Historical Society of Cheshire County presents ‘Mountain as Muse’

 William Preston Phelps was known as the “painter of Monadnock.”

 William Preston Phelps was known as the “painter of Monadnock.” PHOTO COURTESY MARIE ROYCE RUFFLE

W.A. King painted Mount Monadnock, the Ashuelot River, and Chase’s farm in 1876.

W.A. King painted Mount Monadnock, the Ashuelot River, and Chase’s farm in 1876. COURTESY PHOTO

Published: 05-15-2024 12:01 PM

The Historical Society of Cheshire County will present an exhibition titled “Mountain as Muse” at the society, 246 Main St. in Keene, from May 24 through Aug. 30.

The mountain that ties the exhibition together is Mount Monadnock. For almost 200 years, artists have focused on the landscape of Mount Monadnock as a subject for their canvases – a muse of sorts. For some of them, it may have been the focus of a single painting; for some it was one of many subjects on which they focused. For a few, such as William Preston Phelps, it was their main subject and source of inspiration.

One of the featured artists for “Monadnock as Muse” is Richard Whitney of Stoddard. Regarding Mount Monadnock, he said, “Each artist sees it differently...each individual can use their own personality and what they like about the mountain to capture that in the painting and create something that is unique.”

Another featured artist is Mary Iselin from Marlborough, who said, “A painting by any artist is like a fingerprint. I could put 20 people in front of the same exact still life and you would never know it was the same still life. It would look completely different, and landscape painting is even more so.”

Historical Society of Cheshire County’s Director of Education Jenna Carroll, is curating the exhibit.

“Paintings are arriving at the Historical Society from all over New England for this exhibition,” she said. “We are pleased with the level of excitement among artists and collectors well in advance of the exhibit, and we feel fortunate to have such an excellent selection of art to work with.”

The exhibit will include the art of more than 50 painters who looked to the mountain for inspiration over the last 180 years. It will also review the history of their lives and their work in the region. The exhibition will investigate what the art tells about the mountain, the region and the artists themselves.

Several of the featured artists in “Mountain as Muse” participated in what has come to be known as the “Dublin Art Colony.” In the late 19th century, they were drawn to Dublin by the artistic passion and personality of Abbott Handerson Thayer.

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Among his apprentices and colleagues were the American Impressionist Frank W. Benson, Keene muralist Barry Faulkner, Alexander James, painter and adventurer Rockwell Kent, landscape and portrait painter Richard Sumner Meryman and painter, fiddler and framemaker Albert Duvall Quigley.

Artists from the Boston School will be shown as well: Charles Curtis Allen, Lilla Cabot Perry and Henry Webster Rice. Other artists include Hudson River-style artist H.A. Davis, Molly Luce, English illustrator and wood engraver Nora Spicer Unwin, who taught at the former Sharon Arts Center in the 1960s and 1970s; Beatrix Sagendorph, who provided covers for Yankee magazine for 50 years; and Keene painters Art Tremblay and Dorinda Jarest.

“Monadnock as Muse” will also celebrate current artists such as Kate Beetle, Tim Campbell, Carol Corliss, Alicia Drakiotes, Jeanne Duval, Erick Ingraham, Eric Koeppel, Jeanne Maguire Thieme and John Traynor.

“Mountain as Muse” will investigate how these artworks illustrate the American view of nature and how that view was, in turn, impacted by the art itself. The show will discuss the different styles of painting employed by these people and what those styles tell about our view of nature. It will look at the impact of these landscape artists on tourism, land conservation and the way the Monadnock region is viewed today.

The Historical Society of Cheshire County will hold several public events in conjunction with “Mountain as Muse.” On June 26 at 7 p.m., the society will offer a free viewing of the 2023 documentary “Monadnock: The Mountain that Stands Alone.” The event will include questions and answers and a panel discussion with filmmaker Daniel J. White, Historical Society Director Alan F. Rumrill and Joyce Haywood, an Abenaki descendant with ties to the Monadnock region.

Cathedral of the Pines in Rindge will host a plein air painting day. On August 14 at 6:30 p.m., Michelle Stahl, executive director of the Monadnock Center for History and Culture in Peterborough, will give a talk on female artists who painted Monadnock, and on Aug. 21 at 6:30 p.m., there will be a panel discussion in which Rumrill will discuss William Preston Phelps, Lance Tucker will talk about Albert Quigley and April Claggett will talk about the work of Abbott Thayer.

Admission for “Mountain as Muse” is $5, free for members of the Historical Society of Cheshire County. “Mountain as Muse” will open with a public reception from 4 to 6 p.m. on May 24 in the exhibit hall at the Historical Society of Cheshire County. For information, visit hsccnh.org.