Published: October 3, 2000
The National Gallery Collects for a New Century
Washington, D.C. – “: Collecting for a New Century” brings together 140 recent acquisitions from the National Gallery’s permanent collection. On view in the West Building through February 4, 2001, the exhibition demonstrates the growth of the gallery’s collection since its 50th anniversary exhibition in 1991. It is part of a series of exhibitions highlighting the National Gallery of Art’s permanent collection. Works from the great bequest of Paul Mellon were shown in 1999, and Twentieth Century drawings will be featured in an exhibition in November 2001.
Surveying the last five centuries of European and American art with particular emphasis on Renaissance art, Dutch art of the Seventeenth Century, and American and French painting of the Nineteenth Century, the exhibition and its accompanying catalogue represent a selection of some of the finest works acquired by the gallery since 1991.
Paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, and photographs by some 120 artists will be shown, including such acclaimed masters as Sandro Botticelli, Albrecht Dürer, Raphael, Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Rembrandt van Rijn, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Thomas Cole, Julia Margaret Cameron, Edgar Degas, Winslow Homer, Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri Matisse, Alexander Calder, Jean Dubuffet, and Jasper Johns, as well as important works by other prominent and lesser-known artists.
“” also celebrates the generosity of individuals and foundations who have given or made financial gifts for every work of art in the Gallery’s permanent collection. Acquisitions will be featured that were made possible by Jo Ann and Julian Ganz Jr., Ladislaus and Beatrix von Hoffmann, Joan and David Maxwell, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, Robert and Jane Meyerhoff, Roger and Victoria Sant, and Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney, as well as works of art acquired with funds from the National Gallery’s Patrons’ Permanent Fund, New Century Fund and Gift Committee, the Collectors Committee, and The Circle.
The National Gallery of Art was founded by Andrew W. Mellon, who gave his collection of masterpieces and the original West Building to the American people in 1937. As early as 1927, Mellon had considered building a “national” gallery to fill a need of which his travels to Europe and his tenure in England as the U.S. Ambassador to the Court of Saint James’s made him keenly aware. Modeled after the National Gallery in London, the National Gallery of Art limits its active art collecting to works from Europe and America from the late Middle Ages to the present day. With five to seven million visitors each year and more than 102,000 works of art in its permanent collection, the National Gallery of Art is among the most renowned art museums in the world.
Included in the exhibition are two magnificent paintings recently cleaned by gallery conservators, “Still Life with Figs and Bread” (1760s) by Luis Meléndez, and “The Rebuke of Adam and Eve” (1626) by Domenico Zampieri (called Domenichino). “Still Life with Figs and Bread” will be on view for the first time at the National Gallery. This canvas, by the greatest still-life painter of Eighteenth Century Spain and one of the most remarkable painters of the genre in all Europe, demonstrates the artist’s talent for rendering everyday objects with exacting detail and his marvelous effects of color and light.
“The Rebuke of Adam and Eve” perfectly illustrates Domenichino’s classical style at the peak of his career. The group of God and the angels is derived directly from Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Domenichino’s painting and Valentin de Boulogne’s “Soldiers Playing Cards and Dice (The Cheats)” (circa 1620/1622), which is also featured in the exhibition, augment the National Gallery’s holdings of Seventeenth Century Baroque paintings.
Additional works in the exhibition making their debut appearance at the National Gallery are Jan Brueghel the Elder’s “River Landscape” (1607), “The Shipwreck” (1772) by French artist Claude-Joseph Vernet, and “For the Track” (1895), one of the most accomplished late works by John Frederick Peto.
Among the extraordinary Renaissance paintings in the exhibition are Cariani’s “A Concert” (circa 1518-1520), widely considered to be his masterpiece, and Jacopo Bassano’s “The Miraculous Draught of Fishes” (1545). These two works, with their brilliant hues set off against gray and blue backgrounds, add to the gallery’s collection of Venetian paintings. Bernardo Bellotto’s “The Fortress of Königstein” (1756-1758), one of the artist’s largest and most unusual landscape views, will also be on display.
