Paying tribute to the remarkable collector Joseph F. McCrindle (19232008), the National Gallery of Art
presents The McCrindle Gift: A Distinguished Collection of Drawings and Watercolors, on view in the West Building Ground Floor galleries from June 17 through November 25, 2012. The McCrindle exhibition highlights 71 of the nearly 300 old master and modern drawings that are part of McCrindle's extensive gift to the Gallery, documented in full in the accompanying catalogue. In addition to his gift of works on paper, he gave 12 outstanding paintings by Dutch, Flemish, and Italian artists, as well as one by John Singer Sargent.
"Joseph McCrindle had a special attachment to the National Gallery of Art, and we are extremely grateful for his enormous generosity over the years, starting in 1991 when he donated a wonderful painting by Luca Giordano in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Gallery's founding," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. "He was also magnanimous in providing funding for our fellowship program, and five former McCrindle fellows have written entries for the catalogue published in conjunction with this exhibition."
The selection of 71 works on paper spanning the 16th through the 20th century offers an overview of McCrindle's main collecting interests. Among the drawings on view are mythological and biblical narratives; an intriguing animal study reflecting the heightened interest in natural history at the turn of the 17th century; an exuberant design for a baroque altarpiece; exquisitely rendered landscapes; imaginative proposals for stage sets; an 18th-century sketch by the official draftsman to the first British diplomatic mission to China; and a trio of sensitive watercolors by one of the greatest masters of the medium, John Singer Sargent.
Together these works offer insight into the personal taste of a collector who enjoyed the unexpected and the unusual. McCrindle admired works not because of the names of the artists attached to them, but for the verve and rhythm of the line and, often, the whimsical nature of the subject or image. Some prominent masters are featuredmost notably Parmigianino, Polidoro da Caravaggio, and Maerten van Heemskerckbut they hang alongside equally striking works by less familiar artists, such as Matthäus Gundelach, Felice Albites, and Jean Léonard Lugardon. No less indicative of the collector's lack of concern for "names" is the inclusion of several appealing drawings that remain unattributed and are identified only by a national or regional school and a century.
McCrindle's love of color, meanwhile, is captured through a handsome array of mainly British and American 18th- and 19th-century watercolors, culminating in a spectacular view at Anacapri by William Stanley Haseltine and the three delicate compositions by Sargent.
In addition to the drawings exhibited in this installation, several of the paintings from the McCrindle gift may be seen in the Dutch, Flemish, Italian, and American galleries on the West Building's Main Floor.
Joseph McCrindle had a passion for collecting. He was raised in New York City largely by his grandmother Edith Mosler Feder, herself a collector, who took him to art auctions and encouraged him to bid on works, even at the age of eight. A literary agent and publisher who founded the Transatlantic Review, McCrindle for more than 70 years surrounded himself with an impressive variety of paintings, drawings, prints, books, and manuscripts in his New York and London residences.
McCrindle's embracive tastes in art included portraits, figure studies, religious and mythological scenes, landscapes, and theatrical designs ranging over five centuries. His collection of drawings and paintings numbered more than 2,000 works, but he also pursued other genres just as avidly, focusing on prints, rare books and manuscripts, and pre-Columbian sculpture.
McCrindle was also a generous philanthropist who supported many cultural institutions and donated significant portions of his collection to the museums that had fostered his love of art. He founded the Henfield Foundation (now the Joseph F. McCrindle Foundation) to provide funds for museum projects as well as to support other cultural oragnizations, including those promoting literature, music, and social justice.
Curators and Catalogue
Margaret Morgan Grasselli, curator of old master drawings, and Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., curator of northern baroque paintings, both at the National Gallery of Art, are curators of the exhibition.