A stunning collection of American art is being donated to the Colby College Museum of Art by Peter and Paula Lunder, President William Adams announced in May. He hailed the gift"more than 500 objects, with 464 works by American masters"as one of the most important American art collections ever donated to a liberal arts college.
Thomas Dewing, American (1851‹1938), The Song, oil on canvas, 26 1/2 x 34"; courtesy of the Lunder Collection
The Lunders (Peter is a 1956 graduate and a lifetime overseer, Paula Crane Lunder is a life trustee, and both received honorary D.F.A. degrees in 1998) began collecting art in the late 1970s and by the mid-1980s had focused on American art, amassing one of the most important private collections of American 19th- and 20th-century painting, sculpture, and printmaking. They are longtime supporters of the College and the museum, and their gift is by far the largest ever received by the College. The Lunders' name already adorns the admissions building and a major wing of the museum.
The new gift, valued at more than $100 million, includes works by John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, George Inness, William Merritt Chase, Winslow Homer, Alexander Calder, Paul Manship, Edward Hopper, Georgia O'Keeffe, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, Alex Katz, and Jenny Holzer. An outstanding collection of 201 prints by James McNeill Whistler, also part of the overall gift, has been on loan to the museum. Some of those etchings and lithographs are among 80 pieces in the Lunder collection currently on view in Waterville.
"This superb gift enriches the Colby College Museum of Art in numerous ways, placing it among the nation's best museums for the exhibition and study of American art," said Adams. "In a single stroke, the museum will become one of the world's most important repositories of Whistler prints."
Sharon Corwin, the Carolyn Muzzy Director and chief curator of the museum said, "The extraordinary concentration of prints by Whistler is especially exciting, since it provides a genealogy for the museum's deep holdings in works by individual American artists of the past century who have explored the medium of printmaking."
The Lunders' generosity, Corwin said, "will ensure a richer experience for students, the larger Colby community, and the public who visit the museum."
A major exhibition of about 200 works in the collection is planned for summer 2009, when the museum celebrates its 50th anniversary. Adams also announced that in 2013 the museum will open a new wing with galleries dedicated to the permanent display of works from the collection, including works by Whistler.
More information is online at www.colby.edu/museum. Look for a full story and images in the next issue of Colby.