Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Boston; Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University.

Harvard: Genesis of a Museum. 

Exterior of the Fogg Art Museum showing Georgian design, DP, 2006

Interior of Fogg Art Museum (cortile), DP, 2006.
The origins of art history at Harvard lie in the 1870s when a chair in that subject was created at the university. The Fogg is named after a Maine merchant William Hayes Fogg (1817-1884) who prospered in the China trade. When he died in 1884, his widow Elizabeth left $200, 000 and Fogg's art collection. The first collections of the Fogg Art Museum opened in 1895-6 to support the Division of Fine Art’s teaching.[1]  Initially, the Fogg sought to develop the area of late medieval panel painting which was advanced by Edward W. Forbes (1873-1965), part of a well-connected New England family. Forbes became Director in 1909, and Paul J. Sachs (1878-1965) of the New York banking family, Goldman-Sachs became his assistant in 1915. With Sach’s appointment, the ambitions of the museum grew, which as Brush points out was not equalled by Harvard’s meagre resources at the time. It wasn’t a cultural museum like the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and so it had to be built up differently. In addition to this, Forbes and Sachs had to campaign ceaselessly to get art recognised as a legitimate area of intellectual endeavour at Harvard, vying with the Chemistry Department and Business School for funds. The Fogg had to be opportunistic, on the lookout for purchasing opportunities, gifts and bequests. Due to the wide range of acquisition chances, this resulted in the collection having a “wider scope” which would be broadened even further with the Winthrop bequest in 1943.Overall, the Fogg had to walk a fine line between acknowledging the modern world whilist retaining its “Old World” atmosphere. Something of that tension can be seen in the building itself which was the result of a collaboration between a Boston firm and the curators. The building was designed to fit Harvard’s “artificial construct” of a New England campus “modified in a revamped Georgian style.”[2] Inside, the courtyard was in the style of a renaissance cortile - (a courtyard with arcades) which contrasts with the Georgian exterior. In 2008, the 32 Quincy Street building that formerly housed the Fogg Museum and the Busch-Reisinger Museum closed for a major renovation project to create a new museum building designed by architect Renzo Piano that will house all three museums in one facility. During the renovation, selected works from all three museums are on display at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum. The Fogg is scheduled to reopen in 2014.

The Aesthetic Vision of a Collector: Grenville Winthrop

Albert Edward Sterner, drawing of Grenville Winthrop, black, red, and white chalk, brown wash, and charcoal on off-white laid paper, 48.2 x 35.7 cm. 
Grenville Winthrop (1864-1943), whose collection forms most of Harvard's art holdings, was a scion of a Puritan dynasty stretching back into the seventeenth-century. Though from that austere stock, Winthrop shared none of its aversion towards the visual arts. He is up there with the most voracious of the world's collectors though shamefully his art-acquiring activities have been neglected by art historians. [3] Where did his taste for art originate? It was undoubtedly fostered at Harvard where Winthrop attended lectures by the university's first art history professor, Charles Eliot Norton. But the legendary connoisseur, Bernard Berenson, one year below Winthrop's graduating class, may have been equally influential in sparking the nascent collector's enthusiasm for acquiring art. Berenson was responsible for putting renaissance works Winthrop’s way, though truthfully, these aren't in the first rank of renaissance art (e.g., Giovanni di Paolo’s Nativity). Berenson kept the best renaissance painting for himself and famous patrons like Isabella Stuart Gardener to whom he was introduced whilist a student at Harvard.

