The Saint Louis Art Museum has announced the promised gift of 22 works of art from Emily Rauh Pulitzer, continuing a legacy of patronage by the Pulitzer family that dates back more than 90 years.
The gift is among the most significant in the museum’s 142-year history, transforming a collection that has been elevated over time by 144 works of art from Mrs. Pulitzer; her late husband, Joseph Pulitzer Jr.; and his first wife, Louise Vauclain Pulitzer, who died in 1968.
Comprised primarily of paintings and sculpture by 20th-century European and American artists, the gift includes major works by 17 artists, including Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Constantin Brancusi, Joan Miró, Philip Guston, Ellsworth Kelly, Andy Warhol and others. The works will be transferred to the museum at or before Mrs. Pulitzer’s death, as she chooses.
Min Jung Kim, the recently appointed Barbara B. Taylor Director of the Saint Louis Art Museum, said the gift reflects Mrs. Pulitzer’s expertise as an art historian, her extraordinary and well-established generosity towards the Saint Louis Art Museum and her deep and longstanding commitment to the St. Louis community.
“Emily Pulitzer has few equals as a curator, board member and generous, public-spirited donor to the great civic and educational institutions in this country,” said Ms. Kim. “Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about this gift is its surpassing quality. These are all masterpieces, ranging from the early 20th-century Cubism of Braque to the late 20th-century Minimalism of Kelly and the Pop-Art of Warhol. These works are, by themselves, an art historical primer. They will become part of the Saint Louis Art Museum’s permanent collection and, joining other works given by the Pulitzer family, will cement this institution’s reputation as one of the premier art museums anywhere.”
Ms. Kim continued, “I am reminded of the statement by Professor Seymour Slive, the legendary director of Harvard University’s Fogg Art Museum, when he once told me that the only way to build a great public museum collection was to acquire great private collections. Emily Pulitzer is the living embodiment of that observation. The Saint Louis Art Museum will forever be in her debt.”
Ms. Kim said the promised gift will have a transformative impact on the museum’s collection. “The iconic Brancusi sculpture ‘Mademoiselle Pogany III,’ for example, will reframe the museum’s collection of modern sculpture, which currently has no work by this pioneering artist,” she said. “Two canonical paintings by Joan Miró, ‘48’ and ‘Painting,’ will also be crucial additions, offering an area of Miró’s output that is not currently represented in the museum’s collection.”
Other works in the gift will significantly reinforce existing areas of strength. Picasso’s “Woman in a Red Hat,” for example, will offer a valuable new addition to the museum’s group of works by this artist, while Georges Braque’s “The Mantelpiece” will provide a fascinating complement to Picasso’s “The Fireplace,” donated to the museum by Mr. Pulitzer in 1970.
In addition to European works, the Pulitzer gift will have a major impact on the museum’s collection of post-war American art. Andy Warhol’s “Self Portrait,” Philip Guston’s “Dark Room” and Ellsworth Kelly’s “Untitled” will all be highly important additions, as will more recent works such as sculpture by Rachel Harrison and Gedi Sibony.
Mrs. Pulitzer said, “As an encyclopedic museum, the Saint Louis Art Museum plays a unique role in the lives of St. Louis residents, illuminating art from a great variety of places and historical eras. I am delighted to enrich the museum’s collection of modern and contemporary art with this gift and look forward to seeing it resonate with other works in the museum’s diverse collections.”
The museum also announced a commitment to continue to collaborate with the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, a non-collecting museum in St. Louis founded by Mrs. Pulitzer that presents contemporary and historic art, as well as music, poetry, and dance, in dialogue with its celebrated Tadao Ando building.
Since the Pulitzer Arts Foundation opened in 2001, the Saint Louis Art Museum has loaned 84 works from its collection to 15 of the foundation’s exhibitions, while also collaborating on educational programs and other initiatives. Those partnerships, and the special relationship between the museum and the foundation, will continue in perpetuity.
