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Volume 26, Number 4 — April 2019

McGlothlins Bequeath Art Collection to VMFA

"The Hitch Team (Horses in the Snow)," 1916, an oil on canvas by George Luks, is from the American art collection of James W. and Frances G. McGlothlin. (Photo: Katherine Wetzel, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)
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An exhibition of more than 70 paintings, sculpture, and works on paper from the McGlothlin collection of 19th- and 20th-century American art will inaugurate the new VMFA building, along with selections from a major new bequest of German Expressionist works.

"American Art from the McGlothlin Collection" will feature artists such as George Bellows, Mary Cassatt, William Merrit Chase, Childe Hassam, Martin Johnson Heade, Robert Henri, Winslow Homer, George Luks, William Rimmer, John Singer Sargent and James McNeill Whistler. All works in the exhibition, which range from 1840 to 1925, are promised gifts to VMFA.

"We have spent the last decade immersed in the world of American art, never suspecting early on that our desire to learn and appreciate this legacy could result in so meaningful a commitment to Virginia," said Jim McGlothlin, chairman and CEO of the United Company of Bristol, Va., on the occasion of the announcement of the McGlothlins' gift to VMFA in 2005. "Fran and I envision a long and creative relationship with the museum's leadership, which in recent years has shown a tremendous level of artistic initiative."

As a component of their pledge, the McGlothlins, together with the United Company, made a leading donation of $10 million toward VMFA's capital campaign in support of the expansion. The couple's commitment supported the creation of the American Galleries and the new wing, both to be named for the McGlothlins.

VMFA Director Alex Nyerges says, "The engagement and generosity of Jim and Fran McGlothlin has already fundamentally changed the future of the 'new' Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. They have pledged their remarkable collection of American art, widely held to be among the top private collections in the country, as well as committed phenomenally generous support for the completion of our soon-to-open McGlothlin Wing. Their collection will be highlighted in a special exhibition that will be on view through July 18."

According to Dr. Sylvia Yount, VMFA's Louise B. and J. Hardwood Cochrane Curator of American Art and the organizer of the McGlothlin Collection exhibition, "Jim and Fran have built a very personal and distinctive collection by not pursuing 'names,' per se, but by focusing on the inherent strength of each work — that is, its technical competence, visual power, and aesthetic appeal. Their mid-19th- to early-20th-century American art holdings beautifully mesh with VMFA's own, making the simultaneous opening of the forthcoming McGlothlin special exhibition and the museum's new McGlothlin galleries all the more auspicious."

The McGlothlins have noted that they are especially drawn to works dating from the turn of the 20th century to the mid-1920s. Their first acquisition was the striking 1924 oil "Listening Boy" by Robert Henri. Although they have collected widely in the intervening years, their most recent addition is George Luks's "The Hitch Team," a moving 1916 painting by Henri's friend and colleague. Their collection also has particular strength in the works of famed late-19th-century expatriate painter John Singer Sargent.

Over the years, the McGlothlins have been advised in their art acquisitions by Dr. Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., Curator of American Art at the Harvard University Art Museums in Cambridge, Mass. In the 2005 catalogue accompanying the exhibition "Capturing Beauty," which featured a cross-section of late 19th- and early 20th-century works, Stebbins wrote: "The McGlothlin Collection includes examples of almost every member of what was arguably the 'greatest generation' of American painters....They take as much interest in the works of painters known only to specialists as in those of the great masters...It should be added that the McGlothlins consider the collection very much a work in progress, and one looks forward with keen anticipation to see where their interests take them next."

VMFA is excited to be showcasing a broader range of the McGlothlin Collection at such a momentous time in the museum's history.

VMFA's Local Connections

An oil portrait of "Madame Errazuriz," circa 1883-84, by John Singer Sergent, is among the McGlothlin's collection. (Photo: Katherine Wetzel, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)

"Afternoon By the Sea," circa 1888, by William Merritt Chase (American, 1849-1916), pastel on linen, is also part of the McGlothlin collection. (Photo: Katherine Wetzel, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)

"Portrait of Ambrogio Raffele," circa early 1900s, by John Singer Sargent, watercolor over graphite on paper, (McGlothlin collection). (Photo: Katherine Wetzel, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)

"Two Magnolias and a Bud on Teal Velvet," circa 1885-95, by Martin Johnson Heade, oil on canvas (McGlothlin collection). (Photo: Katherine Wetzel, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)

"Handkerchief Point," circa 1896-97, by Maurice Prendergast, watercolor over graphite on paper (McGlothlin collection). (Photo: Katherine Wetzel, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)