Pictured is “The Start of the East Side Parade” a painting by artist and Brick Store Museum founder Edith Barry. SUBMITTED PHOTO

KENNEBUNK — Museums and mysteries don’t often go together by the Brick Store Museum is trying to identify a mystery women, the subject of a recently discovered painting in the museum’s collection.

Recently, when preparing paintings for digitization as a way to preserve some of the museum’s major works for posterity, an unfinished portrait by artist Edith Cleaves Barry was discovered, according to a museum press release.

Barry, who lived from 1884 to 1969 founded the Brick Store Museum in 1936. The artist  split her time between her ancestral home in Kennebunk and her studio in New York City in the first half of the 20th Century. Barry trained with Impressionist mentors like Claude Monet, Frederick Macmonnies, and Frederick Frieseke in France in the early 1910s. The museum is the largest collector of her artwork in the world. 

Found underneath another painting by artist Edith Barry was this unfinished portrait. The painting was discovered when the frame of the other artwork was removed. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Found underneath another painting by artist Edith Barry was this unfinished portrait. The painting was discovered when the frame of the other artwork was removed. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Through a grant by the Robert & Patricia Bauman Family Foundation, the museum has been able to digitize several of its major works, including artwork by Barry, Abbott Graves, Louis Norton, and more local artists and scenes. Digital preservation is an important step in the museum’s mission to preserve the history and art of the Kennebunks for future generations, according to the release. The museum selected Hunter Editions, a fine art reproduction firm in Kennebunk, to capture the works digitally. 
Because paintings must be removed from their frames for digital scanning, Hunter Editions’ owner Holly Rich was delicately taking Edith Barry’s “The Start of the East Side Parade” (painted in 1946) out of its ornate frame, only to find an additional piece of artwork on canvas board — an unfinished woman’s portrait – beneath the painting. Before becoming a part of the museum’s collection in 1952, the framed painting had traveled to exhibitions at the Montclair Art Museum in New Jersey, the National Academy of Design in New York, and the Ogunquit Art Association with no one the wiser that there was something else in the frame.

The Brick Store museum staff is currently researching the identity of the woman in the portrait, and will announce findings on the Museum’s website, brickstoremuseum.org.
“Barry was a fantastic portrait artist. It’s where she got most of her commissioned work,” museum Director Cynthia Walker explained. “It makes a lot of sense that she was probably doing a study for a later portrait, and then used this piece as a backing board for ” The Start of the East Side Parade.” We can tell this portrait was painted in the 1940s simply because of the sitter’s hair and clothing styles. Now all we have to do is identify her.”
Barry was a world-traveler; she never married. Her photographs and writings of her early 20th century travels, including to the Middle East, Africa, the American West, and Europe, are preserved in the Brick Store Museum’s archives. Walker is currently authoring a book on Barry’s life, which began as a master’s degree thesis on Barry’s travels. Visitors will be able to see “The Start of the East Side Parade” and the newly-discovered portrait displayed side-by-side beginning in September at the Brick Store Museum.
“We were so excited that Holly found this,” Walker said. “In a museum that’s been here for over 80 years, with just about 70,000 items catalogued in our collection, you don’t often find surprises, much less relating to our founder, and in such an unexpected way. We’re incredibly grateful to partners like the Bauman Family Foundation and Hunter Editions for making these special moments happen. Now, instead of being hidden for eternity, this portrait will be in our collection for the public to enjoy.”

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