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September 18, 2012

Colonial Williamsburg’s New Folk Portrait Exhibition Opens Sept. 29

A new exhibition at Colonial Williamsburg’s Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum features several new acquisitions and reprises some old favorites. “American Folk Portraits” opens Saturday, Sept. 29 in the museum’s Gladys and Franklin Clark Foundation Gallery, 326 W. Francis St., Williamsburg.

The exhibition includes 45 portraits — all oils — in a wide variety of sizes and one sculpture. Five of the portraits are new acquisitions, never before exhibited by Colonial Williamsburg. Of the five, one was painted in Norfolk, one in Richmond and two on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The single sculpture is “Amanda Armstrong,” carved in wood during the 19th century by Asa Ames.

In addition to aesthetic value, Early American folk portraits are treasured for their historical significance. “Interest in the past continues to expand beyond the rich and famous,” said Barbara Luck, Colonial Williamsburg curator of paintings and sculpture. “The search for tangible evidence of ordinary people is more intense. Without folk painters, the visages of many members of the middle and lower classes would not have been recorded, and our understanding of America’s roots — the laboring multitudes — would be much dimmer.”

Many other portraits have not been exhibited in recent decades, including “The Hansbury Sisters.” Museum guests who have yearned to view the iconic “Baby in Red Chair” will find it back on exhibit. The exhibition also includes what may be the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum’s oldest portrait, “Johannes Lawyer,” and a double portrait by Joshua Johnson, perhaps America’s best-known early 19th-century African American folk artist.

At least 13 portraits will be shown in their original frames, and museum guests will find some of the portraits newly cleaned.

Admission to the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is by Colonial Williamsburg admission ticket, Museum ticket or Good Neighbor Card.

The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg include the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is home to the nation’s premier collection of American folk art, with more than 5,000 folk art objects made during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum exhibits the best in British and American decorative arts from 1670–1830.

The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg are located at the intersection of Francis and South Henry Streets in Williamsburg, Va., and are entered through the Public Hospital of 1773 at 326 W. Francis St. between Nassau and South Henry Streets. The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg are open daily, and hours of operation vary seasonally. For museum program information, telephone (757) 220-7724.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational and cultural organization that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s website at

Media Contact:
Jim Bradley
(757) 220-7281