SAN MARINO, CA.-
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
will open its newly expanded Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art on May 30, 2009, to reveal a completely transformed space in which its growing American art collection will be displayed in an area more than twice its previous size. With 16,379 square feet of reconfigured and redesigned galleries, the new areacomprising the Virginia Steele Scott Gallery, the previous home of The Huntingtons American art collection; and the Lois and Robert F. Erburu Gallery, which previously displayed European workswill be one of the largest presentations in Southern California of American art from the colonial period through the mid-20th-century.
The Huntingtons commitment to the collection and interpretation of American art is deep-rooted, dating back to Henry Huntington himself, whose American art acquisitions enhanced his collection of American literary manuscripts, said Steven S. Koblik, president of The Huntington. The opening of these expanded galleries will be an impressive expression of that initial vision and will make an increasingly important collection magnificently accessible to the public.
Begun in 1979, when the Virginia Steele Scott Foundation made a major gift to The Huntington that included a group of 50 American paintings, The Huntingtons American art collection since has grown to about 9,400 objects, including paintings, sculpture, decorative art, drawings, prints, and photographs. Some of the most well-known works in the collection that ranges from the late 17th century to the middle of the 20th century are The Meeting of Lear and Cordelia (1784), by Benjamin West (1738¬1820); Chimborazo (1864), by Frederic Edwin Church (1826¬1900); Breakfast in Bed (1897), by Mary Cassatt (18441926); Zenobia in Chains (1859), by Harriet Hosmer (18301908); The Long Leg (ca. 1935), by Edward Hopper (1882¬1967); and a group of seminal photographs by Edward Weston (18861958).
The $1.6 million redesign and reinstallation project involves combining the Virginia Steele Scott Gallery, designed by Paul Gray of Gray and Gray Architects, Montecito, Calif., and completed in 1984; and the Erburu Gallery, designed by Frederick Fisher of Frederick Fisher and Partners Architects, Los Angeles, and completed in 2005. The process of reinstalling the galleries began in May 2008, when the Erburu Gallery was emptied of the highlights of the European art collection it had displayed while the Huntington Art Gallery underwent renovation.
This project is the culmination of an idea that began when the Erburu Gallery was conceived, explains John Murdoch, Hannah and Russel Kully Director of Art Collections at The Huntington. Now Frederick Fishers modern classical wing will join the neoclassical Scott Gallery and fulfill its role as the new home of our American art collections. Together, the galleries sit beautifully in the Huntington landscape, inviting views of the mountains and gardens from the glass loggia and helping to develop a sense of interplay between the works of art inside and the gardens outside.
The new Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art will consist of 15 galleries of thematically grouped and chronologically organized displays. Paintings, sculpture, and works on paper will be installed beside representative examples of the decorative arts, including furniture, glass, silver, and ceramics.
The collection had grown to a point where we could form some very interesting groupings and place works within a broad historic and cultural contextif we only had the space, said Jessica Todd Smith, Virginia Steele Scott Curator of American Art and organizer of the project. Now we are able to contextualize creatively and illuminate the history of American art. Its a curators dream and, I hope, a visitors dream, too, reflecting The Huntingtons long- standing commitment to education, research, and scholarship.
Multiple themes are explored throughout the installation. Among the subjects investigated are portraiture; regional patterns of style and use; objects as reflections of cultural practice and tradition; trans-Atlantic exchanges of artistic ideas; realism; abstraction; landscape; still life; and scenes of everyday life.
Designed by Stephen Saitas, of Stephen Saitas Designs, New York, the new installation will highlight familiar masterpieces from the permanent collection as well as objects never before on view at The Huntington, including recent acquisitions and long-term loans from public and private collections.
Acquired by The Huntington in late 2007, Hosmers Zenobia in Chains, the artists most important work, was critically acclaimed when it was shown at the International Exhibition in London in 1862 but was believed lost until a few years ago, when it was discovered in a private collection. When the new galleries open, the 82-inch-high marble sculpture will be unveiled to the public for the first time in nearly a century, and in a stunning new setting as the centerpiece of a square, high-ceiling chamber of dark sage green, illuminated by a corner skylight.
From the gallery featuring Zenobia in Chains, visitors will have a straight-line vista through three galleries abundant with paintings, sculpture and decorative arts from the American gilded ageincluding paintings by Cassatt, Thomas Eakins (18441916), and John Singer Sargent (18561925), along with silver table ware by Tiffany and Co. and a stained glass window designed by George Washington Maher (18641926)to a complementary work of neoclassical marble sculpture: Pandora (1858), by Chauncey Bradley Ives (18101894).
Visitors may choose to view the collection chronologically by beginning with the first room off the original Scott Gallery entrance. This space will include a rare Salem high chest (175575) and paintings from the period, the star being Sarah Jackson (Mrs. Henderson Inches) (ca. 1765), by John Singleton Copley (17381815). The other galleries in this wing will include a wall devoted to George Washington, anchored by a portrait by Gilbert Stuart (17751828) and embellished with a porcelain soup plate and platter owned by the first president. There also will be a section dedicated to The Huntingtons significant Mrs. John Emerson Marble silver collection of tea sets, brandy warmers, sugar tongs, and other examples of silver design in the 18th and early 19th century. The Dorothy Collins Brown Wing, refurbished in August, will remain the main center for works by architects of the Arts and Crafts movement, Charles and Henry Greene.
The Arts and Crafts movement is the focus of another room in the new installation as well. One of three in a sequence of connected galleries devoted to the 20th century, an octagonal room will have at its center the iconic Husser House dining-room table and tall-back chairs by Frank Lloyd Wright, surrounded by new Huntington acquisitions, including a cabinet (1904) by Ralph Whiteheads Byrdcliffe Arts Colony and a library table made in 1901 by designer Charles Rohlfs (18531936).
The next room in the series features art of the mid-20th century, including Capriccio (1945) and a group of drawings from the Lyric Suite series (1965) by Robert Motherwell (19151991), a series of collages by Joseph Cornell (19031972), and works of furniture by Sam Maloof (b. 1916).
Gallery for Temporary Exhibitions
The expansion and reconfiguration of the galleries has created a space for temporary exhibitions. The Susan and Stephen Chandler Wing will be especially useful for highlighting The Huntingtons rich collection of American prints, drawings, and photographs, which are light sensitive and can not remain on display for long periods of time. The inaugural installation will focus on the photography of the Colorado River by Karen Halverson.
Related Programming and Educational Components
An array of programming will complement the new Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art, including a symposium, curator tours, and lectures. An interpretive program and audio guide also are being developed for the new galleries.