The Vernon Historical Society Museum has one of the most extensive collections of information available on Rockville's
noted Black Artist, Charles Ethan Porter (1847?-1923).
Charles Ethan Porter was an African American painter born in
1847 or 1848 in Hartford, East Hartford or Rockville. Wherever his place of birth, in 1857 his father built a house in Rockville,
and Charles graduated from high school here in 1865.
Porter went on to study at New York's National Academy of Design,
one of the country's most prestigious art schools. In 1878 he opened a studio in Hartford. Several years later, when he traveled
to Europe, he took with him a letter of recommendation from Mark Twain.
Upon returning to the U.S., Porter worked
in Hartford and New York, returning to Rockville in 1889. Here he had studios in the Fitch Block and in a tower on Fox Hill.
Toward the end of his life, his fortunes declined and he peddled his paintings door-to-door, trading them for food or flowers
to paint. He died in Rockville in 1923 and is buried in Grove Hill Cemetery.
Although he died in poverty, Porter is
remembered as the creator of minor masterpieces of American still-life painting.
Among Mr. Porter's pupils was one
destined to become far more famous than his master. He was Gustave Adolph Hoffman. The works of Gustave Hoffman are also on
display at the Vernon Historical Society Museum.