Unknown to modern scholarship on Thomas Cole until its acquisition by the gallery in 1993, “Italian Coast Scene with Ruined Tower” (1838) adds to the Gallery’s especially rich representation of America’s premier Nineteenth Century landscape painter. The painting demonstrates the complexity of Cole’s vision and creative process at a time when he was at the height of his artistic powers.
Edgar Degas’ best-known works are those inspired by the ballet. “The Dance Lesson” (circa 1879) is the first ballet scene in a distinctive group of some forty canvases that Degas executed in an unusual horizontal format. “The Old Violin” (1886), a masterpiece by Nineteenth Century trompe-l’oeil painter William Michael Harnett, entered the permanent collection in 1993, and immeasurably enhances the National Gallery’s holdings of American still-life paintings.
Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder’s immaculately preserved “Bouquet of Flowers in a Glass Vase” (1621), Jan van Huysum’s “Still Life with Flowers and Fruit” (circa 1715), Vincent van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait” (1889), Henri Matisse’s “Open Window, Collioure” (1905), Georges Braque’s “The Port of La Ciotat” (1907), Cy Twombly’s “Untitled (Bolsena)” (1969), and Jasper Johns’ “Perilous Night” (1982), the gallery’s only painting by this artist, are among the outstanding masterpieces in the exhibition.
In 1991, the gallery acquired two of the greatest works on paper in America. They are a magnificent page from Giorgio Vasari’s “Libro de’ Disegni”, bearing nine drawings by Filippino Lippi and one by Botticelli, and an exceptionally rare drawing of a “Satyr” by the Sixteenth Century Florentine sculptor Benvenuto Cellini. Also featured in the installation are some of the most important early German prints and drawings to become available in the past decade, including works by The Master of the Playing Cards, Albrecht Dürer, Hans Baldung Grien, and Hans Holbein.
Other recent acquisitions for the Gallery’s collection of more than 96,000 works on paper are Rembrandt’s superb etching and drypoint, “Abraham Entertaining the Angels” (1656), and the rediscovered copperplate, widely believed to have been lost until it was acquired by the National Gallery in 1997. The plate is in pristine condition after being hidden for more than three hundred years on the back of an oil painting by a contemporary of the artist.
Two pastels, Odilon Redon’s “Saint George and the Dragon” (circa 1892) and Jean Baptiste Greuze’s “The Well-Loved Mother” (1765), are among the works on paper that will be on view for the first time in the Gallery. Rare or unique artist’s proofs of major modern prints in the exhibition include works by Edvard Munch and Jacques Villon, as well as the complete set of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s noted series of color woodcuts, “Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte” (1915).
Among the sculptures in the exhibition are the fountain figures “Venus and Cupid” (circa 1575/1580) by a follower of Giambologna, the most important Renaissance bronze to enter the collection in the past forty years; Alexander Calder’s “Vertical Constellation with Bomb” (1943); and Auguste Rodin’s “The Age of Bronze (L’Age d’Airain),” model, 1875-1876, cast 1898. The exquisite modeling, early date, fine casting, and excellent state of “The Age of Bronze” make it arguably the most distinguished Rodin plaster in America.
The exhibition celebrates works by Nineteenth and Twentieth Century masters of photography recently added to the Gallery’s collection. Among these works are William Henry Fox Talbot’s ethereal “Orléans Cathedral” (1843), and Julia Margaret Cameron’s powerful illustration of “The Mountain Nymph, Sweet Liberty” (1866), a subject taken from John Milton’s “L’Allegro.” Also on view are Charles Sheeler’s exceptional vintage photographs of his house in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, from his first and perhaps most important body of work; and André Kertész’ magnificent and rare “Shadows of the Eiffel Tower (1929),” a fascinating example of the artist’s exploration of unusual and innovative points of view.
The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Coordinating curator for “” is Alan Shestack, deputy director and chief curator, National Gallery of Art. Twenty-eight curators from the Gallery assisted in the selection of art in the exhibition. An illustrated catalogue with entries on each of the works written by National Gallery of Art curators is available.
The National Gallery of Art and its Sculpture Garden, located on the National Mall between Third and Ninth Streets at Constitution Avenue, NW, are open Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm; and Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm. The gallery is closed on December 25 and January 1. For information, 202/737-4215; call the Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD) at 202/842-6176; or visit the gallery’s Web site at www.nga.gov.
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