by Shannon Butler

We here in the Local History department can certainly say that we miss visiting our local historic sites, museums, and galleries. One of the great things about Poughkeepsie is that we have so many fabulous places to visit that are close at hand. We happen to have a world famous art gallery right here in our city, the Vassar College Art Gallery, also known as the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. This is the first college in our country’s history to have an art gallery as part of its original plan. As a result of the forward thinking of Matthew Vassar, the college began collecting some of the world’s greatest pieces of art long before institutions like the Metropolitan Museum or the Fine Arts museum in Boston were even established.

What a pleasure to walk onto the fabulous campus with its breathtaking architecture and then take a right into the art gallery that holds a massive collection right here in our backyard. You can see some of the Hudson River School artists like Thomas Cole, Frederic Church and Asher B. Durand. Then there is the gallery filled with Egyptian and Roman sculptures from thousands of years ago. What about the fabulous collection of 18th century art from Europe? So much to take in! It must have been exciting to be a student in the late 19th century, sitting in the middle of such a fine gallery and working on your final project for the semester.

In the report of the committee on the art gallery made in 1864, the Rev. E. L. Magoon, who served as the chairman of the committee wrote, “Art is diviner than science; the latter discovers, this creates.” He went on to explain the importance of art and the influence it has on the best mines of the world, “Above and beyond all petty strifes, mankind are most attracted and united by a taste for beautiful art – a taste at once the most engrossing and ennobling, refining the imagination and fortifying the judgment, elevating emotion to the loftiest enthusiasm, and at the same time, perfecting the critical faculty, under the joint influence of subjugated sense and sovereign reason.” Or in layman’s terms, art is super awesome and important.

You may have noticed that many people all over the world certainly miss their favorite pieces of art and have been recreating these pieces using their own surroundings and props as part of the Getty Museum Art Challenge. We can totally appreciate that! Our Public information officer Yvonne recreated this Portrait of Ann Seward Swartwout (1778-1868). While I (Shannon the historian) decided to recreate this portrait of Matthew Vassar (1792-1868) with my Dog Mocha as a special guest. Why not take a look through our Main and Market Collection and see if there is something that inspires you. Also, check out the online collections at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center for inspiration.  Make sure you tag the Library if you recreate some art! @PokLibNY #PokLibNY

Sources –

Vassar College Art Gallery: Selections from the Permanent Collection, 1967 LH 708.1 VAS