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NYMC Honors Founder William Cullen Bryant

On March 22, the NYMC community took a step back in time and spent an evening getting better acquainted with the life and achievements of NYMC founder, William Cullen Bryant. While Bryant died in 1878 at the age of 83, the event—which featured presentations and guided tours of the Bryant exhibit in the Health Sciences Library—made it abundantly clear that Bryant’s legacy remains alive and well today at NYMC. ‌

“By putting William Cullen Bryant’s passions and accomplishments on the library walls,” explained Jay Tartell, M.D. ’82, third from left, archivist and historian, NYMC Alumni Board of Governors, who spearheaded the exhibit and event, “I am hoping that Bryant can play a role in inspiring others. When one looks at Bryant’s life and accomplishments, we are taught that in each of us, there is a potential to accomplish much—to improve our society and our surrounding world, not only in our chosen occupations, but across other disciplines as well."

Dr. Tartell was joined at the podium by four other Bryant experts. Edward C. Halperin, M.D., M.A., second from right, chancellor and CEO, discussed Bryant’s role as an early proponent of homeopathy and as the rather unusual “non-physician, non-philanthropist founding personality” of NYMC, then New York Homeopathic Medical College. John Dawson Jr., far right, and Harrison Hunt, M.A., second from left,—both from The Friends of Cedarmere Inc., Bryant’s home in Roslyn Harbor, Long Island—introduced the audience to Bryant, the literary figure and writer, whose expansive works ranged from significant works of poetry to translations of The Iliad and The Odyssey to serving as the influential editor of the New York Evening Post for five decades. Jonathan Harding, far left, of the Century Association spoke of Bryant’s role in American Art as both a close friend of many members of the Hudson River School of Art and as founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The presentations were followed by tours of the Bryant Exhibit in the Health Sciences Library, a collection of Bryant artifacts donated by Dr. Tartell and his wife, Deborah. The collection includes notable New York Evening Post editions, volumes of Bryant poetry and travel writings, several framed reproductions of Bryant portraits as well as a print of Asher B. Durand’s Kindred Spirits, a painting depicting Bryant with his close friend and founder of the Hudson River School of Art, Thomas Cole. In addition, the Tartell Family also presented a second bronze bust of William Cullen Bryant to the College, to be displayed prominently on campus.

“May this serve as a reminder of the meaningful and transformative deeds that Bryant performed throughout his life,” said Dr. Tartell, “and let us each be inspired to create our own significant and rich legacy, especially one which improves society and makes the world a better place.”

The Mystery of the Unnamed Parton

While visiting NYMC for the William Cullen Bryant Reception and Exhibit, Jonathan Harding, curator of collections at The Century Association—a private club in NYC founded in 1829 by Bryant and his friends to promote interest in the fine arts and literature—toured Sunshine Cottage Heritage Hall with Dr. Halperin. One item of particular interest to Mr. Harding was the landscape painting by Arthur Parton (1841-1914). Parton, a member of the Hudson River School of Art gained widespread recognition after one of his paintings was published in Bryant’s Picturesque America

The College’s landscape by Parton, painted in 1884 and featuring nature as its protagonist, is of unknown title and Mr. Harding left NYMC intent on solving the mystery. While Parton exhibited his paintings regularly at The Century Association and had a solo show there in 1884, the exhibition records retained by the Association did not allow Mr. Harding to identify NYMC’s painting by name.

“As you’ll see from the exhibition records, there are a number of possible candidates, but narrowing the field (or stream in this case) down further may be impossible,” writes Harding, “sadly, The Century Association never recorded the dimensions of art works.”