Published: August 14, 2012
At a recent meeting, the National Gallery of Art’s Board of Trustees accepted a significant number of new acquisitions, augmenting the collections of paintings, sculpture, works on paper and photographs. These new works included a collection of 169 photographs by Robert Adams, hand selected by the artist; the gallery’s first watercolor by Thomas Moran; its first paintings by Giorgio Vasari and Hendrik Willem Mesdag; a newly attributed portrait drawing by Michael Sweerts; and a major sculpture by Barry Le Va.
“There are a good number of ‘firsts’ in this exciting round of acquisitions, ranging from Giorgio Vasari’s larger-than-life paintings of Saint Luke and Saint Mark and Thomas Moran’s extraordinary watercolor ‘Mountain of the Holy Cross’ to Barry Le Va’s Post-Minimalist sculpture,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. “We are also pleased to add an important group of gelatin silver prints of America’s changing landscape by Robert Adams, which joins the gallery’s major holdings of works by fellow luminaries of American photography such as Alfred Stieglitz, Robert Frank and Harry Callahan.”
The department of photographs acquired 169 gelatin silver prints by Adams (b 1937), who has recorded America’s changing landscape for more than 40 years, revealing both its beauty and its destruction. This group of photographs was selected by the artist to complement the 25 works by him that the gallery already holds and to represent his most important accomplishments.
Moran’s watercolor “Mountain of the Holy Cross,” 1890, is described as the most important work by the artist to come to light in many years. It was unknown at the time of the gallery’s 1997 Moran retrospective and has never been exhibited publicly or published. It joins three oil paintings, one drawing and 15 prints by Moran in the gallery’s collection, including an 1888 etching of the same scene.
Other works on paper acquired include a fine pastel of Venice by James McNeill Whistler (1834‱903), “White and Pink (The Palace),” 1879‱880. The residence has been identified as the Palazzo da Mosta; the drawing is signed with the artist’s butterfly device and retains its original Whistler frame. American collector Louisine Havemeyer bought it from Whistler between 1881 and 1904.
The gallery has also acquired a portrait in black chalk of Jan van den Enden (circa 1651), one of the most powerful portrait drawings made in mid-baroque Rome. Based on the stylistic evidence, gallery experts have formally attributed this work to Flemish artist Michael Sweerts (1618‱664), and it becomes the first drawing reasonably attributed to that important Flemish baroque painter.
Other acquisitions include the recent purchase of a nearly complete set of Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae (Mirror of Roman Magnificence) containing 52 engravings and etchings made between 1544 and 1572; paintings by Giorgio Vasari (1511‱574) “Saint Luke” and “Saint Mark,” both 1570‱571; the gallery’s first work by Dutch artist Hendrik Willem Mesdag (1831‱915), an 1894 oil on canvas titled “Sunset at Scheveningen: A Fleet of Fishing Vessels at Anchor.”
Rounding out the list is a Post-Minimalist sculpture by American artist Barry Le Va, a first for the gallery; an important “Thesaurus” painting by Mel Bochner titled “Master of the Universe,” 2010; and a contemporary still life by William Bailey (b 1930) that joins 16 prints by Bailey in the gallery’s collection.
The board also noted that Mrs Paul Mellon has released her life interest in eight works to the gallery: William Merritt Chase’s “Gathering Autumn Flowers,” 1894/1895; Winslow Homer’s “East Hampton Beach, Long Island,” 1874, and “Three Fisher Girls, Tynemouth,” 1881; Eastman Johnson’s “Lambs, Nantucket,” 1874; Odilon Redon’s “Village by the Sea in Brittany,” circa 1880; Georges Seurat’s “Seascape (Gravelines),” 1890; Eugene Boudin’s “Crinoline sur la plage de Trouville,” circa 1865; and Pablo Picasso’s “Verre, as de trèfle et poire coupée,” 1914.
The National Gallery of Art and its Sculpture Garden are on the National Mall between 3rd and 9th Streets at Constitution Avenue NW. For information, 202-737-4215 or (TDD) 202-842-6176 or www.nga.gov .
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