Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Big Picture: A Transformative Gift from the Hall Family Foundation,

The Hall Family Foundation, in continuing its long support of the photography program at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, made a special $10 million grant to broaden and deepen this collection. Recognized around the world, this is one of the finest museum photography collections in the nation. The gift permitted a more intensive acquisition focus from 2015 to 2017.
About 100 of the more than 800 newly acquired photographs will be on view in a Spring 2018 exhibition, The Big Picture: A Transformative Gift from the Hall Family Foundation, to coincide with the Foundation’s 75th anniversary.

“The generous and steadfast support of the Nelson-Atkins by the Hall Family Foundation is the reason our photography collection is world-renowned,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell CEO & Director of the Nelson-Atkins. “The leadership and vision of Donald J. Hall and the stewardship of the Foundation through the years has improved and enriched the cultural scene in Kansas City in myriad ways.”

The acquisition process and the selection of works in The Big Picture were a collaborative effort by the photography department’s Keith F. Davis, senior curator; April M. Watson, curator; and Jane L. Aspinwall, associate curator. Davis has overseen the Hallmark Photographic Collection for nearly 40 years. He arrived in Kansas City after interning at the George Eastman House in 1979 to begin a six-month stint as cataloguer of the collection; he never left.

The special $10 million gift allowed the curators to build on the collection’s existing strengths—primarily its broad holding of American daguerreotypes and prints—and to enhance its representation of 19th-and 20th-century European and contemporary international works. These new pieces span the entire history of the medium, from an 1826 print by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, the inventor of photography, to a 2016 work by legendary musician and artist Patti Smith. Many of history’s most famous names are represented, including Nadar, Gustave Le Gray, Edward Steichen, Jaromir Funke, Claude Cahun, Alfred Eisenstadt, Dorothea Lange, W. Eugene Smith, Robert Frank, and Diane Arbus. Also represented are leading contemporary artists such as Cindy Sherman, Paul Graham, Ellsworth Kelly, Carrie Mae Weems, Dayanita Singh, Ilit Azoulay, Thomas Struth, Candida Hofer, and Thomas Demand. This two-year initiative has resulted in the addition of more than 800 objects, made over a span of 190 years, by artists from more than a dozen countries.

“This special acquisition initiative has been immensely gratifying,” said Davis. “We three curators reviewed a great deal of work and thought hard about collection priorities. We sought to enhance our existing strengths, while adding depth in other key areas of interest. These new works will allow for more varied and stimulating shows, and fresh scholarship, for many years to come. This is a direct benefit to our community and our field. We cannot thank the Hall Family Foundation enough for this remarkable opportunity, and for its long history of generosity.”

This collection is the product of a remarkable story of enlightened patronage. Hallmark Cards, Inc. has been involved in the fine arts since the late 1940s, when company founder J. C. Hall envisioned a series of competitions and traveling exhibitions of contemporary art. In 1949, Hallmark organized its first International Art Award competition, opened to artists in France and the United States. An exhibition of the winning works toured nationally, with proceeds benefiting the American Red Cross. This was followed by four subsequent competitions, ending in 1960. By that time, the Hallmark Art Collection held a larger and more varied collection of contemporary paintings than some museums and almost any other American corporation.

David L. Strout played a central role in Hallmark’s involvement with photography. In 1963, Strout was recruited by J. C. Hall to direct the new Hallmark Gallery store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. From 1964 to 1973, Strout organized a diverse sequence of exhibitions that combined popular culture with the art of photography. The Hallmark Gallery’s “Harry Callahan” exhibit of 1964 was the artist’s first one-person show in New York, and the company purchased all 141 prints. Similar exhibitions followed, and in 1968 Strout proposed that Hallmark officially begin collecting fine photographs. The first body of work acquired for the new collection in 1969 was by the medium’s greatest living master, Edward Steichen, followed quickly by notable purchases of work by Henri Cartier-Bresson, André Kertész, Edward Weston, Berenice Abbott, László Moholy-Nagy, and others. By 1979, Hallmark’s collection included 650 photographs.

In 1966, J. C. Hall’s son, Donald J. Hall, assumed the role of company president and CEO and soon put his imprint on the firm’s corporate and cultural profile. His artistic interests were broad, including architecture, jazz, photography, sculpture, and African art. He served as a Trustee of the Nelson-Atkins from 1980 to 2011. As head of the Hall Family Foundation, he continues to provide the guiding philosophy for its charitable activity, which includes extensive support of the Nelson-Atkins.

In 1986, for example, the Foundation donated a collection of 58 sculptures and maquettes by Henry Moore; this was followed by individual sculptures by Constantin Brancusi, Alberto Giacometti, Max Ernst, and others. Mr. Hall has said, “These activities reflect a fundamental belief in the importance of art to our quality of life and our cultural well-being. Art—in any medium—is about the communication of ideas and emotions, the unending dynamic of change, and the power of the imagination.”

The Hall Family Foundation has supported a great variety of programs and initiatives that effect positive change in the greater Kansas City community. The Foundation’s president, William A. Hall, said, “Our purview is the overall well-being of the Kansas City area. The arts are vital to that effort, and we take particular pride in the history and quality of our activities in photography. With the benefit of a unique conjunction of interests and talents, we have aimed over time to help create an artistic resource of real international importance.”

