Gates-keeping: The art of brothers Gates

A capacity crowd gathered on Sunday afternoon, April 30, 2006, in the Yeager Room at the Bronxville Public Library. The reason — a rare exhibit of the works of two early-twentieth-century Bronxville artists, brothers Francis and Richard Gates. The exhibition and program were presented by the Bronxville Historical Conservancy and made possible through the generosity of the collection’s owner, Roland Britch, of Newport, Vermont, an heir of Richard Gates’ daughter Frances. The two-day exhibition of 37 pictures, several of which were landscapes painted along the Bronx River in Bronxville, opened on Saturday, and a special introduction to the artists was presented Sunday afternoon by Dale Hanson Walker, a great-granddaughter of Edward Morange who, with Frank Gates, established the scenic design firm of Gates and Morange in 1894.

Walker’s talk included a brief history of the firm’s achievements in theater scenic design, including their work with producers such as Florence Ziegfeld, Arthur Hammerstein, Harrison Grey Fiske and the Schuberts. She also discussed the backgrounds of the artists and their connection to Bronxville. Morange followed Frank Gates to the village shortly after the turn of the century, and the two became partners with others in the development of Sagamore Park. Each built five houses located on Park Avenue, Leonard Road, Avon Road, Plateau Circle West and Sagamore Road. Their houses often included art studios on the second floor. In preparing her remarks, Dale Walker interviewed Richard Gate’s granddaughter, June Kirby, and used primary sources from the scenic design firm that are now held by her family.

A letter written by Frank Gates to Ed Morange five years before Frank’s death, along with Ed’s response, highlighted the strong bond of friendship between the men and the respect they had for each other’s talents. More than 100 people visited the exhibition, and many commented on the beautiful colors and fascinating brush work of the Impressionist-influenced works. Scenes included landscapes from Bronxville, Westchester County, Cold Springs (NY), and Europe, as well as a stunning portrait of a young woman. One of the paintings, Split Rock (San Francisco), had been shown in the 1915 exhibition of Bronxville artists held at the Gramatan Hotel. While largely undated, the paintings were most likely executed between 1910 and 1950. Frank Gates died in 1952; his brother Richard died in 1964.

About the author

The Bronxville Historical Conservancy was established in 1998 to further the understanding and appreciation of the history and current life of the Village of Bronxville, New York. The Conservancy furthers its mission through the presentation of programs, publications, lectures, and special events that foster an awareness of the Village’s architectural, artistic, and cultural heritage and lends its support for projects designed to strengthen and preserve those legacies.