HARTFORD, CT.- The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art
announced it has received a $9.6 million bequest from the estate of Charles H. Schwartz. This gift is the largest bequest received by the museum in its history, and will establish an endowment to expand and enhance the museum's collection of English and European works of art from the 18th century and earlier in memory of the late Schwartz, a former museum member.
"The impact of a bequest of this size on the Wadsworth Atheneum is enormous," said Susan L. Talbott, Director and CEO. "We are already working to maximize the benefit of this generous gift to the museum in the years to come."
The creation of The Charles H. Schwartz Endowment Fund is timely in that the Wadsworth just appointed Oliver Tostmann the Susan Morse Hilles Curator of European Art to manage the museum's world-renowned collection of European masterworks. Tostmann, who called this bequest a "game changer for the European collection," is working with Linda Roth, Charles C. and Eleanor Lamont Cunningham Curator of European Decorative Arts, on a complete re-installation of European paintings, sculpture and decorative arts for the museum's Morgan Memorial Building as part of the museum's $33 million renovation project, due for completion September 2015.
Charles H. Schwartz, known to his friends as "Bun," joined the museum in 1987 and was a member of the Society of Daniel Wadsworth-the museum's premier membership program-until his death in 1995. A native of Suffield, Conn., Schwartz was a graduate of the Kingswood School, St. Mark's School and Yale University. Schwartz, a life-long lover of the arts, was an avid collector of Old Master paintings and European art and decorative arts, and lived his adult life in Hadlyme, Conn.
"It is an honor to receive such a transformative gift from a man who was a visionary in his own collecting endeavors, and who was a dear friend to many in the Wadsworth family," said David W. Dangremond, President of the Board of Trustees. "Museums thrive on the generosity and foresight of donors like Charles Schwartz."
The Wadsworth, the oldest public art museum in the U.S., has paved the way for encyclopedic museums across the country, particularly in terms of its European collections. With 900 paintings, 500 sculptures, 3,500 works on paper and 7,000 works of decorative art-including over 1,300 from the J. Pierpont Morgan collection-the museum's European holdings are some of the most extensive in the country. The collection is exceptionally strong in Old Master and Impressionist art, including works by Caravaggio, Gustave Courbet, Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte, Joan Miro, Claude Monet, Nosadella, Giovanni Panini, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-August Renoir, Yves Tanguy and Vincent van Gogh. The Wadsworth was the first museum in the United States to acquire works by Caravaggio and Dali, and was also the first museum in the country to mount an exhibition of work by Picasso.
"These strides exemplify the Wadsworth's progressive acquisitions and enterprising exhibition planning," said Talbott. "The Charles H. Schwartz Endowment Fund will enable the Wadsworth to continue its vigorous acquisition of European art, having a profound impact on the extent to which the museum can collect works created in the 18th century or earlier."