Hallmark’s current CEO, Donald J. Hall, Jr., has been a museum Trustee since 2016, the same year he became the fourth member of his family to receive the Kansas Citian of the Year award for contributions to the community. “We have always tried to pick our projects carefully and to work in a sustained way—building logically on the institutions and assets that make our community genuinely special,” said Hall. “This effort began with my grandfather and flourished so beautifully with my father’s support. I am proud, after all these years, that it continues so strongly today.”

In December 2005, Hallmark transferred its entire photographic collection of 6,500 works to the Nelson-Atkins. The museum’s photographic holdings immediately expanded from 1,000 to 7,500 works and now numbers about 15,000. Since 2006, the Foundation has provided vital support for this department.

The Big Picture, April 27–Oct. 7, 2018, highlights about 100 of the most significant of these acquisitions and will be presented in all 3,000 sq. ft. of the museum’s dedicated photography galleries. The exhibition will be accompanied by a small publication authored by Davis on the history of photography at the museum, at Hallmark, and in the Kansas City community.

Edward Steichen, American, born Luxembourg, 1879 – 1973. William M. Chase, 1906. Gum bichromate over platinum print. Image: 19 11/16 × 15 3/4 inches (50.01 × 40.01 cm). Sheet: 19 7/8 × 16 inches (50.48 × 40.64 cm). Mount: 19 7/8 × 16 inches (50.48 × 40.64 cm). Gift of the Hall Family Foundation. 2016.75.284

Diane Arbus, American, 1923 – 1971. Neil Selkirk, American, born England, born 1947. Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, NYC, 1962; printed 1973. Gelatin silver print. Image: 14 7/16 × 14 3/8 inches (36.63 × 36.53 cm). Sheet: 19 15/16 × 15 15/16 inches (50.62 × 40.46 cm). Gift of the Hall Family Foundation. 2017.24.1

Firmin-Eugène Le Dien, French, 1817 – 1865. Gustave Le Gray, French, 1820 – 1884. Rome: Sortie du Pont Tescato au Trastevere, 1853. Salt print. Image and sheet: 9 3/8 × 12 15/16 inches (23.81 × 32.86 cm). Mount: 13 13/16 × 19 3/16 inches (35.08 × 48.74 cm). Gift of the Hall Family Foundation. 2016.75.136

Candida Höfer, German, born 1944. Sankt Maximilian Düsseldorf I, 2012. Chromogenic print. Image: 55 × 51 3/4 inches (139.7 × 131.45 cm). Sheet: 70 7/8 × 67 1/2 inches (180.02 × 171.45 cm). Mount: 70 7/8 × 67 1/2 inches (180.02 × 171.45 cm). Framed: 72 1/4 × 69 × 1 3/4 inches (183.52 × 175.26 × 4.45 cm). Gift of the Hall Family Foundation. 2016.75.104

Ferdinand Hodler Elective Affinities from Klimt to Schiele

Leopold Museum
13th October 2017 to 22nd January 2018

This presentation at the Leopold Museum will be the most comprehensive retrospective exhibition of works by Ferdinand Hodler (1853–1918) in Austria since the artist’s resounding success at the 1904 Secession exhibition. An exponent of Symbolism and Jugendstil, a pioneer of Expressionism, and not least an innovator of monumental painting, Hodler was an important inspiration to numerous artists of Viennese Modernism, such as Gustav Klimt and Koloman Moser, as well as Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele.

The presentation focuses on the three main themes of Hodler’s art: landscapes from plein air painting to abstraction, portraits with an emphasis on female depictions, self-portraits, the haunting series of works accompanying the death of his lover Valentine Godé-Darel, as well as his eminent Symbolist figural compositions.

FERDINAND  HODLER  1853 – 1918  
THE CONVALESCENT, c. 1880 Öl auf Leinwand  | Oil on canvas 54 × 45 cm Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Stiftung Oskar Reinhart Foto | Photo:  SIK-ISEA, Zürich  | Zurich /Philipp Hitz

THE AVALANCHE Öl auf Leinwand  | Oil on canvas 129,5 × 99,5 cm Kunstmuseum Solothurn, Depositum der Schweizerischen Eidgenossenschaft, Bundesamt für Kultur, Bern, 1903 Kunstmuseum Solothurn, deposit of the Swiss Federation, Federal Office of Culture, Bern, 1903 Foto | Photo:  Kunstmuseum Solothurn

 THE ROAD TO EVORDES, c. 1890 Öl auf Leinwand  | Oil on canvas 63 × 45 cm Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Stiftung Oskar Reinhart Foto | Photo:  SIK-ISEA, Zürich  | Zurich /Philipp Hitz!HalfHD.jpg

FERDINAND  HODLER  THE GOLDEN MEADOW, c. 1890 Öl auf Leinwand  | Oil on canvas 70,5 × 51 cm Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Stiftung Oskar Reinhart Foto | Photo:  SIK-ISEA, Zürich  | Zurich /Philipp Hitz

FERDINAND  HODLER  1853 – 1918 SELBSTBILDNIS (VON PARIS), 1891 SELF-PORTRAIT (FROM PARIS) Öl auf Holz  | Oil on wood 29 × 23 cm Musée d’art et d’histoire, Genf, Depositum der Gottfried Keller-Stiftung, Bern Musée d’art et d’histoire, Geneva, deposit at the Gottfried Keller Foundation, Bern Foto | Photo:  Bettina Jacot-Descombes

