Remembering “Newt”

Francis John Newton was a curator at the Portland Art Museum from 1953 to 1960.  In 1960 he became Director of the museum until he retired in 1975.  He was very involved in the Portland art community, and well remembered.  We came to Oregon in 1970 and as “new kids from a different neighborhood (Salem)” we never met him…until now.

By a VERY indirect route we discovered that there still existed an archive of material about Newton in his old house…now rented to a friend of a friend of a friend.  We set out with Rex and Diane Amos, Linda and Peter Janke to do some art sleuthing and hit the mother lode.  The house…Newton’s house

Newt's house

…now belongs to Darcia Krause, daughter of the painter LaVerne Krause.  Krause, Newton’s partner, died in 1987, and when Newton himself died in 2004 the house went to Krause’s daughter Darcia.  Darcia generously welcomed the art sleuths to come take a look…

FJN archive

here R and Darcia look at photos…

Roger Hull and Darcia Krause

We discovered there wasn’t much about Newton on the internet, so much of this information adds to what little there is, and since most of what we saw were photos, the man came alive for me.  He was born in 1912 in Montana and grew up in Butte.  His paternal grandparents were from Ohio…

Newton grandparents,Ohio

he had an older brother Joe…

Newt and Joe in a goat cart

He graduated from many places over the years…(middle of the back row) Butte High School maybe?

Graduation 1

(far left) University of Idaho maybe?

graduation 3'

got an honorary degree (?)


Played baseball for the University of Idaho and later up in Burke…

ball player

Idaho Bulletin

was in the pacific in WWII…(on the right)

Newt (on the right)

traveled to Korea after the war before coming home…(again on the right)

in Korea after WWII (1)

was a curator at the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts.

Newt Worcester (1)

He traveled…

passportt 1 (1)

passport 2 (1)

he lectured…


he loved to bake bread…

Newt baking

and built a baking corner into his kitchen…

Newt baking corner

He had friends and partied a bit…here with Phyllis Johanson and Milton Wilson…


Ken Shores…

Ken Shoires

LaVerne Krause and Linny Adamson…

LaVerne and Newt

The Gilkeys…

The Gilkeys

George Johanson…

George Johanson

George and

LaVerne Krause

LaVerne Krause (1)

LaVerne Krause

and as always, there were a couple of amazing archival “moments”…three actually.  The first was when we stood around the table each reading something.  Rex Amos picked up a clipping and a note of condolence on the death of Newton’s older brother Joseph and as he read he realized the note was from himself…


Rex's letter (1)

A small wooden sculpture was produced that LaVerne Krause found in a junk store and brought to Newt…carved by the artist Russell Childers…who we know about because this summer the Hallie Ford Museum in Salem is mounting a show of the work of Russell Childers, opening in early August and curated by Jonathan Bucci.  (Childers was a self-taught artist who spent 38 years at the Fairview Training Center…and made many carvings while there…including another version of the Bear nursing her cubs.  He was deaf and could not speak, and was sent to Fairview at age 10, released at 48 when his work was then discovered by the sculptor Jan Zach.)

bearbear 2

and then, the final thing…proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is a small world…was this letter from July 4, 1960, congratulating Francis J. Newton on being named director of the Portland Art Museum and inviting him to a party in his honor, a letter written by Eunice Parsons (then Eunice Jensen) who this very summer is celebrating her 100th birthday.  (Luckily the Pacific Northwest Artists Archive at Willamette  University houses the papers of both Jan Zach and Eunice Parsons…and many more.)

note from Eunice

So very nice to finally meet you Francis J Newton.  Your life was full.










  1. Thank you, I love this! Newt’s secretary, Dora Oaks, was one of my bosses as a MAS student errand girl for the Museum. Newt was significant in our art and gallery life. I am quite sure we have some notes and maybe photos to add to his archive. ( I also did office chores when Thomas Colt and Max Sulllivan were directors. Norma

  2. Thanks Bru. The “regional” need not be a bad word, and by building a good historical mass of information it only supports the work the artists do, no? xo

  3. What an adventure indeed and a wonderful read! We really liked Newt who we often found in the galleries when visiting the museum.

  4. Bonnie, we cannot tell you often enough how refreshing it is to get your blog in our email. You always assemble, illustrate, create a body of work that adds to life in a most positive way. Quite the opposite of 90% of the urgent, almost apocalyptic streams that assault our senses daily. Our region, which nic refers to as “the center of the creative universe”, is enriched by the “art sleuthing” of you and R. Thank you from two recluses in the trenches.

  5. Nic is right of course…(on this and so many things…) we are at the center of the creative universe, thankfully. At least you two are…work on friends. xxoo from Court Street.

  6. What nicholsloy said!!! dang, hard to say it any better.
    Thank you again Bonnie for sharing you wonderful experience.

  7. He sure lived a busy,creative life. Wonder how to ride went with the sheep pulling the wagon?! 🙂 wonderful post ,Bonnie! Thank you

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