Opening reception: Saturday, July 22 from 2–4 p.m.
More than 200 works of art that capture Vermont’s unique character, people, traditions and landscape prior to the 1970’s from the collection of Lyman Orton, proprietor of the Vermont Country Store, will be unveiled to the public in an unprecedented collaboration by two of Vermont’s most celebrated museums — Southern Vermont Arts Center and Bennington Museum. The collection came together for one reason: Lyman Orton, a man on a mission who believes art is history and has curated a living time capsule of life in Vermont and the painters who painted Vermont over decades. He is now sharing his collection with Vermonters and all who love Vermont.
The Orton Collection focuses primarily on work from 1920 to 1960 and includes many of the artists who set the stage for the Southern Vermont Art Center. Many of these artists also had solo exhibitions at Bennington Museum between 1930 and 1960. The exhibition includes works on canvas, board, paper, and mixed media, everything from oil paintings to wood engravings to originals of Saturday Evening Post magazine cover illustrations.
More than 65 artists will be represented including Rockwell Kent, John Clymer, Churchill Ettinger, Paul Sample, Mead Schaeffer, John Atherton, Marion Huse, Kyra Markham, Bernadine Custer, and others. Many applied for work with the New Deal and the Federal Arts Project during the Great Depression. A significant part of the collection, about one-fifth, is artworks by Vermont women, as well as by women who journeyed into the mountains to draw and paint.
Orton believes art should be enjoyed and accessible to all — walking into a museum or art gallery should not be an intimidating experience. Museum goers will experience a yesteryear coziness with contemporary artifacts and environments that illustrate the context of some of the paintings—all to bring additional dimension and history to the artworks with explanatory descriptions posted in everyday language.
Along with the opening of the exhibition, a 220-page book tells the story of how Orton assembled the collection over many years while still running The Vermont Country Store. It is also packed with photographs of the paintings, as well as stories of the artists and their love of Vermont. For the Love of Vermont: The Lyman Orton Collection, authored in collaboration with Orton, by Anita Rafael, a writer living and working in Wardsboro, VT, will be available Spring 2023 at the Vermont Country Store and both museums.
Main Image: Rockwell Kent, Mt Equinox Summer