Founded in 1933 to arrange special exhibition paintings in the public rooms of the Inn, BHAA in its first twenty years formed a collection of some distinction. It was selected from commercial art galleries primarily in New York and presented such artists as Charles Burchfield (1893-1967) and John Koch (1909-1978), as well as artists of the New Hope School associated with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts including modest works by Edward Redfield (1869-1965), Daniel Garber (1880-1958) and Walter Baum (1884-1956). BHAA also commissioned a series of ten original prints by leading graphic artists of the day using views of the Inn and sporting facilities as subjects including those by Ernest D. Roth in 1940 (1879-1964), Stow Wengenroth in 1941 (1906-1978), Luigi Luciano in 1950 (1900-1988), Asa Cheffetz in 1951 (1897-1965) and Adlolf Dehn in 1952 (1895-1968).
Works of art for the collection were selected from exhibitions by popular vote of those in possession of a ballot purchased for a nominal sum. Sometimes the committee overruled the popular vote to stay in line with BHAA available funds for acquisitions. Nevertheless, Clifford Gillam, later president of BHAA as well as the Buck Hill Falls Company, stated in “The Buck Hill Art Association General Meeting” notes, August 20, 1933, that:
It is not always wise to be guided by sentiment or personal taste alone. A collection is built for the future and, if the paintings are wisely chosen on the basis of technique and skill, it should increase rather than diminish in value.
The American impressionist painter Cullen Yates (1866-1945), resident in nearby Shawnee-on-Delaware, and The Salmagundi Club of New York, were instrumental in supporting the management of the Inn organization of the first exhibitions. The first year of its existence saw an exhibition of Cullen Yates’ paintings in the Inn, supported by a lecture delivered by the painter Charles C. Curran (1861-1942). This may have been the first but certainly not the last given by an artist at Buck Hill. BHAA selected its first acquisition even before its seventy members had elected officers. The painting was a Tonalist work by Frank DeHaven (1856-1934) titled Woodland Monarch. Although the style is little known or recognized, Tonalism was a particularly American art movement that emerged in the 1880s and continued well into the twentieth century. Woodland Monarch was one of DeHaven’s last works purchased the year before he died. The conservative keynote for the BHAA collection had been set. In its acquisition program BHAA was not unlike many provincial communities in the United States looking to establish an artistic beachhead through a modest acquisitions program that reflected popular taste rather than critical or professional point of view.
The art world was a very different place in 1933, when America was suffering the Great Depression, than it is today. The few art dealers, who survived their diminished market for contemporary American paintings, or paintings of any kind, were cooperative with exhibition schemes selected from their stock. Even though the Museum of Modern Art was founded in 1928, and the progressive American Abstract Artists had formed a large vigorous membership in 1936, recognition of American painters of an abstract stripe by a broad public would need to wait until after World War II when the epicenter of the art world shifted from Paris to New York and abstract expressionism triumphed. The acquisitions made by the BHAA for its collection reflected the popular American preferences for figurative subjects and landscapes. There is no painting in the collection that could be counted as modernist or abstract.
By 1989 acquisition of Cottage 87, known as The Art Cottage, as a center for BHAA activities had dominated the minutes of the BHAA for several years. The cottage proved to be inadequate to the BHAA program and on-going volunteer management; the building was sold in 1999.
With annual revenues from its membership and fundraising BHAA has a long tradition to provide scholarships in the form of a monetary stipend to regional residents seeking advanced study in the visual and performing arts.
As of the summer of 2014 a selection of the collection has been handsomely installed in the new Fairway Grille at the Buck Hill Golf Club. Other paintings hang in the Kerby Library which was given to Buck Hill for that purpose. Additionally, in September of 2015 a loan of paintings was made to the Acorn Club, a private women’s club in Philadelphia where they have been the subject of informative artistic and historic lectures.