The Marblehead Museum is beginning a new project. The renovation and reinterpretation of the Frost Gallery, to be called the J.O.J. Frost Gallery and Education Center, will start this month. Reinterpreted, updated, and creatively displayed, Frost and his work will achieve their proper place in local and national importance. This new gallery will benefit Marblehead, including school children, adults and visitors from all over the world. J.O.J. Frost would love to know how important his paintings have become, but he would be most proud that their primary function of teaching continues to inspire all who see them. To watch our video about the project and learn more, please click here.
Working with acclaimed exhibit designer Fred Johnson, education consultants, and Museum staff, the Marblehead Museum is about to begin a bold and dynamic new presentation of the Frost Gallery. Using the existing gallery space, a much needed renovation will display the art with Museum lighting, labels and new interactive interpretation. The Frost paintings will remain the focus of the permanent exhibit, enhanced by descriptive text and labels, photographs of Marblehead and the Grand Banks, and interactive media that will add to, but not overshadow, Frost’s message. The multi-purpose uses of this museum room will be expanded. Lectures will continue to be a focus for the space; education programs and workshops for all ages will emphasize maritime and historic themes. You can find more information in our brochure.
The Marblehead Museum owns the largest collection of Frost’s work in the world. Paintings by J.O.J. Frost are on display in prominent museums and collections throughout the United States including: the Peabody Essex Museum, Historic New England, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Fenimore Museum, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
John Orne Johnson Frost’s story is inspiring. He began to paint at the age of 70. He had a vision: to paint the history of the town he loved. He wanted to record Marblehead’s history of fishing, daily life, and heroic deeds. He wanted the Marblehead he had grown up in to be remembered. He wanted to pass on his passion and love for everything that he believed in. Frost tried to interest friends and neighbors in his work. He tried to sell his paintings for 25 cents each from a wheelbarrow in Market Square. He even built his own museum in his backyard on Pond Street. All of his efforts met with little success; Frost was mocked and ignored. Yet he continued to paint, working steadily until his death in 1928. His stubborn Marblehead spirit, his passion, pride, and love for the town sustained him.
At his death, Frost left the bulk of his paintings to the Marblehead Historical Society.
His gift was appreciated, though his primitive style was not admired at the time. Frost’s paintings were put on display in a tiny room on the third floor of the Lee Mansion. As time passed, J.O.J. Frost’s art became more acceptable, recognized, and valuable. In 1998 the Historical Society bought the building at 170 Washington Street, and the entire second floor became a permanent exhibit gallery for Frost’s paintings.
The Marblehead Museum is a private non-profit organization, not supported by the Town of Marblehead. The Museum’s collection, including colonial American furniture, decorative arts, textiles, and archives, spans five centuries of Marblehead history. Three properties of national importance comprise its holdings: The elegant Jeremiah Lee Mansion is recognized as one of the preeminent historic houses in the United States. The Civil War & G.A.R. Museum was reinstalled in 2013, enhancing its significance and educational outreach. And now the Frost gallery and Education Center will take its turn, raising awareness of this outstanding artist, and Marblehead’s maritime traditions.