Top: Exterior view of Vernon Court; (above) Frontier Trapper by N.C.
Wyeth, 1920; (right) interior showing marble staircase.

Laurence Cutler C’62 hangs up the phone, a bit disappointed, and returns to his chair in the sconce-lit library, surrounded by N.C. Wyeth’s depiction of Daniel Boone, an illustration from Treasure Island by Norman Price, and several paintings infused with the deep, dreamlike blue of Maxfield Parrish.

He has just gotten word that tonight’s meeting of the Newport, Rhode Island, zoning board should be an uneventful one. He had expected a fight. This time, over a property sign.

It took a year and a half, after all, for the retired architect and his wife, art collector Judy Goffman Cutler CW’63 GEd’64, to get permits to convert Vernon Court, a Gilded Age mansion they bought and restored, into a museum displaying her immense collection of American imagist art.

Although, as Laurence explains, the National Museum of American Illustration (NMAI) had support from most of the community, a handful of neighbors along Bellevue Avenue hired attorneys to block the project. Then the couple got under the bark of the local tree committee with their plans to build a small park on an adjacent lot—even though they promised not to disturb a single twig.

But, for all the headaches, the opposition produced plenty of ink for the fledgling museum. The free press has been “absolutely terrific for Vernon Court,” Laurence says. “Everybody wants to come here.”

Here is also where the Cutlers happen to live: a 52-room house now filled with works of art created during the golden age of American illustration, which they define as 1870 to 1965. Vernon Court has been open to the general public, by reservation only, for guided tours since last July. This summer, the Cutlers plan to open it on weekends for self-guided visits. And a grand-opening party will be held in August or September.

The museum (www.americanillustration.org), which displays in rotation a portion of Judy’s 2,000-painting collection at a time, boasts the world’s largest holdings of works by Maxfield Parrish and J.C. Leyendecker, and the second largest collection of Norman Rockwells, to name just a few of the artists represented. More than three decades ago, when Judy began acquiring the original works that were reproduced for magazines like Town and Country and Saturday Evening Post, they were hardly considered art. Today such works are recognized as valuable markers of this country’s cultural history—and aesthetically pleasing in their own right—selling for thousands, and in some cases, millions, of dollars.

“I am overwhelmed at what you have created, both the collection and also the restoration of Vernon Court,” wrote Richard Guy Wilson, host of A& E Network’s America’s Castles, after visiting the museum. “Your collection takes my breath away.”



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Copyright 2002 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 7/01/02


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From top: Griselda by Maxfield Parrish, 1910; Threesome Hiding in Alleyway by Meade Schaeffer; below: Kindred of the Dust by Dean Cornwell, 1920.