In 1931, Mr. and Mrs. William and Anna Singer, Jr. gave a gift to the city of Hagerstown by providing the funds to build the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts and donating works of art from their own private collection to begin the museum’s permanent collection. This gift of several hundred works of art began the museum’s collection that has grown to over 7,000 works of art, which are now being documented through the collections inventory project.
One of the first gifts from the Singers was the oil painting New England Afternoon, circa 1909, by Willard Metcalf (American, 1858 – 1925). William Singer was not only an art collector, he was also an artist who worked in the American Impressionist style. Singer knew Metcalf and occasionally visited him in Old Lyme, Connecticut, where the two artists painted together. When the Singers moved to Norway, Metcalf and his wife visited them and gave them several paintings, including this beautiful scene of New England.
Dr. Elizabeth Johns, professor emerita, University of Pennsylvania, wrote of the painting in the publication 100 Stories: Highlights from the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts:
“New England Afternoon radiates the bright yellows and greens of summer. A dark, sinuous creek 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 the nearly square canvas (popular at the time) creates a deep space, which the delicate, short brushstrokes fill with a pleasant softness.”
*Copies of 100 Stories: Highlights from the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts may be purchased from the museum’s shop or online at http://www.wcmfa.org/100stories.htm.