When most people think of Henry Flagler, they think of his
development of the Florida East Coast Railroad. Or of Standard
Oil and his partnership with John D. Rockefeller. Or of his
luxury hotel in St. Augustine, the Ponce de Leon.
They don't associate him with artists like Martin Johnson
Heade, William Aiken Walker or Frank Shapleigh, popular artists
at the turn of the century and still collected today.
But Flagler was an arts patron who encouraged painters to come
to St. Augustine and work in the studios he built right next to
the hotel. The Ponce de Leon guests often attended Friday night
concerts at the hotel, followed by artists' receptions.
A new exhibition, which opened Friday at The Flagler Museum in
Palm Beach, focuses on Flagler's group of painters from 1888 to
the turn of the century.
"We wanted to look at a new aspect of Flagler that most people
don't know about: his life as an arts patron," said the museum's
media relations director, Jessica Johnston.
The show, "A Society of Painters -- Flagler's St. Augustine Art
Colony," was curated by Sandra Barghini, the museum's chief
It includes works by Heade, Walker, Shapleigh, William Staples
Drown, Laura Woodward, Felix de Crano, Ellen Robbins, F. Arthur
Callender, Marie a Becket, O.D. Seavy and others.
Heade was already working in St. Augustine when the hotel was
built, and Seavy came when his brother was hired to manage the
Ponce. The others did not belong to any particular school of
painting, but many did share an artistic interest in landscapes
and floral studies that investigated their Florida surroundings.
Although Heade, Walker and …