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News : Arts Nov 6, 2012 - 11:40:45 AM

Lecture by Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen

By Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum

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"Louisine Havemeyer and her Daughter Electra," 1895, by Mary Cassatt, now in the Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, VT
As part of the LMMM’s Lecture Series “Defying Expectations: Independent American Women of the Early 1900s,” Curator Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen will present Louisine Havemeyer and Electra H. Webb, Pioneering American Collectors, a lecture on November 14, 2012, 11 a.m. at the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum, 295 West Avenue in Norwalk, CT.

Born in New York in 1855, Louisine Elder went to boarding school in Paris where she eventually met the American Impressionist artist Mary Cassatt and they became lifelong friends. When Louisine Elder came back to America in 1883, she married Henry O. Havemeyer, founder of the American Sugar Refining Company. Although he had been a collector of Japanese ivories, silks, sword guards and lacquered boxes since 1876, together they acquired one of the world’s preeminent art collections. They bequeathed nearly 2,000 items to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, now in numerous galleries, but most notably works in the Impressionist collection. Their house on Fifth Avenue at East 66th Street was designed and furnished by Louis Tiffany in 1889 and featured paintings by Rembrandt, Italian Renaissance masters, Corot, Goya, and El Greco, among collections of Greek, Roman, and Islamic decorative arts.

Into this milieu was born Electra Havemeyer Webb in 1888, the third child of Henry O. and Louisine W.E. Havemeyer, who became a pioneer collector of American art and founder of the Shelburne Museum in Vermont. Although she spent her youth among the finest examples of European and Asian material culture, Electra Havemeyer Webb's own collecting took a radical turn. Henry O. Havemeyer died in 1907 and three years later Electra married a Vanderbilt heir, J. Watson Webb. His family owned a collection of rambling lakeside farms on the shore of Vermont's Lake Champlain which they transformed into a model country estate. Electra Havemeyer Webb began to collect "in earnest" in 1911, more than a decade before the founding of Colonial Williamsburg and nearly a half century before authentic American antiques would return to the major rooms of the White House.

Although she lived with more than twenty extremely fine Impressionist works from her parents’ collection in a penthouse at 740 Park Avenue during part of the year, Electra Havemeyer Webb decorated a small pink farmhouse on a 1,000-acre portion of her in-laws’ estate with simple New England furniture and craftwork. Quilts, tiger maple furniture, and hooked rugs filled the homey rooms of her country house. Although a woman of tremendous means, Webb's Vermont home was modest and comfortable in scale. Her "Brick House" in Shelburne survives today as a rare and intact example of the Colonial Revival.

Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen (Nonnie) is the Anthony W. and Lulu C. Wang Curator of American Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She graduated from Princeton University and received a M.A. from the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture, and then started her career at the Metropolitan Museum as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow. Since then Ms. Frelinghuysen has curated, published, and lectured widely on the subject of American ceramics, glass, and 19th-century furniture, as well as all aspects of the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany, including, Louis Comfort Tiffany and Laurelton Hall—An Artist’s Country Estate. Most recently, she oversaw the reinstallation of the Charles Engelhard Court of the newly renovated American Wing at the Met. Ms. Frelinghuysen is currently working on a book on the Robert A. Ellison Jr. Collection of American Art Pottery. She serves on a number of advisory committees including the Gracie Mansion Conservancy and the Princeton University Art Museum. In addition, she serves on the boards of trustees of the American Ceramic Circle, Kent School, Shelburne Museum, and the Visiting Nurse Service of New York.

LMMM’s 2012 programs are made possible in part by generous contributions from LMMM’s Distinguished Benefactors: Xerox Foundation, Klaff’s, Maurice Goodman Foundation and Mrs. Cynthia C. Brown.

For lecture information and reservations, contact: or 203-838-9799, ext. 4. Reservations are requested by Nov. 9. Admission: $30 for non-members, $25 for members. The admission includes the lecture, a light lunch, and a tour of the first floor of the Mansion. Lunch courtesy of Michael Gilmartin of Outdoor Cookers.

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