Fenimore Art Museum
The art in this exhibition celebrates the camaraderie and bravery of 19th-century American firefighters through the folk art of the time. Fire companies were eager to celebrate their value to their communities by embellishing their everyday gear and ceremonial dress, and by commissioning noble portraits of firefighting heroes. Hats, buckets, banners, clothing and even the fire engines were elaborately decorated for public celebrations such as parades, ceremonies and competitions.
In masks we see the many faces of the human condition. The act of masking transcends cultural differences and is celebrated in all facets of the human family. Masks herald death and rebirth in rites of passage. They ensure successful harvest, fertility and prosperity throughout the year. Masks create a link to the past, family identity and hereditary rights. In religious rituals the masker often becomes the spirit being represented, or is a medium through which the spirit communicates with the people.
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Ansel Adams (1902–1984) was born in San Francisco and took his first photograph with a Kodak #1 Box Brownie camera in Yosemite Valley when he was fourteen. Although trained as a concert pianist from 1914 through 1927, he also studied photography with the photo-finisher Frank Dittman. By 1930, photography became his career choice and the American western landscape his focus.
The photography firm of Smith and Telfer documented Cooperstown and its people for almost a century, compiling a unique record of a small town and its changes over the years. Smith and Telfer left a rich legacy, now preserved by the New York State Historical Association. A selection from the 60,000 images in the Smith and Telfer collection is available online.
The fine art collection was largely assembled by connoisseur Stephen C. Clark one of the Museum's greatest patrons. The collection contains some of the best examples of American landscape, history, and genre painting.
The works of Hudson River School painters are well represented and include Thomas Cole's Last of the Mohicans and Asher B. Durand's Hudson River Looking Toward the Catskills. Historical portraits include Gilbert Stuart's Joseph Brant, Ralph Earl's Baron Von Steuben, and Benjamin West's Robert Fulton, which all depict figures from New York's colorful history.
NYSHA's folk art collection is one of the nation's largest and finest. Begun with extensive gifts from Stephen C. Clark, the collection includes a variety of paintings, ship figureheads, quilts, weathervanes, trade signs, cigar-store figures, carvings, and decorated stoneware, all created by American folk artists. The oldest piece in the collection, a seven-foot-long panel on which Hudson River Valley painter John Heaton depicted the Martin Van Bergen farmstead in 1733, is considered to be among the first landscapes ever painted in this country.
In 1995, the Fenimore Art Museum embarked upon a new era with the addition of a spectacular new American Indian Wing designed to house the extraordinary gift from Eugene and Clare Thaw of their collection of American Indian Art. The collection has continued to grow as new objects are added by the Thaws and other donors, and today numbers almost 850 objects.