FERDINAND  HODLER  1853 – 1918 WILHELM TELL, 1896/97 WILLIAM TELL Öl auf Leinwand  | Oil on canvas 256 × 196 cm Kunstmuseum Solothurn, Vermächtnis Margrit Kottmann-Müller in Erinnerung an ihren  Ehemann Dr. Walther Kottmann, 1958  | Kunstmuseum Solothurn, bequeathed by Margrit  Kottmann-Müller in memory of her husband Dr. Walther Kottmann, 1958 Foto | Photo:  Kunstmuseum Solothurn

FERDINAND  HODLER  1853 – 1918 DIE WAHRHEIT, 19 03 TRUTH Öl auf Leinwand  | Oil on canvas 208 × 294,5 cm Kunsthaus Zürich, Dauerleihgabe der Stadt Zürich, 1930  Kunsthaus Zürich, permanent loan from the City of Zurich Foto | Photo:  Kunsthaus Zürich

FERDINAND  HODLER  1904 PORTRAIT OF KÄTHE VON BACH (IN THE GARDEN) Öl auf Leinwand  | Oil on canvas 43 × 33 cm Privatbesitz (Schweiz)  | Private collection (Switzerland) Foto | Photo:  SIK-ISEA, Zürich  | Zurich

FERDINAND  HODLER  1853 – 1918 WALDBACH BEI LEISSIGEN, 1904 FOREST BROOK AT LEISSIGEN Öl auf Leinwand  | Oil on canvas 88,5 × 101,5 cm Kunsthaus Zürich, Legat Richard Schwarzenbach, 1920 Kunsthaus Zürich, legacy Richard Schwarzenbach, 1920 Foto | Photo:  Kunsthaus Zürich

FERDINAND  HODLER  1905 SENSATION III, c . 190 5 Öl auf Leinwand  | Oil on canvas 117,5 × 170 cm Eigentum des Kantons Bern  | Property of the Canton of Bern Foto | Photo:  Eigentum des Kantons Bern  | Property of the Canton of Bern /Wilhelm Balmer

FERDINAND  HODLER  1911 PORTRAIT OF GERTRUD MÜLLER Öl auf Leinwand  | Oil on canvas 175 × 132 cm Kunstmuseum Solothurn, Dübi-Müller-Stiftung, 1980 Foto | Photo:  Kunstmuseum Solothurn

FERDINAND  HODLER  1853 – 1918 ENTZÜCKTES WEIB, 1911 WOMAN IN ECSTASY Öl auf Leinwand  | Oil on canvas 170 × 85,5 cm Privatsammlung Bern (Schweiz)  | Private collection Bern (Switzerland) Foto | Photo:  SIK-ISEA, Zürich  | Zurich

FERDINAND  HODLER  1912 PORTRAIT OF VALENTINE GODÉ-DAREL Öl auf Papier auf Karton  | Oil on paper on cardboard 41 × 32,3 cm Leopold Museum, Wien  | Leopold Museum, Vienna Foto | Photo:  Leopold Museum, Wien  | Vienna /Manfred Thumberger

FERDINAND  HODLER   1917 SELF-PORTRAIT Öl auf Leinwand  | Oil on canvas 83,5 × 60 cm Privatsammlung Schweiz  | Private collection Switzerland Foto | Photo:  Peter Schälchli, Zürich  | Zurich

FERDINAND  HODLER   LAKE GENEVA WITH MONT BLANC IN EARLY MORNING (OCTOBER), 1917 Öl auf Leinwand  | Oil on canvas 62 × 128 cm Musée d’art et d’histoire, Genf  | Musée d’art et d’histoire, Geneva Foto | Photo:  Bettina Jacot-Descombes

FERDINAND  HODLER  1853 – 1918 DIE DENTS DU MIDI VON CAUX AUS, 1917 DENTS DU MIDI FROM CAUX  Öl auf Leinwand  | Oil on canvas 60 × 80 cm Privatsammlung Tessin  | Private collection, Ticino Foto | Photo:  Privatsammlung Schweiz  | Private collection Switzerland 28

FERDINAND  HODLER   1918 LAKE GENEVA WITH MONT BLANC AT DAWN Öl auf Leinwand  | Oil on canvas 57,5 × 85,5 cm Kunstmuseum Solothurn, Dübi-Müller-Stiftung, 1980 Foto | Photo:  SIK-ISEA, Zürich  | Zurich /Philipp Hitz 29 CUNO AMIET  1868–1961 BILDNIS

Rembrandt: Prints ‘of a Particular Spirit’

Norton Simon Museum 
December 8, 2017 - March 5, 2018

In celebration of the installation of Rembrandt’s Self Portrait at the Age of 34, on loan from The National Gallery, London, the Norton Simon Museum presents Rembrandt: Prints ‘of a Particular Spirit,’ a focused exploration of the artist’s graphic output between 1630 and 1640, a period in which his creative evolution and technical refinement reached new heights. Drawing from the Norton Simon’s rich collection of Rembrandt etchings, this exhibition gives viewers the opportunity to examine the artist’s inspired storytelling and sensitive studies of landscape and the human face.

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669) was the premier portrait painter of Amsterdam in the mid-17th century, and his masterful history paintings drew admiration from his aristocratic patrons. While many artists employed professional printmakers to spread their achievements, only a handful learned printmaking themselves, and fewer still left such a profound effect on the medium as Rembrandt. Taking up etching needle and copper plate early in his career, Rembrandt crafted energetic images that were prized by connoisseurs and imitated by artists. One contemporary English collector, John Evelyn, pronounced him “the incomparable Rembrandt, whose etchings and gravings are of a particular spirit.”

