Henry Francis Du Pont

 

DU PONT, HENRY FRANCIS
(1880–1969)
created the Winterthur Museum, the largest collection of American decorative art, in his family home in Winterthur, Delaware. Concentrating on the period of 1640 to1840, he acquired architectural details as well as entire rooms of paneling from old homes along the eastern seaboard, reinstalled them in one hundred rooms in hishome, and furnished the rooms with American antiques of the appropriate period. The Winterthur Gardens around the museum are a noted horticultural achievement.Henry du Pont was the last great-grandson of E.I. du Pont de Nemours, founder of the DuPont Chemical Company. He graduated from Harvard University in 1903,was elected a director of DuPont in 1915, and soon after that became a director of General Motors. Du Pont married Ruth Wales at Hyde Park, New York, in 1916;they had two daughters, Pauline and Ruth Ellen. Du Pont resided at Winterthur, which he inherited in 1926 from his father, for at least part of every year until 1951.Two factors helped stimulate du Pont’s interest in American decorative art. In 1923, he visited the home of Electra Havemeyer Webb (1888–1960)—a collector of Americana, folk art, and antiques as well as the founder of the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont—and became interested in collecting American antiques.Then there was the opening of the American wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in 1924, which created a sensation and also influenced duPont’s collecting.From 1926, when he inherited Winterthur, until his death in 1969, du Pont engaged in almost continual renovation and enlargement of Winterthur and its gardens withgreat energy, meticulous care, and large resources. He preferred room settings for his collections rather than gallery displays. The Pennsylvania German pieces du Pontcollected in the 1920s and that he purchased on automobile tours, chauffeured by his driver, resulted in the creation of the Pennsylvania Folk Art and the Fraktur Rooms, for instance. The Pennsylvania German Bedroom, with its version of Edward Hicks’s
Peaceable Kingdom,
and Schimmel Hall, containing a number of eagles by the itinerant carver, Wilhelm Schimmel, also reflect this particular interest. The woodwork in the Shaker Dwelling Room and the Shaker Storeroom came from largestone dwellings dating from the 1840s that du Pont had found in Enfield, New Hampshire, and he filled the rooms with furniture he had found in other Shaker villages. A two-story hall—moved virtually intact from the Ezra Carroll house in East Springfield, New York—dating from about 1820 and painted in 1831 by William Price, theitinerant artist, is one of Winterthur’s folk art gems. In the end, du Pont brought together the most comprehensive collection of American decorative art of the highestquality.Winterthur, which had been deeded to a foundation, was opened to the public in 1951 after 112 years of occupancy by the du Pont family. Du Pont, who movedinto a home nearby, had said that he was now only a visitor to the museum but still the head gardener.Henry du Pont received many awards and honors for his achievements. He was named to special committees formed to redecorate and furnish the White House byMrs. John F.Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson. He received the highest awards given to non-professional horticulturists from the National Association of Gardeners and the Garden Club of America. The National Society of Interior Decorators gave him their first Thomas Jefferson Award. He was on the board of the New York Botanical Gardens, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the CooperHewitt Museum, among others.
See also
Architecture, Vernacular; Decoration;

Fraktur; German American Folk Art; Edward Hicks; Pennsylvania German Folk Art; WilhelmSchimmel; Shakers; Shelburne Museum; Electra Havemeyer Webb; Winterthur Museum
.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Cantor, Jay E.
Winterthur.
New York, 1997.Sweeney, John A.H.
Winterthur Illustrated.
New York, 1963