March 31, 2010 — The desire to have an art museum at the University of Virginia was fulfilled by the gift of the Thomas H. Bayly Building by Evelyn May Bayly Tiffany in honor of her father, an alumnus. The museum opened its doors in 1935 with works of art that included two Rodin sculptures and Frederic Church's "Natural Bridge."
Since that time, the collection has grown through a program of gifts and well-timed purchases and now numbers some 12,000 objects. After a major refurbishment of its galleries and an upgrade of its facilities, the museum is now an improved showcase for its objects and a vibrant classroom for its constituents. Boasting three study areas, the collection is more available to viewers than it has ever been in the past.
A new exhibit, "Highlights of the Collection: from Rodin to Warhol," celebrates the richness of the Art Museum's collection.
The exhibition, on display April 2-July 11, features three strengths of the collection: portraits, landscapes, and abstract painting and sculpture.
Portraiture in the installation is described through paintings and photographs, spans two centuries and visualizes the changing sense of American and European identity. In the early portraits, the penchant for depicting wealth and a cultured disposition is visible in the portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Halsey by Rembrandt Peale and of Edmund Burkhardt by John Singer Sargent. The impact of European modernism is evident in portraits by John Barber and Fernand Léger.
Landscapes in the exhibition describe both the bucolic countryside and the dynamic industrial city. Works on view include drawings and prints by Claude Lorrain and Samuel Palmer, as well as an unexpected pastoral scene by Alex Katz. Of particular note is the powerful painting by Leon Kroll from 1912 of the Queensborough Bridge that depicts the newly constructed structure emerging out of a steamy void and Lee Friedlander's self-portrait "Route 9w, New York, 1969."
In the Octagonal gallery, paintings by Roy Deforest, Conrad Marca-Relli, Ray Parker and Adja Yunkers join works by Isamu Noguchi, Joseph Cornell and Andy Warhol to suggest the plurality of painting and sculptural styles that mark abstraction from 1930 to 1970.
Museum director Bruce Boucher underscored the efforts of curators Andrea Douglas and Matthew Affron. "This exhibition offers a chance for members and the general public to become reacquainted with major and minor masterpieces from our wide-ranging collection," he said. "It celebrates the great tradition of European and American art from the 18th century to our own times and will provide provocative juxtapositions as well as aesthetic enjoyment."
The museum will celebrate the opening of the exhibition at its Final Friday event on April 26.
Admission to the U.Va. Art Museum is free and open to the public Tuesdays through Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. For information, visit here.