Rediscovered Stories: A Tribute to Early America and to Artist Eric Sloane

by James Purtle

The Eric Sloane Museum in Kent, CT, is home to a remarkable collection of early American tools and artifacts uniquely curated to showcase their beauty and utility. Donated and created by artist and author Eric Sloane in 1969, the exhibit is like a personal invitation into the mind and philosophy of the creative genius that was Sloane. Visitors are greeted with the oaky perfume of weathered wood and are quickly immersed in the tools and implements of early American life. The objects are beautifully woven together with Sloane’s hand-painted calligraphy describing their function and subtly bringing to life the spirit and philosophy with which they were created and used.

Maintained in its original 1969 state, the tool exhibit is still one of the authoritative interactive sources of information on early American implements. For fans of Eric Sloane, however, it is also appreciated as one of Sloane’s larger works of art, as the unique aesthetics of the exhibit are like a page of one of his books come to life. Sloane wrote and illustrated over 30 books in his lifetime, products of his insatiable appetite for learning and his relentless need to create. Informative in purpose, his topics ranged from early American life to meteorology. His informal and personal tone reads like a letter from a friend.

Sloane is perhaps most widely known for his oil paintings, which he also produced prolifically. While an exact count is unknown, scholars suggest that Sloane produced thousands of oil paintings in his lifetime, depicting mainly bucolic rural scenes, clouds and weather, barns, and covered bridges. The artist himself once wrote that if you lined up all of his paintings, they would stretch for miles. Sloane’s busy stroke enabled him to start and finish a piece in only a couple of hours, and the results are breathtaking. More than a dozen of his paintings are on display at the museum.

When Sloane passed away in 1985, a recreation of the artist’s studio was added to the permanent collection at the museum so guests can truly get a sense of his life and work. Packed with books, hundreds of brushes, typewriters, and eccentricities, the studio is a treasure for all who have been touched by his art and writing.

The Eric Sloane Museum is located in Kent, Connecticut. The museum is open Thursday to Sunday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.  Please call 860-927-3849 for more information.