Dean Hail said he’d retrieved the painting from the basement of University Hall after another dean had moved away and abandoned it. Every now and then, in the next few years, I went into Ted’s office and looked at the view of BlackHead and wished it were summertime and I were on Monhegan again.
When Ted retired, no one in the office wanted to inherit that painting the way that I did. No matter that it was very dingy and dark; no matter that it was obviously a work of a young, unformed artist. And no matter that it was a LARGE painting, much TOO large for my small office from which I administered the computer network in University Hall. That painting showed the precise view that, every summer, I made a pilgrimage to see upon first returning to the Island, and I wanted it near me.
The Monhegan Museum, a small entity with a collection of paintings and memorabilia, is housed in the home of the lighthouse keeper atop the hill overlooking the Monhegan harbor. I mentioned the painting to its president, who said, ‘wouldn’t it be great if Brown would lend the painting to us, to show here!’ Over the next couple of years, at the time Vartan Gregorian was becoming president, I pursued the possibility of having the painting travel up to the Island. Finally the Trustees agreed to loan the painting to the Monhegan museum.
Before the painting could go to Maine, it had to be appraised, so that it could be covered by insurance while on loan. I arranged to take it up to the Open Appraisal day at a gallery in Boston. My husband built a sort of open tray for it to ride in. I expected the appraiser to give an estimate of its worth as perhaps $5000. No. Fifty thousand, cash on the barrel-head if I could deal right then. Of course I couldn’t, and Brown did not want to sell the painting, but I had quite a nervous ride back to Rhode Island with it in the rear of the station wagon as I negotiated rush-hour Boston traffic! That summer, 1993, and the following one, the painting was on display at the Monhegan Museum.
At the end of the second summer I got a call from Jessica Nicholl, who was arranging an exhibition at the Portland (Maine) Museum of Art, had seen the painting on Monhegan, and wanted to use it in her show, which focused on the artist Robert Henri and his followers. Kent had been one, as had George Bellows, John Marin, and others of the early 20th Century New York scene. The Portland Museum would pay for the cleaning and restoration of the painting if it could be shown there for six months, in 1994. Brown agreed to allow the painting to go to Portland, so once again the painting and I set off, this time to the restorers in New London, Connecticut, and from there to Portland.
Meanwhile, Rob Emlen had been appointed University Curator. Given that I had unearthed one unsuspected "treasure," and another, a giant chandelier, had strayed to the Providence Public Library, the Trustees must have figured that there might be others around the University and that having Rob searching them out and recording Brown’s assets would be useful. Rob gave a talk at Staff Development day, which I attended, telling of missing materials, such as a mate to the impressive tapestry that hung in the Corporation Room in University Hall.