In the early 1900s, Sculptor Solon Borglum started inviting artists to join him at his barn to socialize, exhibit, and critique or “knock” one another’s work on Sundays. The gathering became known as the Knockers Club, and members began to share their work with the community. The members' exhibition became a yearly event in the late summer and grew in popularity. By 1909, the artists had renamed themselves the Silvermine Group, and on Sept. 20, 1909 the American Art News announced the group as a "New Artists' Society."
Article source: American Art News, Vol. 7, No. 35 (Sep. 20, 1909), pp. 1-8, Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25590490.
1913 Armory Show
Silvermine artists Daniel Putnam Brinley, Mahroni Mackintosh Young, and Solon Borglum all participated in the organization of the groundbreaking 1913 Armory Show in New York (1,2). Silvermine artist Bernhard Gutmann submitted an oil painting entitled In the Garden, which was exhibited at the Armory Show (3). Encircled in the photo below, D. Putnam Brinley (left) and Mahroni Young (right) attended a beefsteak dinner held on Mar. 8, 1913 in celebration of the Armory Show's success.
Image Citation: "Armory Show artists and members of the press at the beefsteak dinner given by the Association of American Painters and Sculptors, 1913 Mar. 8 / Percy Rainford, photographer. Walt Kuhn, Kuhn family papers, and Armory Show records, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution." Image link.
Meanwhile, Silvermine artists continued to put on annual exhibitions. They advertised the events by featuring images of artists' work. Shown to the right is the 1913 invitation to the annual exhibition with artwork by Addison T. Millar.
1. Association of American Painters and Sculptors meeting minutes, 1911 Dec. 19 – 1912 Jan. 2, pages 2, 4, and 5. Walt Kuhn, Kuhn family papers, and Armory Show records, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Link.
2. “The Armory Show at 100: Timeline: December 19, 1911,” New York Historical Society, accessed October 16, 2014, Link.
3. Association of American Painters and Sculptors Domestic Art Committee record book, 1913, page 11. Walt Kuhn, Kuhn family papers, and Armory Show records, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Link.
Silvermine Guild Formation
After Borglum's death, the Silvermine Group of Artists founded the Silvermine Guild of Artists. The Guild included not only painters, sculptors, and illustrators but musical, literary, and dramatic artists as well. In 1924, the Silvermine Guild of Artists, Inc. was formally incorporated.
Article Source: American Art News, Vol. 21, No. 6 (Nov. 18, 1922), pp. 1-12, Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25590033.
Silvermine Music Festival
In 1937, John Vassos and others from Silvermine organized a music festival involving 75 members of the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Jose Iturbi. The event attracted 4,000 guests (1).
In 1938, the Silvermine Music Festival generated even more interest, attracting 30,000 guests to hear music from Mendelssohn, Schubert, Sibelius, Gershwin, and Ravel by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Eugene Ormandy, José Iturbi, and Quinto Maganini (2,3). Additional performances included chamber music from the Roth String Quartet and a prodigious rendition of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony by the Metropolitan Quartet and a chorus of 700 from the State Federated Choirs of Connecticut (2).
1. “Silvermine Guild Festival,” The New York Times, July 11, 1937, Link.
2. “Silvermine Fete,” Chicago Tribune, November 27, 1938, Part 7, Page 3, Link.
3. “1938 Aug 19/Festival/Iturbi,” Programs, 1937-38 Season, Festival, New York Philharmonic Digital Archives, Link.
4. Image from "The Silvermine Guild of Artists," 1946, Silvermine Guild booklet.
Art of New England
The Silvermine Guild building. Note the glass ceiling, a feature from Silvermine's past.
In 1949, Revington Arthur organized the first New England Art Exhibition, an art competition and exhibition of New England artists that continues to this day as the Art of New England exhibition. This exhibition has introduced emerging artists to critical exposure for decades with the help of the many distinguished critics, dealers, artists, and museum professionals who served as jurors.
A meeting of the board of directors. Clockwise from bottom left: John Vassos, Leslie Randall, Frederic Hicks, Revington Arthur, Marguerite Daggy, A. Drexler Jacobson, Gail Symon, J. Mortimer Lichtenauer, Douglas Gorsline, A.P. Tedesco, Dorothy Byard, Richard Daggy, and Mildred Hicks. Absent from photo: Howard L. Hildebrandt and Charles M. Shaw.
In just one example of the array of people involved in the Art of the Northeast, the 1956 New England Exhibition's jury of selection and award included Hermon More, the Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York from 1948 to 1958, Perry T. Rathbone, the internationally renowned Director of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston from 1955 to 1972, versatile sculptor and painter Xavier Gonzalez, abstract sculptor Ibram Lassaw, and wood carving sculptor Chaim Gross (1956 exhibition application).
An interior view of Silvermine Gallery.
All images from a 1946 Silvermine Guild booklet about guild history and the members' exhibition of that year.
