The collection of the late Robert and Elizabeth Haskell lived between dramatic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Little Washington and the city life of Martinsville Virginia. Robert Haskell was the publisher of the Martinsville Bulletin and also served on the board of the Public Welfare Foundation in Washington D.C., an organization founded in 1947 to ensure that people in need receive fundamental rights and opportunities. Elizabeth Haskell served on the Martinsville City Council as well as in the cabinet of then Governor of Virginia L. Douglas Wilder as his Secretary of Natural Resources from 1990 to 1994. The author of many books and articles on the environment, Mrs. Haskell was also a director and officer of the Martinsville Bulletin and in 2005 she was recognized as the Outstanding Virginian by the state General Assembly.
The strength of the artworks in both homes made the Haskell collection truly exceptional. The Haskells were particular admirers of the master of light, Alfred Sisley, and their farmhouse in Little Washington, shown here, featured a stunning oil, Les carrières à Veneux au soleil - le matin,surrounded by a remarkable collection of pastels. The dining room included not only the best examples from this group of works by Sisley, but also a wonderful still-life by Georges Braque, Pichet et journal, framed by a striking pair of Edgar Brandt chenets. Combinations like this appeared throughout the house, such as the front hall where Renoir’s Pont aux alentours de Croissy hung above a vintage “Indian” motorcycle, known as America’s first motorcycle. Fascinatingly, the two works were actually made within a few years of each other. The stately Martinsville residence combined vibrantly coloured oils by Cavailles with impeccably curated marriages of fine and decorative art, from Tiffany lamps to Manguin’s Fauvist nude, Le Reflet. Both homes revealed the sense of joy that the Haskells clearly took in putting together and living with their collection, a shared passion that is evident in the quality of each work and in the myriad relationships between objects.