“Stephen was one of the great dealers of American folk art,” wrote art fair organizer Sanford Smith in an online remembrance of Stephen Score, who died at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis on Sept. 9, 2023. The cause was cancer. Stephen was 79.
Over his nearly 50-year career, “Stephen handled countless masterpieces that made headlines,” wrote Madelia Ring in Antiques and the Arts. Two that “Stephen was particularly proud of,” Ring added, were “Woman With Two Canaries” by Samuel Addison Shute, which he bought in 1977 for $22,000; the painting changed hands over the years, eventually selling for $1,170,000 in 2022.
The other masterpiece was “a circa 1740 chest over drawers, with a later painted landscape decoration, which is now in the collection of the American Folk Art Museum.”
Stephen dealt in a wide range of folk art spanning centuries, and, as he told Debbie McArdle in 2019, “The truth is I only buy objects I would want to live with. I buy as if I were the collector.”
“I greatly admired Stephen’s original and poetic eye,” wrote David Schorsch, in addition to “his conviction and passion for the objects and works of art that spoke to him, and his utter delight in the whimsical qualities of American art.”
Stephen was a ubiquitous presence at antique and art shows. In New York City, he was a regular at the fall antiques shows at the Seventh Regiment Armory and the American Art Show (a.k.a. “The Folk Art Show”), and he participated in antiques shows in Philadelphia, Wilmington, Del., Manchester, N.H., Rhinebeck, N.Y., Nashville, Tenn., Hartford, Conn., Fox Valley, Ill., and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, among many others.
“In Provincetown,” however, “he could get away from the city and find peace,” said Stephen’s wife, Eleanor. “He was really a preservationist who loved original Provincetown houses and hated it when they were turned into large, modern houses bereft of character,” she added.
“He wanted to preserve the old Provincetown,” Eleanor said, a desire that was documented in 2017 in a Country Living article, which chronicled how the couple embraced “the crusty charm of a historic cottage,” preserving the knotty pine and even the flaking paint.
The son of David and Lillian Score, Stephen was born on Jan. 17, 1944 in Boston. He graduated from McGill University in Montreal before attending Boston University, where he earned his master’s in psychology. He did behavioral psychology research in Shrewsbury while serving as an assistant professor at B.U.
He also taught an introductory psychology course at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, where he met Eleanor Angle. “When she called him concerned that she would fail his class,” wrote Ring, “he asked her to the Ritz for lunch. They married on June 10, 1972.”
By 1978, Stephen had given up teaching and opened his first antiques shop in Essex; he moved it to Beacon Hill in the early 1990s, and the shop remained open until 2017. But Stephen did not fully retire. He continued to do shows and consult with individual clients. And he spent more time in Provincetown.
Stephen and Eleanor first came to the Outer Cape when Eleanor was invited to visit a friend at the Rose Cottages in Truro. During her visit, Eleanor painted pieces and displayed them for sale with Stephen’s help. “We were a team,” Eleanor said.
When friends from Boston suggested they look at the cabins at Captain Jack’s Wharf, they did and bought a unit there, “one with a little private porch,” Eleanor said. Then the cottage at 109 Commercial St. became available, “a fine and important relic of old, old Provincetown: the wharf head building of the N.C. Brooks wharf constructed around 1840,” wrote David W. Dunlap in Building Provincetown. They bought it, knotty pine and flaking paint included.
They dubbed the house “Blue Shutters.” Stephen “loved to sit on the deck and entertain,” Eleanor said. “He was wonderful to people.”
“Stephen never knew a stranger, never missed an opportunity to encourage, support, or help,” wrote Gerald Roy. Stephen befriended a young Russian waiter whom he called his “Russian son,” who went on to open his own restaurant in New York, Eleanor said.
In Provincetown, Stephen and Eleanor would travel by bicycle, Stephen in jacket and bow tie, his Provincetown clothes, as they went to dinner or did a gallery tour.
“He loved to buy things for the house,” said Eleanor as she looked around and marveled at a unique hooked rug with a shorebirds design, oars browned with water and age, and weathervanes of various shapes and sizes.
During the last nine years, Eleanor said, Stephen’s “favorite thing to do was swim. He’d paddle toward the sun on his blue noodle throughout the summer and into October. He did not wear a wetsuit.” He had opened an Instagram account and posted photos of scenes that caught his eye and videos of his swimming. “He was fun,” she said.
“I have many great memories of spending time with Stephen and Eleanor in Provincetown,” wrote one of his former employees, Wesley Noonan-Sessa, “watching the cosmos sway in the breeze as we talked about anything and everything, except the antique business. His aesthetic and the lens through which he saw the world is something to aspire to.”
Stephen is survived by his wife, Eleanor, of Boston and Provincetown; son Avram Score of Le Boulou, France; sister Susan Score Cohen Broutman of Boulder, Colo.; and niece Julie Cohen and nephew Jamie Cohen, also of Colorado.
A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 21, at King’s Chapel, 58 Tremont St., Boston.
Donations in Stephen’s name may be made to Common Art at commoncathedral.org.