Waterbury man finds forgotten works of art, which are now gaining national attention

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) – In an old barn in Watertown, two men made an unexpected discovery. They found hundreds of works of art.

“They were all covered in this thick, heavy plastic that was 30 and 40 years old,” said Jared Whipple of Waterbury. “You really weren’t able to appreciate and see much of what was there.”

Whipple discovered this work with his friend George Martin. He said those pieces were thrown away and headed for the landfill.

“The first thing you’re going to ask is who was this guy?” And what is its story? said Whipple.

Whipple said it became clear that all of these works were made by the same artist.

“We came across a painting that bore his full name. It was Francis Mattson Hines,” Whipple said. “Once we had the full last name, we went back to Google, searched that, and immediately saw the Washington Square Arch in New York City just completely covered in fabric and turned into a fabric sculpture.”

Whipple learned that Hines, who made his money as an illustrator mostly for New York’s department stores, gained recognition for his paintings, sculptures, and packaged public art projects. He has lived and worked in New York and Watertown.

“He would just create it and ship it to that barn,” Whipple said.

Whipple has made it his mission to bring this body of work out of obscurity and bring Hines’ work back to life. He therefore partnered with the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury.

“He had a show at the Mattatuck Museum in 1975, so to me, it was kind of cool to have it come full circle,” Whipple said.

The museum exhibited a collection of works last year and Hines’ work is back for another exhibition.

“This is one of those rare opportunities,” said Robert Burns, executive director of the Mattatuck Museum. “The works aren’t really publicly available at this point and so making them available to the public is really generous of Jared and it really helps us to continue to tell the story and bring Francis Hines to light more.”

Soon an exhibition in Southport will open and some of his pieces will go on sale. You can read more about the exhibition here.

Although Whipple never had the chance to meet Hines, finding these pieces a year after his death, he said he felt he knew him better than most by dedicating his time to this work and connecting with Hines’ former crew, friends and family.

He said it was just the beginning, hoping to exhibit Hines’ work in a major museum in New York.

He also plans to keep parts close to his home in the Mattatuck, near where this story began.

“Eventually I’m going to talk to them about donating some of the work that would still be there and be in their collection and people can come here and see it,” Whipple said.

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