In Nature’s Realm: The Art of Gerard Rutgers Hardenbergh

Image Credit: Grouse, 1885. Gerard Rutgers Hardenbergh (1856-1915), oil on canvas. Private Collection.

Opening February 19, 2021

In line with its mission of celebrating the art of New Jersey, Morven Museum & Garden will present the first exhibition examining the work of Gerard Rutgers Hardenbergh (1856-1915).

Born in New Brunswick, the great-great-grandson of Reverend Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh (1736-1790), the first president of Queens College (Rutgers University), Hardenbergh was a self-taught artist and ornithologist. As a young man, he spent time at Chadwick House, the Jersey Shore’s most famous sporting club located just south of present-day Mantoloking. His early love of wildlife became a lifelong passion for the study of birds. Splitting his time between New Brunswick and the Jersey Shore, Hardenbergh collected and preserved shore birds, sending important specimens to the Biology Department at Princeton University. 

Intertwined with his interest in the young field of ornithology was his development as an artist. At the age of 18, Hardenbergh’s paintings were exhibited at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia where he was praised as “a careful and accurate ornithologist and prominent artist.” His works were scientifically accurate and popular. One newspaper later described Hardenbergh as “…a student whose books have been the woods and whose mentor Dame Nature herself.…” With a studio on board his houseboat Pelican, which he moored around Bay Head, Hardenbergh became an eccentric fixture along the Jersey Shore.

Morven’s five-gallery exhibition will also present the commercial work done by Hardenbergh, including designs for porcelain, chromolithographs, and his unique games and charts published by Charles Scribner’s Sons. From the untouched land surrounding Barnegat Bay and the diverse wildlife that called it home, to the picturesque steeples and meadows around New Brunswick, Hardenbergh’s work provides a special glimpse into the Garden State on the brink of rapid development. 

Morven Museum & Garden is located at 55 Stockton Street in Princeton. For more information, visit www.morven.org or call 609.924.8144.