Winthrop's tastes outstripped the renaissance as a result of reading the 19th century aesthete Walter Pater whose writings helped him to develop an aesthetic vision for his collection that would grow into over four thousand objects ranging from renaissance panels to statuettes of Tibetan deer. This aesthetic inclination helps to explain why there is such a bias towards English and French nineteenth-century art in his collection. The art of such painters as Blake, Burne-Jones, Moreau, Whistler and Watts suggested parallels between music and visual art, a central tenet of Pater's thought. The aesthetic side of collecting undoubtedly led Winthrop in the direction of Asian art, which is why Harvard has such a large collection of Jade and ceramics, which is obviously beyond the compass of this brief survey. Such exotic objects would accompany Western art in Winthrop's house in New York; and his Pre-Raphaelite and Ingres rooms would be ornamented by the inclusion of objet d’art as part of a personal and idiosyncratic vision. If Berenson was his first advisor, the second was his Harvard classmate, Francis Bullard. This individual helped Winthrop develop an interest in J. M. W. Turner. As a result of his association with Bullard, Harvard now has over four hundred prints by or after Turner. Though Winthrop was a member of a legal firm, he had no need to work since as a member of the New York branch of the Winthrop line, he inherited a vast amount of money which other captains of industry had to amass through hard work and empire building. Though wealthy men of Harvard usually embarked on the Grand Tour, Winthrop was not inclined to follow custom, and with Bullard's death in 1913, he resolved never to cross the Atlantic again. Henceforth, he disdained travel and would rely upon his art contacts to secure art for him "at arm's length." This was most successfully achieved with a third association between the collector and Martin Birnbaum, an art dealer and proficient amateur violinist. Birnbaum's tastes and experience were much extensive than Winthrop and with his help, works by artists such as Manet, Whistler, Sargeant, Winslow Homer, Ingres, Degas and Rodin would be secured. As a result of this collaboration there were many coups. Perhaps the most memorable was the trumping of the London National Gallery for an Ingres portrait of Mme Rieset, which Kenneth Clark- the director of the NG- would eventually pursue and discover on the walls of Winthrop's New York house! In addition to opening his collection to experts like Clark, Winthrop was a staunch supporter of education and made his collection available to many students. This may be why his collection eventually went to his alma mater, Harvard, though at one point it looked like it might have remained in New York, or even been gifted to Washington. However, Winthrop believed that his art should inspire a younger generation rather than going to a Washington for the "general public." Aristocratic snobbery played no part in this bequest. Winthrop was afraid that his collection might lose its distinctive character in a large museum, which it certainly would have in a museum like the Washington NG or the Metropolitan in New York. Today, both the public and the specialists can benefit from a truly impressive collection, a living monument to the persistence and vision of a unique collector.

William Blake, The Body of Abel found by Adam and Eve; Cain, who was about to bury it, fleeing from the Face of his Parents, c. 1809-21, watercolour, black ink and graphite on cream wove paper30.3 x 32.6 cm).

Edward Burne-Jones, Pan and Psyche, 1872-74, oil on canvas, 68. 8 x 53 cm.

Brief Analysis of Winthrop’s Paintings. 

Charles Bird King, The Vanity of the Artist’s Dream (The Anatomy of Art Appreciation, Poor Artist’s Study, 1830, oil on canvas, 91. 3 x 76.1 cm.

Winslow Homer, Adirondack Lake, 1892, watercolour on white wove paper, 30.1 x 53.5 cm.
It is very difficult to give even an impression of the collection of Grenville Winthrop. I have ignored all of his world art, and most of the drawings in order to concentrate on paintings. The strengths of the collection lie in the nineteenth-century, especially England and France which is extremely well represented. The French neo-classical school (David, Gericault and Ingres) have a strong presence, and there are fine drawings and paintings by romantic and realistic artists like Delacroix and Daumier. Impressionism is represented by Manet, Monet, Sisley, Pissarro and some works by Van Gogh, which are augmented by a memorable self-portrait by Van Gogh, not in Winthrop’s collection. There are also two fine portraits by Renoir including one of another collector, Victor Chocquet, which was hung above Winthrop's own portrait by Sterner. Winthrop’s Impressionist and Post-Impressionist holdings when combined with the Maurice Wertheim[4] (an investment banker) collection, boost that area of painting significantly at the museum. Winthrop owned a remarkable number of works (over 12) by Gustave Moreau making this the most important collection for his works outside Paris. The English School is splendidly served. It starts in the 18th century with drawings by Flaxman, a series of watercolours by Blake and runs through the Pre-Raphaelites to proto symbolist painters like Watts. Any serious student of Burne-Jones could not neglect this collection as it has many paintings and drawings by him. There is a handful of Rossetti’s here including the "Blessed Damozel", and a couple of Holman-Hunts figure in this collection. There is an impressive collection of late nineteenth-century Symbolist art in the shape of (Albert) Moore, Beardsley, Redon, Watts. European modern art is not particularly in evidence in Winthrop’s collection unless Eric Gill and Rodin are counted.  As for the Americans, there are works by Whistler, John Singer-Sargeant and John La Farge, the latter influenced by Burne-Jones. Perhaps the American artist most able to hold his own in terms of numbers is the naturalist painter Winslow Homer whose watercolours of sailing, fishing and other outdoor activities conjure up rural America. In a more traditional vein, there are idiosyncratic still-lives by the Americans Charles Bird King and William Michael Harnett. 

