• Samuel Wood Gaylor (American, 1883-1957), Picnic, Shaker Lake, Alfred, Maine, 1923. Oil on canvas in hand-carved frame by Robert Laurent. Courtesy of Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts, LLC, New York

  • Samuel Wood Gaylor (American, 1883-1957), Arts Ball, 1918, 1918. Oil on canvas. Private Collection.

  • Samuel Wood Gaylor (American, 1883-1957), Preparatory drawing for The Boardwalk, 1911. Pencil on paper. Collection of Wynn Gaylor.

  • Samuel Wood Gaylor (American, 1883-1957), H.E.F. Auction, 1931. Oil and ink on linen. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Gift of Howard and Jean Lipman, 80.48.2


February 7 – May 8, 2020

In a grand hall bedecked with flags and murals, costumed revelers perform a choreographed skit around a giant papier-mâché bird. Pioneering modern artists ride hobbyhorses, practice silly dances, wear clown makeup, party on the deck of a ship, and lounge together by a Maine lake. They draw and paint together, and they buy and sell one another’s art at festive auctions. This spirited social scene was an important but often-forgotten feature of the New York art world of the 1910s, ’20s, and ’30s. In the Fleming Museum exhibition, Let’s Have a Ball! Wood Gaylor and the New York Art Scene, 1913–1936, viewers can discover these events as they were lovingly documented in the vibrant paintings of Wood Gaylor (1883–1957).


Gaylor was a prime mover in the modern art world from the teens to the thirties, but has not received the attention either his role or his work merits. Curated by Fleming curator Andrea Rosen in consultation with independent art historian Dr. Christine Isabelle Oaklander, this exhibition and accompanying catalog spotlight Gaylor’s social and artistic contributions to American modernism in the early twentieth century. Gaylor’s paintings, teeming with color and action, depict the spirited gatherings of modern artists and arts promoters. Gaylor was a member of an irreverent group called The Penguin, led by painter Walt Kuhn, which mounted elaborate costume balls and parties complete with comic performances that were the subjects of Gaylor’s most extravagant paintings. Gaylor also captured behind-the-scenes moments in rehearsals and dressing rooms, as well as artistic camaradie, as his artist-friends gathered to sketch together in the backroom of the Penguin headquarters or in rural retreat at the art colony in Ogunquit, Maine.

Gaylor painted in a seemingly naïve style partially indebted to American folk art—setting up a room or landscape like a stage set, and populating it with outlined figures in bright colors with little shading. He also experimented with alternative media and styles, including painted carved wood panels and frames, abstracted watercolors, and figure drawings and prints. Finding active group scenes to be the subject that most interested him, Gaylor landed on an approach that best expressed the mood of such proceedings: flattened oil paintings in which figures dance, prance, and cavort in spaces both grand and intimate. As Gaylor’s images document important events in the art world of the 1910s, ’20s, and ’30s, so too does his technique provide insight into the factors impacting the evolution of a distinctly American modern style.

This exhibition will be accompanied by the catalogue Wood Gaylor and American Modernism, 1913-1936, which will feature essays by Rosen and Oaklander, as well as an interview with the artist’s son Wynn Gaylor. The exhibition will travel to the Ogunquit Museum of American Art, Ogunquit, Maine, July 31–October 31, 2020, and the Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, New York, February 20–May 20, 2021.

The Fleming Museum is deeply grateful to Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts, LLC, for the generous support of the Wood Gaylor exhibition and the accompanying catalogue. Additional support for this exhibition is provided by the Kalkin Family Exhibitions Fund; the Walter Cerf Exhibitions Fund; and Mary Jane Dickerson, Peter and Isabella Martin, and Caroline Wadhams Bennett in memory of J. Brooks Buxton.



Video Series: Wood Gaylor and American Modernism, 1913-1936

Wood Gaylor and American Modernism, 1913-1936 Video Series

Experience the Wood Gaylor exhibition, Let's Have a Ball, from the comfort of your own home in this new video series created in response to the Museum's temporary closure during the COVID-19 crisis. Join exhibition curator Andrea Rosen and Curator of Education Alice Boone as they discuss the work of the artist set against the backdrop of the New York art scene, 1913-1936. In this five-part series, the curators explore the training and inspiration that led Gaylor to his own unique style and subject matter.

Watch the Video Series
or Watch by Episode: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Wood Gaylor's "Arts Ball, 1921"

Detail of Wood Gaylor's Art Ball, 1921

Samuel Wood Gaylor (American, 1883-1957), Arts Ball, 1921, 1925. Oil on canvas. Ogunquit Museum of American Art, Maine. Gift of Adelaide L. Gaylor, 1958.22

Larger version of Arts Ball, 1921 (PDF).

Wood Gaylor's "K.H.M.’s Birthday Party"

Detail of Wood Gaylor's "K.H.M.’s Birthday Party"

Samuel Wood Gaylor (American, 1883-1957), K.H.M.’s Birthday Party, 1933. Oil on canvas. Collection Friends of the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York, Gift from the Estate of Roy R. Neuberger

Larger version of K.H.M.’s Birthday Party (PDF).

Wood Gaylor's "Penguin"

Detail of Wood Gaylor's "Penguin"

Samuel Wood Gaylor (American, 1883-1957), Penguin, 1917. Watercolor on paper. Fleming Museum of Art, University of Vermont, Burlington. Gift of Dr. David Pitman, 1958.16.4

Larger version of Penguin (PDF).

Wood Gaylor's "Potato Race"

Detail of Wood Gaylor's "Potato Race"

Samuel Wood Gaylor (American, 1883-1957), Potato Race, 1931. Oil on fabric relined on linen with wax. Fleming Museum of Art, University of Vermont, Burlington. Gift of Dr. David B. Pitman and Mrs. Adelaide L. Gaylor, 1964.38

Larger version of Potato Race (PDF).


Exhibitions Header

A diverse and exciting schedule of programming accompanies this exhibition



Spring 2020 Opening Reception

Friday, February 7

4:30-5:30PM: Tours of the exhibitions

5:30-7:00PM: Costume Art Ball

Hosted by UVM Provost Patricia Prelock, Fleming Director Janie Cohen, and the Museum’s Board of Advisors

Cocktail bar, hors d’oeuvres, and live music


Image of the cover of the Wood Gaylor catalogue

The exhibition catalogue Wood Gaylor: and American Modernism, 1913-1936 is currently available from ISD Distributors.

Link to view the catalogue

Contact Us