“Emmy’s remarkable gift underscores the generosity of St. Louisans, whose contributions make up more than 70 percent of the Saint Louis Art Museum’s permanent collection,” said Charles Lowenhaupt, president of the museum’s Board of Commissioners. “Our museum has benefitted from a strong public-private partnership throughout its rich history. Gifts of art works and financial donations from private donors, like the Pulitzers, coupled with the strong support we receive from our city and county taxpayers, make our museum one of the nation’s best.
“This gift will strengthen our collection of art from many eras and cultures, and continue to position our Museum as both a cultural center for our community and an institution of global significance.”
The Pulitzer Legacy at the Saint Louis Art Museum
The scion of a famous newspaper-publishing family, Joseph Pulitzer Jr. was raised in St. Louis. After graduating from Harvard University, he returned to the city in 1936 to begin work at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch—the newspaper founded by his grandfather Joseph Pulitzer—where he was editor and publisher, while also serving as chairman of Pulitzer, Inc.
Joseph Pulitzer Jr. established himself as a discerning collector as a young man when he purchased Amedeo Modigliani’s “Elvira Resting at a Table” and hung it in his dormitory room at Harvard University. In 1939 he purchased Henri Matisse’s “Bathers with a Turtle,” widely considered to be one of the great masterpieces of early 20th-century art. The Matisse is among the 76 works of art that Joseph and Louise Pulitzer gave to the museum from 1947 to 1967; the Modigliani was given to the museum in 1968 in her memory.
Originally from Cincinnati, Emily Rauh Pulitzer received a bachelor’s degree in the history of art from Bryn Mawr College and a master’s degree from Harvard University. She served as assistant curator of drawings at the Fogg Art Museum—part of the Harvard Art Museums—before moving to St. Louis in 1964 to work as the curator of the Saint Louis Art Museum (then known as the City Art Museum). Under her leadership, the museum embraced contemporary art and began strategically collecting and exhibiting works by living artists. A highlight of her curatorship was the influential sculpture exhibition “7 for 67” (1967), which introduced museum visitors to a generation of artists, including Christo, Mark di Suvero, Donald Judd, Claes Oldenburg, Lucas Samaras, George Segal and Ernest Trova.
She married Joseph Pulitzer Jr. in 1973, and the couple continued to support the museum through the gifts of 49 additional works of art. Among these are paintings such as “Rocks at Belle-Isle, Port-Domois” by Claude Monet (given in 1975), “White and Hot” by Barnett Newman (given in 1980), and “Curtains” by Roy Lichtenstein (given in 1985). The couple’s gifts to the museum also included prints and drawings—including the drawing “Fishing Boats at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer” by Vincent van Gogh—as well as a Mayan vessel and Native American textiles.
After Joseph Pulitzer’s death, in 1993, Emily Pulitzer continued to support the museum, including through gifts of art such as the 2001 partial and promised gift of Jackson Pollock’s “Number 3, 1950.” She helped to fund significant art acquisitions, including the 2002 purchase of a collection of 382 Max Beckmann prints and the 2006 acquisition of Julie Mehretu’s “Grey Space (distractor).” Mrs. Pulitzer also made a significant leadership gift to the Campaign for the Saint Louis Art Museum, which funded the construction of the museum’s David Chipperfield-designed East Building.
In addition to funds and artworks donated by the Pulitzers, the depth and breadth of Emily Pulitzer’s knowledge of the history of art, as well as of museums and how they work, have proved crucial to numerous institutions, from the St. Louis Art Museum, where she and Joseph Pulitzer served in a series of governance roles, to the Harvard Art Museums, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and others. Both Joseph and Emily Pulitzer were involved from the early days in the revival of St. Louis’ Grand Center neighborhood as an arts and cultural district. This included involvement in bringing to the neighborhood the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, KWMU—St. Louis’s public radio station—and the Pulitzer Arts Foundation.