The 21 works on view in this exhibition range from landscapes, such as View of Amsterdam from the Northwest, c. 1640, to religious subjects including Joseph Telling His Dreams, from 1638, and figure studies like Self-Portrait with Saskia, 1636, and Old Man Shading His Eyes with His Hand, c. 1639.

Together these works demonstrate Rembrandt’s technical finesse and ingenuity during the 1630s. As Rembrandt’s career was reaching new heights, some of his boldest compositional treatments were subjects that he rarely addressed in paint, but gave exceptional vitality in print. Characterized by the delicate network of lines, these works imitate the immediacy of drawings while evoking the formalities of careful study and deliberate execution. It is a testament to Rembrandt’s singularity that we are equally captivated by his etchings today as audiences were in the 17th century.

Rembrandt: Prints ‘of a Particular Spirit’ is organized by Casey Lee, academic intern at the Norton Simon Museum (2016–17). It is on view in the small exhibition gallery on the main level from Dec. 8, 2017, through March 5, 2018.

Death Appearing to a Wedded Couple from an Open Grave, 1639
Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch,
Etching; only state
plate: 4-3/8 x 3-1/8 in. (11.1 x .4 cm);
sheet: 6-1/4 x 4-7/8 in. (11.1 x 7.9 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation

Man in a Broad-Brimmed Hat
, 1638
Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669)
Etching; only state
plate: 3-1/8 x 2-5/8 in. (7.9 x 6.7 cm); sheet:
3-3/8 x 2-13/16 in. (8.6 x 7.1 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation

Old Man Shading His Eyes with His Hand,
c. 1639
Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669)
Etching, drypoint; only state
plate: 5-7/16 x 4-1/2 in. (13.8 x 11.4 cm);
sheet: 5-5/8 x 4-9/16 in. (14.3 x 11.6 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation

 Rembrandt: Prints ‘of a Particular Spirit’

Self-Portrait with Saskia
, 1636
Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669)
Etching, State I
plate: 4-1/8 x 3-11/16 in. (10.5 x 9.4 cm);
sheet: 4-1/4 x 3-3/4 in. (10.8 x 9.5 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation

View of Amsterdam from the Northwest
, c. 1640
Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669)
Etching, State II
plate: 4-7/16 x 6 in. (11.3 x 15.2 cm); sheet: 4-15/16 x 6-5/8 in.
(12.5 x 16.8 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation

Joseph Telling His Dreams,
Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch,
Etching; State II
4-5/16 x 3-5/16 in. (11.0 x 8.4 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation

Rembrandt: Prints ‘of a Particular Spirit’
December 8, 2017 – March 5, 2018 at the Norton Simon Museum
We are pleased to provide the following images for publicity relating to the exhibition. To receive digital versions of the images,
please contact the External Affairs department at (626) 844-6900 or

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Sotheby’s London Old Masters evening sale on 6 December 2017

John Constable ( 1776 - 1837 ) is one of Britain’s best - loved and most significant landscape painters. A key figure in the British Romantic movement of the early 19th century, Constable, together with J.M.W. Turner, changed the course of European landscape painting forever. This winter, Sotheby’s London will present a recently rediscovered landscape by the British artist which is without question one of the most exciting and important additions to Constable’s oeuvre to have emerged in the last fifty years. Painted between 1814 and 1817,

Dedham Vale with the River Stour in Flood belongs to a small group of Constable’s early Suffolk paintings remaining in private hands. The work will be offered in Sotheby’s Old Masters Evening sale on 6 December, with an estimate of £2 - 3 million.

Julian Gascoigne, Senior Specialist, British Paintings at Sotheby’s said:

“Constable’s views of Dedham Vale and the Stour valley have become icons of British art and define for many everything that is quintessential a bout the English countryside. Dedham Vale with the River Stour in Flood was long mistakenly thought to be by Ramsay Richard Reinagle (1775 - 1862), a friend and contemporary of Constable’s, but recent scientific analysis and up - to - date connoisseurship has unanimously returned the work to its rightful place among the canon of the great master’s work and established beyond d oubt its true authorship . It is without question one of the most exciting and important additions to Constable’s oeuvre to have emerged in the last fifty years”. 

“Constable Country”

“ I should paint my own places best – Painting is but another word for feeling. I associate my 'careless boyhood' to all that lies on the banks of the Stour. They made me a painter...” John Constable
This rare masterpiece depicts the area of the Stour Valley around Dedham Vale, on the border between Suffolk and Essex where Constable spent his boyhood years and which has become synonymous with the great painter.

Famously known around the world today as 'Constable Country', the area has inspired the artist’s most famous paintings, from;jsessionid=40982BDC9F046085A5B8A173FFE4D0DB

 The White Horse, 1819 (Frick Collection, New York) to

The Haywain, 1821 (National Gallery, London)

and The Leaping Horse, 1825 (Royal Academy, London).

The works belongs to a group of paintings similar in size and style that Constable painted between 1814 and 1817, all of which are views of the Stour Valley and the area surrounding East Bergholt. These works were painted partly on the spot and show the artist’s commitment to naturalism at its most faithful.

