Warner collection of American art on view at University of Pennsylvania

  • Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) Choppin’ Cotton, 1931.  Tempera on board.  Courtesy of the Warner Foundation.

    Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) Choppin’ Cotton, 1931. Tempera on board. Courtesy of the Warner Foundation.

Since the 1950s, Jonathan Westervelt Warner, known as Jack, accumulated a notable collection of more than 700 American artworks and objects. His intention, says the 94-year-old, was to form a collection "as an investment for my family company," the Westervelt Co., formerly Gulf States Paper Corp.

He bought what he liked, focusing on George Washington imagery, the Hudson River movement, Winslow Homer, American impressionism, and art of the South.

The New Britain Museum of American Art organized the current exhibition at the University of Pennsylvania called "An American Odyssey." It consists of 63 paintings and works on paper owned by Jack Warner and the Warner Foundation, which ran the Westervelt-Warner Museum, but it does not include many of the masterpieces collected by Warner.

When he ceded control of his company, Warner lost authority over part of his collection. The Westervelt. Co. sent 29 paintings to Christie's for auction in May 2011, a sale that netted $6.7 million for the company although sixteen lots failed to sell.

Dozens more of Warner's artworks have been sold privately, including two Hudson River School masterworks as well as Daniel Garber's Tanis, which philanthropists Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest have recently given to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The works culled from Warner's private collection and the foundation for the exhibition include notable works by Severin Roesen, Winslow Homer, Jasper Cropsey, Alfred Jacob Miller, Edward Potthast, Childe Hassam, Frederick Freiseke, Thomas Hart Benton, Maxfield Parrish, N.C. Wyeth and more.

An American Odyssey: The Warner Collection of American Art is on view August 13 – November 6, 2011 at the Arthur Ross Gallery, University of Pennsylvania.

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