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MEMORIES OF THE WOODSTOCK ART COLONY COMMUNITY

By Fred Baker


Ronald Pisano and Fred Baker

On Trip to China, 1992


Around the late 1970s, Ronald Pisano and I purchased land and had a weekend home built on a small lake in Orange County, New York. Soon after, we began to take Saturday trips to the surrounding countryside, starting with Woodstock. We didn’t know anyone who lived there so we had to learn the lay of the land by ourselves. Driving up from Orange County we entered Woodstock on a main road off the highway which led to the village. Immediately after making the left turn off route 375 was Paradox Gallery, Robert Angeloch’s gallery.


John Kleinhans (born 1942)

Robert Angeloch with Unidentified Visitor at Paradox Gallery, c. 1985

Collection of the Photographer


The gallery was part of a series of connected retail spaces on Mill Hill Road with both ground and upper level shops. It was in the upstairs middle of this mini-mall. One had to go up a very steep set of stairs to a small landing with gallery spaces left and right. And there we met Robert Angeloch. He was very gracious in letting us poke around his rather extensive holdings – hung on the walls and stacked on the floors. There was even a small lower door with crawl space – also filled with works of art. He would tell us tales of the Woodstock artists and the Woodstock Artists Association.

Frank Marsden London (1876-1945)

Portrait of Aileen Cramer, 1931

Oil on canvas

Woodstock Artists Association

Soon it became a regular stopping place for us every time we went to Woodstock. One of the main staples of the gallery was work by Konrad Cramer. We saw many works he had on consignment from the artist’s daughter, Aileen Cramer, and it was in the crawl space stack that we uncovered The Plaster Cat, dated Dec. 2, 1928. Now Dec. 2nd was my birth date, which was just an added bonus (of some sort) and after negotiation we bought it. It was, and remained, one of our favorite works. And it was because of that purchase that we became friends with Aileen.

Konrad Cramer (1888-1963)

Plaster Cat, December 2, 1928

Oil on composition board

The Heckscher Museum of Art,

Huntington, NY.

Gift of the Baker/Pisano Collection

[2001.9.73]


She was delightful and also full of stories about the artists who lived and/or worked in Woodstock. We very much enjoyed our get-togethers with Aileen, who would often throw dinner parties in the gallery in what had been her father’s studio on Ricks Road, which Aileen had turned into a home for herself. There we met her brother-in-law Gordon Taylor (her sister’s husband) who, after her sister Margot died, married the artist Charles Rosen’s granddaughter Kit.


Gordon loved to sing and I would accompany him on the concert grand Steinway piano in the main gallery (then Aileen’s living room). Once we had cocktails at Kit and Gordon’s house on Bellows Lane, which was the former home of Kit’s grandfather. The house was full of Charles Rosen paintings, including a quite wonderful Eugene Speicher portrait of Rosen’s daughter Katherine, who was Kit’s mother.


John Kleinhans (born 1942)

Aileen Cramer in Karmann Ghia, 1985


Aileen once came to NYC to have lunch in our apartment, after which we went off to attend an auction at Sotheby’s, which likely had a number of Cramer‘s up for sale. The most grand remembrance of Aileen was a birthday party in 1997 (her 80th) on the grounds of her studio/home under a very large tent—a sit down for about 50 guests, a very elegant affair, never to be forgotten. The tent, the table cloths, the table and chairs—everything was white, including the wonderful bouquets of flowers on each table.


We also met Paul Fiene’s widow, Rosella Hartman, sister of the artist Bertram Hartman, and an artist in her own right. She lived in a very small bungalow filled with her works as well as small sculptures by her husband. But she also had a small hooked rug designed by her brother, supposedly “hooked” by Bertram’s wife Gusta. We had already purchased another rug by Hartman but we couldn’t resist buying another, though Bertram was little more than a visitor to his sister and brother-in-law in Woodstock.


Nat Werner (1907-1991)

Charging Bull, c. 1920

Sandstone

The Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, NY

Gift of the Baker/Pisano Collection

[2001.9.272]


We knew Nat Werner from having visited him in his NYC home/studio, where he recounted going on “stoning” expeditions with John Flannagan in the countryside around Woodstock, searching for stones that suggested organic forms. In a letter to Ron, Nat recalled: “Summer – 1933 – Rented a small cottage in Woodstock nearby ‘Little Deep,’ artists’ swimming hole where I found small sandstone ‘boulder’ which suggested the subject…,” referring to a sandstone sculpture, Charging Bull, which we had purchased from him.

