Fitz Henry Lane (1804-1865), Stage Rocks and Western Shore of Gloucester Outer Harbor, 1857, oil on canvas, John Wilmerding Collection
Over the course of his career as a professor and museum professional, John Wilmerding has become one of the most widely known and respected authorities on American art. Since the 1960s, his many books and articles have helped define the scholarly nature of the field and also have documented the work of such key figures as Fitz Henry Lane, Winslow Homer, and Thomas Eakins. Although Wilmerding's scholarship is well known, his art collection is less familiar. Since the acquisition of his first painting (Lane's harbor scene, above) in 1960, Wilmerding has sought out works that parallel his own scholarly interests in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American art: tranquil landscapes and seascapes by Martin Johnson Heade and Fitz Henry Lane, still lifes by John F. Peto and Joseph Decker, figure paintings by Homer and Eakins, and paintings and drawings by artists who visited Maine's Mount Desert Island. His collection also includes important works by Frederic Edwin Church, George Caleb Bingham, and John F. Kensett.
At the opening of this exhibition, Wilmerding announced that all of the paintings and drawings in the much-anticipated show would remain at the National Gallery of Art--a gift to the nation. Since his association with the Gallery began, Wilmerding carefully considered how his personal acquisitions might one day both fill gaps and build on strengths in the Gallery's existing collection. Through his generosity, the Gallery will now have its first work by George Caleb Bingham, its first oil painting from Winslow Homer's Cullercoats period, its first marsh scene by Martin Johnson Heade, its first watercolor by Thomas Eakins, its first European landscape by John Frederick Kensett, its first oil study by Frederic Edwin Church, its first drawings by Ralph Albert Blakelock and Fitz Henry Lane, and its first works in any medium by Alfred Thompson Bricher, Adelheid Dietrich, Thomas Charles Ferrer, Alvan Fisher, Jervis McEntee, and Edward Seager.
For some forty years, John Wilmerding has introduced thousands of
students and museum visitors to the wonders and complexities of our
national art. With this remarkable gift to the National Gallery of Art,
his superb collection of American masters will now educate and inspire
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