If you happen to be anywhere near Lake Champlain between now and October 26, and you like your art light, upbeat and life-affirming, you should definitely plan to visit the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont, seven miles south of Burlington on Route 7. The top two attractions of the Shelburne’s 10 summer shows are “Mary Cassatt: Friends and Family,” featuring 60 works by one of the best-loved American Impressionists, and “Warren Kimble’s America,” a 100-work retrospective of the Brandon, Vermont, artist billed as “the country’s best known contemporary folk artist.”
The Shelburne Museum is something of a cultural theme park with a collection of 39 historic buildings, 32 acres of grounds and gardens, and some 132,000 square feet of gallery space containing 150,000 works of art, craft, and antiques, ranging from Degas to duck decoys.
The Shelburne’s Cassatt show has special meaning for the museum as Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) was a close personal friend of Louisine Havemeyer, the mother of Shelburne Museum founder Electra Havemeyer Webb, an heir to the American Sugar fortune who married an heir to the Vandebilt millions. Both families were important collectors and Mrs. Webb founded the museum in 1947 to house her extensive collection of art and antiques.
Mary Cassatt, of course, is loved and celebrated for her paintings and pastels of domestic and maternal bliss, mother and child being her favorite and repeated subject. A pastel portrait of Louisine Havemeyer and her young daughter Electra is one of the Shelburne’s most prized possessions.
It is somewhat of a misnomer to refer to Mary Cassatt as an American Impressionist as she was not one of American painters who adopted Impressionist techniques after the fact, but an American in Paris who worked alongside Edgar Degas. She was an Impressionist who happened to be an American, born near Pittsburgh. The great irony of Cassatt’s life and art is that, while she achieved immortality with her serene images of motherhood, she never married or had children herself.
It is also somewhat of a misnomer to call Warren Kimble a folk artist, if by folk artist one means a self-taught, na