Etchison honored for devotion to art

January 30, 2011|By DAVE MCMILLION |
  • Jane Etchison, left, and Adelaide Houghton talk Sunday at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts under "Incoming Tide, Maine," painted by Etchison's husband, Bruce. The women were roommates at American University.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — The letter was a testament of Bruce Etchison’s ability to acquire significant works of art for the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts while he was director there from 1950 to 1964.

Included in a current exhibit of major works of art he was able to get for the museum is a facsimile of a letter from famous artist Normal Rockwell.

Etchison had his heart set on landing a Rockwell painting for the museum and on June 7, 1957, he wrote to Kenneth Stuart, art editor at The Saturday Evening Post, about how to get the job done.

Less than a week later, Etchison received a letter from Rockwell offering the museum “The Oculist.”

Rockwell was famous for his portrayal of American life and “The Oculist” was a painting of an eye doctor fitting glasses on a boy.

Rockwell also was known for the humor he conveyed in his works and the boy, clutching a baseball glove, is clearly irritated over the ordeal.

In his letter to Etchison, Rockwell said, “I am very pleased to know that you would like one of my pictures. Your museum sounds just the sort of place where I would like to be represented.”

Although Rockwell said in his letter that he got “kind of fat prices” for his art, he agreed to sell “The Oculist” to Etchison for $1,000.

Rockwell’s letter to Etchison and “The Oculist” hung in the museum Sunday as dozens filed into the museum to pay honor to Etchison during a reception.

Besides the exhibit of major works of art that Etchison was able to get for the museum, also being shown are some of Etchison’s works. Pieces reflecting his love of the outdoors, including images of water and country scenes, are on display at the museum through April 24.

Etchison was well-known for his contributions to the arts culture in Washington County and is credited with acquiring some of the museum’s most significant pieces.

Etchison was involved in art education and he, along with artist friend Clyde Roberts, started an arts-education program that involved televising art classes in Washington County Public Schools, said museum Director Rebecca Massie Lane.

“That was kind of a novel idea then,” Lane said at Sunday’s event.

Roberts was expected to speak at Sunday’s reception but he died a week ago.

“Bruce Etchison was an excellent director of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, and has left a lasting mark on our community and his fellow artists,” Roberts said in prepared comments for a program that was handed out Sunday.

Close to 200 people visited the museum Sunday and museum officials said most were there for the reception. Speakers and guests recalled stories about Etchison, like how he and Roberts once painted a mural for the Tortuga restaurant on Dual Highway.

Craig Etchison, Etchison’s son, wrote in the program for Sunday’s reception that his dad wanted to reach 91 years of age. Etchison died Dec. 19, 2009, the day of his 91st birthday, said his widow, Jane, who was at Sunday’s reception.

“He had a nice long life,” Jane Etchison said.

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