Drawings by local YWCA founder Agnes Hamilton will be the focus of an art auction June 20 at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art (FWMoA). The fundraiser for the YWCA begins with a reception at 5:30 p.m. with the auction slated to begin at 7 p.m.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to honor one of our founders while learning more about today’s YWCA,” said Debby Beckman, CEO. “We’ll have board members, volunteers and staff on hand to answer questions while we enjoy the exhibition and auction of the Hamilton drawings.”
The Hamilton family is among Fort Wayne’s most famous residents. Agnes’ father was a two-term member of the House of Representatives, her grandfather helped to establish the First Presbyterian Church and many have studied cousin Edith’s “Mythology”.
Agnes, who also was the first president of the YWCA as well as the Fort Wayne School of Art, spent 30 years of her life in Philadelphia, dedicating her time and energies to social activism. She had moved to Philadelphia to attend art school but found instead her life’s work in the Lighthouse settlement. She was greatly influenced by social reformer and founder of Hull House Jane Addams, whom she had met a few months earlier in Chicago.
Throughout all of this, Agnes maintained her lifelong interest in art by preserving memories of her travels via her drawings.
In 1995, local businessman Hugh Baldus happened upon a classified ad for drawings by Agnes’ cousin, Alice, who was the first female faculty member at Harvard and a noted toxicologist. The collection was being offered by a Hamilton cousin living in Connecticut and Baldus saw the opportunity to bring the drawings back to Fort Wayne. In the process of purchasing and shipping the drawings, it was discovered that Agnes was actually the artist. Baldus eventually donated the collection to several Fort Wayne groups, among them the YWCA.
Charles Shepard, FWMoA executive director, saw the drawings last fall after the YWCA’s move to its new location on Spy Run and offered the idea of an art auction to benefit the YWCA. Shepard believes: “These drawings are not only important locally, they are also part of American art history. Agnes Hamilton’s work has undeniable strength and appeal that reminds me of William Merritt Chase or Harriet Randall Lumis.”
In a 1996 article about Artlink’s sale of another group of Agnes’ drawings, Betty Fishman, then Artlink’s executive director, described her work as “obviously an impressionist look.” Hamilton was influenced by the impressionists and created watercolors and line drawings of European gardens and villages, as well as the American southwest. Most of the drawings available for this auction will be from the southwestern collection.
In making his donation a decade ago, Baldus saw that it was “important to share this collection with the public…These are some very affordable pieces of Fort Wayne history that someone can own.”
Admission to the art auction and reception is $20 for museum and YWCA members and $25 for non-members, payable at the door. FWMoA requests that persons attending RSVP to Brian Wagner, Director of Special Events, at 260.422.6467, X341 or firstname.lastname@example.org by Tuesday, June 17. Refreshments and a cash bar will be available during viewing time prior to the auction.
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