Published: August 19, 2003
The Harvard University Art Museum’s collection of American art is among the most distinguished and yet least known in the United States. In an effort to share many of these gems with the public, an exhibition of 64 paintings and sculptures, “Harvard Collects American Art,” will be presented at the Fogg Art Museum through February 22.
“Harvard Collects American Art,” though drawn primarily from the Fogg’s permanent collection, will include a few important loans of works by Hans Hofmann, Richard Pousette-Dart and Lee Krasner. The exhibition will highlight key events in the Fogg’s history of collecting American art and will feature Albert Bierstadt’s “Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak,” 1863, given by Mrs William Hayes Fogg, whose bequest of funds founded the Fogg Art Museum in 1895.
“[The exhibit] offers an extraordinary opportunity to examine a significant selection from our rich collection of American art,” said Marjorie Cohn, acting director of the museums. “Treasures such as Copley’s portraits of Mrs Thomas Boylston, Sr, and her son Nicholas Boylston; Homer’s ‘Pitching Quoits and The Brush Harrow’; Sargent’s ‘Man in a Blue Mantle’; a ‘No. 2’ by Jackson Pollock are rarely grouped together for all to enjoy.”
The university has been collecting portraits of its presidents, preeminent teachers and other notables since the early Eighteenth Century. From its early years to the present the Fogg acquired American art, occasionally making farsighted purchases (Charles Sheeler’s “Upper Deck,” 1929, was bought in 1933), but more often relying on the generous gifts of alumni and other friends.
By far the greatest gift of art in the university’s history came from Grenville L. Winthrop, Class of 1886, who in 1943 left the museum more than 3,700 works of Asian, American and European art. Among the 260 American objects were some 45 paintings, drawings and pastels by James McNeill Whistler, as well as groups of works by Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent and John La Farge, several of which will be on view in this exhibition.
The exhibition coincides with work on the first volume of a three-volume scholarly catalog of Harvard’s American art collection, including paintings, watercolors, pastels and stained glass. The hardcover catalog, to be published in 2006, is funded by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.
The Fogg Art Museum and the Busch-Reisinger Museum are located at 32 Quincy Street. The Arthur M. Sackler Museum is located next door at 485 Broadway. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm, Sunday, 1 to 5 pm. Admission is $6.50. For information, 617-495-9400 or artmuseums.Harvard.edu.
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