Editor's note: The following text was reprinted in Resource Library on October 11, 2010 with permission of the New Britain Museum of American Art. It was authored in conjunction with the exhibition Reflections: The Collection of Dr. Timothy McLaughlin, on view at the Museum September 10 - October 24, 2010. If you have questions or comments regarding the text, please contact the New Britain Museum of American Art directly through this phone number or web address:
Initially, I was somewhat hesitant when director Douglas Hyland asked me in mid-2009 if I would be willing to loan my collection to the New Britain Museum of American Art for an exhibition. My paintings were acquired solely to adorn the walls of my home, for my personal pleasure, and for the quiet enjoyment of my family and our friends. I never thought they would be of enough interest to as discerning a museum audience as that of the New Britain Museum of American Art to merit a public display. I find it difficult, however, to argue against any aesthetic judgment that Douglas Hyland feels strongly about, and so "American Reflections" was born.
The paintings were purchased, for the most part, individually from a variety of sources over two decades and were not conceived as a collection. With their presentation in a museum setting for the first time, other art lovers will have the opportunity to explore them for the threads of meaning that tie a collection together and make it more than the sum of its parts. Having distinguished scholars, authors, and art professionals comment insightfully on the works I own is a treat a collector dreams about, and I thank the New Britain Museum for making it possible. The essays in this catalogue lend distinction to this collection of artistic meditations, or "reflections," and, I hope, provide a context within which to understand the works and enhance the viewers' enjoyment of them. The insights provided by the distinguished experts who contributed to the text will give future art lovers a reason to revisit the collection. I am truly grateful to the contributors for lending their expertise.
I suppose I have always collected, since my earliest years. I grew up in a very rural part of Maryland, which allowed me as a boy to collect and study rocks and minerals, arrowheads, birds' nests, turtles, and amphibians from the fields and woods surrounding my house. These collections piqued my interest in the sciences, which led ultimately to a medical education. While at college in Washington, D.C., and at medical school in Baltimore, I found visits to museums a welcome and refreshing break from my studies. I became acquainted with the National Gallery, the Phillips Collection, the Corcoran, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Walters Art Gallery, and other important museums within minutes of my school. By the time I began to practice orthopedic surgery in Connecticut in the 1980s, I knew I wanted to live with the art I had come to admire. But where to begin?
"American Paradise," the exhibition of Hudson River School paintings mounted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in late 1987, had a huge impact on me and helped me focus on what made nineteenth-century American landscape painting truly great. I began to reflect on the perfectly ordered visions created by mid-century artists based in New York and came to understand the serenity and peace they could impart. In late 1988, I came across a little gem of a Hudson River School painting created by Asher B. Durand in 1861, Landscape with Cattle, at the Armory Antiques Show. I had read Durand's philosophical musings on the spirituality evident in the American landscape and understood what he was attempting theoretically. The painting spoke to me. I decided to afford it. I had recently moved into an old house with lots of wall space, and my career as a collector of American paintings was launched.
I began to gather books about American art and catalogues of painting sales and started visiting dealers close to home and while traveling. I learned of the rich artistic heritage of my adopted state of Connecticut and became very interested in the Impressionist art colonies that developed at Cos Cob and Old Lyme. The dealer Jeffrey Cooley, in particular, was a valuable source of education about the artists who produced awe-inspiring works of beauty within one hundred miles of my home. My collecting focus narrowed to Connecticut artists and regional subject matter.
I began to see everything with the new eyes given to me by the talented artists who lived nearby in the last 150 years or so. On my way to work I would see "Ranger" oaks, "Hassam" skies, "Davis" clouds, and "Church" sunsets. I could appreciate the majesty of distant vistas all the more for having lived with Hudson River School greats, could appreciate atmospheric fog-shrouded fields for having works by the American Tonalists in my home, and, of course, the early sunshine invigorated my morning commute all the more because my Connecticut Impressionists helped me anticipate its glint on a familiar landscape. In short, the works I owned helped me appreciate the beauty surrounding me, which I had been too easily taken for granted. This quality of helping us see what is in front of our eyes is part of the transformative effect of all good art and what continues to draw us to it.
I sincerely hope that this exhibition of paintings by tremendously talented American artists -- some famous and others unheralded -- will provide viewers with a memorable experience. Please compare your reactions with the erudite commentaries that follow in this thoughtful catalogue.
- Dr. Timothy McLaughlin
Resource Library editor's note:
The above text was reprinted in Resource Library on October 11, 2010, with permission of the New Britain Museum of American Art, granted to TFAO on October 5, 2010. Resource Library wishes to extend appreciation to Alexander J. Noelle and Claudia Thesing of the New Britain Museum of American Art for their help concerning permissions for posting it online.
Resource Library readers may also enjoy biographical information on artists cited above in America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.
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