November 5, 2010 – February 20, 2011

Behind the Blue Doors: Famous Works from the Rehoboth Art League Collection is the first critical examination of the rarely-seen permanent collection of the Rehoboth Art League (RAL). Founded in the early 1930s, the RAL quickly became a regional hot bed of artistic production and has collected hundreds of art works from area artist masters for the past eighty years. Without a comprehensive catalogue of its important collection or large-scale galleries to display these works, the Rehoboth Art League is partnering with the Biggs Museum of American Art to debut its important collection of regional modernism to the public.

The exhibition will feature approximately 60 memorable art works from the RAL permanent collection featuring nearly 50 noted artists. Of special interest are artworks made in the first 40 years of the RAL’s history, a time when Rehoboth Art League instructors like Jack Lewis, Ethel Leach, Orville Peets and Howard Schroeder were coming into local prominence. Behind the Blue Doors will also explore controversies surrounding its long-range plans for growth and for the care of the permanent collection. In a story remarkably similar to Philadelphia’s Barnes Foundation, the RAL’s need to conserve and utilize the historic structures on its campus, to expand visitation and to care for its growing permanent collection, is conflicting with zoning regulations of the town that has grown up around the Art League, Henlopen Acres.

“Behind the Blue Doors is a unique collaboration between two arts organizations, each with separate missions and audiences, working towards an achievement of an even greater and universal mission which is to educate and develop awareness of the arts,” states Biggs Museum of American Art Director Linda Danko. “It is partnerships like this that will enable arts and culture to grow in Delaware, especially in Kent and Sussex County.”

The Rehoboth Art League, founded by Louise C. Corkran, is a nationally important center of 20th century artistic production within the historic art colony of Rehoboth Beach. Since the late 19th century, artists throughout the eastern seaboard have frequented Rehoboth Beach as an established artist retreat. Other artists’ retreats of national significance include North Carolina’s Penland School; New Hope, Pennsylvania; Provincetown, Massachusetts; Monhegan Island, Maine; and Old Lyme, Connecticut. Like these art destinations, Rehoboth Beach has been a site of artistic instruction for over a hundred years with classes hosted by art groups based throughout the State of Delaware and the Mid-Atlantic Region. Since its opening in the 1930s, the RAL has been a focal point for a community of hundreds artists centered in Sussex County and the State of Delaware.

Behind the Blue Doors tells the early story of the RAL while discussing its significance to America. There are few precious collections of this magnitude that feature art works by Delaware artists inspired by early notions of 20th-century modernism; this is an extremely rare opportunity to see masterpieces by some of the State’s most admired artists. The lives of the artists and their artistic production will help tell the history of the RAL and describe its importance within the cultural life of the region.