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Columbus Museum announces a major acquisition

The Columbus Museum announced Thursday that it has acquired a major private collection of American drawings. Because of this acquisition, the museum is now a major repository of American drawings in the United States.

The works were originally collected by Paul Magriel and later bought by Claire and Joseph Flom of New York.

The 105 drawings include rare works by such artists as 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 artists used such media as pencil, charcoal, watercolor, gouache, pastel, ink and silverpoint. The entire collection was displayed for public view for the first time earlier this year in the exhibit called "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. To bring greater visibility to the collection, the Museum curated the traveling exhibition, "Lines of Discovery: 225 Years of American Drawings," and published an illustrated text of the same name to accompany the exhibit on its national tour.

The Museum’s collection took another leap forward with this acquisition. The drawings represent an extraordinary acquisitions opportunity due to their high quality and great rarity. Visionary collector 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.

For more information, call 706-748-2562.

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