What a low blow: Justice Lowy clears contested Berkshire Museum art for auction

Justice Lowy’s JUDGEMENT was released April 5, 2018. The Museum may sell Shuffleton’s Barbershop, and — via Sotheby’s– the remaining 39 works free of any restrictions.

“The museum has satisfied its burden of establishing that is has become impossible or impracticable to administer the Museum strictly in accordance with its chartiable purpose, thus entitling the Museum to relief under the doctrine of equitable deviation. Accordingly the court allows the Museum’s request for equitable relief to sell the designated artwork.”

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Justice Lowy MEMO OF UNDERSTANDING

page 1 MEMO OF UNDERSTANDING Justice Lowy Berkshire Museum and AGO April 5 2018

Reaction from Sotheby’s Auction House:

“We are very pleased that the court approved the agreement reached between the Berkshire Museum and the Massachusetts Attorney General. We look forward to working with the museum to ensure a bright future for the people of Pittsfield and Western Massachusetts.” Judge Lowy’s decision came in just in time to meet the auction’s press deadline clearing for art sales this spring, else sales would have been pushed back till the fall at the earliest. The catalogue pages are ready from last fall’s prep.

Reaction from Elizabeth McGraw, President, Berkshire Museum Board of Trustees:

“This is great news for the people of Berkshire County and everyone who visits the Berkshire Museum for one-of-a-kind experiences in history, art, and science. We recognize this decision may not please those who have opposed the museum’s plans. Still, we hope people will be able to move forward in a constructive way to help us secure and strengthen the future of this museum, at a time when our community needs it more than ever. “

Reaction from Save the Art – Save the Museum (STA-STM)

“Save the Art-Save the Museum continues to oppose the sale of the Berkshire Museum’s art treasures and its unrestricted use of the resulting funds. We also regret the judge’s disregard of the public trust in which the museum held its collections. The impending sale will not only diminish Pittsfield as a city claiming to be of cultural import to Berkshire County, but will reverberate destructively for years through collections similarly held in trust throughout the state and country. As a group, we will make a more detailed statement after meeting in person to consider the loss to our community and its impact.”

Patiner flight into egypt featured in 1953 article celebrating Berkshire Museum 50th celebration
1953

Have a look back at an inspiring 1965 Berkshire Eagle profile about Berkshire Museum Director Stuart C. Henry, and an earlier feature from the Berkshire Evening Eagle, published Thursday, Aug. 20, 1953, heralding the Berkshire Museum’s 50th anniversary. Both convey the museum’s seamless blend of high art, science, community and education.

I wonder what happened to the marble swans over the Berkshire Museum elliptical pool designed by A. Sterling Calder, father of the sculptor, Alexander Calder, and resident of Richmond, Massachusetts, less than 20 minutes away from Pittsfield? 

1953 excerpts-Berkshire Museum Begins Its Second Half-Century Jubilee Ball Tomorrow To Mark Event:  The exhibition of Reginald Marsh, nationally known as a painter of people, is a fitting herald for the Berkshire Museum’s 50th anniversary celebration, to be observed officially tomorrow. For in the course of a half century, the Museum has been transformed from a static depository of objects into an institution playing a dynamic role in community life. 

“One of the main desires for the future is to increase our service to the general public,” says Director Stuart C. Henry.  But at the ripe old age of 50, the institution can afford to ‘ruff’ out its chest with pride, for it is regarded as one of the best museums for a city of this size in the country. It has offered all the major art works available for exhibit. Its natural history department has grown from a collection of stuffed owls and wild cats to an “animals of the world” collection in miniature, bird room, mounted fish collection, science club, camera club and nature hour for children. It is also the only institution in the country which has a professional movie theatre.

Officially founded in 1902 by Zenas Crane of the Dalton paper-making family the Museum in its infancy was known as the Berkshire Museum of Natural History and Art. Objects pertaining to natural history were on display on the first floor of the two-story gray brick and limestone building of Italian Renaissance design; fine arts were on view upstairs. The original building was a hollow rectangle built around an open court. Mr. Crane, who acted as donor, director and staff, added four Wings during the next 14 years, which he filled with a collection of his own choosing until his death in 1917. During its first 30 years, the Museum followed a traditional centuries path. European masters adorned the walls on the second floor; the natural history department was chiefly confined to objects of local interest.

