The Art Complex Museum's permanent collection numbers more than 8,000 pieces. The majority of the collection falls into four categories,
(click on any) American Painting, Prints, Shaker Furniture, and Asian Art.
Solitude - Sanford Gifford - 1848
Collecting American paintings was a venture in art appreciation for the Weyerhaeuser family. Current director Charles, recalls that his father,
Carl, tried to acquire paintings for each of the children, and it is apparent from some of the correspondence that a painting was purchased only
if it was found generally pleasing to all.
While the collection as a whole includes fine representations from each of the developmental phases of American landscape painting, with a lesser
amount of other genre, several works stand out. Members of the Hudson River School found great inspiration in the close observation of nature and
deified it in large-scale paintings. A remarkable early Sanford Gifford, possibly a tribute to his teacher Thomas Cole, is Solitude,
painted in 1848. Gifford's evocative rendering of the Catskill scenery, the dead tree in the foreground symbolizing the passage of time, the
lack of anything human, lone bird - all denote a superb example of this very American painting movement.
Two giants of twentieth century American art have remarkable representations in the Art Complex collection. The museum owns five watercolors by
Charles Burchfield and six oils by George Bellows.
Rapids - Charles Burchfield, 1916
Charles Burchfield's early landscapes were inspired by childhood memories and fantasies, and Rapids, one of four painted in 1916, and
owned by the Art Complex, shows his expressionist delight in nature's vagaries. The short, staccato brush strokes, vivid contrasts of color
and playful use of pattern, visually interpreted Burchfield's poetic and romantic inclinations.
Shipyard - George Bellows, 1916
Painting the powerful Shipyard in Camden, Maine, during the summer of 1916, was a special thrill for Bellows, according to a letter from
his wife Emma to Carl Weyerhaeuser, Its hulking "prow flung against the blue sky" harked back to Bellows' whaling heritage, while
the theme of the dignity of work, personified by the crowd of energetic laborers was distinctly modern and boldly American.
Please scroll down to view a selection of paintings from the collection.
Winter Fun - Albert Insley, 1874
Insley was born in Orange, New Jersey, and spent most of his professional life in the New York area. Studying
with Jasper Cropsey and later George Inness, Insley's paintings evolved from early realistic studies to
later Tonalist and romantic works, and finally, after 1905 into Impressionistic techniques.
Landscape - Jasper F. Cropsey, 1890
The consummate "painter of autumn", Cropsey painted vibrant, bountiful scenes of American landscapes, being associated at different
times with The Hudson River School, American Lumiism and the French Barbizon painters. Born in New York, Cropsey trained and worked as
an architect before taking up landscape painting in the manner of Thomas Cole. Cropsey spent some years in London, serving as an
American Commissioner for the London Exposition in 1862, and acheived notable success with his artistic career. In 1863 he returned to the
United States, built himself a mansion on the Hudson and painted rustic landscapes for the rest of his life.
In the Month of June - Arthur Parton, 1886
A landscape painter, Parton was born in Hudson, New York, and studied under William Trost Richards, In 1869 he traveled to Great Britain and was enamored
of the English and Scottish countryside. He spend his professional life in New York City and was a member of the N.A.D.
Phlox at Ogunquit, Maine - Charles Woodbury
The Confession - John Singer Sargent, 1914
Winter Woods - John Fabian Carlson
Untitled - John Joseph Enneking
Covered Bridge - George Gardner Symons
Roadside Cottage, Medfield, Mass - Dennis Miller Bunker, 1890
A Cove, Singing Beach - John Joseph Enneking, 1877
These paintings, and others, can be seen in the 1985 ACM publication, American Paintings, available at the museum.
In 1997, on the 25th Anniversary of the Art Complex Museum, The Light Beyond showcased select paintings from the collection. The following are from that exhibition.
