Remembering the Goldbergs

Memory shared by John Henderson on October 11, 2013:

The headstone that Robert Goldberg placed on Edward Hill’s grave can be seen below.

Memory shared by Sam and Shelia Robbins on October 3, 2013:

Sometime after 1966 Bob tried and I encouraged him to establish a White Mountains Museum in North Conway.  We tried for 10 years and failed, I then tried elsewhere.  You can hear the whole story after Charlie Vogel’s talk if you wish.

Memory shared by Charles Vogel on October 1, 2013:

Robert Abraham Goldberg and Dorothy Goldberg owned Gralyn Furniture, Gralyn Enterprises (their real estate company), Gralyn Sport’s Center, Gralyn Galleries, and Gralyn Antiques, all in North Conway, NH. Through his various enterprises, Bob’s love of the region grew. He became an antiques dealer handling early American furniture and accessories.

Bob was born in a house, which still stands, in Conway, NH. He went to the Conway Public Schools through high school. His wife Dot was from North Carolina. During World War II, Captain Goldberg of the Army Air Corps was stationed in North Africa and Italy. He graduated from Duke University before the war and received a law degree from Duke after the war. While he earned a law degree, it was not to practice law, but to use his knowledge in business, which was somewhat unusual for the time. Bob was intimately familiar with New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Valley. He swam in the Saco River, took the train to high school, and lived there his entire life; he was an antique dealer / collector – an interest gained from his father. While he specialized in general antiques, he almost always had some paintings for sale and hanging in his home.

Bob was always interested in New Hampshire art. He began buying and selling Benjamin Champney’s (1817-1907) works from Champney’s granddaughter, Alice Sparks, soon after returning from World War II. After World War II, Bob would cross the street and Alice would sell Bob two or three Champney paintings each year for $10 or $15 each. However, his interests in both art and art research grew and his collecting and dealing became more focused during the early 1970s. Bob used his furniture store to display paintings for sale but he also used the space to showcase part of his collection. He had a large collection of original Currier and Ives lithographs and eventually a wide variety of New Hampshire artwork. Many of the Currier and Ives prints had a hunting / fishing / canoeing themes which fit with his canoe business and his personal interests.

When I met Bob and Dot in 1972 they were living on Main Street, North Conway, almost across the street from Benjamin Champney’s former home. My wife Gloria and I spent a good deal of time with the Goldbergs in the summer during our school vacation. I have always had an interest in history. One day Bob said to me, “Why don’t you go across the street and see what you can find out about Champney.” We did, received a complete tour of the home and discovered someone who was researching Champney for a PhD. Bob then said, “Go up to Jackson and see what you can find out about Shapleigh.” Frank H. Shapleigh (1842-1906) had a home there. Of course we did and toured the Shapleigh home. Bob then sent us to the Crawford House, which is no longer standing. At the Crawford House, I found the old hotel registers and located where Shapleigh had signed in. I then went to an auction and, with Bob’s guidance, bought a Shapleigh painting — $700 or so when I was making $95 a week as a teacher!  I was “hooked”. So, I started researching Shapleigh’s work and history, which eventually resulted in a catalog and exhibition at the New Hampshire Historical Society. Anyway, with Bob’s guidance I purchased several paintings – and then a few more – and then a few more. I sold some to Bob; he bought them to encourage me and they were good paintings. One early trip we went to an art dealer in Massachusetts and Bob bought four or five NH painting. That night we went to an auction and Bob bought four or five additional NH paintings – very unusual. We both added to our collections and made a few dollars. Neither of us really realized the interest in NH art. I remember talking with Bob and he made a conscience decision to being acquiring NH paintings for sale and collecting. I did the same thing. Then with the publication of the Shapleigh catalog in 1982, and others after that, the collecting / dealing became a serious focus. He still bought antiques, but we both chased NH art together and separately. Frankly, through Bob and my art activities: Bob as a collector / dealer and my work in research / lectures / publication, we had a significant impact on NH art collecting.

The Goldbergs made many buying trips throughout northern New England and Canada. They attended auctions, visited art galleries, antique shops, and made house calls. Bob and Dot also had an appreciation for art preservation. Quietly, the Goldbergs made donations to Duke University, the Portland (Maine) Museum of Art, and the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth. The Duke gift was two large NH paintings; Portland’s gift included, a “ship’s passport” signed by Thomas Jefferson, and several paintings, portraits as I recall and a large collection of early American glass; of course, the Hood received paintings, watercolors, drawings and prints. They established the Robert & Dorothy Goldberg Charitable Foundation, which has promoted New Hampshire art, and made grants to museums and historical societies across New England. Bob’s involvement went so far that when he learned the artist Edward Hill (1843-1923) was buried in an unmarked grave in Hood River, Oregon, he had a headstone installed.

