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A Celebration of 50 Years of Gifts

April 1–September 27, 1991
East Building, Ground Floor, Study Center

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.


original exhibition poster
click to enlarge

Overview: From 1941 to 1991, the library was the recipient of many fine gifts. They arrived one at a time, in groups, or sometimes as fully formed collections that are libraries in and of  themselves. Some of these gifts were modest, some extremely rare and valuable, all vitally important to the rich mix that makes this research collection in the history of art a nationally recognized resource for scholars.

Especially noteworthy were the gifts from Joseph E. Widener, Samuel Kress, Chester Dale, Lessing Rosenwald, and Paul Mellon. Other important collections came from Huntington Cairns, Carl Nordenfalk, Nelson Miles, Charles Parkhurst, John A. Pope, Mrs. Wolfgang Stechow, and Charles A. Thayer. Special mention must go to David K. E. Bruce, who had the foresight to endow the library with funds that enabled it to acquire such major acquisitions as the Ladislao Reti and James Sallemi collections on Leonardo da Vinci, the library of John Rewald, the Van Hattum collection of 16th- and 17th-century Dutch books, as well as many others. Ambassador Bruce directed that all purchases from his fund were to be acquired in memory of Andrew Mellon.

In this 50th anniversary exhibition, it was not possible to show examples of gifts from every donor. It was our intention, rather, to give a hint of the high quality and wide range of material that had been so graciously given and to thank the many individuals who had been so remarkably generous.

Organization: The exhibition was organized by the National Gallery of Art. Caroline Backlund, head of reader services, was curator.