Above is a photo of the Silvermine Guild building from the 1956 New England Exhibition application pamphlet.
A large new sculpture studio opened in 1956 with a ceremony featuring a speech by noted cubist sculptor Jacques Lipchitz. The opening included exhibitions of work by guild artists and work on loan from museums and collectors by world class artists such as Brancusi, Calder, Degas, Giacometti, Moore, Picasso, and Rodin. The complete list of loaned artworks is shown in the image below, taken from the opening ceremony program.
Shown right, Dorothy C. Miller examines artwork as juror for the 15th annual New England Exhibition. Image courtesy of the New Canaan Historical Society (1). Dorothy C. Miller was a renowned curator and tastemaker. She was the first curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and a champion of the American modern art movement (2).
1. Image taken from 15th annual New England Exhibition booklet, courtesy of New Canaan Historical Society.
2. Pollock, Lindsay, "Mama MoMA," New York Magazine, date accessed 1/22/2015, Link.
Alice Neel Retrospective
Alice Neel greets sculptor Reuben Nakian at a preview party for her retrospective at Silvermine. Image Source: Westport News, Friday, April 6, 1979, photo clipping.
A retrospective of 100 of Alice Neel's works in total took place in 1979 with the art split between Silvermine and the University of Bridgeport (1). The 52 works shown at Silvermine represented Alice Neel's art from 1930 to 1978 and included portraits of Frank O'Hara, Stewart Mott, Che Guevara, Linus Pauling, Virgil Thompson, Duane Hanson, Bella Abzug, and Jack Baur (2).
1. "Neel Retrospective at Silvermine," Darien News, March 1, 1979, newspaper clipping.
2. New Canaan Advertiser, Thursday March 15, 1979, newspaper clipping.
The Silvermine Guild branched out in 1987 to have a temporary exhibition space at the Stamford Metro North Station. In 1988, the Stamford Gallery exhibited a retrospective of work by Jimmy Ernst, Guild artist and son of celebrated artist Max Ernst. The above group photo of Guild artists from the 1950s went out to the press to promote the Jimmy Ernst retrospective. From left to right, artists shown are Jimmy Ernst, Revington Arthur, George Constanst, John Vassos, Gabor Peterdi, Albert Jacobson, and William Baziotes. Image source: Francis X. Fay Jr., "Ernst's acclaim grows four years after death," The Hour, Saturday, April 23, 1988, pg. 8.
Jimmy Ernst also taught at the Silvermine School of Art, and he designed the cover for the 1955 summer session catalogue seen below. He was a teacher at Silvermine at the time, and his bio listed in this catalogue demonstrated the range of his career. He had paintings in the Metropolitan Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Guggenheim Museum, Chicago Art Institute, Toledo Museum, Toronto Art Gallery, Wadsworth Atheneum, and many more institutions and private collections. He had twelve one-man shows in New York City and was an instructor at the Pratt Institute and the Brooklyn College Department of Design.
As the Silvermine Guild celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1997, the galleries began SPECTRA, a national juried photography exhibition. The exhibition continued for many years. Peter MacGill of Pace/MacGill Galleries juried SPECTRA in 2007 and gave a lecture as shown in the above photo. The 2007 SPECTRA exhibition also featured a lecture by Jane Jackson, the director of Sir Elton John's photography collection.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Burt Chernow, art historian and founder of the Housatonic Museum of Art, researched and wrote a biography on Christo and Jeanne-Claude. To promote the book and upcoming art, Christo and Jeanne-Claude held an exhibition, book signing, and talk at the Silvermine Galleries in 2002. The exhibition gave visitors a preview of the Central Park "Gates Project" scheduled to be installed in New York City in 2005.
New Guild Members
The Silvermine Guild of Artists has continued a tradition of growth in the arts by welcoming new members to its ever-evolving ranks each year. The above image shows some of the art featured in the 2015 New Member Show. The show included works done by the following new guild members:
Cris Xavier & Edhu Nascimento
Notable Guild Members
All of the Silvermine Guild members are worthy of note for their skill and creativity. Listed below are Guild members and other artists associated with Silvermine over the decades that may be of particular historical interest.
An actor on the stage and screen, Ian Abercrombie may not have been a guild member, but he participated in some of Silvermine's stage productions.
An extremely successful and prolific writer of the 20th century, Faith Baldwin wrote many popular books over the years. Below is an excerpt of an essay she wrote for the 1946 members exhibition on her theory of the historical value of her work.
Cornelia E. Hildebrandt
Involved from the very beginning of the 1900's as an inaugural Silvermine Group member, Cornelia Ellis Hildebrandt was an award-winning miniaturist who gave lectures on her craft. She also belonged to the American Society of Miniature Painters. To the left is a miniature entitled "Ella Roper" by Hildebrandt from the 1946 members exhibit booklet.
Jon Stone - perhaps not a Guild member, but he acted in at least one Silvermine play.