Electra Havemeyer Webb (1888-1960) was as eccentric as her name. A Park Avenue girl during Edith Wharton’s Era of Innocence, and the daughter of the founder of the American Sugar Refinery Company, Henry Osborne Havemeyer, who was an important collector of Impressionist Art. At 22, Electra married an heir to the Vanderbilt family fortune (James Watson Webb, Sr.) and quickly fell in love with the Webb’s family farm in Vermont’s Champlain Valley. Horseback riding, yachting, a sea of lilacs – the estate was even home to one of America’s first private nine-hole golf courses. There, she decorated a small pink farmhouse with local handmade quilts, tiger maple furniture, cigar store Indians and weather vanes that she had collected during her New England visits. Over the years, her collection of Americana outgrew the farmhouse so, in 1947, she decided to create a village-like environment on the estate for the public. She relocated 20 historic structures – 18th– and 19th century barns, a meeting house, a schoolhouse, a lighthouse, a jail, general store, covered bridge, even the 220-foot steamboat Ticonderoga.
Her collection/village became what is today the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont. More than 150,000 works of art are now on view in 39 buildings on the grounds. One of the Museum’s most well-known paintings is Soaring by New Englander Andrew Wyeth. To appeal to summer vacationers and apple pickers this summer and fall, the museum will show Soaring along with 40 works by N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth and Jamie Wyeth – three generations of one of the most influential families in modern American art. Wyeth Vertigo will be held in the Webb Gallery, June 22-October 27, 2013.