Published: November 4, 2014
PORTLAND, MAINE — The Portland Museum of Art (PMA) is showcasing a rich survey of British art spanning six centuries in the exhibition “Treasures of British Art 1400-2000: The Berger Collection,” on view through January 4.
Organized by the Denver Art Museum, the exhibition features 50 masterworks of British art by luminaries such as Hans Holbein the Younger, Sir Anthony van Dyck, Thomas Gainsborough, Sir Thomas Lawrence, John Constable, Angelica Kauffman and George Stubbs. The Berger Collection is one of the most impressive collections of British art in America and this exhibition provides audiences the rare opportunity to see such a significant body of paintings in this region. The PMA is the first venue outside of Denver for this traveling show.
With its diverse array of subjects and styles, “Treasures of British Art” traces key developments in British art and culture through a chronological presentation of works. The earliest picture, a gilded altarpiece with a crucifixion scene from circa 1395, is also an extremely rare surviving example of late Medieval religious painting — the type of object that was systematically destroyed in England when King Henry VIII broke away from the Roman Catholic Church.
Portraiture has long been an important genre in British art, and this tradition is well-represented from the linear, decorative style of Sixteenth Century portraits of Tudor royals and nobility, to the loosely brushed naturalism ushered in by Sir Anthony van Dyck and found in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century portraiture, to the expressionistic Twenty-First Century image of the artist David Hockney by Adam Birtwistle. Marine paintings and landscapes of faraway places — including a monumental naval battle painting by Adriaen van Diest and a luminous harbor scene by John Constable — reflect not only shifting aesthetic approaches to the natural world, but also the importance of maritime life and overseas exchange in the history of the British Isles. History paintings, equestrian subjects and other important genres of the British school in styles ranging from the traditional to modern round out the expansive breadth of the exhibition.
The late William M.B. Berger and his wife Bernadette Johnson Berger began amassing this collection in the mid-1990s out of their dual passion for British culture and for art’s potential to educate. Now owned by the Berger Collection Educational Trust and placed on long-term loan at the Denver Art Museum, the collection continues to expand through new acquisitions. The British paintings, drawings and art objects number approximately 200 works. The very best paintings from this extraordinary collection have been selected for the traveling exhibition to fulfill the Berger family’s mission of sharing these masterpieces with a wide public audience.
“Treasures of British Art 1400–2000” is accompanied by a catalog authored by Kathleen Stuart, curator of the Berger Collection. This catalog includes full-color plates and detailed entries on each of the works in the exhibition.
The Portland Museum of Art is at Seven Congress Square. For additional information, www.portlandmuseum.org or 207-775-6148.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm