GLENS FALLS — Wilhelmina Weber Furlong was an artist who lived and worked in downtown Glens Falls, decades before the city’s recent downtown vision and development strategy recommended establishing an artist district.
“I enjoy painting more than anything in my life!” Furlong wrote in a 1957 letter about her life in Glens Falls, where she lived and had her studios on Ridge Street, at one point above what is now The Chronicle newspaper offices and at another point above what is now Bistro Tallulah restaurant.
Furlong, who died in 1962, not only painted, she taught other artists, including a group of 14 that met from 10 a.m. to noon at The Circle Studio.
“There are always young people in and out of the studio,” she wrote in 1957, according to the book “The Treasured Collection of Golden Heart Farm.”
“It seems to me that youth has such a tough time now — no leisure, no time to examine themselves, to think — moving like a cog in a wheel,” she wrote.
Art historians want artists who come to live and work in Glens Falls to be aware of a woman behind change.
“She’s one of the influential artists of the Modern Art movement,” said Clint Weber, the artist’s great nephew and executive director and curator of The Weber Furlong Collection at the Women’s International Foundation, Building 98 historic site in Marfa, Texas.
Weber and James Kettlewell, a retired Skidmore College art history professor, offered to erect a yellow and blue state historic marker in downtown Glens Falls to honor Furlong, in celebration of this year’s Warren County Bicentennial.
The city Common Council is expected to vote at its meeting at 7:30 p.m. July 23 to authorize placing the marker in the landscaped area in front of the city’s Ridge Street parking lot, next to City Hall.
The marker would fit with the city’s interest in promoting downtown as an artist district, where artists would live, work and attract tourism, he said.
Weber and Kettlewell have agreed to pay for the
approximately $1,000 cost to erect the marker, said City Historian Wayne Wright.
Furlong and her husband, Thomas Furlong, were artists and teachers associated with the Art Students League in New York City.
They met in Mexico when Wilhelmina, who was fluent in four languages, was working as an interpreter to Mexico President Porfirio Diaz and Thomas was working as an interpreter for his father, a U.S. businessman.
The couple established Golden Heart Farm, a summer artists colony in Bolton Landing, in the 1920s, and moved permanently to the farm in 1931.
They envisioned retiring in Portugal some day, but that never materialized.
Thomas died in 1952,
and Wilhelmina moved to Glens Falls in October 1956.
After her death, much of the artwork passed to Clint Weber’s family, which eventually settled in Texas.
Wilhelmina Furlong was Clint Weber’s great-aunt.
Weber, a retired computer programmer and graphic artist, wrote and published “The Treasured Collection of Golden Heart Farm,” a biography of Weber Furlong, in 2012.
In the course of his research, he met Kettlewell, who knew Wilhelmina
Furlong when he was curator at The Hyde Collection art museum in Glens Falls.
Kettlewell said he had been attempting for many years to track down Wilhelmina Furlong’s work, with assistance from Skidmore College students.
“I said, ‘Art history is like detective work. See if you can find these paintings in
Texas,’ ” he said.
Weber and Kettlewell are working on a documentary film about Wilhelmina Furlong.
They have been interviewing area residents who
knew her when she lived in Bolton Landing and Glens Falls.
Recently, they met a Fort Ann resident who has old
8 mm home movies of Wilhelmina Furlong.
A revised edition of the biography is also coming out.
“I keep thinking you can wrap things up, but you can’t,” Weber said.
“So it’s going to be an ongoing journey.”