The Denver Art Museum (DAM) announced today the largest gift ever given to the museum. Denver-based philanthropist Frederic C. Hamilton, the museum’s Chairman Emeritus, bequeathed 22 Impressionist masterworks from his private collection to the museum. The artworks are currently on view at the DAM in Nature as Muse: Impressionist Landscapes from the Frederic C. Hamilton Collection and the Denver Art Museum, part of the trio of exhibitions in Passport to Paris. This presentation, on view through February 9, 2014, is the first time the collection has been exhibited publicly. This capstone gift marks 35 years of Fred Hamilton’s generous giving to the DAM. Over the years, Hamilton has supported numerous endeavors and exhibitions, including the groundbreaking 2012 exhibition Becoming Van Gogh, and leading the fundraising effort for the $110 million Hamilton Building.
“The addition of these paintings to the Denver Art Museum collection is a pivotal moment in this institution’s history,” said Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the Denver Art Museum. “Frederic Hamilton’s generosity, vision and commitment to making Denver a destination for art are unparalleled and have forever changed the museum’s ability to deliver world-class exhibitions and programs.”
The gift includes a painting by Vincent van Gogh, Edge of a Wheat Field with Poppies, the first Van Gogh artwork to enter the museum’s collection; four works by the impressionist master Claude Monet including Path in the Wheat Fields at the Pourville, 1882, and The Houses in the Snow, Norway, that illustrate a range of output during the peak of Monet’s career; three paintings by Eugène Boudin, the first by the artist to enter the museum’s collection, including Scene at the Beach in Trouville, 1881; along with paintings by Paul Cézanne, another first for the museum’s collection, Edouard Manet, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissarro, Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley, as well as those of their American contemporaries William Merritt Chase and Childe Hassam.
The addition of these 22 works elevates the museum’s holdings of Impressionist works to one of the best in the Western United States.
“Collecting these paintings has been a joy for the past four decades and I am happy to know that future generations of visitors to the Denver Art Museum will be able to enjoy them as much as I have,” Hamilton said. “It is my hope that this gift will make the museum’s collection an even greater resource to everyone who lives in or visits our great city.”
Hamilton served as Chairman of the Denver Art Museum Board of Trustees from 1994–2013 and played a pivotal role in the successful expansion of the museum campus with the 146,000-square-foot addition by Daniel Libeskind, which opened in 2006. The building, which bears Hamilton’s name, will house the collection in a dedicated installation space when the works arrive permanently at the DAM.
“We owe Frederic Hamilton an enormous debt of gratitude for this landmark gift in the museum’s 100-year history of collection-building,” said Denver Art Museum Chairman Lanny Martin. “Fred’s legacy has lifted the museum to new levels and secured the Denver Art Museum’s place as a participant on the world stage.”
Throughout his tenure, Hamilton has spearheaded two major endowment campaigns for the DAM, growing those assets to more than $100 million. In addition to his contribution and support of the Hamilton Building, he also led a multi-million dollar renovation of the North Building in 1997 that resulted in the re-installation of the American and European art and western American art collection galleries.
A pioneer in America’s oil industry, Hamilton founded Hamilton Oil Corporation in the late 1960s, built it into an international oil company and also formed a domestic gas company, both of which he merged into a major integrated oil company in the mid-1980s. He is now Chairman of Hamilton Companies LLC, which is active in venture capital, private equity, oil and gas, real estate and acquisitions operations. He is on the National Petroleum Council and a Director of the American Petroleum Institute. In addition to his commitment to the DAM, Hamilton serves as a member of the Trustee’s Council of the National Gallery of Art and Trustee Emeritus of the Smithsonian Institution, both in Washington, D.C. He also serves as a director of the Board of Trustees of the Clyfford Still Museum, the Boy Scouts of America and Denver-based Graland Country Day School and leads the endowment for the Boys and Girls Club of Denver.