Updated: Jul 8, 2020
The modest George Macrum cottage belies an important 20th century artist colony founded in the early 1930’s along Ballard and Academy Avenues in Sloatsburg, New York. George Herbert Macrum (1878-1970), was an accomplished American impressionist painter specializing in scenes of French and English mountain villages, city and romantic architectural images, such as his “Polperro Roofs” and the streets of NYC. He married well-respected poet Grace Fallow Norton (1876-1962) in 1914 where they spent much of that year in England and France. Her witness to the mobilization of World War I inspired a series of poems including “What is your Legion” (1918), and a riveting book “The Odyssey of a Torpedoed Transport”. Her poetry was praised by fellow poets Amy Lowell and Robert Frost, and began appearing regularly in Poetry soon after the magazines founding in 1912.
After living and working in New York during the 1920’s the couple moved to this cottage, circa 1932. They encouraged New York artist friends to join them “near the Sloatsburg train station” and restore small homes adjacent to the Ramapo River. Sculptor Earl Gordon and his wife Eleanora, a weaver, were affiliated with the School of Living founded by Ralph Borsodi (1886-1977) and had a hillside cottage next to the artist known as Cockcroft.
Artist Edith Varian Cockcroft (1881-1962), soon followed and realized prolific creative output over several decades at her home and studio overlooking the Ramapo River. Edith’s early career success included running a Manhattan couture studio where she patented methods for printing silks. Her blouse-making kits were marketed nationwide as a “silk sensation”. During her years in Rockland, Edith also designed costumes and sets for The Suffern County Theatre founded by Robert Frye Cutler. However, she is best known for her exuberant use of color including her signature turquoise in botanical, Greek mythology, and animal motif metallic glaze dinnerware sets. This astounding output of ceramics was done at her Sloatsburg studio at which George Macrum acted as studio manager for a time. Edith also continued to paint and a number of her paintings capture the flora and fauna of Sloatsburg which harken back to her earlier atmospheric views of French and British coastal villages and portraits of nudes against colorful backdrops. My grandmother, Mary Allen Bush, was bookkeeper for Edith’s studio and helped co-produce at least two WWII war relief art events with Edith & Eleanora. My grandparents and parents were friends of the artists. My mother spoke fondly of a memorable engagement party which Grace Macrum hosted in 1956 at the Macrum cottage, to celebrate my parents upcoming marriage in July of that year.
The legacy of local resident artists lives on at Harmony Hall on Sunday, August 16, 2020 from 10am till 5pm when The Friends of Harmony Hall & the Sloatsburg Chamber of Commerce present the Third Annual Plein Air Art event. Artists will have the opportunity to paint on the great lawn and various sites throughout historic Sloatsburg!