The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is a distinctive museum devoted to showcasing American folk art, and it is situated in Williamsburg, Virginia. The museum bears the name of John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s wife Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, who supported the arts and was instrumental in the establishment of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, which was founded in 1957, includes the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum. The museum is housed in a structure that was formerly used as a storehouse for the nearby Capitol building and was constructed in the early 1800s. Over 7,000 items, including paintings, sculptures, textiles, furniture, and more, are part of the museum’s collection, which is among the most extensive in the country.
The emphasis on American folk art from the 18th and 19th centuries in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum collection is well-known. Some of the most significant and influential folk artists in American history, such as Edward Hicks, Ammi Phillips, and William Matthew Prior, have pieces in the museum’s collection.
The museum’s collection of portraits by Ammi Phillips is one of its highlights. Midway through the 19th century, self-taught artist Phillips was active in the northeastern region of the United States. His portraits are distinguished by their vivid hues and straightforward, almost primitive style. In the museum’s collection are more than 20 portraits by Phillips, including the well-known image of a young girl known as “Girl in Red Dress with Cat and Dog.”
Edward Hicks is another significant artist in the museum’s collection. In the early 19th century, Hicks, a Quaker minister, lived in Pennsylvania. He is well known for his animal paintings and a series of works that show the Peaceable Kingdom. Numerous Hicks paintings are housed in the museum’s collection, including the well-known “Peaceable Kingdom with the Leopard of Serenity.”
The weathervane collection at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is also well-known. The museum has one of the largest collections of weathervanes in the nation. Weathervanes were a common form of folk art in the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries. Numerous animal-shaped weathervanes, such as horses, cows, and roosters, as well as more unusual weathervanes, like a fireman and a mermaid, are included in the collection.
The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum presents a number of temporary exhibitions every year in addition to its permanent collection. These exhibitions, which frequently include pieces from other museums and private collections, cover a wide range of topics relating to American folk art.
The museum recently held the exhibit “A Century of African-American Quilts.” More than 50 quilts made by African-American quilters in the 19th and 20th centuries were on display in this exhibition. The quilts, which represented the wide range of styles and techniques employed by African-American quilters over the years, were chosen from the museum’s collection as well as from those of other museums and private collections.
“Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942–1964” was a recent exhibition at the museum. The experiences of Mexican guest workers who came to the United States to work in agriculture during World War II and the years after were the main subject of this exhibition. The exhibition featured images, records, and other artifacts that offered a glimpse into the struggles these workers faced as well as into their daily lives.