2007-11-01 / Front Page

Restored painting by local artist unveiled at Town Hall open house

By Michaela Kennedy

Town clerk, Arlene Petit unveils the restored J.A.S. Monks painting in the new council chambers. Photo by Michaela Kennedy Town clerk, Arlene Petit unveils the restored J.A.S. Monks painting in the new council chambers. Photo by Michaela Kennedy Islanders who showed up for pastries and punch at the town hall open house Monday evening witnessed the rededication of a painting that was donated to the town years ago.

Local relatives of late nineteenth century American artist John Austin Sands Monks were on hand Oct. 29 to see the classic landscape picture assume a prominent place in the new council chambers on Narragansett Avenue.

After being given a chance to roam the new building from top floor to basement, 25 or so residents congregated in the council chambers to view the spruced up painting that has become a historic accent in the annals of the town.

The bucolic depiction of grazing sheep was given to the town by the Hutchinson family in the 1970s, more than half a century after the renowned artist's death in 1917. "It hung in here for years," David Laurie, great-grandson of Monks, said. Laurie helped town clerk Arlene Petit unveil the picture.

J.A.S. Monks, a painter and etcher, devoted most of his art to animal depictions, especially sheep. He studied as an apprentice under George Inness, a well-respected American landscape painter of the day. From Medfield, Mass., Monks had a summer residence and studio on the north end of the island, and continued to return to Jamestown all his life. His paintings were exhibited at galleries in New York and Boston during his life.

Laurie remembered that he, as well as other relatives, would periodically visit the painting that hung in the old town hall building. They lamented at its steady deterioration, and tried to encourage the town to take better care of the picture. Petit recognized the municipal treasure and took action. "Arlene took it to Newport for restoration," Laurie said.

Laurie noted that members of his family, in particular his grandfather, Richard Hutchinson, his mother, Thayer Hutchinson Laurie, and his brother Duncan Laurie, carry on the connection to Jamestown that Monks started in the late 1880s. "He was the first relative to come to Jamestown," Laurie added about his ancestor.

Last month, a curator from the Newport Art Museum caught a glance of the painting during its restoration. The curator asked the town to loan the art piece to the museum for an upcoming exhibition, "Barbizon to Impressionism: Rhode Island Painters of the Late Nineteenth Century." The request sparked a communication with Monks' relatives, and now the exhibit will show four masterpieces from Monks' work. "I have two (paintings) and my brother Duncan has two in the show," Laurie noted. The show is slated to open this week at the Newport Art Museum.

Petit recognized the relatives of J.A.S. Monk, and the valuable contribution the family made to the town. "The painting is being returned to its place of honor in the renovated part of the old town hall building, and again, placed behind the honorable town council."

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