When Peter Lynch gets home to Marblehead each day from work, after managing money with legendary success for Fidelity Investments, he can relax by looking at great works of American art.

Locals can see what that would be like at a new exhibit, “A Passion for American Art: Selections From the Carolyn and Peter Lynch Collection,” which opened Saturday and will be on display at Peabody Essex Museum through Dec. 1.

“As you walk through this show, you really get a sense of what it is to walk through their home,” said Dean Lahikainen, a curator of American decorative art whose position at the museum was endowed by the Lynches. “Obviously, we’ve abstracted it here, but it is that you go around the corner and there’s another beautiful painting, over another beautiful piece of furniture, grouped in an interesting way.”

The exhibit was drawn from the art, furniture and decorative objects in three homes that Lynch purchased with his wife, Carolyn, who died in 2015.

One of these homes is on Marblehead Neck, where the Lynches — who moved to Marblehead in 1970, after getting married in 1968 — bought the Colby House in 1982.

“We love the location, we love the house,” Lynch said. “It just didn’t fit to live there year-round.”

Once their three daughters were grown, the Lynches purchased another home, which was created from the fourth floors of two mansions that overlook Boston Public Garden.

They also built a retirement home in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2001, where they started to collect Western and Native American art, along with contemporary ceramics and works in glass.

Most of these items, along with portraits of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and her two children, appear in the second half of the exhibit.

The first section features 18th- and early 19th-century furniture and American paintings from the 1850s to 1910.

The latter include seascapes by John Kensett, William Bradford and Albert Bierstadt, which complemented the Lynches’ ocean views in the Marblehead home.

These are followed by works from the Boston house and include an allegorical painting by Winslow Homer, along with scenes that John Singer Sargent painted on the Spanish island of Mallorca and the Greek island of Corfu.

“The poster child for the show is this fabulous work by Frederick Carl Freiseke,” said Lahikainen, indicating the oil painting “On the River” from 1908. “He was the first American painter to embrace impressionism. This is his wife, Sadie, on a river in Giverny in France, and their next-door neighbor is Claude Monet, and she gardened with Monet.”

The show also includes five “At Home” vignettes, which reveal how these artworks were combined with unique pieces of furniture and decorative objects in particular settings throughout the homes.

From a dining area in the Boston home, for instance, a painting of Appledore Island by Childe Hassam hangs above an 1800 sideboard, which supports a Coalport soup tureen and a silver Tiffany tea and coffee service.


There are two vignettes from Marblehead Neck, including one from the dining room, which is one of six period rooms that the Lynches created in that home.

“The rooms were there, but we changed them — moved the walls out, took out some of the plate-glass windows,” Lynch said. 

The Colby House dates to 1938 and was designed by Boston architect Royal Barry Wills, who specialized in Cape Cod-type homes, but in this case created one of his few International Style houses.

“It was a basic summer camp-type house, and we wanted to make it look like a Georgian, 18th-century house, like a Marblehead house,” Lynch said. “Then we went to 17th century.”

The six rooms include a parlor that the Lynches called the East Room, which is the largest room in the house and was used in various ways by the family.

“Our kids played there,” Lynch said. “We hid Easter eggs there. One of our children plays cello, one plays clarinet, one daughter plays piano — we played music for our family there.”

The renovations took eight years and also included the kitchen, bedroom and keeping room, ending in the garage, which the family used as an entrance. 

“We painted the garage doors so when they close, it looks like a library,” Lynch said. “We put rosehead nails on the doors, and it looks like an 18th-century library.”


He said the inspiration to do this exhibit came from Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo, the Marblehead couple whose collection of Dutch paintings was exhibited at Peabody Essex from 2012 to 2014.

But he and Carolyn were influenced as collectors, and also in their renovations, by what they saw at historic houses such as Beauport in Gloucester, Cogswell’s Grant in Essex and Winterthur in Delaware.

“Carolyn grew up in Delaware,” Lynch said. “As a child, she went to Winterthur, which everybody in America ought to go to. They have all these rooms, furniture collections, draperies and wallpapers. As a child, I went to the Museum of Fine Arts, and I had a course in art history at Boston College.” 

Carolyn served as a trustee at Peabody Essex for many years, and Lynch donated three paintings to the museum in her memory, by Hassam, Georgia O’Keeffe and Marblehead folk artist J.O.J. Frost, all of which appear in this exhibit.

“I think the museum is one of the finest in the world,” Lynch said. “They didn’t have those three artists, and they were great pieces.”

He said he could no more pick out a favorite item in the exhibit than he could choose a favorite among his daughters, but he was glad to see that they chose to display so many pieces of Marblehead Pottery.  

That was created in Marblehead between 1904 and 1936 by patients of Herbert Hall, a Marblehead physician who felt that making ceramics was good therapy for people with nervous disorders.

“We found out about it when we moved to Marblehead,” Lynch said. “It’s so beautiful. It’s so simple.”

He said that one of the most gratifying parts of doing the show was reading the catalog, which he described as “very scholarly, but very readable,” and includes an introductory essay by Jeanne Schinto of Andover.

Lynch said that he learned from reading the book that Stephen Badlam, a Dorchester furniture-maker whose sideboard is in the show, had been a general in the Revolutionary War.

“Generals go on to do other things,” Lynch said. “He went back to work and made furniture. I only learned this from this catalog.”

He also said that he values the items in his collection, including those that didn’t make it into the show, because he picked them out with Carolyn.

“Every one, we selected together,” Lynch said. “Every one has a memory of why we got it, and where we bought it.” 


If you go

What: “A Passion for American Art: Selections From the Carolyn and Peter Lynch Collection”

When: Through Dec. 1. Open Tuesdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex St., Salem

How much: $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, $12 for students, and free for youths 16 and under and Salem residents

More information: 978-745-9500 or www.pem.org


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