Dutchess County will honor the memory of a local long-time artist with her own museum dedication.
DUTCHESS- The first museum in Dutchess County dedicated to a single artist will debut on April 10, 2017, with the opening of a space dedicated to the works of Henriette Simon Picker, a long-time Dutchess County resident, accomplished painter and shoe designer, who died in 2016 at the age of 99.
Located at 695 Dutchess Turnpike (route 44) Suite #206, the Henriette Simon Picker Museum of Art is open to the public beginning Monday, April 10, by appointment (845– 473-2100).
Video provided by: Henriette Picker family
The Picker Museum will join the ranks of the 59 such museums in the entire world. The closest single artist museums include the Frederic Remington in Ogdensburg, NY and the Norman Rockwell in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, as well as the Isamu Noguchi and Nicholas Roerich Museums in New York City.
The Henriette Simon Picker museum shares its space with the orthopedic offices of Dr. William Thompson, who has turned all of his public spaces–waiting room, hallways, examining rooms– into a museum with white walls and gallery style lighting, in what will be a rotating exhibit of Picker’s paintings from different periods in her evolution as an artist.
One advantage of the Picker Museum’s unusual location is the automatic presence of about 3,000 visitors throughout the year, who will arrive as Dr. Thompson’s patients, passing through his doors every Tuesday and Thursday during office hours.
“Don’t miss me so much. You are surrounded by all my colors.”
Henriette Simon Picker
Henriette Simon Picker knew how to live. And she lived intensely for almost a hundred years. As a child, she began drawing with a passion that foreshadowed a life filled with 80 years of painting and 45 years as a shoe designer. She became the sole supporter of her family while in her teens and was able to support herself through her art for the rest of her life.
No one could forget meeting Henriette. She had a big heart, an impish sense of humor, a razor sharp mind and boundless curiosity. She was fascinated by technology and loved her iPad, using it to stay in touch with friends and family through e-mail, FaceTime and Skype. Her bedtime reading: The New York Review of Books and The New Yorker.
She savored every moment, from her breakfast cappuccino and the morning sunlight cascading through the trees to the changing palette of the sky. Always, she radiated joy.
Born Henriette May Simon on March 28, 1917 in Jersey City, she died in Poughkeepsie at the height of her artistic powers on January 5, 2016.
During the last six years of her life, she produced some 200 paintings – almost as many as the prior 75 years –working full-time — often
seven hours a day –until six days before her death, two months before her 99th birthday.
On her deathbed, she described a painting she was planning. She spoke of bright red buildings. She saw the finished piece in full detail.
Henriette Picker studied at the Art Students League in Manhattan from 1939-41 with muralists Louis Bouché and Alexander Brook while being mentored by Yasuo Kuniyoshi and Philip Evergood. In 1941, Brook told her, “I have nothing left to teach you. Go now and paint on your own.”
Influenced by the Ashcan School and American Realism, she initially focused on everyday scenes of New York City. It is interesting to note that Alice Neel (b. 1900) emerged from the same influences. Neel, a portrait artist, was called a “collector of souls.” Henriette could be viewed as an “observer of souls” riding subways, strolling in Fort Tryon Park, and leaning on pillows over tenement windows, gossiping.
In 1929, her father Wilhelm, a German Jewish immigrant and dentist, moved the Simon family back to Germany so his children, Henriette, Evelyn, and Regi, could have a European education and he could work in his sister’s dental practice. During the four years the family lived in Berlin, Henriette attended the Oberschule Paul-Natorp where she studied fine arts and design. During those years, Hitler rose to power and Henriette witnessed the early brutality of his storm troopers. Through a combination of ingenuity and dogged persistence, her mother, Eleanor Simon, figured out how to get the family out of Germany. They were able to return to the U.S. in 1933, narrowly escaping the Holocaust.