The Fitzhugh Commission

Whilst the painter’s later works tended to be purchased either by Constable’s great friend John Fisher or by patrons or dealers with metropolitan or international connections, the earlier Suffolk paintings tend to have closer associations with patrons or friends in the local area. This painting is thought to have been commissioned by Thomas Fitzhugh as a wedding present for his future wife, Philadelphia Godfrey, the daughter of Peter Godfrey who lived at Old Hall, East Bergholt and was a near neighbour and friend of the artist's family. The view is taken from the bottom of her parent’s garden, looking out over the valley with the river in flood, a symbol of fecundity, and was intended as a memento of her childhood home for her new married life in London.

The genius of Joseph Wright of Derby A.R.A. (1734-1797) will come under the spotlight this winter, when one of the artist’s most important candlelit pictures, and one of his last major works remaining in private hands, appears at auction at Sotheby’s  Joseph Wright of Derby, A.R.A., An Academy by Lamplight  Oil on canvas, 50 by 40 in. (127 x 101.6 cm), est. £2.5-3.5 million.Courtesy Sotheby’s.   Painted in 1769, An Academy by Lamplight is a supreme example of Wright’s dramatic rendering of light and shade and his association with the Enlightenment movement. Almost certainly the picture that Wright exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1769, this rare painting was first securely recorded in the collection of Sir Savile Crossley, 1st Baron Somerleyton (1857-1935), the scion of a great carpet manufacturing dynasty from Halifax, and has remained in the possession of his family ever since. One of the star lots of Sotheby’s London Old Masters evening sale on 6 December 2017, it will be offered with an estimate of £2.5-3.5 million, the highest estimate for a work by Joseph Wright of Derby ever at auction.  
Julian Gascoigne, Senior Specialist, British Paintings at Sotheby’s said:   “Joseph Wright of Derby is one of a small and select group of British eighteenth-century artists whose work transcends national boundaries and speaks to a wider global sensibility. Drama and passion are at the core of his oeuvre and this is particularly true of this exceptional painting. The artist’s masterful use of light brings to life the sensual antique statue and brilliantly captures the contemporary aesthetic infatuation with the art of the past. With its overt reference to the classical legend of Pygmalion, and the transformative power of art, this is one of the most important works by the artist to come to the market in recent years and we look forward to presenting it to collectors around the world.”   

Joseph Wright of Derby is widely regarded as one of Britain's most interesting and versatile painters and his greatest works, such as

An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (National Gallery, London),

The Orrery (Derby Museums and Art Gallery)

and A Grotto in the Kingdom of Naples with Banditti (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) have become icons of British art the world over.

An Academy by Lamplight is one such masterpiece, and one of the artist’s most famous and celebrated works. This is the first of two versions of the subject painted by Wright and most likely the one he exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1769 – a period when Wright was rapidly establishing himself as one of the most exciting and innovative young artists in Britain. Whilst it has rarely been seen in public in the 250 years since,


the other version, painted in 1770, was acquired by Paul Mellon in 1964 and is now in the collection at the Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven.

In An Academy by Lamplight, Wright of Derby tackles a subject with a long and illustrious history dating back to the first academies of art established during the Renaissance in Italy. Wright may have been inspired by the profusion of such organisations in 18th-century Europe and especially in Britain, where the Royal Academy in London was founded just a year before the work was painted, in 1768.

The work depicts six young draughtsmen contemplating the cast of “Nymph with a Shell”, an antique Hellenistic statue much admired in the 18th century when it was housed in the Villa Borghese in Rome. Today it can be found in the Louvre.

Wright was closely associated with the key members of the Enlightenment and, in particular, with the group of scientists and industrialists who made up the intriguing 'Lunar Society'. A peculiarly 18th-century fusion of science, the arts, philosophy and literature, the Society’s members challenged accepted beliefs and pushed the boundaries of scientific and intellectual exploration, counting among its members leading figures like Josiah Wedgewood, Matthew Boulton, Joseph Priestly and Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of Charles). Though Wright himself was never officially a member of the Lunar Society he was intimately bound up in that world of intellectual, scientific and commercial enterprise and drew succour from its activities, which forms the spiritual core of his art.

Wright of Derby's 'candlelit' pictures, with their dazzling use of chiaroscuro, are in many ways the artistic manifestation of the intellectual endeavours of these luminaries of the Enlightenment: the introduction of light into darkness acting as a metaphor for the transition from religious faith to scientific understanding and enlightened rationalism.


Harvard Art Museums to Receive Transformative Gift of Dutch, Flemish, and Netherlandish Drawings
Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Four Studies of Male Heads , c. 1636. Brown ink and brown wash on cream antique laid paper. The Maida and George Abrams Collection, Boston, Massachusetts . 

The Harvard Art Museums announce the extraordinary gift of 330 16th - to 18th -century Dutch, Flemish, and Netherlandish drawings from the esteemed collection of Maida and George S. Abrams, considered the best collection of such material in private hands. The gift further establishes the museums as the major site for the appreciation, research, and study of works on paper from the Dutch Golden Age in North America.

Paul Bril, Wooded Landscape with Travelers, 1600. Brown ink and brown and gray wash over black chalk. The Maida and George Abrams Collection, Boston, Massachusetts. Photo: © President and Fellows of Harvard College.

This newest promised gift from the Abrams family brings tremendous depth and breadth to the museums’ holdings; the works represent over 125 artists and include extremely fine examples by major masters such as Rembrandt, Jacques de Gheyn II, Hendr ck Goltzius , and Adriaen van Ostade, as well as a remarkable range of drawings by lesser -known masters who worked in a wide range of subjects and media. Impressive drawings by artists Nicolaes Berchem, Jacob Marrel, and Cornelis Visscher will help fill gaps in the museums ’ collections.

