Burke Mountain, Vermont by Frederick Ballard Williams was the very first painting bought for the Museum's collection. The story is that the local industrialist A. Alex Shuford Jr. said to Paul Whitener that “If you’re going to have a museum, you’ve got to have paintings.” Shuford then volunteered the funds for that first purchase in March 1944, and Paul wrote the check. (The 2018 relative purchase value of 1944's $140 would be about $1,880.)
F. Ballard Williams (1871-1956) 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 in 1910 he and several other artists including Elliott Daingerfield (also in the HMA collection) visited the Grand Canyon as painter-guests of the Santa Fe Railroad. (The illustrated story of that trip is here.) In addition,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 is (pictured below in 1911 as well as later in his studio)
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.”
This post is # 12 of the 75 stories to celebrate HMA's 75 years.
Post by Karin Borei, HMA Project Coordinator, writer and editor as needed, and HMA blogger since our blog's inception in March 2015.