Colby College President William D. Adams today announced a promised gift of one of the most important collections of American art ever to be donated to a liberal arts college. The gift comprises more than 500 objects, with 464 works by American masters including John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, George Inness, William Merritt Chase, Winslow Homer, Paul Manship, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, Alex Katz, and Jenny Holzer.
A crucial area of the collection is 201 prints by James McNeill Whistler, the largest single collection of art by Whistler to be given to an American academic museum. The gift, which is the largest in the history of the College, comes from Peter and Paula Lunder, art collectors and long-time supporters of the College and the Colby College Museum of Art.
President Adams said, “This superb gift will enrich 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. In a single stroke, the museum will become one of the world’s most important repositories of Whistler prints. Indeed, the students who use the Colby College Museum of Art on a daily basis, not only for art or art history, but as a resource in numerous fields, from history to science, will now have access to a vastly enlarged and more diverse collection of works. We are deeply grateful to the Lunders for this act of enormous generosity.”
Colby College Museum of Art Director Sharon Corwin added, “While the Lunder gift comprises largely American art, it includes great diversity within that broad category. 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. On behalf of the museum’s staff, I offer our deep thanks to Peter and Paula Lunder. Their generosity will ensure a richer experience for students, the larger Colby community, and the public who visit the Colby College Museum.”
More than 80 works from the gift, which has an estimated value of more than $100 million, are currently on view in the museum; in summer 2009, as the museum celebrates its 50th anniversary, some 200 works from the Collection will be on view. In 2013, the museum will open a new wing with galleries dedicated to the permanent display of works from the Collection, including the art of James McNeill Whistler.
The Lunder Collection
Peter and Paula Lunder began collecting European painting in the late 1970s. By the mid-1980s, they had shifted their focus to American art, amassing one of the most important collections of American 19th- and 20th-century painting, sculpture, and printmaking in private hands today.
Highlights from the collection of paintings include John La Farge’s hauntingly beautiful Agathon to Erosanthe, from 1861, one of only two paintings by the artist depicting flower wreaths; three majestic Hudson River landscapes by Sanford Robinson Gifford, painted in between 1864 and 1878; the American Tonalist Thomas Wilmer Dewing’s ethereal The Song, of 1891; George Inness’s Spirit of Autumn, from 1891, in which the central foliage of the landscape is set ablaze by the artist’s fiery palette and brushwork; and Georgia O’Keeffe’s Birch and Pine Trees-Pink, from 1925, an important example of the artist’s exploration of the abstract potential of forms within the natural landscape.
The Collection is also notably strong in American sculpture, with five bronzes each by Paul Manship (spanning 1912-1926) and Augustus Saint-Gaudens (from 1879 to 1904), four works by Elie Nadelman (c. 1910, c. 1915, c. 1917-19, and 1928), two Alexander Calders (c. 1945 and 1946), a meter box by Donald Judd (1977), a sculpture by John Chamberlain (1977), two kinetic sculptures by George Rickey (1975 and 1977), a found-metal sculpture by Deborah Butterfield (1987), and the first of Jenny Holzer’s signature engraved benches (1986).
The 201 etchings and lithographs that make up the Whistler collection represent some of the rarest and most beautiful impressions by this American master. They are contextualized within the Lunder Collection alongside exquisite examples of the artist’s work in other mediums, including the luminous oil painting Harmony in Grey-Chelsea in Ice, from 1864, among 22 other oils, watercolors, and pastels by Whistler. The Lunders also will give the College a collection of more than 150 books, journals, photographs, and archival materials related to Whistler. The Whistler works and supporting research material (which is housed in Colby’s Special Collections department) will be available to students, researchers, and visitors to the museum.
The Lunder Collection-and gift-also includes important examples of early Chinese art complementing and expanding upon the museum’s existing holdings in later Chinese ceramics. Comprising 40 exceptional works of ritual and mortuary art dating from the prehistoric period to the Jin Dynasty (1126-1234), this collection is the most important resource for the study of early Chinese art and culture in Maine.
Peter and Paula Lunder
Peter H. Lunder and Paula Crane Lunder, of Waterville, Maine, have strong ties to Colby College and its museum. Mr. Lunder graduated from Colby in 1956, and both Mr. and Mrs. Lunder received honorary degrees from the College in 1998. Mr. Lunder is a life overseer. Mrs. Lunder joined the Board of Trustees in 1998 and served as its vice chair in 2003-04. In 2006, she was named a life trustee. Both Mr. and Mrs. Lunder have been generous members of the museum’s Board of Governors since 1995. In that year, they made the lead gift to the museum’s Lunder Wing, designed by architect Fred Fisher and inaugurated in 1999. That same year, they also endowed a curatorial position at the museum, the Lunder Curator of American Art.
Mr. Lunder is also the vice chairman of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Board, where the Lunder Foundation endowed the Lunder Conservation Center and the Lunder Education Chair at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, in Washington, D.C.
Commenting on the promised gift to Colby, the Lunders said, “We have the fullest confidence in the leadership and vision of the staff of Colby College and the Colby Museum of Art, and we passionately support the museum’s teaching mission. It is therefore our great pleasure to give our collection of American art to the College. We believe these artworks offer both a window into the American experience and a broad perspective on the world, and we wish to share these opportunities for insight and enjoyment with others-from the Colby community, to Waterville, to the state of Maine and its many visitors.”
Colby College Museum of Art
Founded in 1959, the Colby College Museum of Art has to date built a significant permanent collection of over 5,500 works, with a focus on American and contemporary art. Selections from this collection, which boasts areas of extraordinary depth (see below), are displayed in the museum’s 24,000 square feet of exhibition space-making it one of the largest museums in Maine. Major works by American artists John Singleton Copley, Gilbert Stuart, Winslow Homer, Albert Bierstadt, Mary Cassatt, and William Merritt Chase form part of the historical collection; the modern movement is represented by important works by John Marin, Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keeffe, George Bellows, and Rockwell Kent. The museum also features a significant contemporary collection, including works by Chuck Close, Agnes Martin, Sol LeWitt, Dan Flavin, Kara Walker, Elizabeth Murray, Alex Katz, and Terry Winters, to name a few. Other areas of the collection include Greek and Roman antiquities, European prints and drawings, American folk art, and early Chinese art.
The museum maintains exceptionally deep holdings of work by several specific American artists. In addition to the recently acquired Whistler holdings, these include John Marin, in a collection that ranks next to that of Washington D.C.’s National Gallery of Art in variety of medium and size; Alex Katz, who has to date donated more than 600 of his own works, with selections on view in the Paul J. Schupf Wing for the Works of Alex Katz, in addition to making gifts of work by other contemporary artists through the Alex Katz Foundation; Terry Winters, of whose complete print work the museum is the sole repository; and Richard Serra, with a promised gift by Paul J. Schupf of 150 works on paper.
For additional information about the Colby College Museum of Art, the public may visit www.colby.edu/museum
Located in Waterville, Maine, Colby College combines a challenging academic program, an emphasis on undergraduate research, and an active community life on one of the nation’s most beautiful campuses, located just an hour and a quarter from Portland. Colby’s reach is international in its recruitment of diverse students and faculty, the scope of its curriculum, and its ambitious study-abroad program. The College enrolls 1,800 students. Additional information about Colby College is available at www.colby.edu.