Cornelis Visscher, Man with a Cloak and a Polish Hat, 1650s. Black chalk and black chalk steeped in oil; incised lines at lower left. The Maida and George Abrams Collection, Boston, Massachusetts. Photo: © President and Fellows of Harvard College.

Taken as a whole, the Abrams Collection at the Harvard Art Museums reveals the critical role of drawing in the art world of the Dutch Golden Age. “George has generously supported the Harvard Art Museums over many decades and in countless ways ; we are incredibly thankful for the role that he and Maida have played in galvanizing the study of drawings at Harvard and particular ly for their commitment to telling the rich story of draftsmanship from the Low Countries,” said Martha Tedeschi, the Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of the Harvard Art Museums. “ The latest gift from the Abrams family is truly transformative for our museums —indeed, for the entire Boston area, especially as the city strives to become a major destination for the study and presentation of Dutch, Flemish, and Netherlandish art. Together with the newly founded Center for Netherlandish Art at the M useum of Fine Arts, we now can pursue institutional collaborations that will serve visitors and scholars from around the world.” Mr. Abrams and his late wife Maida made earlier gifts that brought more than 140 drawings to the Harvard Art Museums over the course of several decades . With t heir collective gifts , the museums now have the most comprehensive holding of 17th -century Dutch drawings outside Europe.

“When the collection grows in quality and quantity in such a major way, suddenly there are stories you can tell with greater fo rce and depth, with fewer gaps in the narrative,” said Edouard Kopp, the Maida and George Abrams Curator of Drawings at the Harvard Art Museums. “Since its creation, the Fogg Museum has been a key U.S. institution for the study and appreciation of drawings , and this gift will enable us to be an even more vibrant center, particular ly for Dutch drawings.”

News of the promised gift was shared on November 3, just a day before the museums hosted the symposium Dutch Drawings on the Horizon: A Day of Talks in Honor of George S. Abrams . The event brought together international experts on 17th- century Dutch drawings to discuss the exceptional draftsmanship of the Dutch Golden Age, from Goltzius to Rembrandt. Speakers and chairs at the event included George Abrams’s l ongtime friends and associates Arthur Wheelock, Peter Schatborn, Peter C. Sutton, Jane Turner , and William W. Robinson. In 1999, the Abrams gave an initial landmark gift of 110 drawings to the Harvard Art Museums .

Many of those works had been included in the 1991– 92 exhibition Seventeenth -Century Dutch Drawings: A Selectionfrom the Maida and George Abrams Collection  which was on view at the Rijksprentenkabinet in Amsterdam, the Graphische Sammlung Albertina in Vienna, the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, and the Fogg Museum. William W. Robinson, f ormer Maida and George Abrams Curator of Drawings at the Harvard Art Museums, wrote the accompanying catalogue. 

The 2002– 03 traveling exhibition and accompanying catalogue for Bruegel to Rembrandt: Dutch and Flemish Drawings from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, also written by Robinson, compl emented (and supplemented ) the previous catalogue by presenting the most significant acquisitions of the Abrams Collection since the 1991– 92 show. Bruegel to Rembrandt was shown at the British Museum in London, the Institut Néerlandais in Paris, and the Fogg Museum. 

The 1999 gift led the museums to publish Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt (William W. Robinson, with Susan Anderson; 2016), a catalogue of 100 of the museums’ best drawings from this period; almost half of the drawings chosen were part of the Abrams gift. An exhibition of the same title was on display at the Harvard Art Museums from May 21 through August 14, 2016 

 Related Exhibition  

The Art of Drawing in the EarlyDutch Golden Age, 1590– 1630: Selected Works from the Abrams Collection is currently on view through January 14, 2018; it is installed on Level 2, in the museums’ galleries dedicated to 17th- century Dutch and Flemish art. The installation of 31 drawings explores the extraordinary developments in Dutch art in the period between 1590 and 1630. The works on view present some of the major themes in Dutch art, including the development of high and low genres, the study of landscape, and the interest in the nude; many of these subj ects initially emerged in the medium of drawing. The works on display celebrate the role of drawing as a catalyst of creativity during the early Golden Age. 

Old Masters Now: Celebrating the Johnson Collection

Philadelphia Museum of Art

November 3, 2017 - February 19, 2018

Art gives us real delight only when the eye derives pleasure from what is really worthy.
(John G. Johnson, from his art and travel memoir, Sight-Seeing in Berlin and Holland among Pictures, 1892.)
This fall, the Philadelphia Museum of Art will present Old Masters Now: Celebrating the Johnson Collection, a major exhibition focusing on one of the finest collections of European art ever to have been formed in the United States by a private collector. The exhibition marks the centenary of the remarkable bequest of John Graver Johnson—a distinguished corporate lawyer of his day and one of its most adventurous art collectors—to the city of Philadelphia in 1917. It also coincides with the celebration of the centennial of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

The exhibition will include masterpieces by key figures of the Renaissance such as Botticelli, Bosch, and Titian; important seventeenth-century Dutch paintings by Rembrandt, Jan Steen, and others; and works by American and French masters of Johnson’s own time, most notably Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, Édouard Manet and Claude Monet. Old Masters Now will also provide a behind-the-scenes look at the collaborative work of the Museum’s curators and conservators who have worked with the collection since it was entrusted to the Museum’s care in the early 1930s. The exhibition will explore a host of fascinating questions ranging from attribution to authenticity and illuminate the detective work and problem-solving skills that are brought to bear when specialists reevaluate the original meaning and intent of works created centuries ago.

