Published: November 16, 2010
One of the largest and most refined collections of early American furniture in private hands, as well as major Dutch paintings, American paintings and works on paper, including some 40 floral watercolors by Redouté, acquired with great connoisseurship together over four decades by George M. and Linda H. Kaufman, have been promised to the National Gallery of Art. A temporary exhibition highlighting the early American furniture will take place at the gallery in two years.
The Kaufman collection of American furniture includes more than 200 objects, many of which were featured in the 1986‱987 gallery exhibition and catalog, “American Furniture from the Kaufman Collection .”
Among the highlights are a Boston dressing table with exotic japanned designs, 1700‱730; a chest-on-chest, 1765‱790, with four sculptural carved shells and a history of ownership by Providence merchant John Brown; a monumental Philadelphia desk-and-bookcase, circa 1765, considered by many scholars to be one of the greatest examples of American case furniture; and an ornately inlaid Federal sideboard, 1793‱795, made by Williams and Deming, New York, for Oliver Wolcott, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
A smaller selection of other decorative arts includes looking glasses, mirrors, and clocks, all of which were in the 1986‱987 exhibition. A pair of painted and gilded porcelain “Old Paris” vases, circa 1820, with portraits of Presidents George Washington and John Adams; four rare pieces of Bonnin and Morris porcelain, 1770‱772, America’s first porcelain manufactory, made in Philadelphia; and an Amelung glass tumbler with the American eagle, made for the inauguration of President George Washington in 1789, are also part of the gift.
Most of the 35 paintings in the gift are Dutch, and some are from the American and French traditions. They include “River View,” 1645, by Salomon van Ruysdael (1600/03‱670). The Dutch works also include “A Pier in Dordrecht Harbor,” early 1640s, a light-filled river scene by Aelbert Cuyp (1620‱691) and an imposing landscape from the end of the 1640s by Jacob van Ruisdael (circa 1628/29‱682) that depicts a weathered brick bridge crossing an inland waterway near a large oak tree.
The Kaufman gift includes one of Winslow Homer’s most vibrant and luminous early watercolors, “Gloucester Sunset,” 1880 †one of the most dramatic of a series of watercolors done by the artist of sailboats on Gloucester Harbor †and two major watercolors by Childe Hassam, one being “Portrait of the Artist’s Wife (Leaning on a Garden Wall),” 1890.
More than 40 stunning watercolors of flowers, vegetables and plants painted on vellum by French artist Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759‱840), a favorite of Empress Josephine, are also a major addition to the gallery’s collection of some 100,000 works on paper. Rounding out the extensive gift are important watercolors by Francis A. Silva, William Trost Richards and others.
National Gallery of Art is at 4th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW. For information, www.nga.gov or 202-737-4215.
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