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A five-foot shark hangs in front of the robin’s-egg blue trestle desk in Clare Stone’s living room on MDI. Nearby, just beyond a large armadillo-like woven creature sprawls a ten-foot mouse—or is it a rat?—constructed from grey-painted canvas. Inside one window sits a large crow, while a huge ship’s head figure stands as if having paraded into the room, hat on head and hands on breasts.
At Seabench, the extraordinary Stone summer cottage overlooking the eastern edge of Seal Harbor, the downstairs rooms are filled with an uncanny diversity of sculpture, painting, furniture and pottery—everything from the finest of contemporary artists to amazing finds from Maine’s cacophony of antique stores. Outside, nestled among a rapture of ferns, moss and flowers, stand large pottery urns and more massive sculptures. These jewels are the discoveries of the late Allan Stone, owner of New York City’s Allan Stone Gallery, a voracious appreciator of all kinds of art, from roadside signs to African sculpture to abstract painting.
Shortly after Allan died, in 2006, his family sought appropriate ways of honoring him. Together with his six daughters, his widow, Clare Stone, decided that one very fitting tribute to this brilliant collector, a man who constantly shared his love of art with others, would be an endowed faculty position at College of the Atlantic. Thus was born the Allan Stone Chair in the Visual Arts. The college is now searching for a person to hold the position.
Allan Stone was a student at Harvard University when he bought his first piece of art, “Study for Pink Angels” by William DeKooning. This was in the 1950s. The $250 that Allan spent so appalled his father that he restricted his son’s funds. That didn’t stop the art buying. On the family dime, he’d order expensive suits in New York and sell them to classmates in Cambridge. Following his father’s wishes, Allan became a lawyer, but he also kept collecting. In December 1961, the Allan Stone Gallery opened in Manhattan. His eye was legendary. Wayne Thiebaud had his first show there, and Richard Estes his first photorealist exhibition.
In 1963, Clare went to work for the gallery. It changed her life. Having honed her vision from years of living with exceptional art, Clare Stone became a photographer.
The Stones began summering in Maine, and bought their home in Seal Harbor during the college’s first years. They came to know COA and become members of the Champlain Society through former board chair and life trustee Ed Blair, who would include the Stones on his whale-viewing excursions.
“Allan loved Maine so much,” Clare Stone says. “He was not interested in publicity, not interested in fame,” she adds. “He saw things and wanted them and it broadened his life. Teaching people how to see is what he was really good at.” She recalls him standing in front of a Jackson Pollock, explaining “how to look at ‘abstract painting.’ It was so interesting and so helpful—he could see it and he could explain it; that’s a very rare quality.”
In The Collector, a documentary about her father made by daughter Olympia Stone, the eminent New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman speaks of the deeply personal nature of Allan Stone’s gallery. “It has to do with love,” he says.
The chair, combining the visual arts and Maine at a college of human ecology, is a true weaving of the many loves of the Stone family. “This chair will be ongoing and meaningful—a living, breathing thing, embodying something that Allan believed in,” echoes Clare Stone.