Arts & Culture

Unique Polly Thayer Starr Exhibit Opens at Fruitlands Museum Supported in part by a generous grant from The Polly Thayer Starr Charitable Trust

Polly Thayer Starr

Trustees Senior Curator Christie Jackson is pleased to announce Polly Thayer Starr: Nearer the Essence, which opened at Fruitlands Museum September 5, 2020, running through March 21, 2021. Polly Thayer Starr was an artist who lived beyond tidy definitions. Classically trained and well-spoken, she bounded onto the 1930s art scene, gaining fame for her formal portraits of Boston’s social, political, and academic leaders. With eyes and hands in constant motion, she recorded what she saw in sketches, collected and annotated poems torn from magazines, and wrote prolific letters and lectures.

“Polly had a remarkable spirit of discovery, looking to explore the world around her and understand its complexities,” notes Christie. “This exhibition dives into Starr’s artistic and creative process, incorporating never before exhibited sketchbooks, correspondence, poems, and personal objects. I also wanted to create an experience out on the grounds for visitors that invites them to discover and enjoy nature though this same spirit of discovery. I wanted to create an exhibition that would equally excite art enthusiasts as well as families looking to be outside.”

The exhibition, hosted at a number of locations through the Fruitlands Museum campus contains Starr’s paintings of nature and portraits, as well studies and sketchbooks to reveal the artist’s search for beauty and truth. In addition to never-before exhibited archival materials, personal effects, such as a spectacularly carved desk from her studio, will be on display.

The bulk of the exhibition is hosted in the Art Gallery. Unique exploration stations are placed outside around the campus and out on the Yellow Trail, for visitors to engage with the exhibit in an outdoor way. The stations will have prompts to guide visitors through a process of imagination and close looking at the landscape, accompanied by quotations from Ms. Starr and reproductions of her artwork.

Polly Thayer Starr’s connections with the Trustees are apparent throughout her work and life. As a child, she spent summers at the family’s home at Turkey Hill in Hingham, Massachusetts, today known as Weir River Farm. The 75-acre property was a fully working farm, and was donated to the Trustees by Polly during her lifetime in 1999.  Exploration Stations will be unveiled at Weir River Farm during the 2021-2022 season.

This exhibition is supported in part by a generous grant from The Polly Thayer Starr Charitable Trust. The Trust is focused on furthering Starr’s artistic legacy, as well as promoting access to the arts and artistic practice by collaborating with artists and cultural institutions interested in furthering her artistic ideals and her interest in social justice. The Trust owns the remaining collection of Mrs. Starr’s paintings and drawings, as well as archival materials related to her long career. For more information, visit

In conjunction with Polly Thayer Starr Nearer The Essence, Fruitlands Museum is pleased to host the below exhibitions during the 2020-2021 season.

Recruiting for Utopia: Print and the Imagination
September 5, 2020 – March 14, 2021

Sue McNally: Ascutney Revisited
Through March 14, 2021

Decolonized Map of Massachusetts
Through March 14, 2021

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