The Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, VA., just announced Hampton Roads Philanthropist Joan Brock has made a $34 million gift to the museum, including 40 works of art from the Macon and Joan Brock Collection and two position endowments, including the Director of the Museum. This gift will also support the expansion of the Perry Glass Studio.
“The Brock Collection is one of the most significant private collections of American art assembled in the twenty-first century. Major paintings and works on paper by the most important artists of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries chart a broad history of American art of the period and will allow the Chrysler to tell new and more compelling stories of our nation’s artistic history,” notes Corey Piper, Brock Curator of American Art. The gift includes 29 paintings by artists such as John Singer Sargent, John La Farge, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, George Benjamin Luks, George Bellows, Childe Hassam, Marsden Hartley, Sally Michel, and William MacGregor Paxton. Among the ten works on paper are two works by William Merritt Chase, two by Winslow Homer, and a watercolor by Charles Ephraim Burchfield. A glass sculpture by Debora Moore is also included.
The Brock Collection spans nearly one hundred years of American art, from just after the Civil War to the mid-twentieth century. The collection builds substantially upon the Chrysler’s holdings of American art, adding works by 15 artists not previously represented and filling in key gaps in the museum’s collection. Major movements from the late nineteenth century including the Hudson River School, American Impressionism and the Aesthetic movement will be more fully explored at the museum through the gift of works by Sanford Robinson Gifford, John Leslie Breck, and Abbott Henderson Thayer. Important works of American Modernism by Marsden Hartley, Charles Sheeler, Preston Dickinson, and William Baziotes will enhance the museum’s twentieth-century galleries and more fully illustrate the rise of abstraction and other modern developments in American art. The Brock Collection is particularly strong in drawings, pastels and watercolors and the gift contributes to the Chrysler’s emphasis on the study and appreciation of works on paper through the addition of works by James Carroll Beckwith, Sargent, Chase, Homer, and others.
“In addition to their historical importance, the works in the Brock collection stand as superlative examples of exceptional quality, a testament to Macon and Joan’s astute eyes. While their love of American painting guided their pursuits, they also demonstrated great foresight in the construction of a collection for the public’s benefit. The gift of the collection will elevate the stature of the Chrysler’s American art holdings and programs, making it a national leader in the exhibition, study, and appreciation of American art,” added Piper.
A selection of the works will be on view in a Winter 2023-24 exhibition at the Chrysler. The presentation will be accompanied by the publication of a comprehensive catalogue of the collection, with essays written by the Museum’s curators and leading scholars of American art.
“I could not be happier to make this gift to the Chrysler, and to the Hampton Roads region that has been my home for most of my life,” said Mrs. Brock. “I have great esteem for the institution, its leaders and the talented team of professionals who work there. Our collection has brought us true joy and I’m hoping museum visitors will be inspired as we have by these great artists.”
Mrs. Brock has also made a significant gift to endow the director’s position. In recognition, the directorship position will now be known as the Macon and Joan Brock Director. Erik Neil, director of the Chrysler Museum since 2014, is the position’s first incumbent. A second named endowment called The Brock Curatorial Assistant Endowment will underwrite a new position that will support the curatorial team’s research and development of exhibitions and presentation of the permanent collection.
“I am deeply honored by Joan’s extraordinary generosity and her and Macon’s longtime commitment to the Chrysler,” said Erik Neil, the newly named Macon and Joan Brock Director. “Their gifts have been transformational for the museum. This is the largest expansion of our American Art collection since Walter Chrysler’s gift in 1971. The art and the endowments help us grow and contribute immensely to our institutional strength.”
Mrs. Brock, is a longstanding Chrysler Museum supporter, as was her late husband, Macon Brock. Mrs. Brock was the first woman to preside over the Chrysler Museum Board, and she served as a museum docent among many other volunteer efforts at the Museum. Macon Brock chaired the Museum’s 2014 Capital Campaign and the Brocks’ support funded the 2014 expansion of the museum’s facilities, which is named the Macon and Joan Brock Building. The Joan and Macon Brock Fund for American Art Endowment has made possible many recent exhibitions about American artists, including Thomas Jefferson, Architect: Palladian Models, Democratic Principles, and the Conflict of Ideals and Americans in Spain: Painting and Travel 1820-1920. Macon Brock was the co-founder of Dollar Tree, Inc., where Joan also held administrative positions over several decades.
Joan has been recognized for her philanthropy and community leadership through numerous awards including the Norfolk First Citizen in Civic Affairs award and along with Macon the 2015 Outstanding Philanthropist Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals. In addition to the Chrysler the Brocks have generously supported numerous organizations including Longwood University, Old Dominion University, Randolph Macon College, Virginia Wesleyan University, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Sentara Brock Cancer Center, and the United Way among many others.
“It’s incredibly exciting that a collection of this importance will be added to the museum’s collection. We are immensely grateful to the Brocks for their remarkable gifts, which help ensure the Museum’s vitality for many years to come,” said Brother Rutter, Chrysler Museum Board Chairman.