Photo: Mary Eleanor Van Mater painted by Harvey Jenkins in Keyport, NJ, 1849
FREEHOLD, NJ – The Beautiful Childhood Portraits from the Permanent Collection exhibition, has been expanded for the second time since it first opened at the Monmouth County Historical Association Museum, Curator Joseph Hammond announced this week.
The exhibition features not only portraits of the children of local families from the 19th century but also several selections of children’s furniture, also from the Museum collection, including high chairs, sleighs, and rocking chairs designed specifically for children.
Hammond announced last week that a number of paintings by Micah Williams and Harvey Jenkins of young children have also been added and the exhibition has been expanded to now include the Hartshorne Room, second floor Main Foyer, as well as the walls at the stair landing leading from the entrance foyer.
“The Museum owns 26 works by Micah Williams,” Hammond said, “by far the largest institutional collection, although there could be one private collector with more. I believe all but two in our collection are gifts. A pastel portrait of Williams’s wife and an oil on board portrait of Williams himself we purchased from descendants.” All 14 of the art works by Jenkins that are owned by the Association have been gifts, Hammond continued, who also believes there is no other museum with any of Jenkins art.
Two of Jenkins large works of art which are on display at the staircase landing in the current exhibition, the curator continued. They and three other Jenkins’ work have been conserved through a 2013 grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission. Another grant the association received from the Commission this year will be used to conserve more of his work. Previous grants from the State Historical Commission were also used to support the conservation of our Micah Williams’ portraits.
The exhibition also includes portraits of both Williams and Jenkins along with their art, and will be on display at the Headquarters through the end of the year.
Probably the rarest piece in the exhibition is the pre-Civil War miniature dated 1858 of a young African American girl, unusual because it was rare for Free African Americans to be 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 in the 1970s by her mother, Mary Hartshorne Noonan, through her African-American housekeeper.
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.