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Allentown Art Museum Receives Major Gift from Peter Grippe Estate
City of Desolation No. 2, 1958.Bronze, 29 x 21 x 12 inches. Peter Grippe Estate. Photo: ©Dan Sopper.

ALLENTOWN, PA.- The Allentown Art Museum recently received a major gift of art and real estate from the estate of the artist Peter Grippe (1912-2002). Grippe, an American mid-century modernist artist whose works were inspired by Cubism, was a talented and inventive sculptor and printmaker who worked and exhibited with the major artists of the mid-20th century, including those from the New York School.

“Peter Grippe left behind a substantial body of work, and the museum is honored and grateful to serve as a home for it,” said Greg Perry, the Allentown Art Museum ’s Priscilla Payne Hurd Executive Director. “The collection will be a boon to our 20th century holdings, and will allow the museum to more fully represent the wave of abstraction that followed and reinterpreted Cubism from the first decades of the century.”

The Grippe gift, given by his wife Florence , an artist in her own right, is composed of the late artist’s home and studio in Long Island and an apartment in New York City , as well as all of the artwork in the Grippe estate. The real estate will be appraised and offered for sale. Upon completion of this process, the cash generated will be used to create a fund for the museum in honor of Peter and Florence Grippe. The artwork consists mostly of Grippe’s sculptures, drawings and prints, as well as works by other artists including: Alexander Calder; Willem de Kooning; Franz Kline; Jacques Lipchitz and Reginald Marsh. In total, the collection includes over 500 works. The donated real estate and works of art comprise one of the largest gifts the museum has ever received.

“There have been few times in the life of the Allentown Art Museum that we have received a gift of the importance and size of the Peter Grippe collection,” said Joanne Barnette, president of the Allentown Art Museum . “We are extremely grateful to Florence Grippe for her very generous gift. We will be good stewards of her husband's art works and look forward to sharing it with the community."

Also included in the collection is the rare portfolio 21 Etchings and Poems, which features the work of poets and artists such as Frank O’Hara, Dylan Thomas and Willem de Kooning. Published in 1960, the portfolio represents a noteworthy collaboration between the visual and literary arts, and is a result of nearly 10 years of work. The portfolio is considered a landmark of mid-20th century American print publishing and is unique in its inclusion of writers and artists from across the spectrum of 1950s cultural production.

“Peter Grippe was one of an important group of American sculptors, including such artists as David Smith, who emerged during the 1930s and 1940s and came to maturity in subsequent decades,” said Bob Mattison, curator-at-large, modern and contemporary art and The Marshall R. Metzgar Professor of Art History, Lafayette College . “Moving away from simply realist depictions in public monuments, Grippe and his colleagues embraced Cubism with its openwork multidimensional view of the world and Surrealist imagery drawn from the subconscious thus bringing American sculpture into the modern era.”

Grippe was born in Buffalo , NY and studied at the Albright-Knox Art School and the Art Institute of Buffalo. He taught at the Pratt Institute, Smith College , and served as the first professor of sculpture and graphics at Brandeis University . In addition, the artist taught at and eventually led Atelier 17 in New York , the highly influential print studio. Grippe’s work is included in a number of U.S. museums including: The Brooklyn Museum of Art; Indianapolis Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art , NY ; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Cleveland Museum of Art; and Whitney Museum of Art, NY.

“My Aunt Florence is absolutely delighted to make this gift to the Allentown Art Museum ,” said Bruce Drucker, Peter and Florence Grippe’s nephew. “We are so pleased to know that his work is going to an institution that will enthusiastically share it with regional residents, scholars and students.”

Perry, who is confident that the museum’s audiences will enjoy seeing and learning about Peter Grippe’s work, said, “It has been a pleasure to get to know Florence Grippe over the last several years and we thank her for choosing the Allentown Art Museum as a fitting repository of her husband’s work.”

An exhibition of Grippe’s work is scheduled at the museum from January 31-May 16, 2011.

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