Vermont Historical Society mounting a major exhibition: “For the Love of Vermont: The Lyman Orton Collection”

The Vermont Historical Society is excited to present a major exhibition of paintings, prints, and drawings titled “For the Love of Vermont: The Lyman Orton Collection.” It is a selection from the largest private collection of 20th century artwork by Vermont artists, collected over the past 45 years by Lyman Orton, best known as the proprietor of The Vermont Country Store. The artwork will be displayed at the Vermont History Museum at 109 State Street in Montpelier from July 3 through the end of this year, with a special pre-opening reception for Vermont Historical Society members on June 27. 

This remarkable exhibition at the Pavilion Building is the first showing of works from The Orton Collection in central Vermont. Co-curated by the Vermont Historical Society, Lyman Orton, and Donnel Barnum, who is the curator of The Lyman Orton Collection, “For the Love of Vermont” features more than 80 works of Vermont scenes created between 1910 and 1970. Among the 50 artists in the exhibition are Luigi Lucioni, Walton Blodgett, Francis Colburn, Cecil Bell, Rockwell Kent, Emile Gruppe, Ruth Mould, Mitzi Goward, and Paul Sample.  

The debut exhibition of The Orton Collection, which was held at two southern Vermont museums in 2023, was a blockbuster hit, breaking all prior attendance records. Hundreds of visitors left comments and recollections about their love of Vermont, prompting even more interest in a reprise showing of selections from The Orton Collection again this year. 

Lyman Orton says that over his 45 years of collecting, his mission was to retain and repatriate works from the Golden Age of Vermont Art for Vermonters and visitors to enjoy. “Every painting has a story, and stories are history,” Orton says, “and so we curate each exhibit to relay visual and written experiences that express and even inspire the love of Vermont. Unlike most art shows organized by individual artists, I have organized the collection into eleven themes of Vermont life. This way, viewers can enjoy how different artists may capture scenes from barns, churches, country fairs, and sugaring, to logging and even laundry drying on an outdoor clothesline. In the descriptions of the paintings, I want to tell stories to the viewers using everyday language, skipping all the academic ‘art talk.’ I want people to tell us their stories most of all.”

The Vermont Historical Society plans a rotation of staff and guest programming for the duration of the exhibition that will provide both cultural and historical context about the importance of The Orton Collection.

Orton remarked, “I want folks who perhaps have never attended an art exhibit to come and enjoy what they see and read. The best example of this is a comment from last year by a woman who wrote me and said, ‘I had to drag my husband to the see the art show, and then I had to drag him out!’”

“We are very excited to host For the Love of Vermont at the Vermont History Museum in Montpelier,” says Stephen Perkins, Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society, “In addition to the stunning beauty of the art collection, it provides an insight into the Vermont scene from specific points in time through a lens that only an artist can provide.” 

Members of the society will be invited to a special pre-opening reception and talk to meet Lyman Orton on Thursday, June 27th. This special event will include a Q&A session and a book signing of the collection’s companion publication For the Love of Vermont: The Lyman Orton Collection. Published in 2023 and co-written by Lyman Orton and Vermont author Anita Rafael, the 220-page hardcover book is on sale at the Vermont History Museum bookstore and at The Vermont Country Store. For membership details, please visit our website:

About the Vermont Historical Society

Established in 1838, The Vermont Historical Society is a nonprofit organization that operates the Vermont History Museum in Montpelier, the Vermont History Center in Barre, and programming throughout the state. Its purpose is to reach a broad audience through outstanding collections and statewide outreach. The Vermont Historical Society believes that an understanding of the past changes lives and builds better communities. Visit the VHS website at

About Lyman Orton

Lyman Orton’s love of Vermont runs deep, built upon seven generations of his family in Vermont and through his passion for the art of storekeeping and his family’s business, The Vermont Country Store.  “Every sale I make to a customer in my stores carries my self-imposed responsibility to uphold the honor of Vermont,” he declares. “It’s the reason for our success, which enables me to allocate my personal resources to thoughtfully building and maintaining this art collection. I have recently established a nonprofit that will preserve and protect the artworks, while making it possible for Vermonters and visitors alike, to continue to enjoy the art and take pride these scenes and stories of Vermont for years to come.”

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