Work from Flagler's Art Society on View at Palm Beach Museum

Article excerpt

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

curator.

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 Shapleigh may be the best-known

names, some of the other artists have been gaining attention,

especially the female painters, Barghini said. …