Golden Sunset - John Francis Murphy, 1890
Moonrise on the Beach - Lowell Birge Harrison, 1913
Dawn - Dwight W. Tyron, 1906
On the Edge of the Wood - George Inness, 1894
You can see the complete exhibition in the 1996 ACM publication, The Light Beyond, available at the museum.
The Print Collection
Carl Weyerhaeuser's lifetime interest in collecting was sparked on a bicycle trip to Europe in 1918, where he was exposed to many great
prints, The oft-quoted anecdote is that, upon graduation from Harvard, Carl turned down an expensive Packard for a more modest Dodge, so he could
make his first print acquisition, Rembrandt's Descent from the Cross by Torchlight. From an early interest in books and book
illustrations, Carl developed an appreciation for a wider range of print techniques. The collection formed by Carl and Edith Weyerhaeuser
encompasses seventeenth century Dutch etchings and engravings as well as modern Japanese works by artists of the movement known as
"sosaku hanga" (creative print); American and European nineteenth and twentieth century etchings, engravings, woodcuts, wood
engravings, lithographs, and drypoint; and contemporary prints in a variety of techniques purchased from the Boston Printmakers.
Please scroll down to view a selection of prints from the collection.
Shallow Creek - Thomas Hart Benton, lithograph, 1939
A Stag at Sharkey's - George Bellows, lithograph, 1917
Approaching Storm - Grant Wood, lithograph, 1874
Le Philosophe - Edouard Manet, etching and drypoint, 1866
Mountain Stream - Thomas Nason, wood engraving, 1948-49
Christmas - Robin Tanner, etching, 1928-29
Selbstbildnis (Self-Portrait) - Kaethe Kollwitz, woodcut, 1924
Chance Meeting - Martin Lewis, drypoint, 1941
Vue du Port au Chemin de Fer a Honfleur - Johann Barthold Jongkind, etching, 1866
Mill Street, London - S. R. Badmin, etching, 1932
These prints, and others, can be seen in the 1981 ACM publication,
Master Prints: 1850 -1950, available at the museum.
"The peculiar grace of a Shaker chair is due to the fact that it was made by someone capable of believing that an angel might come and
sit on it."
The common New England slat-back chair, fashioned by the hands of a Shaker woodworker, has become an icon of American furniture design. Shaker
craftsman were familiar with that furniture form. It was found in almost every eighteenth and nineteenth century rural New england home. Converts
brought these chairs with them as they joined shaker communities. Shaker craftsmen produced these chairs, refining that vernacular form and
creating a distinctive , well-built chair that ultimately earned them considerable renown. Chairs were made in nearly every Shaker village for
use within their shops and dwellings. Some chairs were sold to outsiders. Mount Lebanon, New York, the only community to mass produce chairs for
sale, sold tens of thousands to individuals, families and businesses.
The Art Complex Museum's Shaker collection includes a significant number of chairs that were produced in the workshops of most of the
eastern Shaker communities. The collection contains examples that present a myriad of changes of chair design in over more than a century of
chair production, with particularly good examples of chairs made at Mount Lebanon. The exhibition presents the best examples of chairs in the
collection, all produced by Shaker hands between the first quarter of the nineteenth century and the 1930's. This essay explores the history
of Shaker chair making and the evolution of Shaker chair design. The production of chairs in Shaker workshops began soon after the organization
of Shaker villages. Manuscript journals and account books suggest that chairs were being sold from this time as well. The day book of Brother
Joseph Bennet records the sale of 1 great and 6 small chairs on September 25, 1789 from Mount Lebanon. The earliest sales of Shaker chairs
occurred between Shaker families and villages. It was not long however, before chairs were marketed to the public, an activity that continued at
Mount Lebanon until 1942
The first Shaker chair makers made their slatback chairs with turned vertical posts and horizontal stretchers that connected to form a
"boxey" frame. The seat stretchers supported rush, splint,cane, woven cloth tape, leather or cloth seats. Several slats connected the
back posts above the seat. Rounded finials or pommels, topped the back posts of most Shaker chairs. There are a number of construction
characteristics that are useful in determining a chairs community of origin. The chairs produced at Enfield, Connecticut, for example, display a
slender symmetrical finial that ends abruptly at a well-defined neck. Those found on chairs from South Union, Kentucky, resemble an "egg in
a cup," while those found on chairs from Enfield, New Hampshire, looked like a candle flame.
