A descendant of American painter Juian Alden Weir recently helped Weir Farm commemorate its 25th anniversary as a national historic site by donating two pieces of art to the National Park Service. This follows a major renovation last year that resulted in the site welcoming more visitors.
Charlie Burlingham, grandson of the American Impressionist painter, and president of the Weir Farm Art Center, donated his grandfather’s works last Thursday, May 28. The oil-on-canvas paintings are Landscape with Steeple, Windham (c. 1892) and The Truants, also known as The Old Rock (c. 1885).
According to park superintendent Linda Cook, the responsibility of the Weir Fart Art Center is to collect pieces of art and give them to the National Park Service so they can be well preserved.
The first painting will be hung in the Weir House dining room until October and The Truants will be placed with the rest of the museum collection not yet on display. It will eventually, though, be displayed in the Weir House.
“It has been a great pleasure to have owned this work for the past few months,” said Burlingham. “But the time has come to surrender it to the National Park Service.”
In addition to those two pieces, the center donated a number of smaller historical pieces — by Robert Walter Weir, Mahonri Young and Weir himself — and contemporary paintings from past artists-in-residence. These may be viewed in the Weir House visitor center as a part of the exhibition “Artists on Site.”
Charlie Janson, an art center board member, was also in attendance at the donation last week.
“Where else can you get such a sense of history?” he asked. “This wouldn’t exist without a lot of many people’s hard work and dedication over the past quarter-century.”
Burlingham never had the opportunity to meet his grandfather, for he died 10 years before Burlingham’s birth. Even still, he has made a point to learn about him through ancestral studies.
“People loved him. They couldn’t wait to sit down with him and talk to him,” Burlingham said. “He supported his fellow artists.”
In fact, Burlingham has managed to trace his genealogy to as far back as the birth of the colonies in North America.
“I have an embarrassing number of relatives who were on the Mayflower,” he said. “I just don’t like to brag about them because they were horrible. They maltreated the native Americans and stole their land.”
He currently lives in Cambridge, Mass., but Burlingham maintains his connection to Wilton through frequent visits to the art center. He often enjoys coming to continue his work on the historical archives.
“This is a continuation of the spirit of this place, which is creativity,” he said. “We encourage people to come sit in the field and paint. The National Park Service even provides paint and brushes.”
While he is no self-proclaimed artist, Burlingham admitted that he does paint on a casual basis. His hope in donating these two pieces, he said, is that “people might come to understand the nature of landscape art.”
“This place, more than any other, is where the pieces of Weir and his contemporaries belong.”