Then, in 1931, new life was infused by the appointment of Miss Laura M. Bragg as director. Miss Bragg, who had built a reputation for herself as director of the Charleston Museum in South Carolina, undertook to reorganize the Berkshire institution on the premise that a small museum must make its overtures to the public more valuable and more friendly. Under her guidance, a vast reappraisal and reconstruction program was launched, with two members of the present staff — Mr. Henry and Science Curator Bartlett Hendricks—helping with much of the rebuilding. Up to this time, Museum art exhibitions consisted of American portraits, primitives and provincials. The works on display were those of such established 18th century portrait painters as Blackburn, West, Copley and Stuart. Chester Harding’s picture of John C. Calhoun was one of the outstanding treasures. Also on exhibit was the Hudson River school of painters— lesser artists whose chief interest lay in the fact that they reflected the taste of the 19th century.

One of the Berkshire Museum’s chief aims is to improve the building and collections, says Director Stuart C. Henry. At present, three major projects are on tap. The northeast gallery will be transformed into three small galleries to house intimate paintings, prints and exhibits of Oriental art. A new permanent collection just promised to the Museum would be displayed here. The ceiling will be lowered by the construction of a fibre-glass ‘floating” structure, to provide a more intimate atmosphere. Plan No. 2 is to construct new Greek and Egyptian miniature groups. Finally, the institution hopes to extend its educational efforts by hiring more instructors, providing more lectures and music, and increasing its output of publications.

In 1934, the Museum began the first of its innovations by purchasing a work of Alexander Calder—the first museum to buy his abstract sculpture. It also commissioned him to design two pieces for a fixed architectural location. The following year, the institution shut its doors in order to undertake a vast rebuilding program. The hollow court was roofed over, making room for two notable additions: A 300-seat auditorium on the first floor, where Calder’s ‘mobiles’ —abstract sculpture of varied colors operating on spindles—were displayed; and, on the second floor, a 40-by-60-foot exhibition gallery, known as the Ellen Crane Memorial Room. Lighted by overhead daylight controlled by louvres, the gallery had its end walls panelled in brown English oak, On the north end of the room was a fireplace; at the southern end, a semi-elliptical recess set around an elliptical pool in which flower and plants bloomed to provide an outdoor note. The marble swans over the pool were designed by A. Sterling Calder, father of the sculptor and a resident of Richmond. 

Million Dollar Project

Other additions were a special children’s room and better storage and technical facilities in which to prepare the traveling school exhibits—boxed miniature settings illustrating natural history and art. The cost of the Berkshire Museum to the Crane family at this point exceeded $1,250,000. On June 25, 1937, the Museum celebrated its grand reopening with a show of 38 famous landscape paintings from the 16th to the 20th relatively unknown in the Western Painters represented World.

An art world s ‘Who’s Who since its reopening, “

Poussin, Rousseau, Cezanne, Renoir, Delacroix, Courbet, Corot, the Berkshire Museum has presented many distinguished exhibitions. It has shown Manet and Pissaro; Claude Lor- sculpture…John Singer Sargent’s water colors; finger painting by famed exponent, the late Francis R. Fast; and the works of such abstract artists as Calder, A. E. Gallatin and George L. K. Morris of Lenox. It has presented paintings by I Harold Sterner, famous in South America for his architectural works; and paintings and drawings by the noted post-impressionist William Malherbe. Sketches by Pavel Tcheiitchev, famed Russian artist whose “Hide and Seek” hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and a memorial exhibit of E. Barnard Lintott, whose book “The Art of Water Color Painting” has become a standard text, were also seen.

