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Conversations with Collectors: Barney A. Ebsworth

Barney A. Ebsworth, collector, in conversation with Franklin Kelly, curator of American and British paintings, National Gallery of Art. To celebrate the opening of Twentieth-Century American Art: The Ebsworth Collection at the National Gallery of Art on March 5, 2000, Barney A. Ebsworth discussed the collection’s history and the works selected for the exhibition with Franklin Kelly, the Gallery's curator of American and British paintings. On view through June 11, 2000, the exhibition featured 52 paintings, 12 sculptures, and 10 works on paper belonging to Mr. and Mrs. Ebsworth. Included were works by Edward Hopper, Charles Sheeler, Georgia O'Keeffe, Andy Warhol, Arshile Gorky, and other American modernists. Ebsworth began collecting in the mid-1960s while living in Europe for military service and traveling for his cruise-ship business. Although his early acquisitions were 17th-century Dutch and Flemish and 18th-century Japanese art, eventually the exclusive focus of the collection became American modernist works dating from the Armory Show of 1913 onward. An important collection required having only the best works of a certain period, and Ebsworth felt that modern American art was more accessible in terms of scholarship, more affordable than older masterpieces, and connected to the life of our times. He reveals the friendships, joys and rewards that grew out of the collection.