Tompkins H. Matteson (1813-1884) was a nationally-known genre and portrait painter who lived and worked in Sherburne. He was a close associate of Henry Plumb’s father Isaac; they were both prominent in town and state politics. Highly regarded leaders/founders of the fire department, water board, school board, and other town organizations, both served a term in the state legislature, albeit at different times. The Plumb archives with me and at Princeton  University refer to Matteson several times. I keep hoping to find a reference to Plumb having studied art under Matteson; we know that TM taught the prominent painter Elihu Vedder in Sherburne, for instance. Yet so far, no reference has been found to a young Henry studying with TM. Matteson is not mentioned in Plumb’s own biographical sketches nor is he mentioned in other biographical sources. Yet a number of Plumb’s earlier works show a debt to Matteson in their use of humor and multiple figures in motion, a sort of “crowd scene” as it were. Then also, their humorous content and slant toward illustration is also shared. Today, the main reading room at the Sherburne Public Library displays works by Matteson and Plumb. Will I be able to ascertain the exact nature of their relationship as my research progresses?  I certainly hope so. It is a terrific coincidence that the second painting I bought for the Allentown Art Museum in 2001, when I was chief curator, was Tompkins Matteson’s Return of Rip Van Winkle. I even was in touch with the Sherburne Public Library at the time and ascertained that they owned and displayed a group of TM’s works. I hoped to visit and view those TM holdings but was too busy and it never happened.  It is a total coincidence that I stumbled across Henry Grant Plumb 13 years later.

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