When I think of historical objects, I tend to think literally and picture everyday objects, like utensils, tools, and written documents. Within this mindset, I place art into its own category as I view art as more than just an object. This separation stems from the fact that I have grown up loving and appreciating art, but also due to how the term “art” is given a particular significance. Labeling something as a work of art often implies greater value, more depth, and asks for wonder and awe. However, it is through viewing pieces of art as both objects and works of art that a complete understanding can be made. For this project, I chose to research a pair of pastel portraits from the Huguenot Street Collection, to understand how they were significant both as objects and as works of art. These portraits are of Jane Van Winkle Elting Hasbrouck and Augustus Hasbrouck, created by the artist Micah Williams.
The pastel portraits are of standard size for artist Micah Williams, 32 inches in height and 28 inches in width. They are done on a “stretched paper” framed together and reinforced with newspaper clippings on the back of the pastel paper (Choi & Makin 131). This was done so that Williams did not have to travel with as many supplies such as an easel. However, since these panel assemblies were makeshift they are extremely fragile and susceptible to tearing and fracturing (Choi & Makin 131). Within his portraits, Williams paid extreme attention to detail, including all the minor details that the subjects wanted; such as the jewelry, intricate clothing textures like those in collars and sleeves, and hairstyle. Furthermore, this attention to detail extends into the faces of both Jane Van Winkle Elting and Agustus Hasbrouck. They appear here looking rather serious with only small smiles, in their best clothes and jewelry. In order to succeed at such detail, Williams mixed and layered different pigments within each portrait, to individualize the facial features of each subject.
These images depict where the portraits hang now, in the Southeast Bedroom of the Deyo House. They are preserved in gilded frames and depict the couple in their best attire. Jane Van Winkle Elting Hasbrouck is wearing a black dress, and adorned in jewelry. While Augustus Hasbrouck is wearing a white shirt with a ruffled cravat, a waistcoat, and black jacket.
The portraits originally sold in the early 1930’s by descendants of the NJ Hasbrouck family, in Hurley, NY. The portraits later became a part of the Historic Huguenot collection through Fred Johnston of Kingston in 1979. Fred Johnston was an antiques dealer in located in Kingston, who turned his home into both his shop and a museum (Kirby). The Fred Johnston House was built in 1812 by John Sudam, a prominent local attorney, state senator and member of the state Board of Regents (Kirby). Fred Johnston applied for a loan and bought the house to save it from being turned into a gas station, and devoted his life to restoring and preserving the local history of the area (Friends of Historic Kingston & Kirby). Prior to his purchase of the house, it was owned by the Ven Leuven family and their descendants (Friends of Historic Kingston & Kirby).The significance of these portraits goes far beyond what I imagined. Not only do these portraits tell the story of Jane Van Winkle Elting Hasbrouck and Augustus Hasbrouck and their life connected to Huguenot Street, but also of antique’s dealer Fred Johnston of Kingston, and of the artist Micah Williams of New Jersey.
Jane Van Winkle Elting Hasbrouck was a daughter of Reverend Wilhelmus Elting and Jane Houseman, who married Augustus Hasbrouck of the Shawangunks region. According to Hasbrouck, she inherited 100 acres of land in her father’s will, near the Passaic River (112). Furthermore, she created the designs for the Octagon House in New Jersey, that she and her husband lived in (Brown et. al 126). An Elting family descendant, she is an example of how her family flourished despite not being original settlers to Huguenot settlements. Furthermore, it is noted that the Elting family line was known for bring church-goers, moral, thrifty, hospitable, and blunt (Lefevre 498). Jane Van Winkle Elting Hasbrouck, was the mother to sixteen children from her marriage to August Hasbrouck, and raised them all in New Jersey farmland (Hasbrouck 113).
