Onondaga Historical Association is home to hundreds of works of art, something not usually associated with a history museum’s collection. From oil portraits of Abraham Lincoln (by George Knapp) to watercolors of Columbus Circle (Betty Munro), OHA has a little bit of everything. But, what is often left out are the stories behind a piece of art – Who was the artist? How did it get to OHA?
In a new segment we’re calling “Artwork Wednesday,” OHA will dive into its collection of art, featuring a new piece each week and telling its story.
This week’s pick is available to view any time OHA is open, but may be overlooked.
The Painting: This oil painting, created in 1930, hung for many years in the Children’s Room at the downtown Syracuse Public Library. The building was funded by steel baron Andrew Carnegie at the turn of the 20th century, secured after a personal appeal from Syracuse mayor James K. McGuire.
The Artist: Margaret Huntington Watkeys Boehner (1894-1973), born in Oneonta, NY, was a resident of Syracuse for fifty years. A year after graduating from Syracuse University’s School of Art in 1920, she became a professor of art at S.U.’s where she taught for forty years. She eventually received an Honorary Doctorate from Hartwick College (Doctor of Humane Letters). Boehner was known for her fine drawing and keen sense of design, making sketching trips in Europe and around the United States. One such trip in 1952 covered 12,000 of the American South and Southwest, producing 100 watercolors and 20 drawings. In 1965, the Everson Museum of Art displayed many of her watercolor pieces produced during a trip to the Massachusetts coast in her “Cape Ann Exhibit.”
Today, some of Boehner’s paintings can be seen at the White Branch Library. The fairy tales remain on permanent display in the Children’s Room. OHA’s painting is on permanent display behind our front desk
How it got to OHA: At the time the painting was donated (1988), OHA was split into two buildings: 311 Montgomery Street and 321 Montgomery Street. It took four people to carry it up the side stairwell of the building at 321. The nearly 13 foot by 5 foot painting wouldn’t fit in the building’s elevator.