Hunt for Trea­sure

Dr. Robert Sav­age searches high and low for the works in his ex­ten­sive art col­lec­tion

American Fine Art Magazine - - In This Issue - By John O’hern

Dr. Robert Sav­age searches high and low for the works in his ex­ten­sive art col­lec­tion

Dr. Robert Sav­age grew up in an an­thracite coal min­ing town in eastern Penn­syl­va­nia. He re­cently re­tired from his 35-year prac­tice in plas­tic surgery and as an as­sis­tant clin­i­cal pro­fes­sor of surgery at Har­vard Med­i­cal School. His “sec­ond act” is “as a bud­ding art his­to­rian and re­searcher.” He en­joyed “sketch­ing, cre­at­ing car­i­ca­tures and car­toons” as a boy, but, he says,“my true love for art be­gan as a stu­dent at Wes­leyan Uni­ver­sity in Con­necti­cut, where I was in­spired by one of those mag­i­cal teach­ers, Sam Green.” An ac­com­plished wa­ter­col­orist, Green wrote Amer­i­can Art: A His­tor­i­cal Sur­vey, pub­lished in 1966, which rapidly be­came the re­quired read­ing for col­lege art cour­ses.there is a de­light­ful syn­chronic­ity in that Green pre­vi­ously taught at Har­vard and Welles­ley Col­lege in Welles­ley, Mas­sachusetts, where Dr. Sav­age and his wife, Diane, now live. “Af­ter that ex­po­sure, I have pur­sued fine art in every mu­seum, gallery and cathe­dral that my feet will take me to.” Dr. Sav­age learned from his ex­pe­ri­ence in medicine that it is im­pos­si­ble to know ev­ery­thing and spe­cial­iza­tion is of­ten re­quired.the Sav­ages love all art, from an­tiq­uity to ab­stract ex­pres­sion­ism. How­ever, they be­lieved that in build­ing a se­ri­ous art col­lec­tion, ed­u­ca­tion and spe­cial­iza­tion in one or two gen­res seemed to make sense. “I have con­cen­trated on New Eng­land real­ism and im­pres­sion­ism from around 1895 to the 1950s, and on a hand­ful of con­tem­po­rary artists

paint­ing in sim­i­lar styles,” he ex­plains. “My wife prefers the art of the mid19th cen­tury, such as lu­min­ism and art from the Bar­bizon School. My last year of train­ing was in Bos­ton, where we fell in love with New Eng­land’s mag­i­cal beauty and his­tory. Our col­lect­ing started in earnest about 20 years ago co­in­cid­ing with the col­lege grad­u­a­tion of our old­est daugh­ter, lib­er­at­ing us from some tu­ition re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. I con­sider him­self an ‘Equal Op­por­tu­nity Collector’ in that I will buy fine art anywhere I can find it. I have pur­chased with some suc­cess from es­tate sales, even yard sales, an­tique shows, ebay, Craigslist, gal­leries, auc­tion houses, and per­haps my fa­vorite venue, di­rectly from living artists.this lat­ter ex­pe­ri­ence of get­ting to meet the artist and un­der­stand­ing their per­son­al­i­ties and tech­niques,” he continues,“re­ally en­hances my ap­pre­ci­a­tion of their art. Ob­vi­ously, pur­chas­ing from sources

other than the artists, rep­utable gal­leries and auc­tion houses, can be risky and is not rec­om­mended for the faint of heart or in­ex­pe­ri­enced.”

The first piece Sav­age and his wife pur­chased was a small scene of Mar­ble­head Docks by John Ward—“not the fa­mous John Ward” he cau­tions.

“It cost about $150.We went back to the same an­tique store three times be­fore buy­ing it, be­cause we thought it was a queen’s ran­som at the time. Af­ter buy­ing that lovely piece, I be­came ad­dicted to col­lect­ing.”

