Apollo Magazine

Acquisitions of the Month: May 2015

Barbra Streisand donates to LACMA; the Met and the NGA pay homage to Aaron Douglas; SNPG celebrates the Scottish Colourist F. C. B. Cadell

Some of the most significant works to enter public collections in May

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Mrs Cazalet and Children Edward and Victor (1900–01), John Singer Sargent

The media excitement over this acquisitions has been as much about the donor – the singer Barbra Streisand – as about the painting itself. But perhaps that’s fitting given Sargent’s own reputation as a society portraitist, whose glamorous depictions of the British aristocracy won him, and some of his subjects, widespread fame. His full-length portrait of the Cazalet family is an impressive example of the American artist’s work, and a timely addition to LACMA’s collection. An exhibition celebrating the artist, ‘Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends’, has just enjoyed a successful run at London’s National Portrait Gallery, and will open on 30 June at the Metropolitan Museum. Streisand’s bequest is the latest in a series of major acquisitions secured by the gallery to mark its 50th anniversary.

Centre Pompidou, Paris

Five works by four contemporary Chinese artists

Until this month, Ding Yi, Zhang Enli, Zhao Yan and Xu Zhen were unrepresented in French national collections. But a recent donation from six of China’s most influential collectors – Adrian Cheng, Mr and Mrs Budi Tek, David Chau, William Zhao, and Andrew Xue – has changed that. The Centre Pompidou adds four paintings (two by Zhang Enli, and one each by Ding Yi and Zhao Yang) to its collection, along with an installation piece by Xu Zhen.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Self-portrait (c. 1914), F. C. B. Cadell

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art held a retrospective of Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell’s work in 2011–12. But until now, no portrait of or by the Scottish Colourist has found its way into the Scottish National Portrait Gallery’s collection. This self-portrait, which was painted soon after the artist had volunteered for active service in the First World War, is a virtuoso work that employs some of the techniques he had studied and admired in Paris (where he trained from 1899 to 1903) and Venice, which he visited in 1910. The painting joins pieces by Cadell’s contemporaries, including J. D. Fergusson and S. J. Peploe.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and National Gallery of Art, Washington

Let My People Go (c. 1935–39, Metropolitan Museum of Art) and The Judgment Day (1939, National Gallery of Art), Aaron Douglas

Let My People Go , Aaron Douglas

Aaron Douglas, a prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance, created a series of illustrations at the age of 28 to illustrate James Weldon Johnson’s 1927 publication God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse. These rare easel paintings by the artist derive from that series and are key examples of the artist’s style, in which silhouetted figures are depicted against simplified backdrops of strong colour, to powerful effect. Both works have gone on public display at their respective galleries this month, as significant additions to both museums’ ever-expanding collections of African American art.

Toledo Museum of Art

Still Life with Grapes, Chestnuts, Melons, and a Marble Cube (c. 1800–10), Antoine Berjon

Works by Berjon rarely come on the market: according to curator Lawrence W. Nichols, the Toledo Museum of Art has been on the look-out for one for decades. The artist was the leading still-life painter in Lyon in the first half of the 19th century, renowned for his exceptional ability to conjure up different surface textures. This exquisite example of his work fills a gap in the museum’s collection, sitting between Jean-Baptiste Oudry’s 18th-century Still Life with Musette and Violin (1725) and Courbet’s The Trellis of 1861.

Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas, Austin

Collection of 20 works by Charles White

Awaken from the unknowing (1961), Charles White

Dr. Susan G. and Dr. Edmund W. Gordon have donated a group of 20 drawings and paintings by the 20th-century artist Charles White in support of the Black Studies initiatives at the University of Texas. The artist dealt directly with African American culture in a time of social upheaval in the US. Dr. Edmund W. Gordon’s archive also goes to the university, where it will be housed in the Benson Latin American Collection library as a significant addition to its Black Diaspora Special Collections.

Kunsthaus Zürich

Twenty-three works of contemporary art on permanent loan from the Walter A. Bechtler Foundation

The Kunsthaus Zürich’s new display of five works of contemporary art – room-sized installations by Liam Gillick and Fischli/Weiss, and three sculptures by Rebecca Warren – marks the start of a long-term collaboration with the Walter A. Bechtler Foundation, which has offered 23 works to the museum permanent loan. The pieces will form a prominent part of the Kunsthaus’s post-war and contemporary displays.

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