Byrdcliffe art colony


Organized in 1902, it was located in a beautiful rural setting on Mount Guardian near Woodstock, New York. Ralph Radcliffe-Whitehead, a wealthy Englishman was the founder. He was a student of fellow Englishman, John Ruskin, and committed to the Arts and Crafts Movement espoused by Ruskin and William Morris in England. Whitehead's goal was to create an arts and crafts environment in America that adhered to Ruskin's ideals that everyday objects should have aesthetic qualities. Whitehead purchased 1500 acres of land, seven farms, and oversaw the construction of 30 buildings that stood as "textbook example of a utopian Arts and Crafts community". The emphasis was on brotherhood and artistic collaboration, and one of the earliest committed American artists was Bolton Brown, who influenced Whitehead to settle at Woodstock. Ironically Whitehead and other supporters of the Colony used money from industrialist fortunes to finance their philosophical opposition. The name Byrdcliff combines part of the middle name of Whitehead with that of his Philadelphia-born wife, Jane Byrd McCall. Artists came from all over the United States and created pottery, textiles, metalwork, and furniture. Among these artists were Dawson Dawson Watson, Herman Dudley Murphy, Bruno Zimm, Zula Steele, John Fabian Carlson, Birge Harrison, Carl Eric Lindin, Leonard Ochtman, Gino Perera, William Schumacher; Miss Dewing Woodward, Jane Whitehead and, of course, Ralph Whitehead who became proficient at pottery. The Colony was never a financial success but continuing to function, is remembered as a key part of the Arts and Crafts Movement in America and is an ongoing center for creativity. Many objects in a variety of art forms have been produced including furniture, ceramics, and oil paintings. The art colony was also draw for liberated artistic women, who were involved in all aspects of daily life. A local historian claims, ''It was one of the few places creative women who didn't want to be housewives could go in those days.''Sources: Treadway Toomey Galleries, Catalogue of 5/23/2004; (See Arts and Crafts Movement); David Cook Galleries.