David Howell Bramhall died peacefully on February 28 at his home in New York City surrounded by friends and caregivers. He was 73.
David was a world traveler, adventurer, respected dealer in pre-Columbian art, outdoorsman, athlete, iconoclast, and a seasonal resident of the Vineyard for most of his life. As a young boy in his home town of Morristown, New Jersey, he successfully ran a trapline for muskrats, presaging his strong connection to the outdoors and his ability to make a living in an unconventional manner.
He attended The Hotchkiss School, where he was an outstanding student and varsity athlete and where he was captain of the hockey team. He next graduated from Princeton University in 1962 with a BA in English Literature after taking a year off between his Sophomore and Junior years, during which time he worked his way around the world on a freighter.
After a tour of duty in the U.S. Army he moved toBoston and briefly worked for book publisher Houghton Mifflin before joining with Tom Ford and Gerry Kelly in starting the Kelly, Bramhall and Ford Literary Agency on Newbury Street. He also partnered with Ford in establishing the Ford-Bramhall Art Gallery in 1968 in the Davis House in West Tisbury, which is now Allen Whiting’s home and gallery. His brother Kib had a one-person show there in 1969.
Ford introduced David to pre-Columbian art, which eventually became his profession. He sold major works to numerous museums including The Metropolitan Museum of Art and that of his alma mater, Princeton. He was frequently called upon by Sotheby’s to authenticate pre-Columbian works that they were auctioning, and he had an exemplary reputation for integrity and a good eye.
As a young man on the Vineyard David worked as a dory man on commercial swordfishing boats out of Menemsha and made lifelong friends on the waterfront. He also excelled as an angler and won numerous prizesin the annual Derby. He was close friends with the late Danny Bryant, whose Chilmark barn was his summer residence for many years, and with Jessie Benton and her extended family, who regarded David as one of theirown and who were unwavering in their love and support for him through good times and bad.
He is survived by his sister, Sandra Bramhall of Old Lyme, Conn., his brother, Kib Bramhall of West Tisbury, and his two nieces, Emily and Nina Bramhall, and his nephew, Everett Bramhall.
David’s ashes will be scattered along with those of his long-time companion Janet Hallenborg and his beloved dog Willy in a private ceremony in Chilmark this summer. Donations in his memory may be made to Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard.