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Harvard Collects American Art

August 9, 2003 through February 22, 2004


The Harvard University Art Museums' collection of American art is among the most distinguished and yet least known in the United States. In an effort to share many of these gems with the public, a special exhibition of 64 paintings and sculptures, Harvard Collects American Art, will be presented at the Fogg Art Museum from August 9, 2003 through February 22, 2004.

Harvard Collects American Art, though drawn primarily from the Fogg's permanent collection, will include a few important loans of works by Hans Hofmann, Richard Pousette-Dart, and Lee Krasner. The exhibition will highlight key events in the Fogg's history of collecting American art and will feature Albert Bierstadt's Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak, 1863, given by Mrs. William Hayes Fogg, whose bequest of funds founded the Fogg Art Museum in 1895.

"Harvard Collects American Art offers an extraordinary opportunity to examine a significant selection from our rich collection of American art," said Marjorie Cohn, acting director of the Harvard University Art Museums. "Treasures such as Copley's portraits of Mrs. Thomas Boylston, Sr., and her son Nicholas Boylston; Homer's Pitching Quoits and The Brush Harrow; Sargent's Man in a Blue Mantle; and No. 2 by Jackson Pollock are rarely grouped together for all to enjoy."

The University has been collecting portraits of its presidents, preeminent teachers, and other notables since the early 18th century. From its early years to the present the Fogg acquired American art, occasionally making farsighted purchases (Charles Sheeler's Upper Deck, 1929, was bought in 1933), but more often relying on the generous gifts of alumni and other friends. By far the greatest gift of art in the University's history came from Grenville L. Winthrop, Class of 1886, who in 1943 left the Museum over 3,700 works of Asian, American, and European art. Among the 260 American objects were some 45 paintings, drawings, and pastels by James McNeill Whistler, as well as extraordinary groups of works by Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, and John La Farge, several of which will be on view in this exhibition.

"Harvard Collects American Art commemorates an important moment in the history of the Museums and the University, as it marks the beginning of an invigorated commitment to collecting, studying, and exhibiting American art," commented Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., curator of American art. Stebbins was appointed consultative curator of American art in late 2000. In November 2002 the Department of American Art was established, and Stebbins was appointed its first curator.

The exhibition coincides with work on the first volume of a three-volume scholarly catalogue of Harvard's American art collection, including paintings, watercolors, pastels and stained glass. The hardcover catalogue, to be published in 2006, is funded by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.

The exhibition is funded in part by a generous gift from James W. and Frances McGlothlin.

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Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

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