The Historical Society of Woodstock‘s goal of conserving works in need of care in its fine art collection received a boost this month when the Historical Society was awarded a grant of $2,750 to conserve an important floral still life on paper by William Henry Arlt (1868-1952).
The grant, from New York State Council on the Arts and the Greater Hudson Heritage Network’s Conservation Grant Program, will be used to conserve the gouache which dates from 1949.
The conservator will be Sarah Dove of Sarah Dove Conservation. After Flowers has been conserved it will be displayed next year at the Historical Society’s Eames House Museum as part of an exhibition of a large selection of works on paper in the Historical Society’s fine art collection.
Arlt was the subject of the 2022 Historical Society exhibition, “Making Woodstock Home, artist William Arlt” which featured the life and work of this early 20th century Woodstock artist. Arlt’s descendants reside in the village to this day. Lewis William Arlt, the artist’s grandson and vice president of the Historical Society of Woodstock, lives with his wife Juliane in his grandparents’ former home, “Ledgelow,” constructed on the foundation of a chicken shack of Arlt’s own design.
Arlt was a prominent textile designer and teacher of textiles and poster designing. Born in Breslau, Germany, he fled the country at age 12 to escape growing militarism. With his brother and mother he settled in New Jersey and studied commercial art. Soon well known in New York design circles, Arlt established his own offices in the city, and at one time served as President of the American Textile Designers Guild, where he also taught.
The artist was also an instructor at the New York Evening Textile School of Design, the Keramic Society, the New York Textile High School, and Columbia University, and for a number of years operated a design school in Woodstock. Among his local design students was Agnes Baskin (later Mrs. Otto Bierhals), who went on to a career as a painter and printmaker. Well known Woodstock printmaker Clarence Bolton studied with Arlt at his design school in the city.
Arlt first came to Woodstock in 1906, and studied painting under Birge Harrison and John F. Carlson at the Woodstock School of Landscape Painting, operated under the auspices of the Art Students League of New York. After summering in Woodstock for several years, Arlt bought property in the Rock City area immediately outside the village of Woodstock from Levi and Mary Harder, and from 1908-1924 built a group of artists’ cottages on the hillside along Glasco Turnpike.
Arlt became one of Woodstock’s best-known summer residents. A day rarely passed that Arlt didn’t take his daily walk down Rock City Road to the village. Actively interested in village affairs, he seldom missed the opening of an art exhibit, and was a devoted member of the Woodstock Lutheran Church. He often donned Gypsy gear to revel at a Maverick Festival. A few months prior to his 84th birthday, as he prepared to make his annual return to his summer home and studios, he was stricken with illness and passed away in April, 1952.
Arlt was a great lover of flowers, and in his spare time worked in his extensive gardens, and did a considerable number of flora and landscape paintings. Conservation of Flowers will include mechanically removing the construction paper window mat and corrugated backing board, reducing the remaining adhesive layer, mending tears, filling losses, and flattening.
The Greater Hudson Heritage Network and the New York State Council on the Arts this year are awarding $191,886 in conservation treatment grants to 32 organizations located in 16 New York counties in 2022. Conservation Treatment Grants fund professional conservation to stabilize and preserve historical objects and works of art in New York museums, history centers, and cultural organizations. Organizational operating budgets of 2022’s grant recipients ranged from $3,225 to $25 million, GHHN Executive Director Priscilla Brendler said in a written statement.
Painting: Flowers by William H. Arlt, 1949.