Nicolas Poussin, Mercury consigns Bacchus to the Nymphs of Nysa, 1657, oil on canvas.

Piero di Cosimo, The Misfortunes of Silenus, 1505-1510, Oil on panel, 80.1 x 129.3 cm
Apart from the twentieth-century, the weakest links in Winthrop’s collection are seventeenth-century and high renaissance art.  Baroque art wasn't much in vogue in the early 20th century, and perhaps it wouldn't have been to Winthrop's taste anyway. Most of the art of this century is non-Winthrop in provenance. Poussin is the best representative of the 17th century: three paintings including Bacchus and the Nymphs, once owned by Samuel Sachs and presented by his wife to the museum in 1942. Winthrop soon gave up collecting renaissance art as he was hopelessly outflanked by Berenson and his dealer friends who kept the best selections for themselves. Nevertheless Harvard is famous for its collection of early renaissance art, and this is why students were able to study artists like Lorenzetti in the early twentieth-century. Where the high renaissance was concerned, it was down to the Friends of the Fogg Art Museum, and other organizations, to secure art from leading renaissance artists. Two of my recommendations would be Botticelli's late, apocalyptic Mystical Crucifixion (heavily damaged though) and in a gentler mood, Piero di Cosimo's The Misfortunes of Silenus, whose companion; TheDiscovery of Honey is in nearby Worcester’s art museum.


1)      Exterior of Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, photograph 2006.

2)      Exterior of the Fogg Art Museum showing Georgian design, photograph, 2006.

3)      Interior of Fogg Art Museum (cortile), photograph, 2006.

4)      Albert Edward Sterner, drawing of Grenville Winthrop, black, red, and white chalk, brown wash, and charcoal on off-white laid paper, 48.2 x 35.7 cm. 

5)      The Osservanza Master, Christ in Limbo, 1440s, Tempera and gold on wood, 38 x 47 cm.

6)      Giovanni do Paolo, Nativity, 1455, tempera on panel, 26 x 23.5 cm.

7)      Sandro Botticelli, Mystic Crucifixion, c. 1500, Tempera on canvas, 73, 5 x 50, 8 cm.

8)      Piero di Cosimo, The Misfortunes of Silenus, 1505-1510, Oil on panel, 80.1 x 129.3 cm

9)      Nicolas Regnier, Self-Portrait with portrait of a Patron on an Easel, 1620-5, oil on canvas, 1623-24, Oil on canvas, 111 x 138 cm.

10)   Nicolas Poussin, Mercury consigns Bacchus to the Nymphs of Nyssa, 1657, oil on canvas.

11)   Photograph of Poussin room on ground floor (2006).

12)   Ruisdael, Waterfall in a Mountainous Northern Landscape, 1665, Oil on canvas.

13)   Canaletto, Piazza San Marco, Venice, c. 1730-5, oil on canvas, 76. 2 x 118. 8 cms.

