A Master of Duality: Elements of Hope, Beauty, and Seclusion in D. F. Hasbrouck’s Watercolors

By Chloe Baker

DuBois Fenelon Hasbrouck’s success as an aspiring artist is remarkable for the time period he lived in due to his upbringing in the upscale yet rural town of Pine Hill, New York. Far from the aristocratic cities of Europe—the artistic and intellectual center during the Gilded Age, D. F. Hasbrouck learned the art of painting not from  an instructor at The Royal Art Academy in Paris, but rather during stolen hours at father’s farm that should have been devoted to tasks relating to husbandry. 1

D.F. Hasbrouck did not realize his passion for painting until his home town was visited by the famous artist J.G. Brown during the summer, whose presence convinced Hasbrouck to begin painting. As a child, Hasbrouck had always preferred drawing to school work, and it was soon apparent that Hasbrouck possessed great adeptness at producing art. Although his family possessed no supplies, Hasbrouck was given paint from the hired hands who labored on the farm, and he would use wooden boards as a substitute for a canvas. Even with these rudimentary accommodations, Hasbrouck’s innate talent was evident. The teenager soon gained a fan base. This included prominent members of society such as the Reverend Howard Crosby, an advocate for social reform in New York City who often vacationed in the town of Pine Hill. Despite the disapproval of Hasbrouck’s parents with their son’s professional aspirations, Hasbrouck relocated to New York City at the urging of Crosby at the age of nineteen years old. 2

During his time in New York, Hasbrouck was a prolific painter, and would eventually earn the title as the “American Impressionist.” This is a title and position Hasbrouck readily embraced, as evident by a letter he sent to a friend Mr. Rathbun: “America will very soon lead the world in Art—for truth must prevail, and it is only proper that the National Museum should secure the best that our country produces.” 3 This quote is undoubtedly a reaction concerning a subject Hasbrouck regarded with strong opinions. It is the notion that proper art could only be found in Europe, and the only pieces worth investing in should be European in origin. With the aid of two wealth business men, William T. Evans of Montclaire, New Jersey, and James Ellsworth of Chicago, Hasbrouck would go on to challenge such notions. These two gentlemen became sponsors of Hasbrouck’s and begun a collection of American paintings that are on display at various museums today.

After nearly two decades in the city, Hasbrouck relocated with his wife back upstate New York. It was during this period that Hasbrouck reached the height of his career. The fact that his relocation only aided his popularity is understandable, as Hasbrouck’s specialty involved depicting scenes of nature, yet in a manner that veered away from overly sentimental or romantic images that were becoming outdated in style. His paintings depicted images that had been painted many times before such as trees, and the changes in landscapes from season to season.  Often Hasbrouck portrays the land as either a barren winter landscape lush white snow, or a budding fields of green in the springtime. Yet what makes Hasbrouck’s paintings so unique is their ability to transport the viewer to another time period, a time far removed industrialization and progress—to a place where the rugged terrain of nature remains to be the supreme ruler. His depictions of nature ignite in those gazing at them a sense of peace and wonder, yet also a slight feeling of isolation. It is as though by painting trees, he is capturing the joy, fear, and Divinity that is associated with humanity.4 The Historic Huguenot Street Permanent Collection holds examples of these D.F. Hasbrouck paintings, some of which are on display. The first painting is a watercolor on paper of a farmhouse scene, not dated. The second painting is a watercolor on paper of a rural scene, dating to 1899. These two paintings are not on display, but you can find four D.F. Hasbrouck paintings in the Deyo House.

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1 Walsh, Suzanne M. The Paintings, Watercolors, and Drawings of D.F. Hasbrouck: American Impressionist (1859-1917). Prattsville, New York: Zadock Pratt Museum, 2014. 6. Print.

2 Ibid. 7-8.

3 Ibid. 5.

4 Ibid. 18-19, 21.

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Mirror, Mirror On the Wall

By Ashley Montevago

This week’s object is a Queen Anne style mirror from the mid-18th century made of dark tiger maple wood. There is a gilded design at the top. This mirror may have been in the home of a wealthy individual considering mirrors were a luxury item during the 18th century. The detailed wood work also leads to the belief this mirror could have been quite expensive.

