I’m Leslie Wagner, the Historian at The Dawes Arboretum in Newark. The Dawes Arboretum was established in 1929 by Beman and Bertie Dawes to create pleasure for the public and education for the youth. While trees are our primary focus, Beman Dawes always wanted a historian as part of The Arboretum’s staff. It is rare for a green space to have a history department but The Arboretum has always made history part of the conservation and interpretation of the grounds and is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places as a historical district. An arboretum is a tree museum; trees themselves are a form of living history.
Beman and Bertie did not collect fine art and yet owned a significant collection of paintings by Ohio artist Sala Bosworth. Sala Bosworth (1805-1890) is known by art historians as an important early Ohio portrait painter, painting the likes of Judge Ephraim Cutler, Rufus Putnam and other prominent pioneers. The Dawes family were likely not aware of his place in early Ohio art, just that “Uncle Bosworth” created many beautiful paintings that were passed down as family heirlooms. It is rare someone knows the Dawes family connection to Sala which is the primary takeaway of the exhibit I curated. Ohio Artist Sala Bosworth: The Dawes Family Collection ties together Ohio history and art with topics of Ohio deforestation, the American Conversation Movement, the Hudson River School aesthetic and art patrons in early Ohio history. All of the paintings were at one time owned by Dawes family members.
Oil painting of River Landscape, 1883. Image courtesy of The Dawes Arboretum.
During my research, I scheduled a day to see the Ohio History Connection’s Sala Bosworth paintings with History Curator Dr. Becky Odom in early 2020. Most of the paintings were donated to the Campus Martius Museum in Marietta, Sala’s hometown. I particularly loved his landscape paintings all depicting southern Ohio. Our plans were to have OHC display their own Bosworth landscapes and promote The Arboretum’s exhibit, but the global pandemic closed the museum and our plans. Instead, you can view OHC’s Sala Bosworth paintings in a new online exhibit curated by OHC History Collections Intern Allison Bolam. This blog and online exhibit are our new collaborations, all for Sala’s artistic legacy. A Sala Bosworth symposium hosted by The Arboretum in October 2021 will feature myself, art restorer Fred Fochtman and Ohio art historian Andrew Richmond. Learn about the in-person program here or use this link for the virtual program.
A great article about Sala Bosworth was written by L.J. Kozlowski for the November/December 1999 TIMELINE magazine which features paintings from The Arboretum’s historic collection. Check out Ohio Memory for more images of Sala Bosworth’s oils and watercolors. Ohio Artist Sala Bosworth is open daily from 12-3 pm through October 31, 2021 at The Dawes Arboretum. The Columbus Member Advantage Program allows for $3 off adult and children admissions (up to 3 guests). Tickets can be purchased by calling 740.323.2355 or at our Gatehouse upon entry, mention the Columbus Member Advantage Program to receive your discount. To learn more about The Dawes Arboretum and the exhibit, please visit www.dawesarb.org.