Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Free State's Finest

The Free State's Finest - The WCMFA
Post by:           Jennifer Chapman Smith

The WCMFA is so excited to be named the Finest Museum in the Western Maryland Region in Maryland Life’s annual Free State’s Finest. It is always wonderful to be recognized, especially when it is a recognition voted on by the public. It makes everyone here, from staff to volunteer, feel good about the work we are doing  - and makes us strive to do even better so we can continue to be the Finest. The Collections Inventory Project is a great example of the work we are doing that will bring more recognition to the WCMFA and the amazing collection we care for.
Thank you to everyone who voted and to Maryland Life for this honor.
For more information on the Free State’s Finest and a full listing of all the Finest in Maryland go to:

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Museum is Gift of Mrs. Singer

Museum is Gift of Mrs. Singer          
Post by:           Jennifer Chapman Smith
                        Collections and Exhibitions Manager

On this date in 1928 the top headline of the Hagerstown Daily Mail read “Museum is Gift of Mrs. Singer.” The accompanying article stated that “Former Mrs. Brugh announces gift that will make Hagerstown one of leading art centers of nation” and the gift was “prompted by love for [her] community of birth.” This headline was followed by much planning and building and finally the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts opened its doors on September 15, 1931.

The Singers not only gave the funds to build the museum they also donated over 100 works of art to begin the museum’s permanent collection. These works of art began what has now become a nationally recognized collection of over 7,000 objects. Through the collections inventory project we are learning more about all of the works in the collection and just how significant the Singers’ gift to Hagerstown was and continues to be.

You will have the opportunity to learn more about William and Anna Singer when the Singer Memorial Gallery re-opens this summer!    


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Thinking About Spring and Willard Metcalf’s New England Afternoon

Thinking About Spring and Willard Metcalf’s New England Afternoon

Post by: Jennifer Chapman Smith
              Collections and Exhibitions Manager

With the weather forecast calling for snow, we thought it might be nice to share a beautiful summery painting with you to get you through the cold days ahead.
Willard Metcalf’s New England Afternoon, ca.1909, was given to the WCMFA in 1931 by museum founders, William and Anna Singer, and has been a favorite of visitors since that time. William Singer, who was a painter himself, occasionally joined Metcalf on painting excursions in Old Lyme, Connecticut. Metcalf even visited the Singers when they lived in Norway and gifted them several paintings, this one among them.
Dr. Elizabeth Johns writes in One Hundred Stories: Highlights from the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts of the painting:
New England Afternoon radiated the bright yellows and greens of summer. A dark, sinuous creak leads the viewer’s eye into the landscape through a foreground dotted with livestock. Blue-tinged mountains in the far distance, a church steeple in the background, and a sky filled with scudding clouds = typical characteristics of New England – give the scene its sweeping scale. Metcalf’s high point of view and nearly square canvas (popular at the time) create a deep space, which the delicate, short, brushstrokes fill with a pleasant softness”
This painting is not currently on view but is scheduled to be included in the re-installation of the Singer Memorial Gallery, happening later this year.
We hope this painting from the WCMFA collection will fill you with the warmth of summer and you can remember the lovely greens and yellows as you shovel snow.

Friday, March 1, 2013

We Need Your Opinion

From the WCMFA's Director

Dear Friend,
I write to invite you to participate in a brief survey relating to the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown, Maryland. The survey should take no more than 10 minutes.

The museum is undertaking a survey of its audiences and potential audiences, and we would be grateful for your participation. The survey results will assist the museum in future planning for its exhibitions, programs and communications.

Your email will not be captured for the museum's marketing purposes and your identity will not be known when the survey results are compiled.

Please use this web like below to participate:

Thank you for your help!

Rebecca Massie Lane, Director

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hugo Ballin's "Earth Forces" Returns

Hugo Ballin “Earth Forces” Returns
Post by:        Jennifer Chapman Smith, Collections and Exhibitions Manager

Yesterday, the WCMFA welcomed home one of its paintings that was on loan to the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, Connecticut. Hugo Ballin’s oil on canvas board, Earth Forces, was part of the Mattatuck Museum’s exhibition 100 Years of Presenting Art: A Celebration of the Museum’s First Exhibition. The exhibition celebrated the 100th anniversary of the museum’s first art exhibition. It brought together representative work by the artists included in that first exhibition, including Hugo Ballin.

