A Century of American Art
A handsome private collection starts its first public tour at the National Gallery
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Does he have specific plans for it to become part of the permanent collection of the gallery? ``Well, we have no commitments. But it's on long-term loan here, and it wouldn't surprise me if it ended up here. It wouldn't surprise me.''Skip to next paragraph
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Sixty-two other paintings are included in the Manoogian collection, which is having its first public exhibition in this show organized by the National Gallery and the Detroit Institute of Arts. Landscapes loom large on its horizon, from the Hudson River to the Grand Canyon, in paintings by Frederick Edwin Church, Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, Thomas Moran, and John Frederick Kensett.
There are also still lifes by Raphaelle Peale, William Michael Harnett, and John Haberle; Impressionist paintings by Theodore Robinson, Frank Benson, and John Twachtman; and portraits by Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, and Thomas Eakins.
Nicolai Cikovsky, the National Gallery's curator of American art, who coordinated this exhibition at the gallery, said, ``It's a comprehensive survey of American painting over a hundred years (1814-1920), a rather remarkable one in capsule form. ... But it really is emphatically one man's reading of the history of American art. What I think is remarkable, what's distinctive about the Manoogian collection is how it ranges so widely from the canonic to the offbeat, the mainstream to the idioyncratic - and I mean that as a compliment - from famous paintings by famous artists ... to less familiar paintings by well-known names ... to captivating paintings by artists few people may have ever heard of. It's a collection that contains masterpieces but it's not in the ordinary sense a masterpiece collection. It's exceptional the number of museum-quality pictures that it has ..., but it never loses, I think, its essential flavor and character as a private, more personally determined collection.''
A viewer may be delighted by the sunny blue exuberance of Childe Hassam's flag-flying ``Country Fair, New England,'' or George Inness's haunting landscape ``A Breezy Autumn,'' or the grave-eyed little boy who is the subject of John Singer Sargent's ``John Alfred Parsons Miller'' portrait, or ``The Gems of Brazil,'' a rare and lovely set of 16 oils by Martin Johnson Heade, which are studies of hummingbirds more lushly romantic than any Audubons. Or a viewer may be startled by Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait's ``The Life of a Hunter: A Tight Fix,'' in which a bloodied bear sits facing a disarmed hunter while a second man draws a bead on the bear with his rifle. It looks more like a Wilderness Society campaign poster than a museum prize.
The Manoogian collection can be seen at the National Gallery through Sept. 4. Then it travels to the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco, Sept. 23-Nov. 26; the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Dec. 19-Feb. 25, 1990; and the Detroit Institute of Arts, March 27-May 27, 1990. Its corporate sponsor is United Technologies Corporation.