Then there was Jim Cox and his wife Mary Anna Goetz. We first came to know them when Jim was director of Grand Central Galleries in New York and our friend Bob Preato was research curator. We always stopped in to see Jim in his Woodstock barn gallery on Elwyn Lane, and he too introduced us to many other heirs of artists from the community, as most of the older Woodstock artists had died by the time we began to frequent the village. After a few years he also began to organize auctions, filled with work by celebrated Woodstock artists, which would last for many, many hours as Jim would, in effect, give a mini, sometimes long, lecture on the life and work of each of them. I clocked him at one point and he was hammering down about 40 lots per hour – to anyone who used to sit through auctions, this was mind-numbing, as well as a posterior numbing travail. But all in good fun, and in the service of art.

Lucille Blanch (1895-1981)

Still Life with Geranium, 1924

Oil on canvas

The Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, NY.

Gift of the Baker/Pisano Collection

[2001.9.23]

Louis Bouché (1893-1936)

Still Life with Urn and Pipe,1931

Oil on canvas

The Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, NY.

Gift of the Baker/Pisano Collection

[2001.9.28]

I suspect we would never have thought to form a Woodstock Collection were it not for the people we came to know and their stories of the early days at Woodstock. Our feeling about collecting is that a focused and purposeful collection is most rewarding. In the early to mid-years of the 20th century, Woodstock, with ties to the Whitney Museum art circle, and a summer school for the Art Students’ League, represented a polar opposite to the art circle of Alfred Stieglitz – whereas Stieglitz was exclusive in his selection of artists he represented, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and her museum director, Juliana Force, were inclusive in their support for artists of all stripes. At first we had been drawn to the Stieglitz group, which had very strong ties to William Merritt Chase (he had painted the portraits of both Stieglitz and Steichen), as many were his students – Ron of course was the leading authority on Chase - though many of the artists associated with the Whitney were also his students at the NYC based League. Together they formed a significant presence related to the evolving work of American artists in the early 20th century.

Robert W. Chanler (1873-1930)

Portrait of Henry McBride, 1929

Oil on canvas

The Heckscher Museum of Art,,

Huntington, NY

Gift of the Baker/Pisano Collection

[2001.9.48]


Zulma Steele (1881-1979)

Under the Palms; c. 1915-1920

Colored monotype

The Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, NY.

Gift of the Baker/Pisano Collection

[2001.9.230]

Our “Woodstock” collection grew to include works by: Milton Avery, Peggy Bacon, George Bellows, Arnold and Lucile Blanch, Louis Bouché, Alexander Brook, John Carroll, Robert W. Chanler, Konrad Cramer, Hunt Diederich, Philip Evergood, Ernest Fiene, John Flannagan, Gaston Lachaise, Henry Lee McFee, Winold Reiss, Paul Rohland, Andree Ruellan, Eugene Speicher, Zulma Steele, Nat Werner, Carl Walters, and Arnold Wiltz.

Arnold Wiltz (1889-1937)

Woodstock Church, 1929

Watercolor on paper

The Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, NY.

Gift of the Baker/Pisano Collection.

[2001.9.284]


Many years later, Mary Anne Goley, Fine Arts Program Director for the Federal Reserve Board, Washington, D. C. and familiar with our collection, proposed that works by members of the Woodstock art colony be the nucleus of an exhibition she wanted to organize for the Reserve Board in D. C., “Woodstock: An Artists Community – Selections from the Baker/Pisano Collection and the Woodstock Artists Association.” Together with a few added examples from the WAA, the exhibition opened in January, 1994—a year that was, coincidentally, the 25th anniversary of the fabled Woodstock festival. The exhibition later traveled to the WAA. The essay of the exhibition catalogue, a scan of which is found below, ends as follows: "In 1994 Woodstock is within a decade of celebrating its first century as a center for creative as well as performing artists. As such, it is one of the oldest functioning art colonies in the United States. This exhibition is meant to present the work of men and women who helped shape Woodstock during its formative years to a larger audience.”

It is heartening to know that the contribution of the Woodstock art community is still recognized and celebrated in the 21st century. Ars Longa, Vita Brevis.

* * *

All the illustrations featured here are of works in The Heckscher Museum of Art, Baker/Pisano Collection. Learning Woodstock Art Colony would like to thank Kerrilyn Blee, Christine M. A.Marzano, John Kleinhans, and Jason and Karen King for their assistance.


A SCAN OF THE BAKER/PISANO CATALOG

(Easiest to Read on Desk or Lap Top)

0391_001
.pdf
Download PDF • 978KB


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