MANCHESTER, N.H. – Along with $43 million, Henry Melville Fuller recently left the Currier Gallery of Art a treasured bequest of carefully collected artwork – much in the form of Nineteenth Century American paintings. This bequest of 60 paintings is the single most important gift of art to the Currier in its 73-year history.
Along with a small selection from the nationally known collection of glass paperweights he gave the museum in 1998, these paintings are the focus of a special exhibition that honors Fuller’s gift. “Nineteenth Century American Paintings: The Henry Melville Fuller Collection” opens February 2 and runs through March 11.
One of New Hampshire’s most distinguished art appreciators, Fuller was a pioneering collector of American paintings. He assembled the majority of this collection in the 1960s, before the field of American painting garnered widespread appeal, and he was particularly interested in the artists of the Hudson River School and their contemporaries. He became a connoisseur of their work, and his collection is rich in the sublime mountain vistas, pastoral landscapes and dramatic views of the New England seacoast that appealed to a wide audience in Nineteenth Century America.
Before the Civil War and increasing urbanization altered public taste, these breathtaking landscapes dominated the American art world with their sense of optimism and a reverence for nature. The Fuller Collection also includes several fine examples of still life subjects and genre scenes, or views from daily life.
When the Fuller Collection was first exhibited at the Currier Gallery of Art in 1971, the art community quickly recognized its importance, and these works were frequently included in museum exhibitions around the nation. In the two decades since, Fuller gave the Currier major paint-ings – all regularly on view – by the American artists William Holbrook Beard, Asher Brown Durand, Frederic E. Church, Lily Martin Spencer and Charles Caleb Ward.
Fuller’s most recent bequest, which makes up the majority of his collection, adds greatly to the Currier’s current holdings, which already includes important works by Jasper Cropsey, Albert Bierstadt and Martin Johnson Heade.
The exhibition will feature 30 highlights from the Fuller Collection, with works by the recognized masters of Nineteenth Century American painting including Bierstadt, Alfred Bricher, Thomas Cole, Cropsey, Sanford Gifford, Heade, Eastman Johnson, John Kensett and Fitz Hugh Lane. Several well-known New Hampshire painters such as Benjamin Chapney, George Henry Hall, Frank Shapleigh and Aaron Draper Shattuck will also be featured.
This presentation will also include 40 to 50 paperweights from the extensive collection of more than 300 antique and modern glass paperweights that Fuller gave to the Currier in 1998. This extraordinary acquisition gave the museum one of the top five paperweight collections in the nation, and includes works from the French glass houses of Baccarat, Clichy and Saint-Louis, along with examples by prominent contemporary artists.
The Currier Gallery of Art is at 201 Myrtle Way. Hours are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm; Friday, 11 am to 8 pm; and Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm. For information, 603-669-6144, extension 108.