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Painting Collection

The museum’s art collection contains paintings by pivotal American artists like Sheldon Peck, George Clough, Charles Loring Elliott, and Robert Goodnough. Other local artists, such as Frank Barney and Truxton Hosely are also represented. You can learn more about these artists by clicking on the button below.

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Winter's Day, c.1920-1927 by Frank Barney

Barney (1862-1954), born in Union Springs NY, became one of Auburn’s most beloved artists. Barney moved to Auburn in 1881 and worked as a clerk at the Bowman and Sagar Drug Co. By 1887 he opened his first studio. Thomas Mott Osborne, noted prison reformer and frequent visitor to Barney’s studio, offered Barney a loan to cover the cost of studying in Paris. Upon his return from Paris, Barney traveled frequently around the Finger Lakes region to paint. Rather than establishing himself with a major gallery, Barney preferred to sell his paintings himself, mostly to buyers in the Auburn area. His landscapes became prized possessions among those who owned them.

Portrait of Sophie Soule, 1820, by Sheldon Peck

Peck (1797-1868) was a noted folk artist and staunch abolitionist. Born in Vermont, he was most likely a self-taught painter. His earliest works in the 1820s were portraits characterized by dark colors and plain backgrounds, much like his later paintings of Howard and Sophie Soule that we hold in our collection. Peck and his wife Harriet left Vermont and settled in Jordan, NY in 1828, where he painted the Soule portraits. During his time in New York, Peck’s style began to shift. Brighter colors and more detailed backgrounds slowly began to emerge in his paintings. After settling near Chicago in 1836, his style evolved. He began consistently using bright colors and painted full-length figures, often in groups. Sometimes he attempted to give the settings three-dimensionality by painting in the floorboards, and a trompe l’oeil grained frame directly on the canvas.

Portrait of Mary Elizabeth Pitney Morgan, 1842, by Charles Loring Elliott

Elliott (1812-1868) was born near Scipio Center but his family soon moved into Auburn where his father, an architect and building contractor, allowed Elliott to do architectural drawings for his firm. In 1929, Elliott left for New York City to study painting. He became a student of noted painters Colonel John Trumbull and John Quidor. Elliott returned to Central New York and spent the next ten years as a portrait artist. Elliott painted over 700 portraits during his career including those of James Fenimore Cooper, Governor Seward, Presidents Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In addition to his portraits of nationally prominent people, Elliott painted many local individuals like Christopher and Mary Elizabeth Morgan of Aurora, NY.

Fortune Teller, 1947, by Robert Goodnough

Goodnough (1917 - 2010) was born in Cortland, NY and spent the remainder of his childhood in Moravia, NY. Goodnough’s early forays into art were undertaken as a student of Walter Long, Cayuga Museum founding director and a fine arts lecturer at Syracuse University. Under Long’s recommendation, Goodnough applied for and received a scholarship to attend Syracuse University where he received a B.A. in 1940. After serving in the U.S. Army during WWII, Goodnough continued his training at New York University where he studied with Amédée Ozenfant and Hans Hofmann. Prior to working with the Abstract Expressionists, Goodnough’s work was figurative and realistic. This began to change when he first saw the work of Picasso during the war. Although he experimented with many styles, his signature became large scale works of geometric shapes in bold colors.

Storm in the Adirondacks, 1877, by George Clough

Clough (1824-1901) was born in Auburn in 1824. His father died when he was an infant, leaving his mother alone to raise six children. Seeing the boy’s interest in art, a family friend bought Clough his first paints and local painter Randall Palmer convinced Clough’s mother to let him take lessons with him as a teenager. Clough opened his own studio, above a store on Genesee Street, in 1844 when he was 20. Josiah Barber, an Auburn mill owner, took an interest in Clough and commissioned him to paint six portraits. In 1850, Barber financed a trip to Europe for Clough, where he visited the great museums and copied paintings by the masters. Throughout the rest of his career, he continued to paint portraits as a way of earning a living, but his passion was for landscapes. In 1862, Clough moved to Cleveland, Ohio. He enjoyed positive newspaper reviews but little commercial success, and had to supplement his income with coloring and copying photographic portraits. Around the end of the Civil War, Clough moved to New York City, and he lived in or around the city until his wife’s death in 1894. He maintained a residence in Auburn where he frequently returned during the summer months.

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