< STEPHEN SCORE ANTIQUES | Boston MA | Antiques | American folk art

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In 1978 - seems like a lifetime ago, Eleanor and I opened our first full-time antiques shop in Essex, Massachusetts, in what was once the Old South Essex Post Office. In good mercantile fashion, we lived up over the shop. Our hours were very flexible - seeing people late at night and early in the morning. Essex was a small town with a reputation for fine antiques and fried clams. There were a number of old- time shops in Essex and collectors came from far and wide to see what they could find. In those days, antiques often came directly out of the big houses in Manchester and Beverly Farms, Ipswich and Salem, right from the families in which they descended. Some antiques dealers had been doing business with the same families for so long, they were like old family retainers. There were auctions, but no phone bids or live bidding via the internet or cell phones. Great objects used to come out of the woodwork with an astonishing frequency.

We got to see and handle a lot of amazing pieces. Our summer neighbors in town were Bert and Nina Little, the legendary scholars and collectors of American Folk Art whose Essex farm, Cogswell's Grant, was later bequeathed, with all its treasures, to the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, now Historic New England. During the summer, Eleanor and I used to go for drinks and dinner. Bert Little made wry comments and lethal Old Fashions. Nina's bright blue eyes always twinkled while recounting some recent discovery or sharing some new-found addition to their extraordinary collection. The food served came right from the farm, in season; there was no air conditioning. The sense of history and simple, natural serenity were pervasive in that pumpkin colored farmhouse on the banks of the Essex River. It was easy to squint and feel as if you had tip-toed back to the late eighteenth century. I recollect these memories now, like prized possessions. Of course, Essex wasn't really the beginning. For many years before that, I had been a private dealer from our home on Marlborough Street in Boston's Back Bay.

Then, as now, scattered through those rooms were great pieces of American Folk Art: painted furniture, weathervanes, primitive paintings, hooked rugs. And lovely American Impressionist pantings. Long before I had ever bought a primitive painting, I had become friends with a
remarkable, old-world Boston art dealer, Giovanni Castano, whose atelier on Newbury Street attracted great collectors, museum curators and dealers. John was an expert in Italian Quattrocento art and American paintings - he'd tell you about the artist, the date of the painting and who had owned it. He'd regale you with stories about the sitters of famous portraits and, above all, as a professional artist, he'd tell you how the artist had painted it. Sometimes, he'd look at the work intently and then turn to you and say: "He pulled a rabbit out of the hat when he painted that!" If he found a Corot in a house on Commonwealth Avenue, he'd bring it to his friend George Wildenstein or a great Copley on the North Shore, to Norman Hirschl.

With John's astute, artistic guardianship, I bought my first Winslow Homer watercolor, a small but delightful Martin Johnson Heade, a superb, summery Twachtman of Gloucester and a bravura painting of the Boston Common and State House in winter by Frank Duveneck, signed to a friend "Xmas 1887". To this day, I brake for beautiful academic paintings and when I find them and can buy them, they turn up here amidst weathervanes and painted/decorated boxes and hooked rugs in my gallery.

To this interesting mix of Folk Art and American Academic paintings, I have added an occasional piece of Continental furniture, especially in old paint or surface. And we schedule contemporary art shows when I'm lucky enough to find artists whose work intrigues me and seems appropriate for the gallery. So, Stephen Score, inc. has evolved into a resource for fine art objects in several disciplines; although, the main category has been, and continues to be, American Folk Art.

For the past sixteen years, our gallery has been located on Boston's historic Beacon Hill, the old section of the city, surrounded by 18th and 19th century buildings, brick sidewalks, hidden gardens and gas street lamps. Our building was once occupied by old man Israel Sack, who installed many of the period architectural details to be seen in our gallery, taken from one of the Hooper mansions in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Once again, we live over our shop and are often available to see people early and late. Come and visit.


-Stephen Score