A new exhibition, “Helping Hands: Museum Volunteers Fund Acquisitions,” on view January 20–March 11, at the Brandywine River Museum honors the museum’s volunteers.
The museum is fortunate to have a large, active and involved group of volunteers supporting its programs. More than 350 volunteers provide help in virtually every area of the museum, serving as tour guides, working in the gardens, making thousands of delightful critters for the Christmas displays, assembling elegant flower arrangements and more.
The museum’s volunteers are also adept fundraisers through such annual events as the Wildflower, Native Plant and Seed Sale, the Antiques Show, and the Critter Sale. Each of the fundraising events benefits an aspect of the museum and its parent organization, the Brandywine Conservancy. Most of the events benefit the Museum Volunteers’ Purchase Fund.
Since 1975, 202 works of art have been acquired for the museum’s permanent collection through the Volunteers’ Purchase Fund. These paintings, drawings and prints have added great depth to the museum’s holdings and reflect the collecting aims of the museum.
The first work acquired through the Museum Volunteers’ Purchase Fund was “Goldilocks and the Three Bowls” by illustrator Jessie Willcox Smith, a student of Howard Pyle. In the years following this initial purchase, many illustrations by other Pyle students have joined the collection, including works by Frank E. Schoonover, Ellen Bernard Thompson and Thornton Oakley.
Pyle himself is also well represented. Because of the volunteers, the permanent collection includes examples of his illustrations for such notable publications as Collier’s Weekly, Scribner’s magazine, The Century Magazine and various Harper’s publications. Pyle also wrote and illustrated his own books, and many original illustrations from Pepper and Salt, one of his best-known children’s books, are part of the exhibition.
The rich history of the Brandywine region fostered imagination in many illustrators, but the verdant landscape also inspired landscape painters. William T. Richards, Herman Herzog and George Cope painted the pastoral solitude of the region. They captured the fleeting atmosphere of the changing world around them.
Like landscape work, still life painting suggests specific moments in time, fruit at the height of perfection or a pipe with glowing embers. In recent years, the Volunteers’ Purchase Fund has helped to supplement the museum’s still life collection with works by John Frederick Peto, Severin Roesen and other well-known American painters. The latest purchase, “Still Life with Fruit on a Tabletop” by James Peale, is a wonderful, classic early American work.
The Brandywine River Museum is on US Route 1. For information, 610-388-2700 or www.brandywinemuseum.org.