Lehigh University Art Galleries
Baseball Art from the Gladstone Collection
March 14 - June 10, 2001
The Lehigh University Art Galleries presents a renowned collection of objects and art related to baseball. The collection has been amassed by distinguished Lehigh alumnus Bill Gladstone, class of 1951, and his wife Millie. It traces the history of America's national pastime from the 19th century to modern times.
Over one hundred items of fine art, folk art, sculpture and memorabilia are exhibited. They range from an 1844 oil painting to a Robert Rauchenberg 1960 silk-screen collage.
The exhibition is curated by Ricardo Viera, Director of the Lehigh University Art Galleries/Museum Operation, and organized with the assistance of the College of Business and Economics, College of Education, Dept. of Athletics, and Alumni Association. It is in celebration of the 50th reunion of the Class of 1951. (left: James Ormsbee Chapin (1887-1975), Man on First, 1948, oil on canvas, 28 x 24 inches. Image courtesy of Lehigh University Art Galleries)
An illustrated full-color catalogue accompanies the exhibition, featuring essays by Stacy Hollander of the Museum of American Folk Art, New York City, Dale Petroskey , President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum, Cooperstown, NY, and Deedee Wigmore of D. Wigmore Fine Arts, NY.
Interview Between Collector Bill Gladstone
and Curator Ricardo Viera
RV: Your first piece, the Brooklyn Dodger ticket stub, has a sentimental connection. Would you share your story with us?
WG: From my childhood days I was a big fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers. In 1955, long before I became a collector, my father-in-law got me two tickets to the seventh game of the World Series between the Dodgers and Yankees. Games were played in the afternoon in those days so naturally I invited the man I was working for to join me. The Dodgers won what was to become their first and only World Series Championship in Brooklyn and I kept my ticket stub -- I was just a happy fan who wanted a memento of the game. It's clear that I wasn't a collector then because I wrote the final score on the stub and that significantly; deflates its value.
RV: Do you remember your first purchase of baseball art?
WG: We started collecting in 1971 when Millie saw an article in The New York Times one Sunday about an art gallery an Long Island that was showing cartoons by Willard Mullin, the man who created the "Dodger Bum" character. So we packed up the kids and drove out there and bought three cartoons.
RV: What guided your instincts as a collector?
WG: In 1981 we were visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame and saw some baseball cards of Hall of Fame players that were made from paintings by the artist Dick Perez. When we got home I called the Perez-Steele Gallery that was handling Perez art. We bought all the Perez paintings that were of the Dodgers who were enshrined in the Hall of Fame. I got to be close friends with the artist, Dick Perez, and the co-owner of the gallery, Frank Steele. Frank, who died this past year, became my mentor. He widened my horizons with his wealth of baseball knowledge and his outstanding personal collection of historic baseball material. We started to think differently about the history of baseball and what we wanted to collect.
RV: What factors influenced your decision to concentrate on collecting baseball art, folk art and memorabilia?
WG: We had this great interest in baseball and also an interest in art. (Incidentally, the art interest began in the late 1950's when I arranged for a client of mine to donate eleven French Impressionist paintings to Lehigh.) We found that some major painters and sculptors used a baseball theme at least once in their careers and we saw a great deal of baseball history in the form of art. The Brooklyn baseball memorabilia brought us back to our hometown roots.
RV: If you could begin again, would you approach collecting differently? Have the rules changed over the space of 30 years?
WG: We acquire things we both really like. We don't look at acquisitions as investments, only as things we can live with that fit with our historic sense of the game and our emotion. We would approach collecting pretty much the same way since it has worked for us. The rules haven't changed but the prices sure have. (left: Edward Laning (1908-1981), Sunday Afternoon at Sportsman's Park, c. 1944, oil on canvas, 36 x 32 inches. Image courtesy of Lehigh University Art Galleries)
RV: How has the collection influenced your personal life, beyond simply the acquisition of the items?
WG: Most of the collection was put together by Millie and me during my working years when I had little time for things other than my professional responsibilities. This joint collecting gave us a chance to spend time together doing what we both have a passion for. It has continued as a joint venture and since 1992 has included the acquisition of a Class A Minor League baseball team which we refer to as "the ultimate collectible."
RV: What are your plans for the future?
WG: We hope to find some significant pieces that fit with the collection but the pace of our overall acquisitions has slowed. We have to consider the long-term outlook for the collection or discreet parts of it. Our daughter and son and their families have an interest in particular pieces but it won't make sense to maintain the collection as a whole. It's a subject to which we have given a great deal of thought and still have more thinking to do.
Interview excerpted from exhibition catalogue. Courtesy of Lehigh University Art Galleries.
Read more about Lehigh University Art Galleries in Resource Library Magazine
Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.
For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.
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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 5/28/11
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