Burke Mountain, Vermont was the very first painting bought for the Museum's collection. Supposedly Alex Shuford said to his friend Paul Whitener that “If you’re going to have a museum, you’ve got to have paintings” and then Shuford volunteered the funds for that first purchase in March 1944. (The 2015 relative value of 1944's $140 would be about $1,880.)
F. Ballard Williams (pictured in 1911 as well as later in his studio) was born in Brooklyn, NY, and lived most of his life in Glen Ridge, NJ, even though he also traveled extensively. He studied art at several schools in New York City, including at the National Academy of Design where he had his first exhibition in 1901. He traveled to Europe in the early 1900’s and then to the Grand Canyon as a guest of the Santa Fe Railroad. Also,Williams often went on sketching trips along New England’s Mystic River; and in the 1930s he painted in the mountains of western North Carolina.
Williams exhibited widely, his awards were many, and his works are owned today by many major museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, and the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as of course the Hickory Museum of Art. He was also an active member of the art community, joining clubs and serving on arts commissions. In 1928, Williams organized the American Artists Professional League.
Even with all his travels, Williams produced his paintings in the studio; and while realistic, they were not meant to be literal. In 1951 Williams said of his style that in contrast to what he called the Modern Art Movement, “I, of course, belong to the earlier creed, emphasizing the dignity and worthy qualities of man and of the land and sky about and above him.”
Burke Mountain, Vermont was most recently (as of 2015) part of our Fall 2014 exhibit celebrating the 70th anniversary of HMA's founding in 1944.
Post by Karin Borei, HMA Project Coordinator, writer and editor as needed, and HMA blogger since our blog's inception in March 2015.