Greshville Antiques and Fine Art: A Treasure Trove of Local Talent
Chester County Life September/October 2011
From soaring eagles to white-breasted nuthatches, from Amish farms to village gardens, from idyllic landscapes to formal portraits - all the work of acclained Berks County artists - these oils and watercolors will be featured at Greshville Antiques and Fine Art from Sunday, October 3rd through Sunday, October 10th.
Kurt and Valerie Malmberg, owners of Greshville Antiques and Fine Art, have been researching Berks County artists and their works for more than 25 years. The Malmbergs are considered the leading authorities and appraisers of Berks County art, and they frequently assist auction houses, institutions, appraisers, and collectors in evaluating and purchasing this popular, rediscovered regional art.
And so it is with pride every October that the Maimbergs throw open their gallery, a restored Pennsylvania German 18th century stone barn in Boyertown, to celebrate the genius and beauty of the area. For decades now, the Maimbergs have delighted collectors, new and seasoned, with their Annual Berks County Art Show, which the Malmbergs call “the only show of its kind.”
Kurt, who calls himself a second-generation dealer, has been “on the hunt for antiques and art work” for over 29 years. Says Valerie, “That’s the fun part — the hunt. When we find a piece we love, we become its steward. And we treasure it until someone else comes along and buys it.” In fact, many of the pieces collected often reside temporarily in the Malmberg’s home, just steps away from their gallery.
The Malmbergs are the source for paintings by Berks County artists such as Ben Austrian, Christopher H. Shearer, Frederick Spang, Earl L. Poole, and others. A while back, when Kurt and Valerie were newly married, the first piece that Valerie ever purchased was a print of Austrian’s Hen and Chicks. “I was 19, and Kurt had given me $35 to buy some groceries. I bought an Austrian print instead.” Valerie had a good eye even then and has since honed her self-taught knowledge of art and artists.
And Austrian’s oils of chicks and chickens chasing butterflies, battling each other, or just pecking in the barnyard, remain her favorites as she and Kurt continue the hunt for new acquisitions. A native of Reading, Austrian was self-taught as well, working as a salesman while learning his craft. He helped promote the business by giving every person that placed an order — no matter how small — an original painting.
When you visit Greshville and talk to Kurt and Valerie, you’ll learn a lot about local folklore, painters’ bios, and fascinating anecdotes that bring to life the pieces they feature. “The native-born artists of Berks County reacted to the natural landscape and beauty of the region — the Blue Mountain Range, the Schuylkill River, and the Great Valley,” explains Valerie. “Artists in the mid-l9th century found inspiration in the images of undulating valleys, colorful mountain vistas, and the abundance of animals, both domestic and wild.”
Gaze on the art of Charles F. W Witman, Amos Gable, and Edward Howell. Learn about the late-in-life career change of John Heyl Rasei who went from pharmacist to painter, and whose works were exhibited in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Become familiar with the art of the Spangs and Shearers, West and Leisz, Reeser and Dechant. “These artists, and many others,” says Valerie, “have permanently captured a fleeting moment in the history and landscape of Berks County. Hopefully, their works will enrich the lives of those who continue to gaze upon them.”
Wander through the diverse collection at Greshville Antiques and Fine Art. Realize that art is a universal language. Over 100 years ago, these artists were telling stories through lush oil paintings relating history, architecture, and nature. With a sketched line or a splash of color, they shared their emotions and experiences with collectors then and now.
Even the very young enjoy the scenes preserved for posterity. Two of the Malmbergs’ grandchildren, recently on holiday from Connecticut, just love the barn and everything it holds. Miss Caitlin and her younger brother Connor talk of paintings in their own home. “We have that one (Caitlin points to a catalog picture of Charles F. W. Witman’s oil Winter’s Fury) in our family room.” Caitlin and Connor like the horses. Valerie explains, “Witman specialized in dramatic winter scenes, often including horse-drawn wagons. The one they have in their family room has gnarly trees silhouetted against a moonlit sky.”
The kids like to make up stories about the painting. In that regard, we are all like kids, entering a painting, walking around in it, drifting off to its suggestions, following its paths, peeping around bushes, staring intently into eyes —feeling as well as seeing.
Greshville Antiques and Fine Art handles other 19th and 20th century American art, and has developed a national clientele that includes private art collectors, corporations, and institutions. “In addition,” notes Kurt, we are nationally known for our quality selection of American and European clocks. American clocks, including Pennsylvania tall case clocks, are a specialty at our gallery. And American furniture rounds out the stately displays you’ll find here. There is a selection for most everyone, from country to formal, dating from the 1780s through the 1920s.”
Greshville Antiques and Fine Art is located on Route 562, 1.8 miles west of the Center Square of Boyertown, within easy access of Wilmington, Reading, Allentown, Philadelphia, and New York. You’ll like Greshville Antiques and Fine Art every time you go there, but in October you will absolutely love it.
Tony Rotondo, Chester County Life - September/October 2011