Editor's note: The following essay from the catalogue for the exhibition The Sullivan Family: Legacy Exhibition, on view April 15 through July 23, 2011 at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Loretto, was reprinted in Resource Library on March 28, 2011. The essay was reprinted with permission of the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, which was granted to TFAO on March 24, 2011. If you have questions or comments regarding the text, or wish to obtain a copy of the catalogue from which it is excerpted, please contact the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art directly through either this phone number or web address:
Sullivan Family Legacy Exhibition
by V. Scott Dimond
The first gifts of the Sullivan family entered the permanent collection of the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art even before the Museum actually opened its doors to the public in 1976. Today, some 35 years later, the Sullivans continue to enrich the SAMA collection through the Frank and Margaret Sullivan Fund and the individual gifts of family members. Rare in any institution, such longstanding and consistent support is all the more remarkable given the high quality and careful selection of the gifts themselves. The art objects presented by the Sullivan family are among the Museum's finest, and reflect the commitment of Museum founder, Rev. Sean M. Sullivan, T.O.R., to establish a significant cultural resource for the people of southwestern central Pennsylvania.
From the beginning, Father Sullivan conceived of the Museum as being devoted primarily to the fine arts of the United States. The Sullivan gifts reflect this focus, and have been donated with an eye toward representing the canon of American art history. Spanning more than 200 years, these include works by some of the country's best known artists, including Albert Bierstadt, Mary Cassatt, Walt Kuhn, Thomas Moran, John Singer Sargent, Gilbert Stuart, and Thomas Sully, among others. At the same time, the Sullivan gifts also address important movements within American art. For example, Bierstadt's Lake Tahoe and Hermann Herzog's untitled mountain cataract represent the Hudson River School of the nineteenth century; the portraits of Cassatt and Sargent exemplify the internationalizing strain in American art following the Civil War; and lithographs by George Bellows characterize the Ashcan School of the early twentieth century. William Gropper, Rockwell Kent, and Grant Wood stand in for the American Scene movement of the 1930s, and more recent directions are embodied in the works of such artists as Helen Frankenthaler, Peter Milton, and George Tooker.
Father Sullivan recognized that while the historical timeline of American art formed the framework of the Museum collection, it was diversity of media and subject matter that rounded it out. Accordingly, he sought art objects reflecting a wide variety of materials, influences, and styles. Landscapes, portraits, figure studies, and abstract compositions all came under consideration, and from James Sharples's late eighteenth-century pastels depicting Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Corre to Glenna Goodacre's life-sized bronze sculpture, River Woman, the Sullivan gifts effectively illustrate the many facets of American art.
If the Sullivan gifts are notable for their diversity, there are also certain similarities among them which point to the role of personal taste in assembling a collection. Traditional realism is a strong element that recurs throughout the present exhibition, and a decided appreciation for academic training and discipline is reflected in fine figure studies by artists such as Steven Assael, Paul Cadmus, and Jacob Collins. In the landscapes, the beauty of the wilderness prevails, particularly in a group of pastels by the California plein air artists. A sincere humanism informs much of the figurative work, and something of the inherent dignity of Man may be perceived in paintings such as Dines Carlsen's Self Portrait and Walt Kuhn's late Acrobat of 1947. Indeed, it is this theme that forms the common bond between Gilbert Stuart's c. 1795 Portrait of Captain Joseph Anthony and the luminous Window of George Tooker, produced almost 200 years later.
The Sullivan gifts are among the cornerstones of the Museum's permanent collection and greatly esteemed as core components of SAMA's educational mission. Individually and as a group, they are significant and aesthetically pleasing. Yet above all, they are uplifting, a testament to the power of art as a vehicle for expressing beauty and truth. Such ideas may perhaps seem old-fashioned in the present climate of postmodern cynicism, but what is old fashioned is also enduring. Self absorbed faddishness and superficial artistic wit fades, but the ideals embodied
About the author
V. Scott Dimond is the Curator for Visual Arts at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art.
About the exhibition
The Sullivan Family: Legacy Exhibition, featuring nearly 200 works of art, opens April 15, 2011 and will remain on view through July 23, 2011 at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Loretto. (right: Thomas Moran (American, b. England, 1837-1926), Untitled (Marine Landscape), n.d., c. 1900, Watercolor on paper, 7 _ x 14 _ inches. Gift of the Frank and Margaret Sullivan Fund)
For more than 35 years, the Sullivan family has enriched the SAMA collection through the Frank and Margaret Sullivan Fund and the individual gifts of family members. These gifts rank among the Museum's foremost treasures, and in The Sullivan Family: Legacy Exhibition they are brought together for the first time. Focusing on the arts of the United States, the Sullivan gifts reveal the depth and breadth of American art, and range from eighteenth-century portraits to modern figure and landscape studies.
The exhibition brings together fine examples of paintings, drawings, photography, prints and sculpture. Works by some of the nation's greatest artists, including Albert Bierstadt, Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, and Gilbert Stuart, will be represented. Contemporary art also will be featured through works by artists such as Glenna Goodacre, David Hockney and George Tooker.
"The Sullivan gifts represent more than 35 years of consistent attention to the development of the SAMA collection," said SAMA Curator for Visual Arts, Dr. Scott Dimond. "Such a record of giving is unusual in any museum, and we are further blessed in the quality and variety of the art."
The Sullivan Family: Legacy Exhibition is one of many events scheduled in 2011 in honor of the Museum's 35th anniversary. The anniversary will be celebrated in April with a Founders' Day Dinner. Scheduled for Saturday, April 16, the program begins at 6 p.m. with a champagne and cocktail reception, and is followed by dinner. Later in the evening, there will be presentations by SAMA Executive Director, G. Gary Moyer; President, SAMA Board of Trustees, John K. Duggan, Jr.; and SAMA Curator for Visual Arts, Dr. Scott Dimond. The evening's keynote speaker is Dr. Philip Eliasoph, art history professor at Fairfield University and author of The Enchantment of Realism, the Museum's forthcoming monograph on artist Colleen Browning. Fee.. Reservations must be made by April 13. For reservations or more information, call the Museum at (814) 472-3920.
(above: Milton Elting Hebald (American, b. 1917), James Joyce Monument Study, 1964, Bronze, 17 x 9 _ x 7 _ inches. Gift of the Frank and Margaret Sullivan Fund)
To view additional images of art objects in the exhibition:
Resource Library editor's note:
The above catalogue esssay by V. Scott Dimond was reprinted in Resource Library on March 28, 2011, with permission of the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, which was granted to TFAO on March 24, 2011.
Resource Library wishes to
extend appreciation to Travis Mearns of the Southern Alleghenies Museum
of Art for his help concerning permissions for reprinting the above text
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