Published: September 11, 2012
A selection of major works from the William S. Paley Collection at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City will be on view at the de Young Museum September 15⁄ecember 30.
The Paley collection is a markedly personal one, reflecting the broad tastes of a singular art collector, rather than one unifying historical period or theme. The work selected for the exhibition, “The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism,” focuses on the French School and School of Paris, late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century artists who, like Paley, helped redefine Modernism.
As founder and force at Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), Paley was a leader in communication, entertainment and broadcast journalism. Despite his professional success and stature, as a son of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, Paley was not spared the religious discrimination encountered by many Americans of his generation.
While his power as a media titan opened many doors, others remained closed, including those of several prestigious clubs that denied him membership. Paley’s art patronage, showcased during parties held in his palatial 20-room apartment on Fifth Avenue, projected an aura of cultural sophistication comparable to that cultivated by New York’s social elite.
As a master of emerging media in his own era, Paley was keenly aware that generous gifts of art to MoMA would help to augment both his public image and his stature as a significant philanthropist. He was one among the many Jewish collectors and donors who helped to found or shape some of America’s major museums, including the de Young Museum and the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco.
Many of the paintings, sculptures and drawings in his collection provide an individual, contemplative experience with the art. The collection commenced during a trip to Europe in 1933, when Paley acquired his first purchase: Paul Cezanne’s “Self-Portrait in a Straw Hat,” 1875‱876, directly from the artist’s son. Shortly thereafter, he acquired the artist’s “L’Estaque,” 1879‱883.
The selection of Paley’s collection hosted by the de Young is particularly rich in the works of Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, with significant works by Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pierre Bonnard, Georges Roualt and Andre Derain.
Among the pieces shown are Gauguin’s “The Seed of the Areoi,” 1892, from the artist’s first visit to Tahiti; Degas’ large-scale pastel and charcoal “Two Dancers,” 1905; Picasso’s celebrated monumental painting, “Boy Leading a Horse,” 1905‱906;, Derain’s vibrant Fauve painting “Bridge over the Riou,” 1906; and Matisse’s “Odalisque with a Tambourine,” 1925′6.
“The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism” was organized by William Rubin in collaboration with Matthew Armstrong and Lynn Zelevansky, and brought to the de Young by MoMA, with which Paley was affiliated beginning in 1937. Serving as trustee, chairman of the Painting and Sculpture Committee, president of the museum, and chairman of the board, Paley was chairman emeritus from 1985 until his death in October 1990.
This exhibition, featuring more than 60 paintings, sculptures and drawings, represents the accomplishments of many seminal artists, reflects the modern art patronage of an astute collector and celebrates his contributions to, as Robert E. Oldenburg, director emeritus of MoMA, said, the very “fabric of modern life.”
An eponymously titled exhibition catalog presents Paley’s complete collection of 84 paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings.
The museum is in Golden Gate Park at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive. For more information, 415-750-3600 or www.deyoungmuseum.org .
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