Owns Rare Paintings

The Museum’s own permanent collection contains several works of great value, most famous of which is the rare “Flight Into Egypt”… Other valuable paintings are; Juan Pons’ Adoration of the Magi,” a 15th century Spanish masterpiece purchased by Zenas Crane for $20,000; Rubens “The Vision of Saint Ignatius”; and Murillo’s “Saint Francis.” Pieter de Hooch’s “The Music Party,” Reynolds’ “Portrait of Miss Barnard” and Van Dyke’s “The Duke of Richmond” are also in the collection. In its devotion to international Stuart C. Henry risan, Seurat, Vlaminck, Mattisse; and Gainsborough, Constable and Turner of the English school.

Distinguished Exhibits

The Museum also purchased and displayed 50 Chinese color prints of the 1620-1723 period—again an important premiere, for these wood block prints were at that time…

One-Hoss Shay, Hawthorne Desk Among Museum Relics

“Have you heard of the wonderful one-hoss shay That was built in such a logical way It ran a hundred years to a day, And then of a sudden it—ah, but stay,  tell you what happened without delay . . .” And without delay, Oliver Wendell Holmes proceeded to relate the tale of the “Wonderful One-hoss Shay,” whose reputed inspiration is currently on display in the Museum’s Historical Room. Holmes was a frequent visitor at the Amasa Rice home during the “seven blessed summers” he spent in Pittsfield in (1848-1856) and often examined the elderly chais* owned by Rice. The chaise had been acquired from Samuel McKay, one of Pittsfield’s first citizens. Other famous historical objects owned by the Museum include the desk which Nathaniel Hawthorne is believed to have used in writing “The House of Seven Gables”; Herman Melville’s plow; and a sledge used by Commander Robert E. Peary during his 1909 expedition to the North Pole.

laura Bragg Zenas Crane Ellen Crane Memorial Room BERKSHIRE MUSEUM 1953 article(1953 photo caption: Zenas Crane, of the Dalton papermaking family, founded the Berkshire Museum in 1902 and was its donor, director and staff until his death in 1917. Twenty years later, largely through the efforts of Director Laura M. Bragg, the Museum was transformed into an institution seeking to relate art to community life. As part of the rebirth, a special exhibition gallery was added on the second floor called the Ellen Crane Memorial Room after the founder’s wife, it was given by the two Crane children- -the late Zena. Marshall Crane and Mrs. Samuel G. Colt. Picture over the fireplace is the Museum’s own Sir Joshua Reynolds’ “Portrait of Miss Barnard.”)

..the institution has not neglected to encourage local exhibitions. Three particularly noteworthy showings have been:    A “Time of Washington” loan exhibit and the Shaker exhibit, both in 1932; and the “Half-Century of Industrial Progress” show in 1950. For the Washington bicentennial, more than IOO persons throughout the county loaned enough furniture, silver and china to fill three large galleries on the second floor. In addition to authentic articles of the period, three pieces of Washingtonia were exhibited—his hair, loaned by Miss Edith Bartlett who had acquired it through her family from Hull Adams, cousin of Dolly Madison; a plate used by him; and a letter he had written to a Rev. Mr. Morse, ancestor of Miss Leila Morse and Miss Clara Morse. Shaker ‘Rooms’ Shown The Shaker display, held in October of 1932, was loaned by Dr. Edward T. Andrews of this city, leading authority on the subject. Three rooms were shown; A “re tiring room” or bedroom, a common dining room and a kitchen. Perhaps the two most notable shows were the exhibition of the works of famous sculptor Daniel Chester French; and the models of inventions built from blueprints of Leonardo da Vinci. Mr. French, whose daughter, Mrs. Margaret French Cresson, lives in Stockbridge, is world renowned for his statue of the Great Emancipator in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. He also did the Minute Man at Concord Bridge, reproduced on World War II defense bond posters; John Harvard in Harvard Square; and 214 other works, including busts of Hawthorne, Longfellow and Poe. The Museum exhibition featured plaster casts, mallets and chisels, oils pastels preliminary sketches and casts, mallets and chisels, oils, small original works by French. The da Vinci show, on view all last summer, consisted of 58 reproductions of inventions constructed from the artist’s original blue prints by Dr. Robert O. Guatelli, authority on da Vinci. Many forerunners of modern inventions were exhibited, including the first parachute (which da Vinci called a “tent of linen”), the hydraulic pump, a flying machine, a helicopter, machinegun and diving apparatus. Two-thirds of the models actually worked. Turning from the art world, the science department has been equally fruitful in its efforts. In the past year, it has launched its “Animals of the World” miniature room, accurate dioramas on one-tenth scale of all the major land animals of the world; it has added to its bird collection; and is currently planning a new hall for mounted fish.