The Mattatuck Museum contacted the WCMFA because they saw on that we had works by Hugo Ballin in our collection. As we continue the collections inventory project and the eventual development of the online collections component we can look forward to more people and institutions becoming familiar with the WCMFA’s wonderful collection.

Hugo Ballin studied at the Art Students’ League in New York City and worked as an artist until 1917 when he began working for Goldwyn Pictures as an art director and production designer. After moving to Los Angeles in 1921, Ballin began directing, writing, and producing silent films. When talking pictures became the norm in Hollywood, he returned to a career as an artist and became one of the foremost mural ists in the Los Angeles area. Earth Forces is an allegorical painting that was probably a study for a larger painting or mural.  

For more information on the Mattatuck Museum:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Burning of Chambersburg by Daniel Ridgway Knight

The Burning of Chambersburg
Post by: Elizabeth Johns, PhD

The WCMFA currently has on view a landmark exhibition, "Valley of the Shadow," to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, the Battle of Gettysburg and other important regional events of the Civil War. The collections inventory project assisted in the planning of this exhibition by making searches of the collection database easier and documenting of loans more efficient.

Elizabeth Johns, PhD wrote about one of the WCMFA’s paintings that is one of the highlights of the exhibition – Daniel Ridgway Knight’s “The Burning of Chambersburg” of 1867.   

The Civil War inspired a number of images, many of them painted after the war. Included in the "Valley of the Shadow" exhibition is a painting by artist Daniel Ridgway Knight, an eyewitness to the devastating experience of the burning of the town of Chambersburg, Pa.

A Chambersburg citizen and a Union soldier, Knight decided to pay tribute to the Confederate burning of his city some two years after he had left the army and set up his studio in Philadelphia. He chose not to represent the violence itself, but the effects of it, with the result being a memorable history painting.

This dramatic painting depicts exhausted Chambersburg civilians who had fled for safety from their burning city in 1864. On July 28, Confederate Brig. Gen. John McCausland had demanded a ransom of $100,000 in gold or $500,000 in U.S. currency to save the city from being burned to the ground. However, the skeptical town leaders refused to pay it. So on July 30, Confederates fulfilled their threat, although some soldiers refused to participate, considering it to be barbaric.

Daniel Ridgway Knight was not only present at the conflagration but actually carried infant James A. Hamilton, a future local leader, to safety. He walked the 10 miles to Shippensburg, Pa., with the infant on his shoulders. In 1867, Knight, by this time settled in a studio in Philadelphia, painted this remembrance of the trauma experienced by Chambersburg residents, focusing on some who had fled to the countryside. In the painting, "The Burning of Chambersburg," exhausted refugees rest in the foreground of the barn interior, while three young men peer out the collapsing door at the flames in the distance. Knight later wrote a friend that he could remember every single house in the town.

Elizabeth Johns, PhD, who lives in Hagerstown, is professor emerita of art history from the University of Pennsylvania.


Monday, February 18, 2013

A Presidential Sculpture for Presidents' Day

A Presidential Sculpture for Presidents' Day
Post by: Jennifer Chapman Smith
              Collections and Exhibitions Manager
Happy New Year!

We took a brief hiatus from blogging but are now back and ready to bring you exciting things from the WCMFA collections inventory project.

In honor of Presidents’ Day, we thought it would be nice to show off one of the WCMFA’s great sculptures that honors President Abraham Lincoln.

John Gutzon Borglum’s (American, 1867 – 1941) Head of Abraham Lincoln was sculpted by the artist in 1929 and was gifted to the museum in 1931 by Mrs. Anna Brugh Singer, who founded the museum with her husband William Henry Singer, Jr.
Dr. Elizabeth Johns writes of the piece:
“Borglum’s sculpture of Lincoln reveals his close study of photographs of the President. The knit brows, hooded eyes, full lower lip, sunken checks, and even the wart on his lower right cheek place the brooding man before us. Carving the head directly into the stone in emulation of such masters as Michelangelo, Borglum emphasized the right side of Lincoln’s face, which he considered the more expressive. The sculpture, created more than 60 years after the end of the Civil War and by an artist who was born after the war, is a testimony to American society’s enduring preoccupation with Lincoln. Known for his monumental sculpture carved into Mount Rushmore, Borglum considered this portrait, the original study for his head of Lincoln in the Capitol, as among his finest work.”
This wonderful sculpture is currently on view in the museum’s Smith Gallery as part of the Nineteenth Century Art exhibition.