Mellon bequest of 62 rare works arrives at National Gallery of Art
WASHINGTON – An astonishing 62 rare works by Vincent van Gogh, Winslow Homer, Claude Monet, Georges Seurat, and others have arrived at the National Gallery of Art, Washington. They were bequeathed to the gallery by renowned philanthropist, art collector, and founding Gallery benefactor Paul Mellon (1907–1999), subject to a life estate in his wife, arts patron Rachel Lambert Mellon (1910–2014), who died on March 17.
The paintings, sculptures and works on paper then released were among the 110 works of art bequeathed to the Gallery by Paul Mellon that remained in his wife’s care after his death on Feb. 1, 1999.
A highlight of the bequest is another major painting by Van Gogh: Still Life of Oranges and Lemons with Blue Gloves (1889). Currently undergoing conservation treatment, the painting will be on view June 7 in the Gallery’s West Building, French Galleries, with Van Gogh’s renowned The Postman Joseph Roulin (1889), on loan from the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, The Netherlands.
The Postman Joseph Roulin, who Van Gogh made famous through a series of portraits, will hang alongside the Gallery’s own Roulin’s Baby (1888), the portrait of the postman’s daughter Marcelle as an infant. Though painted within a year of each other, this is the first time these versions of the works will be shown together, along with other related works by Van Gogh.
“Paul Mellon was one of the greatest philanthropists of our time, and his donations of art to the National Gallery of Art are unsurpassed. Paul and Bunny Mellon left an extraordinary legacy, that we plan to honor with an exhibition in 2016,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. Exhibition details will be announced at a later date.
During her lifetime, Rachel Lambert Mellon had released 48 works of art to the Gallery. Among the most recent of these is Vincent van Gogh’s mesmerizing Green Wheat Fields, Auvers (1890), which went on view in December 2013 for the first time since 1966.
Still Life with Bottle, Carafe, Bread, and Wine (c. 1862–1863) by Claude Monet is an intimate painting of a subject not usually associated with the artist. One of Monet’s earliest known paintings, the Mellons’ purchase of this work reflects their thoughtful and deeply personal approach to collecting art.
The Riders (c. 1885) by Edgar Degas depicts a group of jockeys on horseback, a subject favored by both Degas and Paul Mellon, a renowned racing enthusiast. This large, vibrantly colored canvas is an extraordinary complement to the many Degas waxes and drawings on the same subject, donated by Mellon in his lifetime. The Gallery has the world’s third largest collection of works by Degas and, thanks to Mellon, the world’s greatest collection of this artist’s sculpture made during his lifetime.
Twelve exquisite oil sketches by Georges Seurat join four paintings and one drawing in the Gallery’s permanent collection. “Seurat died young and his body of work is relatively small compared to his impressionist and post-impressionist counterparts,” said Kimberly A. Jones, associate curator of French paintings. “These new works vastly enhance our holdings and position the Gallery as one of the strongest collections of his work in the United States.”
Among the nine American paintings in the bequest, two works by Winslow Homer – The Flirt (1874), a study for the Gallery’s Breezing Up, and School Time (c. 1874) – constitute especially important additions to the collection. A significant group of still lifes – two remarkable works by Raphaelle Peale and three by John Frederick Peto – strengthen the Gallery’s holdings in that genre. The bequest also included a major group of seven Homer drawings and watercolors, the most notable being Rustic Courtship (1874) and The Berry Pickers (1873), as well as a rare pastel on canvas by William Merritt Chase, Gathering Flowers, Shinnecock, Long Island (c. 1897).
The artists represented in this bequest include: Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725–1805), Raphaelle Peale (1774–1825), Titian Ramsay Peale (1799–1885), Pierre-Jules Mêne (1810–1879), Eugène Boudin (1824–1898), Emmanuel Fremiet (1824–1910), Camille Pissarro (1830–1903), Edouard Manet (1832–1883), Edgar Degas (1834–1917), Henri Fantin-Latour (1836–1904), Winslow Homer (1836–1910), Claude Monet (1840–1926), Berthe Morisot (1841–1895), Auguste Renoir (1841–1919), René Pierre Charles Princeteau (1844–1914), William Merritt Chase (1849–1916), Jean-Louis Forain (1852–1931), Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890), John Frederick Peto (1854–1907), Maurice Brazil Prendergast (1858–1924), Georges Seurat (1859–1891), Pierre Bonnard (1867–1947), Lyonel Feininger (1871–1956), Maurice de Vlaminck (1876–1958), Raoul Dufy (1877–1953), Paul Klee (1879–1940), Georges Braque (1882–1963), André Dunoyer de Segonzac (1884–1974), Roger de La Fresnaye (1885–1925), René Magritte (1898–1967), and Alexander Calder (1898–1976).
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