Nature Hour Milestone

This week, the science department is also celebrating an anniversary — on Saturday, the 175th nature hour will be held. Begun in 1943 by Science Curator Hendricks, the nature hour consists of lectures, movies and demonstrations for children from the third to the ninth grades. The Saturday morning classes are given in conjunction with the Pleasant Valley Sanctuary and the Massachusetts Audubon Society. Nature collections are made during the summer. The course also consists of competitive exercises, questions and puzzles, with a bronze beaver going to the youngster who achieves 1000 points. The science department offers many interesting exhibits such as “The Story of Life,” murals executed by Mrs. Helen Damrosch; Tee Relief Map Of Berkshire 6 Years in Making; High-fliers with a hankering to view Pittsfield from 20,000 feet can just as easily stay on the ground. Thanks to the efforts of Science Curator Bartlett Hendricks, the Berkshire Museum has on display a IO’2-foot relief map of the entire county. The map, which took 6 years to build, consists of 120 pounds of clay, supported by a plywood base. Mr. Hendricks constructed it on a 100-foot to a quarter-inch scale, with the vertical scale slightly exaggerated. Twenty-four electric lights marking points of interest throughout the county dot the map. The lights are connected to a control table set out in front of the model.

PRICELESS

“Flight Into Egypt’ is one of the Museum’s most valued art treasures …  Robert T. Francis of New York and Lenox willed the work to the Museum upon his death in 1950. (author’s note painting in 1957 was attributed to Joachim Patenier (Patinir) and a best over Philadelphia Museum where it had been on display)

Isenbrant_2

x Isenbrant 2
Sotheby’s pre sale estimate 2017

in the biology room;

a “Hall of Man” — graphic exhibit tracing geological periods of cold and warmth and presenting authentic primitive stones and tools; and a Berkshire animals room, which includes beaver and deer exhibits. Unique Settings The mineral and bird rooms are unique in that the natural science exhibits are offered” in semi-realistic settings—a feat attempted by no other museum in the country. Special exhibits have been sponsored by the natural history divisions. They include a geology show, a conservation show and an exhibit of photographic technique. On the educational level, the Museum has been most vigorous. One year, as many as 10 courses were offered. These include: Ceramics, art, sketching, flower arrangement, rug hooking and early American stenciling, listening to music, basic photography, home craft and textile painting. At other times, courses in wood carving, identifying minerals and newspaper publicity have been given. During the summers of 1948 and 1949, the Museum had the good fortune to obtain as summer art school teacher Ivan Mestrovic, world famous sculptor. Mestrovic. native of Yugoslavia, broke precedent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York by being the first living artist in 75 years accorded a one-man show. The Metropolitan exhibit was on view at the Museum during the summer of 1948, enhanced by additional Mestrovic sculpture done in Europe.

Variety of Activities

The institution has had a hand in almost every type of Community activity. It sponsors Pittsfield Art League shows, regional art exhibits, gardening talks and for five years provided bus tours to points of interest throughout the county. It has also housed the Red Cross bloodmobile. The stage of its little theatre has been used for political debates, forums, and lectures on world affairs, as well as plays and art films. Tomorrow night, the Museum ushers in its second half-century with a golden anniversary ball. At the 50-year mark, it is again bursting at the seams. The roof needs repair in order to afford the art galleries better protection. The “old masters” room must be renovated. In the science department, more cases are needed to house the “Animals of the World” miniature collection. But with increased community co-operation, it hopes to calk up the seams, co-ordinate all departments and widen the scope of its activities for the future.

