CONCORD, N.H. — Female artists who captured the sweeping vistas of New Hampshire’s White Mountains will get some long overdue recognition when their paintings are displayed in a museum now under construction at Plymouth State University.
The Museum of the White Mountains, scheduled to open in February with galleries, classrooms and state-of-the-art storage, is designed to create a central place for the study of the region’s art, culture and heritage. It recently acquired a collection of 19 paintings by female artists such as Maria a’Becket, Susan Ricker Knox and Lizzie Stevens that feature mountain views, pastoral valley scenes and detailed renderings of the mountain flora.
The paintings are similar stylistically to those produced by the more well-known male artists of the mid-19th century “White Mountain School” of painting, but the women often were overlooked, said Catherine Amidon, the museum’s director. Some of the women didn’t sign their paintings because the work wouldn’t sell as well if they identified themselves, she said.
“All too often, if you ask, ‘Are there White Mountain women artists?’ People are going to say, ‘No, there weren’t.’ When in fact, there were a number of them,” she said. “One thinks of the Victorian era of ladies in hoop skirts doing embroidery, when in fact they were out painting and tramping and going to Europe to study art. This collection will allow us to bring to light not only an important chapter in women artists but also in the White Mountains themselves.”
The collection was donated by Frances MacIntyre, who now lives in Florida but wrote her master’s thesis at Dartmouth College about female artists of the White Mountains and has subsequently collected their work.
The museum, which will be housed in a former church on the edge of the Plymouth campus, also recently acquired a collection of items from the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel from Steve Barba, who managed the hotel for 35 years before retiring in 2005. The hotel recently was purchased, and the new owners auctioned off most of its contents in May in preparation for major renovations.
The collection includes photographs, postcards, brochures and scrapbooks saved by Barba, who was 13 when he went to work at the hotel in 1959 as a caddy.
“I just know that this is going to be the perfect place for my gift,” Barba said. “There are few things that we do in life that really deserve to be perpetuated, and I believe this is one of them.”