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The Marlboro VT Church Paintings

In 1930 Robert Strong Woodward was commissioned by Mr. Francis P. Garvan to paint a series of old New England churches which he intended to donate to the Yale Museum of Fine arts. RSW chose as his first painting to be of the rare old church in Marlboro, VT which was built in revolutionary times. This was a large 40 x 50 painting which he named Enduring New England which was intended to hang in the museum.

From his painting diary:
"Painted around 1930 or 31. Painted at Marlboro, VT of the rare old church there, built in revolutionary times. Made this 40 x 50 at the spot in the car. Exhibited very generally about the country. One of the very few of the church canvases gotten down to Macbeth's in time for Mr. Francis P. Garvan to see before his sudden and untimely death. He bought it and presented it to the Yale Museum in New Haven, CT where it hangs in their permanent collection--- the only one of many of mine which were to hang there--- had not Mr. Garvan died. A year after I painted this, the old church burned and my painting of it seen at the Grand Central Art Galleries, was used partly as pattern to build a new but smaller replica in Marlboro."

 Marlboro Church as it appears today
Marlboro Church as it appears today
Comments on the back of a sepia print:
"Learning that you are connected in some way with Brattleboro, I send this photograph of my painting Enduring New England which was made in Marlboro, Vermont, a place you unquestionably know in your journeys to and from Halifax. I made the painting of the rare old church 4 or 5 summers ago, the season before it was burnt to the ground. This canvas hung at the Grand Central Art Galleries, #15 Vanderbilt Avenue, N. Y. at the time the church was burned. Strangely, the man who had been chosen to design the new church in duplicate, saw the painting there, was very much interested and used my painting partially as model for the new structure. It occurs to me, that if in remodeling your Halifax house, you are possibly hoping to duplicate the old red ell, my painting might be of slight assistance to you. I imagine that sills and beams are quite too far gone to save as they are. Of course the ell still stands and of course my painting was made in its state of graceful dilapidation, so this canvas may not be of any practical use to you at all. But if it should happen that it might be of use to your architect, and I still have it in my possession at the time, you are very welcome to use it. I would feel honored if for any way I could contribute to the remodeling or restitution of the dear old Halifax house "
Signed: Robert Strong Woodward

(The above was written on the back of a sepia print of a photograph of this painting and then subsequently scratched out by RSW with a heavy pencil.)

After painting the large 40 x 50 painting of Enduring New England, probably in 1930 or 1931, RSW made a smaller 27 x 30 almost identical painting in the studio from the larger one, but with several "finishing-off" trips to the site which he named Marlboro Church

From his diary notes about the painting Marlboro Church:
"Painted in 1930-1931. A smaller canvas like Enduring New England painted from Marlboro church and the big canvas, and bought by Bradley Polytechnic Institute, Peoria, Illinois, and hung in the school."

Following this, in 1940 RSW made a third painting in the studio, a 20 x 40 version, of this subject which was a composite of the Marlboro Church in the center, the tree overhang in the painting of the Mary Lyon Church called Heart of New England on the left, and the tree overhang over the Halifax House painting named Grace Of Years on the right. He titled this painting simply New England.

Heart of New England (left),                  Marlboro Church (center),                   The Grace Of Years (right)
New England

From his diary notes about the painting New England:
"Painted in winter of 1940. A composite picture I made up in the studio of a typical New England village street, from Buckland church canvas, church and house of Marlboro church canvas, overhanging branches of Halifax elm. Made for Grand Central Art Gallery patron and sent down there but they didn't buy it. Exhibited at Easthampton and Northfield and then sent in June, 1941, down to Rockmarge, Prides Crossing among many others for Mrs. Moore's inspection. She chose New England and it hangs in her beautiful house, Rockmarge, at Prides Crossing."

Heart of New England was recently found in Maine. Enduring New England we know to still be at Yale University and Marlboro Church at Bradley University. The whereabouts of New England is unknown.

Note: it was very unusual for RSW to "make up" composite paintings in the studio. I know of only three: the one above and The Village Street, and a painting which he copied from a photograph in a book named New England Impression. Please see separate essay on composite paintings