The Philadelphia Museum of Art has announced the acquisition of a wide range of works of art that will significantly enhance its world-renowned collection. Ranging in date from a 10th-century Indian bronze sculpture of the Chola dynasty to Sean Scully’s monumental triptych Iona (2004-2006), these works—acquired by purchase, gift, or pledged to the Museum as donations—include several Impressionist and modern paintings by major masters as well as nearly 200 paintings, sculptures, and drawings from one of this country’s most significant private collections of work by self-taught artists, making the Philadelphia Museum of Art one of the leading centers for the study of this material in the country.
“We are grateful for the tradition of enlightened patronage that for more than 130 years has enabled this institution to strengthen and expand its collection and to utilize it creatively in service to the community,” said Timothy Rub, The George D. Widener Director and CEO. “We have always relied on the generosity of those who care deeply for the city and its art museum. By any measure, the donations we have received in recent months have been nothing short of extraordinary.”
The Philadelphia Museum of Art has received three paintings by the French Impressionists Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, and Alfred Sisley, as well as a pastel by Mary Cassatt, the Pennsylvania native and American expatriate who became famously associated with Paris during the late 19th century. These gifts of Chara Haas and her late husband John, longtime supporters of the Museum, include Path on the Island of Saint Martin, Vétheuil (1881) by Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926); Apple Tree in the Meadow, Éragny (1893) by Camille Pissaro (French, 1830-1903); Mooring Lines, the Effect of Snow at Saint Cloud (1879) by Alfred Sisley (French, 1839-1899); and Madame Bérard’s Baby in a Striped Armchair (1880-81) by Mary Cassatt (American, 1844-1926). The Monet and the Pissarro have been placed on view in gallery 152 while the Sisley is on view in gallery 157 and Cassatt’s pastel has been hung in gallery 162. “With these remarkable gifts, the Haas family has greatly enriched the Museum’s collection and deepened our already strong holdings if Impressionist painting,” said Rub.
The Museum has also acquired Ruined Bridge with Figures Crossing (1767) by Hubert Robert (French, 1733–1808), as a bequest from William B. Deitrich. Inspired by the landscape painter’s study in Italy, it will join more than two dozen works by Robert in the Museum’s collection, among them Ruins of a Roman Bath with Washerwoman (after 1766). Ruined Bridge with Figures Crossing has been placed on view in gallery 283.
In 1993, the Museum began to acquire works by self-taught artists, forming a collection that now numbers more than 300 works. Added to these holdings will be some 190 works by self-taught artists, thanks to a generous promised gift of collectors Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz, a member of the Museum’s Board of Trustees. Over the past three decades they have together assembled one of the finest holdings of outsider art in private hands in the United States. Their commitment will increase the Museum’s holdings in this field by more than 60 percent. Major artists already well-represented in the collection, including Bill Traylor, Martín Ramírez, William Edmondson, James Castle, and Joseph Yoakum, will be able to be exhibited in far greater depth, and important artists by whom the Museum owns few or no works–including Sister Gertrude Morgan, William Hawkins, Sam Doyle, and Elijah Pierce–will now have a strong presence. The addition of the Bonovitz gift, which will be the subject of a major exhibition in spring 2013, will place the Museum in the top ranks of outsider art collections in the country.
Tanis, by Daniel Garber (1880-1958), a leading figure of the New Hope Group of Pennsylvania painters active in the early decades of the 20th century, is widely acknowledged as the artist’s finest figural work. Completed in 1915, this luminous painting depicts the artist’s eight-year-old daughter standing in the doorway of Garber’s studio.
The Museum has purchased Tanis from the Westervelt Company in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, thanks to the generosity of Marguerite and H. F. (Gerry) Lenfest, Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Trustees of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It is now on public view in Gallery 119, the centerpiece of a new installation dedicated to Garber, his fellow artists of the New Hope Group, and members of the Ashcan School, many of whom were, like Garber, students or faculty at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Tanis will travel to the James A. Michener Museum in the fall of 2011, where it will be seen in the upcoming exhibition The Painterly Voice: Bucks County’s Fertile Ground (October 2011 - March 2012).
