At the New-York Historical Society, there is a feast of folk art from collectors/spouses Elie and Viola Nadelman. Much of the collection is American folk art, inspiring a feeling of patriotism sorely needed in these times.
Our guide, Deena, had encyclopedic knowledge of the collection and the Nadelmans. Elie Nadelman was a widely recognized sculptor, while his tobacco heiress wife Viola, had a passion for textiles and lace.
They began collecting folk art from America and Europe on their honeymoon in 1919. By 1926, they built the first folk art museum in the country, The Museum of Folk and Peasant Art, on their estate in Riverdale, New York. The collection began with 15,000 objects!
Standing outside the exhibit entrance was an imposing, 19th century, wooden statue of Harry Howard, a heroic volunteer Fire Chief from New York City. Harry looked somewhat weathered since he’s spent much of his life outdoors.
The exhibit also includes several of Elie’s own sculptures. A piece called The Piano Player has two wonderful whimsical bows. Tango, his most famous work, is celebrated for the way the sculpture seems to move.
Elie appealed to the masses by offering a wide range of work, and so we saw everything from glass and ceramic figurines, kitchen utensils, weathervanes, quilts, birth and marriage certificates, children’s plates, toys and much more.
We were amused by an advertisement for Boston Baked Beans and we loved a portrait of Lady Liberty, a boldly painted window shade celebrating the new United States. Lady Liberty puts a wreath on George Washington’s head while trampling the English crown.
The Nadelmans enjoyed their wealth and continued to collect until the Depression came. So in 1937, they sold their entire collection to the New-York Historical Society where 250 objects are now on view.
Do not miss this lavish exhibit of folk art; you will walk away feeling great pride in our country. The exhibit only lasts through August 21 st . To learn more, visit www.nyhistory.org or call 212-873- 3400.