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The earliest mirrors date to 6000 BC, made from polished stones in Anatolia, which is modern day Turkey.1 It is believed that people originally used to look at their reflections in water such as rivers and streams; even in ancient times people were concerned with the way they looked. We see the appearance of mirrors in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and China; each civilization had their own way or creating reflective surfaces.

Each civilization had a different method of creating mirrors. For example, Ancient Egyptians used polished copper and often embellished them with ornamentation. Mesopotamia polished stone. Ancient China used a “speculum metal that could be highly polished to a reflective surface as well as mirrors made of polished bronze. Metal alloys or precious metals mirrors were very valuable items in ancient times only affordable to nobility.” 2

Mirrors were still being made past ancient times and the material and processes used to make them varied. The invention of glass blowing added to the popularity of mirrors; “the Romans invented a method for creating mirrors by coating blown glass with molten lead.” 3 The superstition surrounding mirrors such as breaking one will give you seven years of bad luck comes from an old Roman legend; they felt the soul was associated with mirrors because “the soul which shatters with the broken mirror regenerates every seven years.” 4

Still mirrors were highly prized items and were not widely available to the public since the materials used were often expensive. Also the transportation of such a fragile item added to the high cost of mirrors. It was not until the nineteenth century that mirrors became accessible to more people and not just the wealthy families who could afford them. German chemist Justus von Liebig created the first modern mirror in 1835 by applying a layer of metallic silver to the back of a pane of glass through the chemical reduction of silver nature. His process led the way from mirrors being a high luxury item to a highly affordable item.5

We have many different types of mirrors in our collection at Historic Huguenot Street. Many are displayed hanging on the walls of our historic houses. I choose the Queen Anne mirror because of the intricate wood work that reminded me how special the objects in our collection are. A skilled craftsman took the time to make such an amazing piece that sparked my interest in the history of mirrors. I would have never guessed they dated all the way back to 6000 BC and was pleasantly surprised to learn many ancient civilizations had their own variations. I am currently taking a history class at SUNY New Paltz called Ancient World with Dr. Andrea Gatzke and find it interesting that the cultures we have been focusing on popped up in my research.

1History of Mirrors.” Mirror History. Mirror History, n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4Mirror Myth, Legends and Facts.” Mirror History. Mirror History, n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

5The Inventor of Mirror.” Mirror History. Mirror History, n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

On Display: “Steiff and Friends: Vintage Teddy Bears”

Steiff and Friends:
Vintage Teddy Bears
Selections from the Collection of Sanford Levy and
the Historic Huguenot Street Permanent Collection
November 7 – December 20, 2015

The Historic Huguenot Street Curatorial Department has developed a new exhibition in honor of the winter holiday season. Now on display in the DuBois Fort Visitor Center (81 Huguenot Street), “Steiff and Friends: Vintage Teddy Bears” presents a selection of early-20th century stuffed animal toys from the Collection of Sanford Levy  (antiques dealer and HHS Board Vice President) and the Historic Huguenot Street Permanent Collection.

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The German company Steiff rose to fame in the late-19th century. German seamstress Margarete Steiff laid the foundation for the now-internationally renowned company by founding a felt business in 1880. In 1902, the company created the first bear with jointed arms and legs. In 1904, the company created the world’s first stuffed bear with movable limbs, the “Bear 55 PB”, the original Teddy Bear. By 1907, almost a million Steiff teddy bears had been produced and the company became an important proponent of the “international teddy bear craze.” Other toy companies, such as the Ideal Toy Company, rose simultaneously and fed off of the popularized stuffed bear demand. Today, Steiff continues to produce stuffed toys, but none are as special to collectors as the original early-20th century bears.

Steiff has developed a base of international admirers and collectors over the past century. The Museum Shop now offers a variety of collectible Steiff bears, following the tradition of quality of those featured in this exhibition. There are eleven styles of Steiff bears available, including 3 collectible replicas of styles from 1906, 1909, and 1920, and a holiday bear.

The exhibition will be on display in the DuBois Fort Visitor Center through December 20, open to the public on weekends 10 – 5 pm. The Museum Shop is also open on weekends 10 – 5 pm.

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