Dr. Sav­age says,“many new col­lec­tors are in­tim­i­dated by the con­cept of buy­ing fine art.they feel that the pric­ing of art is a mys­te­ri­ous and quixotic process.” He sug­gests “first, ed­u­cate your­self con­cern­ing the artists you en­joy. Sec­ond, take ad­van­tage of the num­ber of online re­sources where col­lec­tors can look up com­pa­ra­ble pric­ing for a par­tic­u­lar piece of art. “Fi­nally, my knowl­edge of value from my ex­ten­sive re­search has made me a good, but fair, ne­go­tia­tor.”

When he first started col­lect­ing, his goal was “to ob­tain a de­cent ex­am­ple from each of the most prom­i­nent artists from Rock­port and Gloucester.” He be­lieves that he has ac­com­plished that goal, ini­tially con­cen­trat­ing on post­hu­mous artists and rarely on the con­tem­po­rary.“but then I re­al­ized there was so much great con­tem­po­rary art out there, why limit my­self? The ex­tra re­ward of meet­ing the con­tem­po­rary artists and vis­it­ing their stu­dios and homes has been an en­rich­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Dr. Sav­age owns six or seven paint­ings by Joseph Mcgurl, whom he con­sid­ers one of Amer­ica’s premier, living land­scape artists. On oc­ca­sion, af­ter “fall­ing out of love with a piece” he will sell some art and put the pro­ceeds to­wards the next piece that catches his eye.“serendip­ity can play an im­por­tant, and fun, role in each collector’s hunt for trea­sure,” he says. One day, while de­liv­er­ing two paint­ings he had con­signed to an auc­tion house in Con­necti­cut, he saw a large Mcgurl hang­ing above their re­cep­tion desk.the paint­ing was be­ing promi­nently fea­tured in their up­com­ing auc­tion, the same sale where Dr. Sav­age’s paint­ings were sched­uled for auc­tion. He was ec­static when the bid­ding “stalled out quite un­ex­pect­edly so I could pur­chase it.” He also col­lects an­ti­quar­ian and chil­dren’s books. His chil­dren’s col­lec­tion includes first or early edi­tions of Win­nie the Pooh, the Wizard of Oz se­ries and J.M. Bar­rie. His other col­lec­tions in­clude 18th- and 19th­cen­tury med­i­cal books, art books, as well as first edi­tions by Amer­i­can writ­ers such as Hem­ing­way and Fitzger­ald.

Dr. Sav­age has in­au­gu­rated a group on Face­book,“the Welles­ley Col­lec­tion – Art Re­view,” which be­gan ini­tially as a guided tour of his col­lec­tion but rapidly ex­panded to

in­clude “any items of aes­thetic in­ter­est to me, my artist friends and oth­ers that ap­pre­ci­ate the beauty in life. I have a lot of fun with it”

He says, “I’m branch­ing out as an am­a­teur art his­to­rian.” Since re­tire­ment, in ad­di­tion to “Art

Re­view,” he has lec­tured on fine art, acted as an in­for­mal con­sul­tant to the Mas­sachusetts Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety and has written 75 to100 mini-bi­ogra­phies pub­lished on

“I’ve re­cently been study­ing the artists of the Bos­ton School such as Frank Ben­son and Ed­mund Tar­bell. How­ever, I’m more in­ter­ested in con­cen­trat­ing on the women artists at this time.they were the sub­ject of an im­por­tant exhibition at the Mu­seum of Fine Arts in Bos­ton in 2001, A Stu­dio of Her Own:women Artists in Bos­ton 1870-1940.”

“I have two ar­ti­cles that will be pub­lished later this year.the first

con­cerns the artist Gertrude Fiske (1879-1961) whose works are be­ing fea­tured in a sig­nif­i­cant ret­ro­spec­tive at the Portsmouth His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety in New Hamp­shire now through Septem­ber. The other is about Mary Brew­ster Hazel­ton (1868-1953) whose archives, as well as many of her paint­ings, are here at the Welles­ley His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety. Both women were ma­jor award win­ning, com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful artists and char­ter mem­bers of the pres­ti­gious Guild of Bos­ton Artists.

