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Tales from Golden Heart, Part One: Sketches from a Bolton Landing Artists’ Colony of the 1930s

By Anthony F. Hall

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Once there was an artists’ colony in Bolton Landing, on the slope of Federal Hill overlooking Lake George.

The drawings of the colony that appear on this page  were made by one of the students, whose  identity is unknown.

The property has been subdivided and the house altered radically, but both are  still recognizable from the drawings.

The colony’s instructors, and the property’s owners, were Thomas and Weber Furlong, New York City artists affiliated with the Art Students League. They purchased the house, fields, barns and outbuildings in the 1920s and renamed the old farm “Golden Heart.”

The house was built in the 1860s by  Rufus Randall, a returning veteran of the Civil War. He  cleared and farmed the land and raised his family there before selling the property to another Bolton man, Edson Persons.

The farm was reputed to have “one of the most magnificent views of the lake in the vicinity,” according to a newspaper clipping from 1961. The lake is still visible from the porch, but barely.

The Furlongs moved to the farm in 1921. Although Weber Furlong was an administrator at the Arts Students League rather than a teacher, like her husband, she is generally regarded as the better artist.

Weber Furlong was born in St Louis in 1878. She studied with William Merritt Chase and Max Weber and Furlong himself, whom she called “the best and most important” of her teachers. After the two were married, they moved to a building on Washington Square where John Graham, Alexander Calder, Thomas Hart Benton and Rockwell Kent also rented studios.

Weber Furlong refused to call herself a teacher. Rather, she saw herself as an enabler of other artists, distributing advice and encouragement.

After Thomas Furlong’s death in 1952, Weber Furlong moved to Glens Falls, where she continued to teach and paint until her death in 1962.

James Kettlewell, a curator at The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, organized an exhibition of Furlong’s work at The Hyde in 1966, and he is largely responsible for the belated recognition she received from critics, collectors and museums as a serious, mid-century artist.

“Weber Furlong emerged as an artist only after Thomas Furlong’s death in 1952. And at that time the only art that could make it in America had to be very large and abstract. Nevertheless the art she produced was entirely of her time,” Kettlewell wrote in a catalogue for the exhibition.

Although she painted almost nothing but still-lifes, Furlong’s work was influenced by the abstract expresssionists, said Kettlewell.

“If she finds the place she deserves in the art historical record,” Kettlewell wrote, “she will be classified with the Abstract Expressionists, as was her friend, the greatest sculptor of the American modern movement, David Smith.”

(The Furlongs are credited with introducing David Smith to Bolton Landing, having invited him to stay at the farm in 1929. Shortly thereafter, he bought the farm on Edgecomb Pond Road.)

In 1961, the farm was bought by Michael “Doc” Dreyfuss, an avante-garde, electronic violinist who achieved some popular success in the 1970s as a member of a middle-of-the-road country rock band called McKendree Spring.

Today the house is owned by Ike Wolgin.

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