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The National Gallery of Art’s Exciting New Acquisitions

March 18, 2016
Frans van Mieris An Interior with a Soldier Smoking a Pipe, c. 1657 oil on panel 32.4 x 25.4 cm (12 3/4 x 10 in.) National Gallery of Art, Washington The Lee and Juliet Folger Fund/The Folger Fund

Frans van Mieris, An Interior with a Soldier Smoking a Pipe, c. 1657
oil on panel: 32.4 x 25.4 cm (12 3/4 x 10 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
The Lee and Juliet Folger Fund/The Folger Fund

A late afternoon press release today from the National Gallery of Art announced the acquisition of a bevy of works including 331  items in the third round of accessions from the Corcoran Gallery of Art.  The additions to the collection were approved at the January 2016 meeting of the museum’s Board of Trustees.

The museum’s rich holdings 17th-century Dutch art grew with the addition of Frans van Mieris’ An Interior with a Soldier Smoking a Pipe from 1657.  The painting came to auction at Sotheby’s in London, July 9, 2008, where it carried an estimate of £200,000-300,000.  It sold for a whopping £1,329,250 (hammer price + buyer’s premium) or $2,621,148 (no word what the gallery paid). According to the press release:

Frans van Mieris was one of the most celebrated Dutch Golden Age painters. His elegant works were marked by smooth execution, invisible brushwork, and extraordinary attention to detail. In his beautifully preserved An Interior with a Soldier Smoking a Pipe (c. 1657) he displays all the qualities that earned him his fame. Intimate in scale and humorous in subject—the roguish soldier has apparently just bested a companion in a game of cards—it possesses a high degree of refinement, particularly in the soldier’s aubergine costume and the gold fringe of a nearby cloak. The painting comes with a remarkable provenance, having once belonged to the Elector of Saxony, August the Strong (1670–1733) from whom it went by descent to the Kings of Saxony and ultimately entered the Gemäldegalerie Dresden. The Dresden museum deaccessioned the painting in 1927 to the Gallery van Diemen, which sold it later that same year to a private collector in Germany. The painting remained in that family until 2008, when it was auctioned by Sotheby’s in London and entered a private English collection. The National Gallery of Art acquired this masterpiece through the generosity of Lee and Julie Folger/The Folger Fund.

Another winner is this Trompe l’Oeil of an Etching by Ferdinand Bol (c. 1675), by an as yet unknown artist. The press release notes: “The painting depicts a wooden plank with an etching by Ferdinand Bol affixed with a red wax seal. By using toned glazes and carefully built-up pigments, the artist masterfully imitated the look of the pine wood panel with its rough grain and knots. He also rendered the crinkles and creases of the print so convincingly that it looks like a real piece of paper.”

Unknown 17th century Dutch artist Trompe l’Oeil of an Etching by Ferdinand Bol, c. 1675 oil on panel 38 x 32 cm (15 x 12 9/16 in.) National Gallery of Art, Washington Fund given in honor of Derald Ruttenberg’s Grandchildren

Unknown 17th century Dutch artist, Trompe l’Oeil of an Etching by Ferdinand Bol, c. 1675
oil on panel: 38 x 32 cm (15 x 12 9/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Fund given in honor of Derald Ruttenberg’s Grandchildren

An early work by the American artist Alex Katz depicting his wife Ada was made at a critical juncture in his career: “Cropped dramatically with lively brushwork and slight asymmetries, this painting combines an early pop awareness of advertising imagery and posed snapshots with the immediacy of direct observation.”  This is the advent of the style for which the artist is justifiably famous.

Alex Katz Portrait of Ada, 1959 oil on board 61 x 61 cm (24 x 24 in.) National Gallery of Art, Washington Avalon Fund

Alex Katz, Portrait of Ada, 1959
oil on board: 61 x 61 cm (24 x 24 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Avalon Fund

Among the hundreds of works accessioned from the Corcoran is this delightful landscape by Thomas Hart Benton depicting part of Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts.  Benton painted a series of works of the island, often capturing the hilly terrain in his signature exaggerated way.

Thomas Hart Benton Martha’s Vineyard, c. 1925 55.25 x 59.69 cm (21 3/4 x 23 1/2 in.) National Gallery of Art, Washington Corcoran Collection (Bequest of George Biddle)

Thomas Hart Benton, Martha’s Vineyard, c. 1925
55.25 x 59.69 cm (21 3/4 x 23 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Corcoran Collection (Bequest of George Biddle)

According to a 2001 New York Times article: “Benton and his wife, Rita, summered on the Vineyard for more than a half century, starting around 1920. Their ashes are buried beneath a tree on their former property in the rural town of Chilmark, on the western half of this island. Benton painted countless Vineyard scenes and residents.” He was a “gruff but likable neighbor who was fond of eating radishes with sugar, swimming in the buff and chewing tobacco.”

 

 

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