Thomas W. Barrett, Jr. Collections, June 2019
Since April 2019, BAC has been working with archivist Clare Flemming to complete the Barrett Collections Management Policy. This plan will provide the framework upon which all collections and preservation decisions are made. The goal of establishing such policies is to allow BAC to create consistency in day-to-day operations, to ensure stability at times of change, and to create documents that will inform decision-making as BAC evolves as a hybrid historic house and active arts organization.
The BAC collection includes artwork – most of it Barrett’s – archives including his family papers, film, photographs, manuscripts, memorabilia, and BAC records, all of which remain in the house with an unbroken provenance. This collection provides a unique record of two centuries of Dutchess County architecture, culture, and art, and life in Poughkeepsie, in particular.
All collections have now been relocated to ONE COLLECTIONS ROOM on the second floor, thanks to volunteer efforts to rehouse documents , objects, artworks, & photographs and clean & repaint the former library space!
We’re looking forward to using the archives more regularly as we prepare for our September 2020 exhibit on Katherine Stoutenburgh Barrett (1872 - 1962) and Elizabeth Barrett (1904 -1974) in Poughkeepsie, 1920 -1950. We will draw heavily on our photographic collection and the diaries of both women. In the spring of 2019, students in Shalon Hallager’s History of Women in the US worked with BAC on a Service Learning project to survey the diaries of both women to develop exhibition themes. We will work with DCC students again in Spring 2020 to refine the exhibit design and content.
Concurrent to this September 2020 exhibit in the Crenson Gallery, Barrett will host an exhibition of the works of Caroline Morgan Clowes (1838 - 1904), in collaboration with the Dutchess County Historical Society. Paintings by Ms. Clowes were included in Thomas W. Barrett’s first exhibition in Dutchess County held at the Luckey Platt Department Store in 1934. More famously, one of her oil paintings was included in the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in the Main Galleries alongside Thomas Cole, Albert Bierstadt, J. F. Kensett, George H. Smillie, Thomas Eakins, and Winslow Homer.
Over the past three years DCAA has earned support to complete a series of first-level preservation assessments:
1) Roof Assessment, Technical Assistance Grant, through Preservation League of New York State & NYSCA (2016);
2) DHPSNY Archival Needs Assessment (2017);
3) CAP Program Assessment of the building and art collection (2017); and
4) Phase 1 (2017) and Phase 2 (2018/19) of a two-phase Historic Structures Report, through PLNYS & NYSCA
Thomas W. Barrett, Jr. graduated from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School of Art in 1926, but his energies and artwork centered on the Hudson Valley. Barrett worked professionally as a designer, painter, printmaker, and as a muralist for the Treasury Relief Art Project (1936) and the Works Progress Administration (1937). Through the 1930s, his prints were exhibited at various museums across the US, including the Brooklyn Museum, American Art Association Anderson Galleries, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Palm Beach Art Center, Connecticut Academy of Fine Art, Academy of Allied Arts, Wichita Art Association, Art Institute of Chicago, and in the New York Regional Exhibition of the WPA Federal Art Project.
As a Hudson Valley “American Scene” painter, Barrett fashioned a modern iteration of the region’s landscapes first immortalized a century earlier by the founders of the nation’s first major art movement, the Hudson River School. Barrett turned his artistic attention to the urban landscapes of cities along the Hudson as symbols of a resilient, new, modern American character. His works in the 1930s and early 1940s embrace regionalism, social realism, and abstraction. By the time he founded the DCAA in 1935, extraordinary national events, the Great Depression and the New Deal among them, expanded his vision of the role of any style of art in American life. The civic role of visual culture was crucial in the DCAA’s founding and continues to frame our mission today.
While the collection of Barrett’s artwork has yet to be fully catalogued, a preliminary survey by Patricia Phagan, Philip and Lynn Straus Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, estimates that there are well over 1,000 works on paper.
Works on paper include:
WPA mural sketches and photographic studies (watercolor on paper and board, from 4” x 6” to 18” x 42”, portraying Dutchess County historical and 20th c. industrial sites; series of six for Millbrook, NY High School mural “Work” with accompanying figure photo studies)
Prints, numerous impressions and proofs. Includes linocut and wood-block prints as well as steel-plate and copper-plate engravings, ranging from the smallest (2” x 3” book plates) to the largest, Barrett’s 1931 Map of Poughkeepsie (20” x 26”). Of local interest are numerous editions of his best-selling “Five Woodcuts of Vassar College” from 1932.
Barrett’s works from art school in Boston (1922-1926) and as a designer in New York City (1926-1929) that include illustrations done in a style reminiscent of Howard Pyle and Aubrey Beardsley
Wallpaper designs and houseware decoration designs, (60+ goauche on board)
Barrett’s woodblocks and steel engraving plates, ranging from 2” x 3” linocut blocks to a 20” x 26” steel plate for Barrett’s satirical “1931 Map of Poughkeepsie,” which identifies businesses, churches, municipal buildings, ethnic neighborhoods, and over a dozen speakeasies.
Oils and gouache on canvas, from 10” x 8” to 36” x 48”, many with original artist-constructed wooden frames (made by TWB, Jr.). Styles and subject matter vary greatly and reflect Barrett’s experimentation as an artists through his career.
The archives contains both the Barrett Family Papers (circa 1800-1956) including photos and ephemera, and the Records of the DCAA, including exhibition catalogs and press clippings, from 1935 to the present. The portion of the collection that is already arranged and described has been divided into three categories:
1. Barrett Family Correspondence, 1846-1947 (6 cubic feet) This series accounts for one third of the collection and is composed of Barrett Family correspondence, reflecting every aspect of family life in Dutchess County, from everyday events to hard-earned vacations, employment, as well as health and financial matters. Significant to this collection are the diaries of Barrett’s mother Katherine Stoutenburgh Barrett and sister Elizabeth (1916-1956 [if 1956 is correct, please change end date 5 lines above to 1956).
2. Barrett Family Personal Papers, circa 1800-1956 (5 cubic feet plus oversized items) This series contains diaries, legal documents, autograph books, genealogical material, scrapbooks, diplomas and miscellaneous items. Researchers are bound to find this series of notable interest.
3. Thomas W. Barrett, Jr. Personal and Professional Papers, 1912-1944 (3 cubic feet plus oversized items) This series is composed of equal portions correspondence and personal papers: correspondence contains Barrett’s weekly letters home to his parents and sister when he lived in Boston and New York, 1922-1929; personal papers include Barrett’s diaries, scrapbooks, art school notebooks, pamphlets, catalogs, account books, and other printed material.
4. Barrett Family Photographs and Ephemera, circa 1890-1970 (10 cubic feet)
5. Books and Tools owned by Thomas W. Barrett Jr., circa 1920s - 1940s (30 volumes, 15 tools and props)
6. DCAA Records, 1948 to circa 1995 (8 cubic feet)
7. DCAA Records, circa 1995 to present (4 cubic feet)