14)   Jacques Louis David, Emmanuel Joseph Sieyés, 1817, oil on canvas, 97.8 x 74 cm. (21)

15)   Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Madame Frédéric Reiset, née Augustine- Modeste Hortense Reiset, 1846, oil on canvas, 59. 2 x 47 cm.  (74)

16)   Eugène Delacroix, A Turk Surrenders to a Greek Horseman, 1856, oil on canvas, 80 x 64.1 cm. (31)

17)   Honoré- Victorin Daumier, The Print Amateur, c. 1855, oil on wood panel, 33 x 24 cm. (13)

18)   Pierre Auguste Renoir, Portrait of Victor Chocquet, c. 1875, oil on canvas, 53.2 x 43.5 cm. (112)

19)   Vincent Van Gogh, Self-Portrait, September 1888, Arles, Oil on canvas, 62 x 52 cm.

20)   Gustave Moreau, The Apparition, 1877, oil on canvas, 54.2 x 44.5 cm. (95)

21)   William Blake, The Body of Abel found by Adam and Eve; Cain, who was about to bury it, fleeing from the Face of his Parents, c. 1809-21, watercolour, black ink and graphite on cream wove paper30.3 x 32.6 cm). (145)

22)   Edward Burne-Jones, Pan and Psyche, 1872-74, oil on canvas, 68. 8 x 53 cm. (159)

23)   George Frederick Watts, Ariadne, 1888-90, oil on canvas, 126.8 x 103 cm. (196)

24)   John Singleton Copley, Nicholas Boylston, oil on canvas, 238.8 x 144.8 cm (94 x 57 in.) framed: 281.9 x 179.1 x 16.5 cm.

25)   Charles Bird King, The Vanity of the Artist’s Dream (The Anatomy of Art Appreciation, Poor Artist’s Study, 1830, oil on canvas, 91. 3 x 76.1 cm. (205)

26)   William Michael Harnett, Still Life with Bric-a-Brac, 1878, oil on canvas. 81.28 x 108.59 cm. (198)

27)   Winslow Homer, Adirondack Lake, 1892, watercolour on white wove paper, 30.1 x 53.5 cm.(203)

28)   John La Farge, The Dawn, 1899, oil on canvas, 79.06 x 86.09 cm. (206)

29)   John Singer Sargeant, Man Reading (Peter Harrison or Nicola D’Inverno?), c. 1904-11, watercolour over graphite on white wove paper, 34. 9 53.5 cms. (208)

30)   August Rodin, Vase Clodion (Lovers), c. 1880, black ink and gouache, with traces of graphite on tan wove paper, 18.9 x 14.5 cms. (114)

31)   Eric Gill, Daphnis and Chlöe, Illustration for "Procreant Hymn", 1926, Black ink, watercolour, and gold paint on tracing paper, 12.8 x 10.2 cm (5 1/16 x 4 in.)

32)   Photograph of renovation of museum, courtyard, completion date 2014..

[1] Kathryn Brush, “Marburg, Harvard, and Purpose Built Architecture for Art History, 1927” in Art History and its Institutions: Foundations of a Discipline (ed), Elizabeth Mansfield  (Routledge, 2002), 65-84.
[2] Ibid, 70.
[3] But see Stephan Wolohojian, “A Private Passion” in the catalogue, A Private Passion: 19th Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, 2003. Nos below refer to catalogue.
[4] John O'Brian, preface by Barbara Wertheim Tuchman and Anne Wertheim Werner, Degas to Matisse: The Maurice Wertheim Collection, Harvard University Press, 2006.


  1. Yes, thanks, this is very interesting, but why is it called the "Fogg"? What am I missing?

  2. A good question! It's named after a Maine merchant, William Hayes Foog who collected Asian art and left it to the museum. I should have pointed that out. Thanks a lot!

  3. I love it, many thanks.

    When did Bernard Berenson spend a year or two at Harvard, do you know? He did all his primary schooling in Russia, he moved with his parents to the USA for some years and was in Britain with his young bride. Then for the rest of his life in Italy. Yet it is clear from what you say, and from what I know, that he had an enormous influence on private American collectors and on galleries.

  4. Berenson arrived at Harvard in 1884. I found this great site about the Berensons at Harvard.