Shortly after moving back to New York, Henriette began her career as a shoe designer under the name, Henriette Simon. In 1935, she became the first woman designer hired by the world famous shoe company, I. Miller. She went on to design for Mademoiselle, Palizio, D’Antonio, Fox, Selby, Gran Sol and Enna Jetticks. During the 1950’s and 1960’s, she founded her own design and manufacturing businesses (Simone Fine Shoes to Match and Simone Fine Shoes) in New York and Italy. During the 1950’s, the young Andy Warhol illustrated her shoes for fashion magazines.
In 1940, she married Julian Picker, a news writer for CBS Television, and had three children: Ida Picker, an artist and former journalist (b.1945), Jon Picker, an artist and psychotherapist, (b.1950), and the composer, Tobias Picker (b.1954).
The Picker family moved to Pound Ridge, New York in 1960, where Henriette was captivated by the summer light in the dense forests, lakes, fields and hills, and by the winter snow that carpeted the same land and later melted in the glow of winter sunsets. These images formed the basis for many landscapes to come.
Through her work as a shoe designer, Henriette began traveling and, in 1965, returned to Europe for the first time in 32 years. She traveled extensively for the rest of her life and documented everything she saw in watercolor, goache, oil and acrylic.
Henriette and her husband moved to the pastoral Hudson Valley town of Lagrangeville, New York in 1983. From morning to evening, she worked in her studio taking advantage of every moment of “that wonderful light.”
After Julian’s death in 1989, Henriette entered a twenty-year period of contemplation, painting only on occasion. She lived comfortably on what Julian had earned in the last year he worked, as a Manhattan realtor – more than he had earned in his entire life – and she worked on a book about her teenage years in Berlin.
Suddenly, at the age of 93, realizing she would soon outlive her savings, Henriette decided to go ‘back to work’ to maintain her financial independence. She began painting full time and rapidly developed a successful career, aided by her son, Tobias, who acted as her agent and business manager, as well as by her companion and artist assistant, Anna Malek.
Now, for the first time, she was able to devote herself entirely to painting, which took precedence over everything. Her late work became more refined as she rethought her early style with a directness akin to Milton Avery. Her sense of composition and color now conveyed complex ideas through a deceptive simplicity. In her late nineties, when not fulfilling portrait commissions, she played with familiar images — amusement parks, depicting enormous roller coasters in surreal landscapes; a gigantic sunset dwarfing a village; brightly colored trains emerging from tunnels in witty, bent perspective.
In 2012 at 95, after a long day of work, she rose from her easel, turned suddenly, fell, and broke her hip.
This life-threatening event could have ended her late-in-life brilliant career before it actually began. However, imbued with the German stubbornness of her parents, Henriette was determined to make it to her first solo exhibition. She brushed aside the warnings of her cardiologist, who considered hip replacement surgery too dangerous, and put her faith in Dr. William Thompson, who successfully performed the surgery.
A union began between art and science. Dr. Thompson oversaw her hip recovery and helped organize her physical therapy regime, enabling
Henriette to resume working for the next four years. At the same time, Dr. Thompson admired her spirit and, along with his wife Rebecca, were enamored of her paintings. He and Rebecca became collectors and generously offered to use the premises of his offices in Poughkeepsie as the location for the Henriette Simon Picker Museum of Art.
After an impressive recovery, Henriette began to show her work for the first time. Her first solo exhibition, “Henriette Simon Picker At 95” at Hudson River Studio provoked a warm response and she started selling pieces and receiving commissions. Important art collectors began to acquire her art.
Henriette was given a major retrospective, “A Span of Time”, for her 96th birthday at the PMW Gallery in Stamford, Connecticut, and went on to solo exhibitions in Cooperstown and Old Forge, N.Y., celebrating her at 97. She then began to exhibit at the prestigious Carter Burden Gallery in Chelsea and Waxlander Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. At the time of her death, she left an unfinished series of large paintings for a solo exhibition that her Chelsea gallery had planned to celebrate her at 99. Her website, Hspicker.com, provides an 80-year retrospective of Henriette’s remarkable painting career as does a newly published book of her complete work.
The Picker family wishes to extend their profound gratitude to Dr. and Mrs. William Thompson for saving Henriette’s life, extending her career, and preserving her work for the world.