Washington, DC—The National Gallery of Art today announces the launch of the Kress Collection Digital Archive, an online resource documenting the history and development of an important collection of nearly 3,500 works of art. The Kress Collection was divided and donated years ago to almost 100 institutions throughout the United States, including the National Gallery of Art.
Funded by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the project digitally reunites the Kress Collection of European art, amassed by American businessman and founding benefactor of the National Gallery of Art Samuel H. Kress and his foundation. Data and digitized archival materials illustrate the history, acquisition, condition, care, and distribution of the works of art over many decades.
"The National Gallery of Art values generosity of spirit, an attribute embodied by Samuel H. Kress, who was one of our founding benefactors," said Kaywin Feldman, director of the National Gallery of Art. "We are proud to share this valuable resource and make this extraordinary collection available digitally to the world."
Beginning in the late 1920s, Kress—and, later, his brother Rush and the foundation—acquired nearly 3,500 works of art, primarily from the Italian Renaissance. By 1961 the foundation had donated the entire collection to institutions across the country, including the National Gallery of Art. The distribution of the Kress Collection brought European old masters to millions of Americans.
Initiated by the National Gallery Archives, the new digital resource combines data, history, and archival materials. With more than 10,000 historical and conservation documents and images from the National Gallery Archives, the National Gallery of Art painting conservation department, and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation Archive, the project emphasizes the connections shared between people, objects, and institutions.
The history of the Kress Collection and the development of the National Gallery of Art are fundamentally linked. When the museum opened in 1941, nearly three-quarters of the works on view were Kress gifts or loans. Over the next two decades, the Kress Foundation developed, then distributed, its collection in close cooperation with the National Gallery of Art.
"With the launch of its Kress Collection Digital Archive, the National Gallery of Art has set an inspiring example for other art museums both in the United States and abroad," said Max Marmor, president of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. "By documenting so fully—and sharing so openly—its rich archival holdings concerning the genesis and history of the Kress Collection, it has established a new standard of transparency while also modeling a new kind of scholarly resource for the study of the history of collecting."
The National Gallery Archives preserves and makes available records that document the history of the National Gallery of Art. Through this digital project, these records promote understanding of the history and development of the Kress Collection within the larger context of National Gallery of Art history and the cultural growth of the United States over the past century.