Portland Museum of Art

Portland, Maine

1-207-775-6148 or 1-800-639-4067

http://www.portlandmuseum.org



 

ELIZABETH B. NOYCE COLLECTION

MEMORIAL EXHIBITION

 

An exhibition of the collection of Elizabeth B. Noyce, Maine philanthropist and
art collector, opens at the Portland Museum of Art October 1, 1997. Featuring more than 60
works by American artists, this is the first time masterpieces from Mrs. Noyce's collection will be
seen together. The Elizabeth B. Noyce Collection will be on view through January 4, 1998.
 
Elizabeth B. Noyce, who died in September 1996, bequeathed her outstanding collection of
American art to four Maine museums: the Portland Museum of Art, The Farnsworth Art
Museum, the Maine Maritime Museum, and the Monhegan Museum. Mrs. Noyce had a close
relationship with each of these institutions and the dispersal of her collection reflects her rich
understanding of their respective missions. It was her objective not to place the collection at any
one museum as a memorial to herself, but rather to share it among institutions throughout the
state to ensure that her collection will be a resource for the people of Maine for generations to
come.
 
The bequest of 66 paintings to the Portland Museum of Art is the most extensive gift of American
art ever presented to the Museum. The Elizabeth B. Noyce Collection has transformed the scope
and quality of the Museum's American collection, bringing to the Museum its first paintings by
George Bellows, Alfred Thompson Bircher, Herman Dudley Murphy, Abraham Walkowitz, and
Jamie Wyeth, and adding masterpieces to the collection by Fitz Hugh Lane, Childe Hassam, N.C.
Wyeth, and Andrew Wyeth.
 
The Elizabeth B. Noyce Collection exhibition brings together Mrs. Noyce's paintings and
explores her development as a collector. As her collection grew, she became an avid student of
the Maine's rich and varied art history. The earliest works in The Elizabeth B. Noyce Collection
date to the arrival in Maine in the nineteenth century of the first landscape painters, including
Alvan Fisher, Fitz Hugh Lane and Frederic Church. The focus of Mrs. Noyce's collection was
realism in Maine. The strength of this tradition is exemplified through paintings by Winslow
Homer, Robert Henri, Rockwell Kent, George Bellows, Edward Hopper, and three generations of
the Wyeth family. Her interests extended to more recent developments such as neo-realism and
photorealism, represented by the work of Neil Welliver and Alan Magee.
 
Throughout the collection's growth, Mrs. Noyce maintained a high level of independence in
choosing works. She tended to focus on acquiring one piece at a time and knew the history of
every work intimately. Over time, she became increasingly selective, seeking out works that
would fill in the picture she was composing of Maine's role in American art. Each of her
acquisitions balanced her knowledge of art history with a more personal vision. For example, her
love of the sea and boating informed her selection of myriad paintings, from Maurice
Prendergast's Group of Boats (Watching the Regatta) to William Thon's Working Sloop.
 
Along with Mrs. Noyce's heralded gifts to the Maine art community, she made charitable gifts to
non-profit institutions totaling between $50 million and $75 million. In recent years, Mrs. Noyce
had begun practicing what she called "catalytic philanthropy," by investing in Maine businesses
and communities with the goal of creating jobs and boosting the economy.
 
The Elizabeth B. Noyce Collection will travel to The Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland,
Maine in the spring of 1998. A full-color catalogue with essays by exhibition curator, Jessica
Nicoll and The Farnsworth Art Museum curator, Susan Larsen, will be available in September.
 
This exhibition is made possible through the generous support of Perkins, Thompson,
Hinckley & Keddy, Maine Bank & Trust Company, and the John J. Nissen Baking Company.
 


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

This page was originally published in 1997 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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