Lecturer Tom Butterfield’s Journey of Bermudian Art

By Aly Schuman on March 9, 2017

Nestled in Bermuda’s Botanical Gardens, a transformed arrowroot factory is now a treasure trove of Bermuda art. Light bounces off the white building surrounded by lush tropical greenery, the very landscape that inspired many famous artists such as Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Winslow Homer.


Executive Director Tom Butterfield saw that many illustrious artists were inspired by the island, and concluded that likely others were as well. In 1987 he founded the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art with a total of 12 paintings. Today, the museum holds over 1,500 paintings, drawings, sculptures, and photographs.

Through the art of the Masterworks Museum visitors can learn more about Bermuda’s history and culture. As Tom believes, “the influx of artists to Bermuda was not mere happenstance, rather the muse of the islands unique light and landscape beckoned them.”

One artist who tried to capture the island light was Winslow Homer. He visited Bermuda regularly beginning in the 1880s. “Inland Waterway,” 1901, a view of Granaway Deep with Marshall’s and Darrell’s Islands in the background, is one of his most treasured works.

“Inland Waterway,” Winslow Homer, 1901

John Lennon visited the island in 1980 and named his last album, “Double Fantasy,” after a flower in the Botanical Gardens. Today a sculpture, likewise titled, is an homage to Lennon. Bermudian artist Graham Foster created the circular sculpture with a stylized Lennon visage, his Rickenbacker guitar, his peace doves, and the “double fantasy” freesia. 

“Double Fantasy,” Graham Foster, 2011

In 2014 the museum was elated to acquire a rare Andrew Wyeth painting called “Royal Palms.” The scene is of Shinbone Alley in St. George’s, created from Wyeth’s visit to Bermuda in the 1950s – one of only three works known to be produced from the visit. It was one of the paintings that inspired the museum to be created in the first place, and while it graced the gallery walls a couple times before, it now remains secure in the permanent collection.

“Royal Palms,” Andrew Wyeth

Tom’s dedication has not gone unnoticed. Queen Elizabeth II bestowed an MBE to Tom in 2013 for his efforts in the visual arts, recognizing his dedication to repatriating Bermudian art and nurturing local Bermudian artists.

Tom Butterfield is coming to CoSo to speak about his journey with Bermudian art! Please join us on Tuesday, March 14 at 6pm.