Art Collectors' Council 2007
Art Collectors’ Council approves a wide range of new acquisitions for 2007
Paintings, sculpture, and decorative art all received enthusiastic votes at the annual meeting of the Art Collectors’ Council, during which the group acquired four new works for The Huntington’s collections. The range of periods represented was equally broad, with items from the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries making the final cut. The council selected two British, one French, and one American work of art.
Upright Piano, 1904, by Charles Robert Ashbee was the winner in the first round of voting. Ashbee (1863–1942) was the most influential figure in the later history of the design reform movement in England. His works exhibit both the 19th-century emphasis on exacting craftsmanship and truth to materials, and the new formal impulses associated with the Modern movement. The Ashbee Music Cabinet, acquired last year and currently on view in the Erburu Gallery, represents the former, while the Upright Piano is a stunning example of the latter. Its simplicity of form and restrained abstract ornamentation show why Ashbee was such an influential figure among progressive designers in Europe and America at that time.
Teucer, 1904, by Sir William Hamo Thornycroft was the second work selected. The 29 1/4-inch bronze depicts the Greek archer Teucer from Homer’s Iliad. Thornycroft (1850-1925) was one of the three leaders of the New Sculpture movement, and this piece is one of the three founding icons of the movement. (One of the other two, Perseus Arming by Sir Alfred Gilbert, was acquired by the Art Collectors’ Council in 2005.) The work reflects Thornycroft’s deep appreciation for the early masterpieces of Greek art, while at the same time revealing his desire to move the art of sculpture toward something more naturalistic and expressive. Here, he chooses the same subject as the Apollo Belvedere, in which the god is shown just at the moment when he has released the arrow from his bow to kill the monster Python. But Teucer is depicted as something infinitely less remote and godly, more physical and athletic. The hero's muscles are still tensed, his back arched, and his gaze follows the shaft as it flies toward its target.
Portrait of Jacques Roettiers de la Tour, ca. 1730, by Nicolas de Largillière (1656–1746) was chosen next. Largillière was one of the most successful European portrait painters in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. He received some of his early training in London, where he was associated with Sir Peter Lely, principal painter to King Charles II. Returning to his native Paris in 1679, he attracted much patronage at court as well as from wealthy artist-craftsmen, including the goldsmith and medallist Jacques Roettiers IV, who would later be appointed engraver of the English Mint. A young man in his early 20s when he sat for this portrait, Roettiers is shown holding the tools of his craft. The painting is an important addition to the collections at a time when French art will soon become more prominently featured, both in the renovated Huntington Gallery and in a forthcoming catalog of the French art collection.
California Mountain Scene, 1905, by Arthur B. Davies was the final work selected. Davies (1862-1928) was a major catalyst for the development of modern art in the United States. In 1908 he participated in “The Eight”—an exhibit featuring eight artists working in Realist, Impressionist, and Post-Impressionist styles—and in 1913 served as the principal organizer of the influential Armory Show in New York. His own work embraced remarkably different influences, including the ancient Greeks who saw a mathematical ratio called the Golden Section as fundamental to ideal beauty. In California Mountain Scene he applied his poetic, Symbolist style to an expansive view of the Sierra Nevada near Lake Tahoe. At The Huntington, the painting joins works by four other members of “the Eight”—William Glackens, George Luks, Maurice Prendergrast, and John Sloan—and serves as an important addition to the growing collection of early modernist American art.