This monographic exhibition is the first of its kind to focus on the life and artwork of architect, author, illustrator, and pioneering decoy collector Joel D. Barber (1876-1952). Featuring more than 100 decoys, drawings, historical photographs, and watercolors from Shelburne Museum’s extensive collection and archives, the exhibition will be organized into five thematic sections. The first section explores Barber’s introduction to the world of wildfowl decoys and his early collecting years. The next section focuses on the Art Deco-inspired watercolors he used to illustrate his groundbreaking first book Wild Fowl Decoys published in 1934. The third section chronicles his various attempts at trying to design the perfect “Modern” decoy, amalgams based on historical precedents found in his collection. The fourth section examines the numerous ways Barber exhibited his collection publicly to shine a spotlight on decoys, including: duck shows, art exhibitions, and the establishment of the world’s first decoy museum in 1947. Using existing watercolor portraits and measured drawings, the fifth and final section pieces together Barber’s unfinished second book The Decoys of North America, an ambitious project that consumed the final three years of his life.
Colgate Gallery, Pizzagalli Center for Art and Education