Saint Nicholas of Tolentino Saving a Shipwreck, 1457. Giovanni di Paolo (Giovanni di Paolo di Grazia), Italian (active Siena), first documented. Tempera and gold on panel with vertical grain, 20 1/2 x 16 5/8 inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, John G. Johnson Collection, 1917.

Timothy Rub, The George D. Widener Director and CEO said, “Over time our appreciation of Johnson’s extraordinary gift continues to grow, and yet it remains a source of endless fascination with many discoveries still to be made. We are delighted to open a window onto our work, offering visitors a fresh look at the process of scholarship and conservation that we bring to the care of our collection and an insight into the questions, puzzles, and mysteries that continue to occupy our staff.”
The exhibition will open with a gallery dedicated to Johnson himself, providing a picture of one of Philadelphia’s most prominent leaders during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A timeline will trace key moments in his colorful legal career, highlighting important cases and invitations he was reported to have received from President Garfield and President Cleveland to be nominated for a seat on the Supreme Court, and another from President McKinley to serve as his Attorney General, all of which Johnson declined. It notes that in 1901, he represented his hometown baseball team, the Phillies (then known as the Philadelphia Ball Club), when players sought to break their contract to play for another team. This section will also explore his decades-long formation of an art collection, from his early acquisitions of contemporary art, such as Mary Cassatt’s On the Balcony, to paintings that he acquired the day before he died. Archival material, travel albums, and large-scale photographs of the interiors of Johnson’s houses at 426 and 506 South Broad Street will reveal the strikingly idiosyncratic way in which he displayed and lived with his collection.
Eight paintings in the exhibition will illustrate some of the fascinating breakthroughs in understanding that have emerged from curators’ and conservators’ work researching and caring for the collection over time. Among them is Rogier van der Weyden’s The Crucifixion, with Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist Mourning, from around 1460. This pair of wood panels long puzzled scholars, who were uncertain whether they were created as part of an altarpiece or as an independent work. A conservator’s close technical study eventually led to the realization that they had served as shutters that closed over what was likely one of the largest altarpieces made during the Renaissance in northern Europe, its existence is known only through the Johnson Collection paintings and two others discovered in 2012.
Descent from the Cross, painted by the Netherlandish artist Joos van Cleve around 1520, has undergone a year-long conservation treatment and will be placed on view for the first time in thirty years. Once considered to be simply a copy of a major painting of the same subject created by Rogier van der Weyden eight decades earlier, it remained in storage as a study picture. The painting is now considered to be Joos van Cleve’s homage to this revered masterpiece.
Another work that illustrates how historical and technical study may recover an artist’s original meaning is Dutch master Judith Leyster’s painting The Last Drop (The Gay Cavalier). Dating to about 1629, it depicts a scene of two men approaching the end of a night of drinking. In 1979, an art historian discovered an early copy of the painting that included a skeleton—a warning to the revelers that they should change their ways. The Johnson painting showed no skeleton, but a conservator’s examination and microscopic cleaning tests in 1992 determined that though it once had been painted over, it remained beautifully intact. Removal of the overpainting, documented in a series of photographs, revealed the true message of Leyster’s painting.
Titian’s enigmatic Portrait of Archbishop Filippo Archinto (1558) has been newly cleaned and restored following years of study and conservation treatment. It will be presented alongside a display illustrating how the artist’s original materials have changed with age. Recent analysis by Museum conservators and scientists revealed that Titian painted Archinto with a purple cloak, a color identified with archbishops. The blue pigment that contributed to the purple hue deteriorated over time, making the cloak appear red today. This discovery adds insight into how Titian’s contemporaries would have seen this masterful portrait.
Attribution is examined in the section devoted to the Dutch master Hieronymus Bosch. Johnson was among the earliest Americans to collect Bosch, and today the Museum is among only a handful in the United States that possess a work by this great painter. Although Johnson purchased 10 works that he understood to be by the artist, close comparative looking and technical research—most notably through the use of dendrochronology (dating growth rings in wood)—has led to the conclusion that only one of these 10 works can be considered authentic today.
Mark Tucker, The Neubauer Family Director of Conservation, said: “The work that goes on in conservation is at the very heart of the Museum’s commitment to expanding the understanding of the art in its care. We are looking forward to sharing with visitors not just the results of that work, but also the processes of investigation and the excitement of discovery.”
The exhibition also explores those areas of European painting in which Johnson focused in depth, including Italian, Dutch and Netherlandish, and French art. The number of Dutch paintings he acquired was among the largest of his day, and is especially rich in landscapes by Jacob van Ruisdael and animated genre scenes by Jan Steen. Rembrandt’s Head of Christ will also be on view in this section.
One section devoted to some of the earliest works in Johnson’s collection explores how art historians and conservators evaluate the original context of works that today exist only as fragments of a larger whole. Here an image of the Sienese artist Duccio’s great altarpiece called the Maestá will be placed beside his workshop’s Angel, showing how it was placed and functioned within the larger composition. Other fragmentary works on view include four small superb paintings by Botticelli and Fra Angelico’s St. Francis of Assisi.
Another section is devoted to Johnson’s fascination with the art of his time. It highlights Édouard Manet’s The Battle of the U.S.S. “Kearsarge” and the C.S.S. “Alabama,” James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s Purple and Rose: The Lange Leizen of the Six Marks, and major paintings by John Constable, Gustave Courbet, Edgar Degas, Winslow Homer, Camille Pissarro, Eduard Charlemont, and a marble by Auguste Rodin.
During the presentation of the exhibition the Johnson curatorial and conservation team will be frequently available in the galleries to give talks and answer questions about the works on view. Visitors will also be encouraged to explore the European galleries, where other works from the Johnson Collection are also installed. One installation in gallery 273 is devoted to sculptures from the Johnson Collection and another to embroideries and other textiles from his collection.
Jennifer Thompson, The Gloria and Jack Drosdick Curator of European Painting and Sculpture and Curator of the John G. Johnson Collection, said: “Our understanding of the Johnson Collection is constantly changing. This exhibition marks the first significant assessment of how our thinking on it has evolved over the years. While the careful study we have given to objects in the collection is rarely presented to the public, we are quite pleased to give visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the work we do.”
Digital Publication
The Museum is publishing its first digital catalogue to coincide with this centennial exhibition. The publication includes thematic essays, catalogue entries on objects from the Johnson Collection, and digitized archival resources. The essays focus on the history, scholarship on, and stewardship of this collection and are written by the Museum’s curatorial and conservation team. It will be available for free and accessible to researchers and the public alike. For this new digital publication, the Museum has made use of a new technology implementing IIIF (International Image Interoperability Framework) to present digital images in a more versatile and flexible way.
The development of this catalogue is led by Christopher D. M. Atkins, The Agnes and Jack Mulroney Associate Curator of European Painting and Sculpture, and Manager of Curatorial Digital Programs and Initiatives; and Karina Wratschko, Special Projects Librarian. Atkins said: “We are connecting art information with archival information. This is the most groundbreaking aspect of the project as most institutions have treated these materials separately, until now.”
The John G. Johnson Curatorial and Conservation Team
Jennifer Thompson
The Gloria and Jack Drosdick Curator of European Painting and Sculpture and Curator of the John G. Johnson Collection
Christopher D. M. Atkins
The Agnes and Jack Mulroney Associate Curator of European Painting and Sculpture, and Manager of Curatorial Digital Programs and Initiatives
Mark Tucker
The Neubauer Family Director of Conservation
Teresa A. Lignelli
The Aronson Senior Conservator of Paintings
Carl Brandon Strehlke
Curator Emeritus, John G. Johnson Collection
Joseph J. Rishel
Curator Emeritus, European Painting
About John Graver Johnson (1841–1917)
Born in the village of Chestnut Hill, now part of Philadelphia, and educated in the city’s public Central High School and then the University of Pennsylvania, Johnson became recognized as the greatest lawyer in the English-speaking world. He represented influential clients such as J. P. Morgan, US Steel, the Sugar Trust, and Standard Oil. He was also known to accept cases that many would consider ordinary if the details piqued his intellectual interest. Johnson quietly acquired many important works of art, but also highly singular ones that have been the source of much scholarly discussion.