While Bob liked buying White Mountain art, he most enjoyed talking art and selling. As his reputation as an art dealer grew, customers from far and wide made the trek to North Conway. Bob spent hours with new customers and repeat buyers. He loved answering questions, showing them how to “read” a painting, discussing the artist’s background and the artist’s location for a painting. During the 1980s and 1990s, Goldberg was the premier White Mountain art dealer. He started and added to many New England collections. It is a testament to Goldberg that he inspired so many collectors.

Memory shared by Doug and Karin Nelson on September 30, 2013:

Our interest in White Mountain paintings began in 1993 when my wife, Karin, then a Curator at Strawbery Banke Museum, showed me a picture of a small Benjaminn Champney painting of Chocorua which had been taken from one of the historic houses. In trying to find out more about the painting, we met and learned a great deal more on the subject. The Goldbergs and Vogels were among the first important collectors/dealers we came in contact with. As a young couple it was difficult to afford their prices, but they encouraged us to collect literature and learn art history. We have in years since come across a number of important paintings with provenance from the Goldbergs and Gralyn.

Now more mature, we appreciate the passing on of enthusiasm and knowledge from the Goldbergs (and the Vogels!) to this next generation of collectors and dealers.

Memory shared by John Henderson on September 30, 2013:

In the spring of 1993, we purchased our first White Mountain painting of Moat Mountain by Frank Henry Shapleigh. As we began our research of White Mountain artists, various publications mentioned the names Robert and Dorothy Goldberg. On a Sunday afternoon, we visited Gralyn Furniture. Above the canoes, large screen TVs, and various pieces of furniture, we discovered painting after painting of White Mountain subjects. We introduced ourselves to the owner, Robert Goldberg. Bob proceeded to give graciously of his time and knowledge, taking us from painting to painting to discuss the subjects, artists, and tell-tale “characteristics” of the artists.

As Robert Cram says, Bob was a very good salesman. He noticed we were partial to a large Champney painting. He said, “That is the finest Champney you will find outside of those in museum collections.” This then became the first Champney we purchased (see the attached image).

The reason Bob finally took his leave that afternoon was to visit his wife, Dorothy, who was in a nursing home. We learned later that he had dinner with her every night and never missed a visit.

 

 

Memory shared by Robert Cram on September 25, 2013:

I remember buying our first painting from Bob. We had stopped into the furniture store and found a Benjamin Champney floral of lilies on wooden panel. The picture, although reasonably priced was a lot of money to us at the time and he could tell we were really unsure of what to do. Bob said, No need to decide right now, Please, take the picture home… hang it… live with it for a while. If you decide to keep it I will just bill you. If you decide its not the best picture for you bring it back and pick out another.

WELL, needless to say, we didn’t return the picture and yes we did go back and pick out another. What a Salesman.

 

Memories shared by Charles Vogel (also the text for the exhibition) :

Robert Goldberg was the premier White Mountain art dealer. A native of Conway, Goldberg was always interested in New Hampshire art. He and his wife Dorothy began a series of businesses, including Gralyn Furniture and Gralyn Antiques, after his return from service in World War II. Benjamin Champney’s granddaughter, Alice Sparks, lived across the street in the 1940s and had paintings to sell. Thus began the Goldbergs’ White Mountain art trade. It became Bob’s passion.

 When Charles Vogel and his wife Gloria met the Goldbergs in the early 1970s, they spent a good deal of time with them in the summer. “One day Bob said to me, ‘Why don’t you go across the street and see what you can find out about Champney.’ We did, received a complete tour of the home and discovered someone else was researching Champney for a PhD. I was ‘hooked.’” Goldberg had that effect on people.

 As his reputation as an art dealer grew, customers from far and wide made the trek to North Conway to discuss art with Goldberg. While he liked buying White Mountain art, Goldberg loved talking art, answering questions, showing people how to “read” a painting, discussing the artist’s background, and debating the artist’s location for a painting. His enthusiasm sparked the interest of buyers and started many on the path to collecting White Mountain art.