Bombardment (1937-38) by Philip Guston (American, 1913– 980), a gift of the artist’s daughter, Musa Mayery, was Guston’s most ambitious and successful painting of the 1930s. Combining Guston’s interest in Italian Renaissance painting with his admiration for the political activism of Mexican mural painting. Bombardment was influenced by the artist’s first-hand observation in Mexico of the murals created by artists such as José Clemente Orozco (Mexican, 1883-1949) and represents Guston’s response to the atrocities committed during the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Bombardment joins a later work by Guston in the Museum’s collection, November 1963 (1963), and Entrance (1979), the promised gift of Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro, providing additional context for the work of this important artist. It will also resonate with other works in the collection, including Salvador Dalí’s Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of the Civil War) (1936) and Robert Motherwell’s Elegy to the Spanish Republic (1958-60). Bombardment is on view in gallery 172.
The artist Ellsworth Kelly (American, born 1923) has given the Museum Red Yellow Blue White (1952) in memory of late director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Anne d’Harnoncourt. This work in four colors of fabric is representative of the artist’s early explorations into the intensely felt abstraction for which he came to be best known.
The Museum has demonstrated a major interest and engagement with Kelly’s work, and together with the purchase of Seine (1951), Diagonal with Curve III (1978), Cutout in Wood (1950), the promised gift from Keith and Katherine Sachs, and a number of important drawings, this acquisition builds a solid foundation of works by one of the most important artists of his generation, with particular strength in early works.
The Museum has acquired two works by Sean Scully (born 1945), an American painter of Irish birth whose art is informed by his everyday life and by architecture and urban environments. Iona (2004-2006), a partial and promised gift of Alan and Ellen Meckler, ranks among the artist’s highest achievements and comprises three monumental canvases painted over a period of two years. Chelsea Wall #1 (1999), a gift of John J. Hannan, references the complexity of human relationships through colored blocks arranged in elegant, interlocking configurations. Iona and Chelsea Wall # 1, together with a suite of 10 aquatint prints offered as a gift by the artist, will make the Museum a significant holder of Scully’s work in the United States.
A major collection of 31 drawings and two sculptures by the architect, artist, designer, poet, and philosopher Frederick Kiesler (American, born Austria-Hungary, 1890–1965) was donated by Cincinnati, Ohio, collectors Ronnie L. and John E. Shore, who were inspired by the close connection of Kiesler’s work to the Museum’s renowned Marcel Duchamp (American, born France, 1887-1968) collection. Spanning every decade between the early 1930s and the 1960s, the drawings include sketches for many of the artist’s most important projects, including the Endless House: Conceptual Drawing (1947), his lifelong scheme for creating a sculptural model for architecture; scenic and costume designs for theatrical performances; and 10 sketches for the Shrine of the Book, a building he designed in 1957 for a wing of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem to house the Dead Sea Scrolls, completed in 1965.
After training in Vienna, Kiesler moved to New York in 1926. Between 1937 and 1948 he became a close friend and collaborator of Marcel Duchamp. Through Duchamp and others, Kiesler became acquainted with the European Surrealists living in New York, and in 1947 he designed the installation of the last Surrealist exhibition in Paris, organized by Duchamp and André Breton (French, 1896-1966). In the United States, Kiesler is best known for his groundbreaking plan for Peggy Guggenheim’s New York gallery, Art of This Century, in 1942; two drawings for the gallery design are included in the gift.
Jar with Lid is typical of the white wares produced between the 15th and 16th centuries in Korea, characterized by the large globular shoulder, tapering bottom, and lid with a pointed knob. This type of ware would have been used in royal rituals and was only produced in a designated royal kiln near Seoul. Jar with Lid, which is on view in gallery 237, was purchased for the Museum’s growing Korean art collection through the generosity of the James and Agnes Kim Fund for Korean Art and with funds contributed by Maxine and Howard Lewis and Mr. and Mrs. John Thalheimer.
Narishimha (Vishnu’s Man-Lion Avatar in Princely Posture) (c. 1000)—a bronze sculpture created under the powerful Chola dynasty, which long controlled the southern half of the Indian subcontinent—was purchased by the Museum with the Stella Kramrisch Fund for Himalayan Art. It depicts Narasimha (half-man, half-lion) who is the fourth of the 10 avatars of the god Vishnu. The acquisition provides additional context for early examinations of Indian festivals and celebrations that likely would have taken place in the Temple Hall during important religious and cultural events. This sculpture is currently on view in the Pillared Temple Hall (gallery 224), which itself comes from a c. 1550 temple dedicated to another of Vishnu’s avatars, Krishna, and includes sculptures of a third, the hero-king Rama.