Presiding over an art world landmark
● By J. Chambless
Barbara Moore took her place in the Chadds Ford Gallery in 1976. (Photo by Jie Deng)
By John Chambless
Contrary to what artists and art buyers in Chester County believe, Barbara Moore has not always been presiding over a gallery in Chadds Ford. She actually took her place in the Chadds Ford Gallery space in 1976.
“I had been a housewife. My former husband and I had a body and fender repair business in Wilmington. I worked at the shop,” Moore said. “We lived in Chadds Ford. But divorce will make one learn a whole lot in a hurry. It just so happened that my daughter introduced me to the artist Paul Scarborough. I had three jobs to survive at the time. Paul’s studio was in Chadds Ford and the owner of the barn where his studio was worked at the Chadds Ford Gallery. He didn’t want to have to work weekends, so they offered me a position here.”
Moore, although she did not grow up as an art aficionado, had one big factor in her favor. “My in-laws’ house was right here in Chadds Ford, on Route 100 south. Andy and Betsy Wyeth, and their kids, were living in what would become Andy’s studio,” Moore said. “My sister-in-law grew up with Nicky and Jamie Wyeth. So when one of the Wyeths needed car repairs, my husband repaired them.”
The first time Moore saw Andrew Wyeth’s art was at his first show at the Delaware Art Museum. “I was pregnant with my first child, and I saw the artwork and said, ‘Oh! This is what Andrew Wyeth does!’” Moore recalled, smiling.
With the Wyeths living across the road and frequently stopping by the Chadds Ford Gallery, which opened in 1969, Moore developed a professional relationship with the artist through his wife, Betsy, who would broker signed Wyeth prints for sale at the gallery.
“Andy did two major paintings on part of our property on Ring Road,” Moore said. He also painted a portrait of Moore’s daughter when she was 13, and of Moore herself the following year.
Pulling out color copies of the portraits, Moore said both are now sold, but she has fond memories of posing for Wyeth, a process that took about a week, she said.
Through her decades at the gallery, Moore made more artist friends than she can count. She had a 38-year relationship with Paul Scarborough, and they were married for seven of those years before Scarborough’s death in 2014.
The gallery played an important role in selling and promoting the art of Rick Bollinger, Peter Sculthorpe, Rea Redifer, Bill Ewing, Jimmy Lynch, Tim Wadsworth, Ray Hendershot and many others over the years. Moore still takes time to interview new artists who want to submit work to the gallery. “I still get excited about that,” she said. “It’s a nurturing thing. When I get to meet the artists initially, well, I call them my babies. They’re precious, they’re special, they want the attention but they don’t want to have to ask for the attention.
“Paul taught me an awful lot about how artists are,” she said. “I didn’t realize the necessity of being open-minded to all of what’s going on in their heads. Whether it’s art or anything else. Their minds are active and they need to be free of things that cloud their thoughts. There’s a need for artists to express themselves, and a need for them to get time alone and figure things out. You have to give new artists, particularly, a structure.”
Moore also helps fledgling artists learn to price their artwork, and makes sure they are asking enough, and not too much, for the market.
While countless artworks have passed through the gallery, Moore has been able to resist most, aside from some signed Wyeth prints, works by painter Michael McNelly and, of course, “about a zillion works” by Scarborough that remain in her collection.
In the old days, the Chadds Ford Gallery filled the bottom floor of the historic former home that faces the road, and there was a second-floor space that held Wyeth works – some of them original drawings. The most major change in the gallery’s history came in 2017, when the daughter of the original gallery owner, Jacqueline Winter, moved to Florida and kept the Chadds Ford Gallery name. She still operates the gallery in Florida (www.awyethgallery.com).
The new gallery space, now called Barbara Moore Fine Art, occupies two downstairs rooms – a more manageable space that reflects how the art market in general has changed. “If this was the 1980s, I’d be rich,” Moore said, smiling. “But it’s not that anymore. It’s developing.”
But there are still plenty of buyers who regard Moore’s gallery as a second home, often stopping in just to chat about art, or life, or their families. “Oh, I’m absolutely still having fun,” Moore said. “I couldn’t imagine being at home. I’m still busy here. I’ve always been out and about. I’m 83, and I still get caught up in the excitement of it all.”
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email firstname.lastname@example.org.