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Sam Low '64 honors his father

Sanford B.D. Low's son delivers lecture at New Britain Museum of American Art

The New Britain (CT) Herald

January 19, 2014

NEW BRITAIN — More than 60 people stepped back in time at the New Britain Museum of American Art Sunday and into the life of its first director, Sanford Low.

Sam Low, his son, guided them through a pictorial and oral history of the museum’s early days and the city’s introduction to the world of American art.

His talk was titled “Aloha in the Hardware Capital of the World” and was sprinkled with Hawaiian lingo, as the elder Low was born in Kohala, Hawaii. The Low family’s ancestry traces to Hawaiian royalty.

The year was 1930 and Sanford Low had come to New Britain from New York City. He was a young artist and a newlywed, having married socialite and fellow artist Virginia Hart, whose wealthy family lived in a mansion at 338 Hart St.

He decided New Britain needed an art school, and transformed an old red barn on Cedar Street into the home of the Art League of New Britain.

“It was a combination of a school and a commercial enterprise,” his son said of “The Studio,” which also was where Sanford Low and other artists sold their murals at $5 a square foot.

“My father began stirring this bohemian gathering place into the larger life of New Britain,” Low said.

Soon it became a night-life destination for local residents, with costume parties and casino nights lighting up the city.

“He began to draw in into this artistic place the bankers, financiers — the folks who really ran New Britain.”

He went on to become president of the Association of Connecticut Artists, co-founder of the Connecticut Watercolor Society, and president of the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts. But it wasn’t until the late 1930s that Low had his true shining moment, being asked to join the Board of Directors at the newly formed New Britain Institute, which is now the museum.

Founded in 1903 through a $25,000 grant, it was inside the Landers House at that time and had only 24 paintings.

“It was a time when American art wasn’t really well valued,” Low said.

But a close friendship with famed art dealer Robert Vose led to more success and the pair set off to build the museum’s collection.

“They were two really good art connoisseurs looking for really good paintings,” Sam Low said of Vose and his father, who died in 1964.

In 25 years with the museum, Sanford Low helped acquire more than 1500 works of art.

“Dad got ahead by a force of personality and a Hawaiian sense of life. I hope that his work has been a gift of love and a gift of ‘Aloha’ to New Britain and to this museum,” Sam Low said.

See the following web pages on this site, regarding Sam Low: