Richard M. Scaife Art Collection Bequest Now Finalized

  • GREENSBURG, Pennsylvania
  • /
  • March 30, 2015

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Jasper F. Cropsey (1823-1900), Starrucca Viaduct, 1896, Oil on canvas, 46 1/4 x 68 1/2 inches, Bequest of Richard M. Scaife, RMS.274
Westmoreland Museum of Art

The Westmoreland Museum of American Art has announced the final selections from the art collection bequeathed to the museum by Richard M. Scaife, Tribune-Review publisher and philanthropist, have been completed and the transfer from the estate has been finalized. In total, the collection included around 500 works to be divided between The Westmoreland and the Brandywine River Art Museum through a round-robin selection process. Located near Philadelphia, the Brandywine, like The Westmoreland, is exclusively dedicated to the collection and exhibition of American art. The joint selection process involving the two institutions took place over the months of December 2014 and January 2015.
During his lifetime, Mr. Scaife enjoyed living with wonderful works of art at his two homes in southwestern Pennsylvania as well as the houses he owned in California and Massachusetts.  In California and Massachusetts, he tended to collect the work of regional artists showing scenes from those locales. This was especially the case in Nantucket where he surrounded himself with nautical subject matter by both historical and contemporary artists. A broader selection of American art could be found at his two southwestern Pennsylvania homes.

Director and CEO Judith O'Toole states, “We are delighted that Mr. Scaife chose The Westmoreland as a place to share with the public the art he so enjoyed during his lifetime. Dick believed in the uplifting potential of art and its ability to better understand the world and issues facing us.” 

Highlights of the Bequest of Richard M. Scaife
The Westmoreland will be receiving approximately 220 artworks, which include five paintings by the famed early 20th century self-taught artist John Kane. Kane, who emigrated from Scotland, lived in the southwestern Pennsylvania for much of his life. Mr. Scaife gave special designation in his will regarding these works to indicate that all five should be gifted to The Westmoreland. 

Among highlights The Westmoreland has gained from the bequest are major works by leading figures of the Hudson River School, including multiple works by William Trost Richards, a favorite of Mr. Scaife’s; Jasper F. Cropsey's Starrucca Viaduct, an important painting showing a landmark structure in Pennsylvania; George Inness’ Moonrise, Alexandria Bay, an excellent example of tonalism; and a large sunset scene by Albert Bierstadt of the California coastline.
More highlights include, from the California School, Granville Redmond’s impressionistic Wildflowers, Poppies, and Lupines; Boston School impressionist Edmund Tarbell’s Portrait of Father and Children (John J. Albright), a large canvas showing two girls dressed in Sunday white on the knee and standing beside their father in his study; and Frederick Bosley’s Peggy Reading to Elizabeth, 1926, which shows the influence of Japonism or Asian aesthetics popular in early 20th century American painting. Several significant works with western Pennsylvania connections are An Interior View of Oak Manor (Pittsburgh) painted in 1889 by influential American impressionist and realist William Merritt Chase during a visit here, and David Gilmour Blythe’s Prospecting/Bullcreek City, c. 1861, painted near Oil City and showing the first oil rig. 

Also of note are Guy Pene du Bois’ Rose Madder Club, 1934 commemorating the club organized for du Bois by his students and named for a favorite color used by the artist, as well as two paintings by Gerrit Beneker, one showing a telephone operator at her board and another showing a steel worker high atop a skyscraper. Additionally, the American Impressionism movement is represented through Willard Metcalf’s pointillist composition in autumn colors, Corner of the Garden, 1920; a seascape with children playing by Maurice Prendergast; along with several works by Charles Courtney Curran including The Goldfish, 1911 with a young woman dramatically silhouetted against the light feeding fish.
Interesting Stories from the Collection
Lake Champlain, New York and Camel’s Hump, Vermont, 1858, a small, oval oil sketch, is unsigned and was therefore presented as unattributed. However, upon close inspection, the work reveals the initials of several major proponents of the Hudson River School illusionistically “carved” into the trunks of birch trees. More research should determine that this is a composite sketch completed during a companionable excursion into the countryside by a group of painters from this important American art movement.
In the arena of Nautical painting, there are several oils and a series of sketches by 19th century painter James Buttersworth and works by his younger colleague Antonio Jacobsen, which are essentially portraits of ships. The drawings by Buttersworth depict participants in the historic "100 Guinea Cup" Race hosted by the Royal Yacht Squadron in 1851. The race route took participants around the Isle of Wight in England. 1851 was the first year that an overseas yacht could enter the race, and the American entrant, Schooner America, won by a landslide. The trophy then became known as "America's Cup."  One of the drawings by Buttersworth is of Schooner America. Confusingly, the artist typically signed his name “Butterworth” causing some concern about the authenticity of these drawings. Experts helped determine that these drawings are indeed original.
Lastly, John La Farge’s stained glass window, titled Moon Over Clouds, 1884, will serve as a wonderful complement to The Westmoreland's important window by Charles Comfort Tiffany. Chief Curator Barbara Jones plans to display the two works in close proximity.

Tags: american art

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