At the age of 34 he married Ida Alicia Powel Morrell (1840–1908), a widow with three children. He traveled to Europe often, visiting France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany, and Belgium, and collected pictures as an amateur art historian relying on his own evaluation. In 1892, he published Sight-Seeing in Berlin and Holland among Pictures. Also that year, he published a catalogue of his collection which at the time included 281 paintings.

In 1895, Johnson was appointed to Philadelphia’s Fairmount Art Commission where he oversaw the Wilstach Gallery, which housed a public collection of paintings. Under his leadership, the Commission purchased important works, among them

James McNeill Whistler’s Arrangement in Black,

and Henry Ossawa Tanner’s Annunciation, the first work by an African-American artist to enter a public collection in the United States. Johnson was also the attorney for Alexander Cassatt, brother of the artist Mary Stevenson Cassatt.

One of his earliest purchases was Cassatt’s On the Balcony. When Johnson gave this work to the Wilstach Gallery in 1906, it was the first painting by the artist to enter an American public collection. During his 22-year stewardship of the Wilstach Gallery, he made 53 gifts from his personal collection, which are now on view at the Museum.

About the John G. Johnson Collection

Johnson’s collection was formed through his own study and, in later years, with the assistance of illustrious art historians including Roger Fry and Wilhelm Valentiner. Bernard Berenson advised his purchases of works by Antonello da Messina, Sandro Botticelli, and Pietro Lorenzetti, and others. To this day, the John G. Johnson Collection is distinguished by its quality, rarity, and diversity in European art.

At the time of his death on April 14 in 1917, Johnson left his collection to the city of Philadelphia. In his will, he said: “I have lived my life in this City. I want the collection to have its home here.” The City of Philadelphia accepted the conditions of his will, which contained a codicil directing that his house be opened as a gallery for the public to enjoy. In 1933 the Johnson Collection was moved temporarily from Johnson’s house at 510 South Broad Street to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, due to a funding crisis caused by the Great Depression as well as a determination by a court-appointed master that the Johnson house was unsafe for the collection.

In 1958 the Museum, the City, and the Johnson Trust entered a formal agreement concerning storage and display of the Johnson Collection at the Museum. Johnson's art was exhibited as a separate collection within the Museum for more than 50 years. In the late 1980s, legal approval was granted for the Museum to integrate the works into its full collection. The collection numbers 1,279 paintings, 51 sculptures, and over 100 other objects.

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