On View ~ Newark Stories: Four Newarkers Who Made a Difference
As part of the City of Newark’s year-long celebration of the 350th anniversary of its founding, the Newark Museum, one of the oldest cultural anchors in the city, showcases four Newarkers who were key benefactors of this institution in a special exhibition. Each of these individuals brought to the Museum different interests and perspectives; and their collections—as well as their ideas—helped shape the Museum in the first half of the 20th century.
Lida Clanton Broner was an African-American resident of Newark, who traveled to South Africa in 1938 with savings from a lifetime of work as a hair stylist and housekeeper. The trip was motivated by not only a sense of ancestral heritage but also by Broner’s involvement in the Council on African Affairs, an important anti colonialist organization based in New York City and led by Paul Robeson and W. E. B. Du Bois. During her nine months of travel, she circulated among South Africa’s black intellectual elite and lectured at schools and universities. She also assembled a collection of more than 100 works of pottery, beadwork, mission school crafts and other personal items, carefully noting where she acquired each object and who the makers were. In 1943 the Museum displayed her collection in what was possibly the first exhibition of South African art in an American museum. Broner subsequently donated much of her collection to the Newark Museum, a gift that has been augmented by her diary, photo albums and other mementos recently bequeathed by her grandsons.
Lida Clanton Broner’s story is remarkable and in many ways unprecedented, providing a unique window into black South Africa in the years leading up to apartheid and its connections to African- American political and social concerns of the time.
Caroline Bamberger Fuld was the sister of Louis Bamberger, and a co-founder of Newark’s L. Bamberger & Company, one of America’s most famous department stores. She was also the wife of Louis Meyer Frank, and later Felix Fuld, both partners in the hugely successful store. Mrs. Fuld served on the Newark Museum’s Board of Trustees from 1929 until her death in 1944. She was an important supporter of Jewish charities as well as a fervent patron of the Museum, her numerous gifts supporting the young institution’s desire to acquire the work of living American artists with numerous gifts. In 1924, anticipating the completion of the Museum’s new building (funded by her brother), Fuld donated $10,000 for the purchase of works by living American artists. After her husband’s death in 1929, She established a memorial endowment that has funded the acquisition of hundreds of works.
Caroline Bamberger Fuld’s support of the Museum’s modern art acquisitions followed the Museum’s founding commitment to the “art of today,” supporting living American artists at a time when most museums in the United States were focused on acquiring European Old Master paintings.
A dynamic Yale-educated attorney, Howard W. Hayes was a celebrated litigator, Newark judge and New Jersey Assistant District Attorney in the late 19th century. But it was as a patent lawyer that he attained an international reputation, becoming the personal counsel for Thomas Alva Edison’s massive manufacturing enterprises. Maintaining offices in
both New York and London, Hayes built an international reputation as a patent lawyer and was celebrated for his ability to navigate the complex legal issues surrounding technology patents during the industrial expansion of the Gilded Age. Hayes was a passionate art collector and had a particular love of Asian works in porcelain and bronze. For a collector like Hayes, Chinese porcelains and bronzes were as much works of art as paintings and sculptures. By the time of his untimely death at the age of 45 in 1903, Hayes had amassed a fine collection, which was given to the City of Newark. Because Hayes died before the Newark Museum was founded, his collection was for many years on deposit at the New Jersey Historical Society in Newark. By the 1940s it was clear that the collection didn’t fit the society’s mission, and the city, in collaboration with Hayes’ widow, Mary Vanderpoel Hayes Pennington, ultimately decided that the collection should be transferred to the Newark Museum, where it became a gift in 1949.
The gift of the Howard W. Hayes Collection amplified the important holdings of Asian art that began with the Museum’s founding in 1909, adding individual masterworks as fine as any in the country.
W. Clark Symington was a Newark industrialist and a longtime trustee of the Newark Museum during the 1940s and 1950s. A graduate of Yale, with business interests in New England as well as in Newark, Symington traveled extensively and collected objects specifically for the Newark Museum’s growing decorative arts collection. One of his passions was English silver. Unlike other American collectors of his generation, Symington was not interested in noble provenance. Influenced by the Newark Museum’s focus on art in the design and production of everyday objects, Symington paid particular attention to the way silver objects were made, how they expressed the artistic skill of their makers and how they were used in a domestic setting.
Symington’s gifts were displayed in the Museum’s 1953 exhibition An Introduction to Silver, which was organized by Decorative Arts Curator Margaret White as the first in a series of projects known as “dictionary exhibitions.” They were intended to explain the design, making and use of a wide array of household objects for the general public. After his death, Symington’s widow created an acquisition fund in her husband’s memory, which has made possible the purchase of many important additions to the collection over the past 50 years.
As the City of Newark celebrates this important historic milestone, all Newarkers—indeed all New Jerseyans—can be proud of the Museum’s vast collections showcasing artistic endeavors from every part of the globe. Thanks to people like these four Newarkers, the Museum now has one of the largest art collections among American’s museums and is internationally known for the treasures in its care. Every one of us continues to benefit from the generosity of hundreds of individuals over the course of the Museum’s 107-year history.
This article originally appeared in Dana magazine, an exclusive benefit for Museum members. For additional information or to become a member, visit newarkmuseum.org.