Sunday, September 7, 2008

Columbus Museum Acquires Major Art Collection of American Drawings

GFP Note: Columbus is showcased as our "day tripper" pick. The Columbus Museum is the second largest in the state of Georgia. Pop on down to view this exciting new art collection.

The Columbus Museum is pleased to announce the acquisition of a major private collection of American drawings. As a result, the Museum has established itself as one of the most significant repositories of American drawings in the nation. The recently acquired works were originally assembled by legendary collector Paul Magriel, and subsequently purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Flom of New York. The 105 sheets represent rare and important examples of American master drawing by some of the nation’s most prominent artists, including Raphael Peale, Henry Inman, Sanford R. Gifford, Jasper F. Cropsey, Winslow Homer, William Paxton, Abbott Handerson Thayer, Theodore Robinson, William Glackens and Ben Shahn.

The works celebrate the rich history of American drawing from the late 18th through the middle of the 20th century, and chronicle the many ways in which artists have used the medium to portray the nation’s evolving character. The Columbus Museum defines drawing as any unique work on paper, and the collection includes the great variety of approaches to drawing such as pencil, charcoal, watercolor, gouache, pastel, ink and silverpoint. The entire collection was displayed for public view for the first time in the 2007 Museum exhibition Tracing the Nation: Recently Acquired American Drawings. The acquisition was made possible by the support of members of the Museum’s 105 Society and a grant from the Mildred Miller Fort Foundation.

Since the Columbus Museum opened its doors to the public in 1953, drawings have represented
a collecting area in which the institution could readily afford important works of art by leading
American artists.

Some of the more than 400 sheets in the collection were individual gifts and purchases acquired
over the years. However, the majority of this collection is new as recently as the last five years.
In 2002, the Museum’s collection rose to a level of national importance with the acquisition of
more than 125 American drawings owned by Dr. and Mrs. Philip L. Brewer of Columbus. The Brewer acquisition includes great works by many of the key artists in American art history. In order to bring greater visibility to the collection, the Museum curated the traveling exhibition, Lines of Discovery: 225 Years of American Drawings andpublished an illustrated text of the same name to accompany the exhibition on its national tour.

The Museum’s collection took another leap forward with this acquisition of 105 sheets owned by
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Flom, of New York. The drawings represent an extraordinary acquisitions
opportunity due to their high quality and great rarity. Visionary collector Paul Magriel
(1906-1990) purchased American drawings during the 1960s and early 1970s when great works
were much more accessible and by modern standards quite affordable. Claire Flom, in particular, viewed her role as the caretaker of this collection and sought to place it in a public institution when she could no longer adequately care for it.

One of the principal motives for the acquiring the Magriel/Flom Collection is that the drawings
strengthen the Museum’s collection in several ways. First, they add depth to the Museum’s
relatively few drawings produced before 1850. Second, they include great works by key
American masters such as John Vanderlyn, William Sidney Mount, Frederic Church and James
Abbott McNeill Whistler, whose drawings were not represented in the Museum’s collection and
which are nearly impossible to find in today’s art market. Works by Thomas Sully, Thomas
Hovenden, Eastman Johnson, Theodore Robinson and Isabel Bishop complement paintings by
artists already in the Museum’s collection. Other drawings in the acquisition enable the Museum
to represent the work of key artists in depth — three drawings by Benjamin West to add to the
two drawings already present; two sheets by John Singer Sargent, Mrs. Thursby and Madame Helleu, represent the first Sargent figure drawings acquired by the Museum and stand as an important complement to the Museum’s Sargent watercolor, Spanish Window. Winslow Homer’s pencil drawing, Head of a Girl, represents the artist’s important period in England during 1881-1882, and now joins the Museum’s charcoal drawing by Homer, Pond Lilies, done on American soil in 1884. Also, two drawings by Robert Blum of his brother provide
representation by this important artist.

The Magriel/Flom Collection demonstrates the essential role drawing has played in the formation and development of American art. While representing an overview of American art, this selection of works attests to the unique properties of drawing and its status as the most intimate, immediate and versatile art medium.

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