POUGHKEEPSIE, NY.- As a number of key works from the permanent collection are on tour in a major exhibition in Japan, Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center (FLLAC) curators decided to review rarely seen paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, and sculptures in the museums storage vaults in order to present a sampling of works that have not been on view in recent years. In addition to the works now on display in the Permanent Collection Galleries, this new exhibition gives viewers the chance to further their knowledge of the almost 18,000 objects in the permanent collection of the Art Center.
From November 7, 2008, through January 4, 2009, the exhibition Revealed Anew: Selections from the Permanent Collection will present approximately 40 of these important works and will be on display in the Prints and Drawings Galleries of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. Co-curating the exhibition are Patricia Phagan, the Philip and Lynn Straus Curator of Prints and Drawings, and Mary-Kay Lombino, Emily Hargroves Fisher 57 and Richard B. Fisher Curator.
The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar has one of the earliest major Hudson River School painting collections in the country, stated Phagan. Beginning with Matthew Vassars initial gift of a few hundred American and Hudson River School paintings and 3,000 English drawings and prints, the permanent collection has remained a vital part of teaching at the college.
In the years since Matthew Vassar established the colleges collection, other large gifts, Phagan noted, have stimulated and provided new directions for the permanent collection and for teaching. For instance, Italian baroque paintings given in the early 20th century, and the Felix Warburg Collection of Old Master Prints given in the early 1940s made possible the study of high-quality original works of art from these periods on campus. Also in the 20th century, numerous gifts of modern works by Vassar alumnae/i enriched the collection further, providing new and vital areas of study for students, scholars, and the public at large.
Even photography, a new medium in the 19th century, was part of Matthew Vassars initial gift in 1864, and through steady gifts and purchases photography now numbers almost 3,000 works in the permanent collection.
Revealed Anew pulls from these sources and others, concentrating on late 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century American and European art. Several of the works are drawings or prints, which, due to their light-sensitive nature, can only be displayed for short periods of time. Many other works have not been presented in recent years because of space limitations in the galleries or because of other curatorial priorities. Phagan emphasized that, this is an opportunity for viewers to delve further into the many-layered collection of the Art Center and discover its diverse depths.
Richard Westalls heroic Ajax Defying the Lightning, that Phagan noted is a deft study in opaque watercolor. It was preparatory to a print published for a book of illustrative plates of Shakespeare by the prolific English publisher John Boydell. The watercolor will be accompanied by an early, vibrant, graphite and chalk study by Benjamin West for Lot Fleeing from Sodom, of 1810. Wests oil on panel, for which this work is the study, is now in the permanent collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts. West was an American expatriate artist and director of the Royal Academy in London when the work was executed.
The Art Centers 20th-century collection will be represented with works including Pablo Picassos powerful print, Blind Minotaur, of 1934, from the Vollard Suite, rendered during a desperate period in the artists personal life.
Also in the exhibition will be the snowy Winter View from Newburgh, of 1856, by Hudson River School painter Louis Rémy Mignot, and two etchings, Sir Francis Seymour Hadens velvety A Sunset in Ireland, and James Abbott McNeill Whistlers Greenwich Pensioner, part of the major Warburg Collection donated to the college in 1941.
Julia Margaret Cameron, the highly admired Victorian photographer, is represented with a portrait from 1867 of historian and philosopher Thomas Carlyle. This albumen print illustrates the artists talent for conveying the emotional and spiritual qualities of her subjects, said Mary-Kay Lombino. Cameron was considered unconventional and experimental in her practice. She welcomed her subjects' slight movements during the long exposure-time requirements of her large-format camera, which accounts for the soft-focus style that separates her work from the products of commercial portrait studios of her time.
Artist Elizabeth Rebecca Coffin, a member of Vassar's undergraduate class of 1870, gave to the college her Study of a Head, an elegant oil painting. Coffin, an American realist painter based in Brooklyn and Nantucket, studied drawing and painting at Vassar with Henry Van Ingen, the colleges first professor of art. Notably, Coffin went on to receive from Vassar the first master of arts degree in fine art in America, with her thesis, The Progress of Art in Ancient Times. She also trained in painting and drawing at The Hague in the Netherlands and with Thomas Eakins at the Brooklyn Art Association and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.