In the large body of correspondence I now own as part of the Plumb art and archive collection are a smaller sub-group of letters written to Plumb from artists, arts organizations, publishing companies, dealers, and fellow artists. In separating these out and sorting them I was interested to see three letters on a business letterhead from a man with a distinctive name: Oliver H. Durrell. Reading them a story unfolded. Durrell was a very successful self-made Boston businessman who through hard work and relationship-building became president of the dry goods company Brown, Durrell, & Co of Boston. Letters record Durrell’s purchase of two pictures by Plumb, one an oil entitled Rover’s Greeting, showing a large dog licking the face of a delighted baby lying in bed and the other a watercolor of mice, perhaps Plumb’s favorite subject. From his warm and complimentary letters we see Durrell as the best sort of patron, kind, interested, supportive. Further work in Plumb’s own letters revealed that the well-known patron Thomas B. Clarke, who himself had bought one of Plumb’s most famous artworks and befriended him was a friend of Durrell and brought the latter to Plumb’s studio hoping to promote a sale for the artist. Idly playing on the internet one day, I typed in Durrell’s name thinking that since it was unusual perhaps an obituary would come up, and it did, in the New York Times. Imagine my surprise to see a second obituary for Oliver H. Durrell, III, in 2012. I thought “this must be his grandson or more likely a great-grandson” III had died in Plymouth, MA, and surely it couldn’t be a coincidence. Through information in the obituary, I was able to contact the widow of III which led to a new friend and the copy of an 1890s printed catalogue of the first Durrell’s art collection, focused largely on American art. The catalogue was privately printed and records art by luminaries like Chase, Harnett, Richards. Inness, Moeller, Enneking, and lesser lights like Plumb, LeGanger, Davis, and others. Each artist is represented by a photograph and a biographical sketch. It is clear that Durrell had great admiration for the artists and wanted to promote their careers by putting information out about them.

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