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New Britain Museum of American Art receives donation of $1M and 165 paintings
William J Bradford, Off the Greenland Coast under the Midnight Sun, 1873, oil on panel, 13 x 21 in.

NEW BRITAIN, CONN.- The New Britain Museum of American Art announced the gift of the Charles and Irene Hamm Collection of coastal art, which consists of 165 paintings by the leading American artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. While some of the artists in the Hamm Collection are represented by different examples in the permanent collection of the New Britain Museum of American Art, three quarters of the artists are not in the Museum’s holdings. The Hamms will also donate $1 million to support the Museum's current capital campaign, which will fund the construction of an 18,000 sq. ft. New Wing enables the acquisition of adjacent property, and helps increase the endowments for operations and acquisitions. The artists represented in the collection will be featured in the Charles and Irene Hamm Gallery in the New Wing, which will be built beginning in 2014. Thematic exhibitions will be drawn from the holdings of the Hamms and representative examples will be loaned to other museums and institutions throughout the country. In the future, the Museum plans to circulate an exhibition of highlights from the Hamm Collection.

Chairman of the Board of Trustees John R. Rathgeber has stated, “With the donation of Charles and Irene Hamm, the New Britain Museum will have one of the outstanding collection of coastal art in the country. Their love for this genre will inspire our visitors for generations to come.” Museum Director Douglas Hyland has commented, “I know our visitors will be immediately drawn to these coastal paintings because they are of superb quality and represent a wide variety of styles. Together, they offer a compelling set of images ranging from man’s struggle against the relentless forces of the ocean to our pleasure in its constantly changing majesty.”

Outstanding artists represented in the collection are Thomas Birch, Fitz Henry Lane, William Bradford, Rockwell Kent, Thomas Hart Benton, Robert Henri, and William Burpee. The Hamm Collection consists mainly of oil paintings but there are outstanding watercolors by some of the most distinguished American watercolor artists, including Sears Gallagher, John Whorf, Fairfield Porter and William Trost Richards. While the Hamms purchased works from all over the country, a considerable number represent scenes of the New England coast, particularly Maine’s Monhegan Island and Mount Desert Island; Gloucester, Massachusetts; and the Connecticut shore. While most of the artists have worked in a traditional vein, several contemporary artists such as Hans Moller, Paul Pallaro and Victor Elmaleh work in a more expressionist and abstract style.

Charles Hamm, who enjoyed a highly successful career in the advertising and financial worlds and his wife Irene, an educator, has been collecting for several decades. An avid sailor, Charles Hamm is particularly drawn to scenes of maritime life, ranging from the commercial to the purely recreational. He is himself an artist, and his Sunset at Home (2006, oil on masonite) is included in the collection.

Together, Charles and Irene have visited countless art galleries and have met many artists, whom they have befriended over the years. Theirs has been a labor of love, as they share a great fondness for the sea, which they have observed under climactic conditions in many parts of the country.

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