Youngster gazes in awe 1953 Berkshire Museum article(1953 photo caption: A youngster gazes in awe at miniature animal, gathered around an African water hole. This one-tenth scale diorama executed by Lewis Paul Jonas, famed taxidermist of Claverack, N.Y., who has done full-sized displays for leading museums throughout the country. When completed, the Miniature Room is expected to offer a display of all the major land animals of the world. The total coat is estimated at $30,000.)

 

1965 Berkshire Week Profile: Stuart C. Henry,

published The Berkshire Eagle, Saturday August 7, 1965. One can easily see how director Laura Bragg would hire him, staff would be inspired by him, and artists like Norman Rockwell and collectors would befriend him and entrust him with priceless art.

“It’s nice to have a man around who’s handy with a paintbrush, especially if he happens to be a museum director like Stuart C. Henry of the Berkshire Museum. Art-oriented and quality-at-minimum- expense-minded, Henry is just as much at home doing original paintings of his own as he is in personally assisting what he calls “an exceptional staff” in the gradual renovation of the museum’s various galleries. Among other things, the museum director turns out delicate landscapes and seascapes in watercolors and portraits and figure studies in oils; he tends personally to the cleaning, conditioning and renovation of the many paintings in the museum’s permanent collection; he lectures on art; and he also finds time for the thousand and one things necessary to run a museum, successfully. In addition, he often dons his overalls to help out in the physical work required to carry out the ideas embodied in his own original designs for the modernization of his exhibition areas. He calls it “accomplishing our aims with  “a minimum of expense,” and it works. It also adds up to his imaginative use of contemporary materials, regardless of what they were originally designed for, in creating light, airy, unusual galleries that make interesting foils for the works on exhibit. The success of the museum, however, is not to be laid at his door, according to this unassuming man with a pixie – like personality. Rather, it belongs, he maintains, to that “exceptional staff” that has been ‘built up over a period of years. “They’re people of imagination,” he says, adding that “we try to have an overlapping of departments so that no one stays in any one narrow department. In this way, we have an interchange of abilities.” In addition, each member of the staff is given as much autonomy as possible. It all adds up to a good working group. A 1928 fine arts graduate of Harvard, Henry did graduate work at the Fogg Art Museum there (taking the famous museum course established by Paul J. Sachs, co-director) and also studied art in England, Holland, France, Belgium and Italy. He points out that many who took the Sachs course later became museum heads–in Springfield, Worcester, Hartford the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. and a number of other cities. The local director first joined the staff here late in 1931 as curator of the art department. Eight years later he was appointed to the post he now holds. He’s glad his institution is a small one, he says, “small enough to be taken in on a single visit.” He finds it “better to have small collections of quality than something as large and unwieldy as the World’s Fair.” That’s because he prefers to keep things “in scale with people.” Henry likes to feel that the main purpose of the museum is to make it a cultural center for art and science, “a spot where both old and young can find many activities of interest.” This it certainly is. He’s especially proud of the fact that the Berkshire Museum has had a number of “first or very early exhibitions” of young artists who later went on to become famous, such as Andrew Wyeth and Alexander Calder. The museum is always interested in looking at the works of budding artists, he says. Henry is also proud that he belongs, along with artist Norman Rockwell, to a nearly 100-year-old literary club, the Monday Evening Club. He serves on the selection committee of the Citizens Scholarship Foundation, is treasurer of the Berkshire County Tuberculosis Assn. and is a trustee of Chesterwood, Shaker Village and the Berkshire Museum. His own painting counts as his recreation, along with his interest in old cars; he still gives tender, loving care to the 1932 Model B Ford he and his wife, Edith, received as a wedding present. He finds it fun, too, he says, to be able to identify any car or truck on the road. Henry also confesses to a great interest in prime movers (engines that produce power) and he hopes sometime to have a complete exhibit of them at the museum. He takes delight in the two the museum now possesses — a Ford Thunderbird gasoline engine -and the working model of a very heavy steam pump from London. He has three children: Elizabeth shares her father’s great enthusiasm for art, paints, restores paintings, specializes in the history of art and is now a member of the curatorial staff of the Worcester Museum; Sarah does graduate work at the University of Massachusetts for a teaching degree; Charles, the youngest, is interested in oceanography and is in his second year at Harvard.”

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