The majority of Shaker chairs have not as yet been associated with a particular craftsman. Occasional journal entries include the identity of
brothers who made chairs and a few chairs bear a makers mark. There are a number of chairs made in Watervliet, New York for example, that bear
the initials"FW". The chair making activities of Freegift Wells are well documented in his daily journal. In addition to the details of
how he made chairs, his notes include the earliest information on the application of tilter buttons on chairs.
The earliest of these chairs where sturdy and practical, but uncomfortable. They sat squarely on the floor, but were unforgiving to the
contours of the human body. During the first decades of the nineteenth century, Shaker craftsman made the generic chair more graceful and
comfortable by angling the front and back posts slightly back to make the chair more accommodating to the way people reclined as they sat. At the
same time they became visually more appealing. Even the rocking chairs benefitted from this change in design.
While a number of subtle variations in the design of chairs can be traced through the years of production in almost every shaker woodworking
shop, the most distinct changes can be seen in the produced at Mount Lebanon, New York. That community had the longest era of chair production
and certainly the greatest number of chairs where made there.The Art Complex Museum's collection of chairs is rich in examples that portray
the range of changes in chair design at Mount Lebanon. Stylistic changes in Mount Lebanon chairs can also be seen in chairs made in other
In addition to filling the great need for chairs in a growing community, Shaker chair makers also supplied chairs for the growing markets in
nearby towns. The earliest chairs produced at Mount Lebanon were almost indistinguishable from those made by craftsmen in the surrounding region.
They were sturdy, serviceable chairs that met the needs of both traditional and communal families. Particular characteristics emerged as the
chair industry developed, making Shaker chairs distinctive from those produced in the world. As their religious life became increasingly ordered,
many Shaker crafts became more refined and distinctively "Shaker" in appearance. During the first three decades of the nineteenth
century Shaker society included eighteen prosperous villages from Maine to Kentucky. Shakers labored to create a heaven on earth and the fruit of
those labors was reflected in the fine Shaker products.
The basic "boxey" chair was refined, creating a lighter chair with more balanced proportions. By the late 1840's the turnings of
the back posts exhibited noticeable tapering from the seat to the top,lending a more delicate appearance to the chair, both visually and
structurally. the finial, one of the most distinctive features, began to evolve from the rounder, more bulbuos shape atop a long, turned neckto
one with a more basic and uniform appearance by the 1860's.At the height of Mount Lebanon's prominence as a manufacturer of chairs during
the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the finial was described as an "acorn" with a rather pointed acorn shape on a well-defined
Sharon Duane Koomler - Curator of Collections, Hancock Shaker Village, Pittsfield, Massachusetts
The collection of Shaker furniture at the Art Complex Museum is widely recognized
among authorities for its quality and fine examples of classic Shaker design. The initial interest in
things Shaker came from Maud Moon Weyerhaeuser Sanborn, whose home in the Berkshires was close to
the Hancock and New Lebanon Shaker communities.
Mrs. Sanborn became active with the restoration of Hancock
Shaker Village through her friendship with it's president, Amy Bess Miller.This interest was passed along to her son
Carl Weyerhaeuser and later to his son Charles, the ACM's current Director. Their dedication to the
Shaker aesthetic has resulted in a discriminating collection of furniture and artifacts of daily life. The collection
currently totals more than 500 pieces, some of which have been unanimously
praised and admired, as well as borrowed for important
exhibitions and reproduced in definitive books on Shaker furniture.
Art Complex Home
The Art Complex Museum / 189 Alden Street / Box 2814 / Duxbury, MA 02331