Anyone who frequents the Gaylord will certainly have noticed the impressive portraits residing in the library’s rotunda, particularly those of William and Betsey Gaylord, stoically staring at each other from opposite sides of the room (and mentioned in a previous article). However, flanking Mrs. Gaylord to the left and right are portraits of a younger (though no less stoic) married couple, both painted by Joseph Goodhue Chandler (1813-1884). Various works of Chandler, an itinerant folk painter, are on display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Dartmouth College, Mount Holyoke College, Historic Deerfield, as well as in the Gaylord Library.
Born in South Hadley in 1813, Chandler was the son of Captain David and Clarissa Goodhue Chandler. Joseph originally trained as a cabinetmaker, but in 1830 traveled to Albany to study painting under William Collins (1787-1847). His first portraits were mainly of his family members, and as well as prospering at land management, Chandler continued to pursue his interest in portrait-painting.
In 1840 he married Lucretia Ann Waite, a painter and drawing teacher from Hubbardston. They lived in South Hadley for a time, and Chandler continued to paint and sell portraits, particularly to clients in northwestern Massachusetts. The couple traveled to Boston in 1852, where they maintained a studio and where Lucretia’s painting become more well-known than Joseph’s. In 1860, the couple moved to a farm in Hubbardston, where they remained for the rest of their lives. Chandler, one of the few famous painters who collaborated artistically with his spouse, upheld connections with South Hadley. Apparently Joseph was storing several paintings in an old block of tenements when the buildings caught fire, but two-thirds of these paintings were saved.
Chandler eventually became a well-known painter and remains a prolific figure in American folk painting, and it is said that his paintings reflect the best elements of the American folk tradition. His portrait of Mary Lyon, for example, captures the character of the Mount Holyoke College founder without idealizing her physical features. Chandler was said to be especially skilled at portraits of children, perfectly depicting the awkwardness and discomfort of his young sitters. He would allow children to hold toys or pets and included them in the portraits, something he did not do with adult subjects. His portrait of young boys in landscape has been listed as selling for $15,000 at Sotheby’s auction gallery.
As for the Chandler portraits that are on display at the Gaylord? They are believed to be Mr. and Mrs. Shubael Cook. The couple lived where the gates to Mount Holyoke College now stand, and Mr. Cook was a blacksmith in town. Gaylord is honored to be the home of Mr. and Mrs. Cook and thrilled to have such impressive pieces of Joseph Goodhue Chandler.
Special thanks to Irene Cronin for her information on Joseph Goodhue Chandler through her article “Chandler’s folk art still lives on” published in the Hampshire Weekend Gazette 1993.