“There were many women artists in Bos­ton at the turn of the cen­tury, who were wel­comed as tal­ented stu­dents by well-known teach­ers at the better art schools,” he continues. “How­ever, for the most part, women of that era were ex­pected to forego ca­reers, get mar­ried and have chil­dren.their pas­sion for art was con­sid­ered by many in the male-dom­i­nated es­tab­lish­ment to a mere do­mes­tic hobby sim­i­lar to cook­ing, knit­ting and gar­den­ing.there­fore, much of the work of even the most skilled women artists of the time was min­i­mized and, sadly, with the pas­sage of time, largely for­got­ten. I take great pride in re-dis­cov­er­ing peo­ple like Ms. Hazel­ton and Ms. Fiske, help­ing to pull them out of the dust­bin of his­tory and help to get them the recog­ni­tion their work de­serves.”

Dr. Sav­age is ap­proach­ing his “sec­ond act” with the same in­ten­sity he gave to re­con­struc­tive and mi­cro­surgery, even keep­ing his hands ac­tive with mi­nor con­ser­va­tion and clean­ing of paint­ings and frames.

When he is deep into his re­search ei­ther in his ex­ten­sive li­brary or online, he is not eas­ily dis­tracted. His wife kid­dingly says,“best leave him alone, Bob’s in one of his art co­mas.”

Next to the win­dow is an oil, Gloucester Har­bor, by Wil­liam S. Robin­son (1861-1945). Above the Chip­pen­dale chairs is Ver­mont Win­ter Vil­lage, Blue Noc­turne, 2013, by Sta­ple­ton Kearns.

Rest­ing on the book­case is an oil, On Deck, by Ed­ward Henry Pot­thast (1857-1927). Above it is an oil, Mon­hegan Is­land Cliffs, by Charles Henry Ebert (1873-1959).

A pastel, New York Deco Sky­scrapers, by Leon Do­lice (1892-1960) hangs above a dresser on which is an Art Deco bust by an unknown artist.

The large paint­ing in the din­ing room us an oil, Boats at Rest, by Carl Peters (1897-1980). The paint­ing to the left of the cabi­net is Gloucester Har­bor, an oil by Joseph Eliot En­nek­ing (1881-1942), son of John Joseph En­nek­ing. In the cabi­net is an...

On the left is an oil, Young­sters on the Beach, Katwyk Aan Zee Hol­land, by Charles P. Gruppé (1860-1940), a paint­ing of his sons Emile Gruppé and Karl Gruppé. On the shelf on the up­per right is an oil, Net Men­ders, by Harry Vin­cent (1864-1931). On the...

In the ad­join­ing room is an oil, Gloucester Har­bor by Emile Gruppé (1896-1978). In the mid­dle is an oil, Day at the Beach by Fred­er­ick Mul­haupt (1871-1938). On the right is Still Life with Ap­ple & Pears, an oil by Mary Walker.

On the left is an oil, Hunt­ing Dog, by Frank Hoff­man (1888-1958). On the right is an oil, Ver­mont Win­ter, by Al­dro Hib­bard (1886-1972).


Left: Above the sofa is an oil, Gloucester Har­bor by Emile Gruppé (1896-1978). To the right of the win­dow is Ver­mont Snow Cov­ered Bridge by Al­dro Hib­bard (1886-1972). Above the ta­ble is Gruppé’s oil Fall Birches. Right: On the left is Mo­tif #1,...

Robert C. Sav­age, M.D., in his living room. Through the door­way are, left to right, Mar­ble­head Docks by John Ward, the first paint­ing the cou­ple pur­chased, and Rock­port Mys­tery by Ge­orge Re­nouard (1884-1954).

Above the bed is an oil, Mas­sachusetts State House, Bos­ton Com­mon, by Charles H. Wood­bury (1864-1940). Above the Wind­sor rock­ing chair is an oil, Lob­ster Shacks, by Harry Vin­cent (1864-1931).

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