Augustus Hasbrouck is the son of Joseph Issac Hasbrouck and Cornelia Hasbrouck. Father to the sixteen children he shared with Jane, he was a well respected farmer from Goshen, New York (Hasbrouck 113). According to the full obituary found in the Hasbrouck family history, he died of a bladder disease on September 9, 1809 in the Hasbrouck family home (Hasbrouck 113). For the majority of his adult life, he lived with Jane and their family in the farmlands of New Jersey, until shortly before his death when they moved to New York (Hasbrouck 113). According to Hasbrouck, “the deceased was a quiet, upright citizen, who probably had not an enemy in the world” (113). Augustus and Jane therefore, had some status as they were able to have these portraits commissioned from Williams.
Through Fred Johnston, these portraits were able to remain a part of the Hudson Valley’s history and eventually return to Huguenot Street. His work as an antique dealer not only preserved history in Kingston, but also allowed for history to be preserved in New Paltz, and spread knowledge between these communities. Furthermore, his role in these portraits story allows the narrative to become larger than just Jane Van Winkle Elting Hasbrouck and Augustus Hasbrouck, by including the greater communities story.
These paintings also add another level of community history due to their creator and original artist. Micah Williams was a self-trained artist, who had previously had a career as a silver plate craftsmen (La Gorce). Known as a folk artist, he traveled from home to home across New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania to complete each portrait (La Gorce). Williams and his wife had seven children together and raised them in New Jersey and some of them later in New York (Rogoff 16). Portraits by Williams would have cost somewhere between five and ten dollars at the times of their creation in the mid eighteen hundred, now cost around sixty-thousand dollars for collectors (La Gorce). Williams knew that pursuing an art career would not ease financial burdens, and was often in debt, at one point even in debtors prison (Rogoff 12). However, he did not let financial burden stop him from pursuing his art career, and his works are now desired by folk art collectors. Williams work reflects the history of the time, as portraits were the method through families were documented. Furthermore, his work demonstrates the significance of the area and of Jane Van Winkle Elting Hasbrouck and Augustus Hasbrouck. These portraits represent both historical objects and incredible works of art that tell the story of the individuals within the frame, but also of those around it.
Brown, T. Robins., et al. The Architecture of Bergen County, New Jersey: the Colonial Period to the Twentieth Century. Rutgers University Press, 2001.
Choi, Soyeon, and Jessica, Makin. “Treatment and Housing Techniques for Pastel Paintings on Paper: Case Studies.” Book and Paper Group Session, AIC’s 41st Annual Meeting. Book and Paper Group Session, AIC’s 41st Annual Meeting, Indianapolis. http://cool.conservation-us.org/coolaic/sg/bpg/annual/v32/bp32-06.pdf
“The Fred J. Johnston House.” Friends of Historic Kingston, 19 Feb. 2018, www.fohk.org/welcome/our-properties/the-fred-j-johnston-house/.
Gorce, Tammy La. “Mysteries of an Unusual Traveling Salesman.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 Oct. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2013/07/28/nyregion/mysteries-of-an-unusual-traveling-salesman.html.
Hasbrouck, Kenneth E. The Hasbrouck Family in America. I & II, Huguenot Historical Society of New Paltz, New York, 1987.
Kirby, Paul.“Museum Celebrates Fred Johnston Home’s 200th Birthday in Uptown Kingston.” Daily Freeman, The Daily Freeman, 9 Apr. 2012, www.dailyfreeman.com/news/museum-celebrates-fred-johnston-home-s-th-birthday-in-uptown/article_eaf2023e-2e8e-542e-960f-774fb3a0bfe8.html.
Le Fevre, Ralph. “History of New Paltz, New York, and Its Old Families (from 1678 to 1820).” Google Books, books.google.com/books?id=J3MzN2gTQfgC&pg=PA497&lpg=PA497&dq=Jane Van Winkle Elting Hasbrouck and Augustus Hasbrouck&source=bl&ots=ps2CZC2JbP&sig=ACfU3U0_bI7gTuasMKvPvYmnsMihlFEDWg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwixtLCA2-bhAhVrk-AKHS9wAgU4ChDoATAAegQICBAB#v=onepage&q=Augustus Hasbrouck&f=false.
Rogoff, Bernadette M. Micah Williams, Portrait Artist. Monmouth County Historical Association, 2013. http://media.icompendium.com/karenbri_MW-All.pdf