FREEHOLD – The exhibition, “Beautiful Childhood: Portraits from the Permanent Collection,” has been extended for several more weeks at the Monmouth County Historical Association museum, 70 Court St.
“This is the second consecutive exhibition we have extended in response to the visitors who have made and are continuing to make plans to see it,” said Dr. Evelyn C. Murphy, Director of the Association, “I’m delighted we are able to offer such unique exhibitions that are drawing a wider variety of visitors.”
Originally scheduled to close the end of the year, the portrait exhibition features oil and pastel portraits of Monmouth County children from the 19th century, many of whom are from families whose names are still well recognized and revered in the area. Even in the instances when the subject is not known, some of the artists are also easily recognized by their work, and their frequency during the 19th century of painting for families from the very wealthy to public figures and ministers.
The exhibition is curated by Carol Lowrey, a specialist in American art of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Lowrey is the author of books, exhibition catalogues, and articles, including A Legacy of Art: Paintings and Sculptures by Artist Life Members of the National Arts Club and Hayley Lever and the Modern Spirit. She has organized numerous exhibitions for galleries and museums in New York, including the Americas Society, the National Arts Club and Spanierman Gallery.
In addition to the painting exhibition, Association Curator of Museum Collections Joseph W. Hammond has expanded interest in the exhibition highlighting children of the 19th century by also displaying numerous pieces of children’s furniture from the museum’s collection, as well as paintings and photographs of the artists who created some of the works on display. Included in the expanded exhibition is a child’s Windsor armchair dating to the late 18th and early 19th century, a donation to the Association in 1945 from Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Varick Stout.
Another unique piece is a child’s high chair made in the mid-19th century by the Clayton Chair Shop in Allentown. This piece, a gift of William MacDonald in 1958, retains its original finish and woven rush seat. The original stenciling on the posts and slats of the back are still visible, though a step which had once been on the front of the chair is no longer there. Probably the rarest piece in the exhibition, Murphy explained, is the pre-Civil War miniature of a young African American girl, unusual because it was highly rare for African Americans to be photographed or painted while slavery was practiced in New Jersey. The girl is depicted in a ruffled and puffed white day cap, a black dress with a white collar and holding a book in her hands, an indication she could read. The pen, ink and water color over graphite on paper was a gift of Ellen Noonan Adams in 2006, and was acquired by her through her housekeeper in the 1970s.
Monmouth County Historical Association is a private non-profit organization that has been working to preserve history and provide educational opportunities since its founding in 1898. The Historical Association’s Museum and Library is located at 70 Court Street in Freehold. Museum hours are: Tuesdays - Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Library is open Wednesdays through Saturdays. The Historic House Museums are open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, from May 1 through September 30, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. For further information about the Association, please call (732) 462-1466 or visit the web site at www.monmouthhistory.org
Monmouth County Historical Association received an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.