‘Small & Mighty: Newly Conserved Thumb-Box’ opens at Salmagundi Club in Greenwich Village




Walter Granville-Smith (1870-1938), Sailboats, 1911

Beginning November 10 and continuing until December 31, 2021, Salmagundi presents Small & Mighty: Newly Conserved Thumb-Box, in the Grand Stair Gallery of its historic 1853 townhouse at 47 Fifth Avenue. The exhibition marks the first time the organization’s permanent art collection of over fifty thumb-box paintings will be on display as a group. The exhibition is arranged by era and affords the viewer a chance to see 20th-century American art history at a glance.

“The thumb-box works are some of the best paintings Salmagundi owns,” says Bill Indursky, chair of the curatorial committee. “The works are a small window into past times, by some of America’s top artists from 1897 to today. They pack a punch for their diminutive size, inspiring the title of the exhibition Small & Mighty. This show should not be missed.”

Charles Shepard-Chapman (1879-1962), Persian, ca. 1920.

Thumb-box paintings are similar to what most galleries today call ‘small works,’ ‘cabinet works’ or ‘intimate works.’  The yearly Salmagundi exhibition received the name, ‘thumb-box,’ after the compact wooden paint box that was used to paint outside on location and then to carry the wet panels back to the studio. Salmagundi’s thumb-box show began in 1908 and continues today, 113 years later. The works enter the collection through purchase prizes or accessioned donations.

Several of the works have been on continuous display in the townhouse’s lower level for approximately fifty years. Recently, the curatorial committee chose to professionally conserve and clean the works which had yellowed and browned over the years. A member of the club privately donated 100% of their professional painting conservation services, cleaning thirteen works specifically for the show.
“The works are so beautiful, but you could not see them the way the artist intended. After the conservation and cleaning, they glow and a few take my breath away,” says Mr. Indursky.

Michael Budden (NRA 1999): Flatiron, 2017
The thirteen conserved award-winning works had been chosen for their importance to the collection, the stature of the artist, and their conservation need. Artists whose works have been conserved include Junius Allen, R.S. Bredin, John Carlson, Antonio Cirino, John Folinsbee, Antonio Martino, Hobart Nichols, Thomas Olenchak, John Pellew, Arthur Towell, John Gale Tyler, Walter Granville Smith, and John Scott Williams.
Small & Mighty: Newly Conserved Thumb-box will be on view through December 31, 2021 at Salmagundi Club, located at 47 Fifth Avenue, between 11th/12th Streets in Greenwich Village. The exhibition is free and open to the public. Viewing hours are 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm Monday through Friday, and 1:00 to 5:00 pm Saturday and Sunday.

Arthur James Emery Powell (1864-1956), untitled sailboats, 1913, oil on canvas board, 7 x 9 inches
Salmagundi Club is a non-profit 501(c)(3), professional and social club, created in 1871 by artists and patrons to support one another. It is one of America’s oldest arts organizations with more than 1,100 current members throughout the United States and abroad.
The Club has continuously championed representational art from its founding with iconic members, including: Thomas Moran (1837-1926), William Merritt Chase (1849-1916), Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933), Emil Carlsen (1848-1932), N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945), Childe Hassam (1859-1935) and Winston Churchill (1874-1965).