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Selections from the Eva Underhill Holbrook Memorial Collection of American Art

January 15 - March 20, 2005


(above: Childe Hassam (American, 1859-1935), Bridge at Old Lyme, 1908. Oil on canvas, 23 5/8 x 25 5/8 inches. Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, Eva Underhill Holbrook Memorial Collection of American Art, gift of Alfred H. Holbrook, GMOA 1945.47)


Selections from the Eva Underhill Holbrook Memorial Collection of American Art will be on display at the Georgia Museum of Art from January 15 through March 20, 2005.

This exhibition will feature paintings, dating from 1818 through 1946, from the museum's permanent collection. Featured artists include George Bellows, Thomas Hart Benton, Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley, Robert Henri, Winslow Homer, Georgia O'Keeffe, Maurice Prendergast, John H. Twachtman, and James A. McNeill Whistler. (right: Robert Henri (American, 1865-1929), Sissy, 1924. Oil on canvas, 24 x 20 inches. Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, Eva Underhill Holbrook Memorial Collection of American Art, gift of Alfred H. Holbrook, GMOA 1947.103)

"The Holbrook collection includes some stellar examples by several of America's most significant American artists," says Paul Manoguerra, curator of American Art at the Georgia Museum of Art. "As a collector, Mr. Holbrook had a keen sense of which American artists and paintings would maintain their significance over future decades."

Alfred Heber Holbrook, founder of the Georgia Museum of Art, was a lawyer in Manhattan when he and his wife, Eva Underhill Holbrook, discovered a passion for art. Following his wife's death in May 1940, Holbrook pledged to open an art museum in her memory. In an effort to begin his collection, Holbrook would leave his law practice early everyday to meet with dealers to buy works of art on his undersized budget. Holbrook's main focus of interest was American Impressionism and Realism.

At the age of 65, he retired from the practice of law to establish the art museum he had so beautifully pictured in his mind. At that time, Holbrook's collection numbered 100 pieces and spanned approximately a century of American image making.

Holbrook required several provisions for his ideal museum. First, the museum had to be in the South, a region underserved by art museums. Second, Holbrook wanted the museum to be part of a university. He felt that the museum, above anything else, should be a learning experience and a university setting was the best locale. Last, the university had to have a reputable and esteemed art program that focused not only on drawings and paintings but also on sculpture, ceramics and other art forms.

Luckily, one afternoon Holbrook met Holger Cahill, federal art director under Franklin Roosevelt. Holbrook asked Cahill for advice on universities that would meet his three requirements for the museum. Cahill recommended the University of Georgia, based on the reputation of Lamar Dodd, the school's art director.

In October 1944, at the age of 70, Holbrook visited Athens, Georgia. Pleased with what he saw, he moved to Athens, enrolled in art courses, and became an active part of the University of Georgia's art community. In May 1945, Holbrook donated his entire collection of paintings to the university and became the first director of the new Georgia Museum of Art.

On November 8, 1948, Eva U. Holbrook's birthday, the first two galleries of the museum opened in the basement of the old library on the university's historic north campus. (right: Julian A. Weir (American 1852-1919), Roses, n.d. Oil on canvas, 15 5/8 x 11 1/2 inches. Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, Eva Underhill Holbrook Memorial Collection of American Art, gift of Alfred H. Holbrook, GMOA 1945.95)

An immediate success, the museum quickly became known throughout the Southeast. Until his death in 1974 at the age of 99, Alfred Holbrook spent many hours each day in the museum and continued to play an active role in the museum's development and future success. In 1996, the museum moved to its new permanent location, a 52,000 square foot building with 9,000 square feet of gallery space. The 30th anniversary of the death of Alfred H. Holbrook further reinforces his excellent decisions made as a young collector. Today, the Eva Underhill Holbrook Memorial Collection of American Art features some of the best and most well-known objects in the museum's collection.


More About Holbrook and His Collecting Interest

From an essay published for Forty Years of Collecting, by Donald Keyes, former curator of paintings, Georgia Museum of Art:

Among his contemporaries, Holbrook was remarkably advanced, embracing the relatively new Parisian modernism in American art while also collecting work from the Hudson River School. What may today seem fairly conservative was in its time a remarkable collection, quite advanced both in its historical interest and its involvement with modernism.
Taking a Sunflower to Teacher (featured in current exhibition), a watercolor executed by Winslow Homer (1836-1910) in 1875, represents the work of a sophisticated and very talented artist. His early watercolor style is typified by the direct observation of nature and powerful modeling of forms so evident in this work.
The focus of Holbrook's collecting interest was American Impressionism and Realism. Childe Hassam's The Bridge at Oid Lyme (featured in current exhibition) represents the beauty of the famous Olde Lyme summer art colony on the Connecticut shore. In contrast to Homer, Hassam (1859-1935) depicted nature's light and color without regard for narrative content. Impressionism was the American style at the turn of the century, replacing the Hudson River School. With Impressionism's brilliant colors and open brushwork, it is no wonder that an
increasingly knowledgeable art audience would reject provincial realism for the Impressionists' great sophistication.
The cosmopolitan art world of the Impressionists stands in marked contrast to the direct, stark realism of Robert Henri (1865-1929) and artists who studied with him, like John Sloan (1871-1951). Henri's Sissy, 1924, (featured in current exhibition) demonstrates the bold, brash brushwork of these painters who sought to depict the spirit of the common people. Henri and his followers could not afford the luxury of summer holidays in Olde Lyme. These realists captured the bright side of American urban life without compromising its darker nature.
As the impressionists and realists were contesting the better style for a true picture of American life, Parisian modernism was attracting young American artists. Stuart Davis (1894-1964) was one of the most talented exponents of the avant garde. By embracing the intense, unmodulated color of Matisse and the fractured forms of the Cubist painters, Davis rode the controversial wave of modernism into the mainstream of American art. Snow on the Hills, 1932, (featured in current exhibition) depicts one of his favorite haunts, Gloucester, Massachusetts. Davis loved the waterfront of this old fishing village and often used it in his paintings of the 1930s. He developed a style that not only used the tenets of modernism but also tapped the energy of American jazz by equating color and sound.



Highlights from the Exhibition

William Merritt Chase
(American, 1849-1916)
Shinnecock Hills, c. 1892
Frank W. Benson
(American, 1862-1951)
Young Girl by a Window, 1911
George Bellows
(American, 1882-1925)
Fog Breakers, 1913
Thomas Hart Benton
(American, 1889-1975)
Study for The Planters, 1921
Stuart Davis
(American, 1894-1964)
Snow on the Hills, 1932
Marsden Hartley
(American, 1877-1943)
Fruit-Still Life, c. 1911-12
Winslow Homer
(American, 1836-1910)
Taking Sunflower to Teacher, 1875
Georgia O'Keeffe
(American, 1887-1986)
Red Barn, Lake George, New York, 1921
Maurice Prendergast
(American, born Canada, 1858-1924)
White House-Summer, c. 1910-13
James A. McNeill Whistler
(American, 1834-1903)
Rose and Red: The Barber's Shop, Lyme Regis, 1895
Andrew Wyeth
(American, born 1917)
Hupper's Point, 1944

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