Museum has one more painting than it thought

Farm Forum

When a Frank C. Ashford painting was sent to Minneapolis to be restored, the Dacotah Prairie Museum found it had one more Ashford painting than it thought.

The museum has long owned an original Ashford oil painting called “Portrait of a Young Woman.” With the support of the Yellow Brick Road Quester Club, the museum hired the Midwest Art Conservation Center in Minneapolis to restore “Portrait of a Young Woman.”

While the painting was in Minneapolis, the conservator removed the canvas from the frame to discover another painting of another young woman underneath.

“This new Ashford painting, which will become part of the museum collection, is truly a gift since no one knew of its existence,” according to a museum news release.

The two pieces will be jointly unveiled at a reception on Tuesday.

The revitalization of “Portrait of a Young Woman” was completed with money raised by Aberdeen’s Yellow Brick Road Quester Club and a South Dakota Preservation and Restoration Grant from the state Questers organization.

The discovered painting needed only minor repair, which was financed by the Dacotah Prairie Museum Foundation, according to the release.

There are now six Ashford paintings in the museum collection, one of which, the “Portrait of Fred Hatterscheidt,” will soon be included in the opening of a new major exhibit.

Ashford was a 19th-century artist who had strong ties to the Aberdeen area.

He was born in 1878, in Perry, Iowa, but grew up on a homestead near Stratford. At 17, Ashford left home to study art at the Chicago Institute of Art and the Art Institute of Philadelphia, and through a mentorship with William Merritt Chase in New York City.

By 1907, Ashford had established his studio in Paris, where he painted and exhibited his work, becoming an accepted member of the salons. At the outbreak of World War I, he returned to the U.S. He eventually settled in Aberdeen and painted many official portraits, including that of four South Dakota governors. In 1927, Ashford was selected to paint portraits of President and Mrs. Calvin Coolidge; the paintings still hang in the South Dakota Game Lodge at Custer State Park.

“Portrait of a Young Woman” portrays a “mystery lady,” as little is known of her background, her identity or even the time period Ashford painted it. “It is, however, an excellent representation of Ashford’s portraiture style, with lush depth in skin and hair lines and thick oil paint in loose, descriptive brushwork,” according to the news release.

Quester Club officers who oversaw the project are president Evelyn Nikolas, vice president Nella Thompson and secretary Jean Weber.

The public reception, which runs from 5 to 7 p.m., will be hosted by the Questers at the museum. All are invited and refreshments will be served.