MMOFA Receives Gift of Early American Primitive Painting
Lake Oconee News
Posted September 14, 2008

The Madison Museum of Fine Art joyfully announces the gift from an Athens donor of an early American primitive folk portrait of two young sisters in an interior setting. The oil painting, dating from the late 1700’s to early 1800’s, exhibits the charming, abstract, imaginative, and humble qualities that typify early American folk portraits.

Says Museum Director, Michele Bechtell, “This captivating painting is an outstanding addition to the Museum’s permanent collection and offers viewers an opportunity to compare early primitive portraits with those produced by academically trained artists of the same period.” Board Member Sean Gallagher adds, “Centuries later, it is interesting to note that distinguished Modern masters like Charles Sheeler, Elie Nadelman,. and William Zorach recognized the inherent abstract qualities of American Primitives, collected such paintings, and drew artistic inspiration from them.”

Academically trained artists of the late 18th-early 19th century typically created portraits with accurate perspective, anatomically correct bodies in natural poses, and realistic facial features and expressions. And they skillfully applied shading, highlights, and coloring to add dimension, suggest fabrics, and depict detailed backgrounds and furnishings. In contrast, most early folk portraits were painted by untrained or minimally trained itinerant artists who worked for food or lodging and rarely signed their names. The works characteristically display a linear rendering of the sitter, flat facial features, a stiff pose turned three-quarters or fully frontal, minimal shadowing to suggest the direction of light, simple depictions of hands, ears, and hair, disproportionately sized heads, limbs extended in distorted directions, greater emphasis on clothing and background details than on the face, and plain backgrounds absent of objects and scenery or an imaginary background like the painting in the Museum’s collection..

On Saturday, September 27 from 10am-5pm, the public can visit the painting for free when the Museum participates in the 4th Annual Smithsonian Museum Day sponsored by Smithsonian Magazine. On this day, any visitor who downloads a Smithsonian admission card at can tour the Museum and sculpture garden free of charge.

The Madison Museum of Fine Art is a non-profit charitable institution that collects, preserves, interprets, and imaginatively displays original art by historically significant visual art masters from around the world for the education, edification, and spiritual nourishment of all persons living and traveling in Georgia’s Lake County. The Museum is not affiliated with the Madison Morgan Cultural Center. The Museum is located on the downtown courthouse square at 290 Hancock Street in Madison, Georgia. For more information, call 706-485-4530, visit , or visit , click on the state of GA and the name of the museum.

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Madison Museum of Fine Art
300 Hancock Street

PO Box 814
Madison, GA 30650

Phone: 706 485-4530

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