New Collection: The Shelburne Museum

Discover one of the finest, unconventional museums of art and Americana

The Suffragettes Taking a Sleigh Ride, 1870-90, American School, (19th century) / Shelburne Museum, Vermont, USA / Bridgeman Images
The Suffragettes Taking a Sleigh Ride, 1870-90, American School, (19th century) / Shelburne Museum, Vermont, USA / Bridgeman Images

 

The Shelburne Story 

 

The Shelburne Museum is located in Vermont’s scenic Lake Champlain Valley - a perfect pastoral scene that at once encourages visitors to take a stroll across vast acres of land whilst still keeping viewers on their figurative and literal toes as they trek between 38 exhibition buildings, 25 of which are historic and were relocated to the Museum grounds.

 

Even without knowing much about the name Electra Havemeyer Webb (1888 - 1960) it seems almost natural that her name would lead to greatness and indeed, it did. Electra, the Shelburne patron, was a fireball and a rebel who began to buy American folk art early in the 20th century, starting with a cigar-store Indian.

 

According to a New York Times article published in 2011, Webb recalled that her mother, when she saw her acquisitions, was horrified: “How can you, Electra, you who have been brought up with Rembrandts and Manets, live with such American trash?”

 

 

The Grand Canal, Venice, 1875 by Edouard Manet (1832 - 1883) / Shelburne Museum, Vermont, USA / Bridgeman Images
The Grand Canal, Venice, 1875 by Edouard Manet (1832 - 1883) / Shelburne Museum, Vermont, USA / Bridgeman Images

 

 

A Tramp on Christmas Day, 1946 by Anna Mary Robertson Moses (Grandma Moses) (1860-1961) / Shelburne Museum, Vermont, USA / Bridgeman Images
A Tramp on Christmas Day, 1946 by Anna Mary Robertson Moses (Grandma Moses) (1860-1961) / Shelburne Museum, Vermont, USA / Bridgeman Images

 

The Shelburne Experience 

 

Well, that trash is some of the most beautiful work ever made. Inside the Shelburne - founded in 1947 -  viewers find Impressionist paintings, folk art, quilts and textiles, decorative arts, furniture, American paintings and a dazzling array of 17th-20th century artifacts. Electra departed from the classic collections of European and Asian art to celebrate a distinctly American aesthetic.

 

And as if collections ranging from circus figures to carriages to steamboats wasn’t already far beyond what was being collected at the time, Electra kept going to create a museum where everything, including the buildings themselves were artifacts as well. A complete visual experience, the Shelburne Museum became an imaginative experience where houses, barns, a meeting house, a one-room schoolhouse, a lighthouse, a jail, a general store, a covered bridge and a 220-foot steamboat Ticonderoga create “an educational project, varied and alive.”

 

A Collector's Dream

 

In many ways, it almost seems like the phrase ‘an imaginative experience’ isn’t enough to describe the atmosphere at the Shelburne. For the Shelburne creates a space completely apart, a village unto its own, a time that seems distinct from any other time. As the Shelburne’s chief Registrar, Barbara Rathburn, poignantly states, “The Dentzel carousel figures are always a joy to see...the Fitz Henry Lane paintings in Webb Gallery draw me in for a closer look every time.” The overall feeling is synonymous to organized chaos; the mind set free to collect because as they say, the heart wants what it wants.

 

In terms of exhibiting Webb’s wild array of collected objects, they are never organized as one might think. Looking back, we find that Webb organized a series of jars not by date, function or origin, but by size and color. In this way, we are transported to Webb’s world - to view the world the way Webb interpreted her own environment: a playground defined by aesthetic and color. Not by linear storytelling but object by object.

 

 

Find out More

See all images in The Shelburne Musuem

Bridgeman represents over 70 American museum collections available for licensing 

Contact our sales team for enquiries about licensing images and clearing copyright for your project.

 

Magic Glasses 1891 / Edwin Romanzo Elmer (1850-1923) / Shelburne Museum, Vermont, USA/Bridgeman Images
Magic Glasses 1891 / Edwin Romanzo Elmer (1850-1923) / Shelburne Museum, Vermont, USA/Bridgeman Images

 


Back to top