute to Late Artist,” Kingston Daily Freeman, September 14, 1966, p. 7.
20-Sharon Cherven,“An Earlier Season,” Woodstock Times, August 27, 1981, p. 31. For an obituary of Anna B. Carolan see “Miss Anna B. Carolan,” Kingston Daily Freeman, January 19, 1972, p. 8.