By Kathryn R. Burke, Publisher, San Juan Publishing], Vice President, MCA
The Rood Collection, curated and on loan by Colorado artist, Roger Milway is on display throughout the month of August in MCA’s Columbine Room. The collection as it remains today, consists of 63 watercolor paintings dated from 1834 to 1910. For this exhibit, Milway has selected paintings he feels best represent the collection and watercolor-style of that period.
John F Rood, who collected these paintings, was a professor of public and business administration. At the time he acquired this collection he was under contract with the University of Maryland to teach college level classes to our military personal. He taught at U.S. military bases around the world. Of all the places he taught, his favorite country was England. All of the paintings in his collection were purchased there.
Rood was friends with a couple who discovered that there were original works of art in antique shops and even some junk shops in England. His friends had been importing art to the United States for many years. The paintings, by noted artists who were well respected in the art world, had appeared in national and international exhibitions. Some of the artists were also members of the Royal Academy.
When Rood was not teaching, he started looking for paintings himself, and thus his collection began … and grew. “When he had accumulated 40-or-so paintings, he would ship them to his daughter (my wife) and I for safe keeping,” Milway said. “Most of the old frames were unsalvageable, so we would often receive a suitcase full of matted watercolor paintings.”
At the time these works were created, artists the world over had used watercolors in painting but not in a serious manner. Oil painting was, and still is, considered to be the more important medium. Watercolors were used for studies, sketches, and occasionally for a finished painting. While English artists did paint in all mediums, they brought the medium of watercolor to the level of fine art.
A century later, some of that fine art wound up in the Rood Collection in Denver, Colorado. The Roods had relocated there after he retired. When traveling antique shows came to the city, Rood would obtain a booth and sell some of his collection at these shows. His collection is varied because he wanted pictures that would appeal to a broad audience, so it combines landscape with portraiture, sea life and farming with industry, flora with fauna, and a delightful sprinkling of whimsy. The collection as it remains today—all but a few pieces carefully reframed by Milway—is a beautifully curated example of how an art exhibition might have looked like in England, in the middle to late 1800s.