Works from the life estate of Paul Mellon, longtime VMFA donor and trustee, are in the newly reinstalled Mellon Galleries, opening on Friday, January 16. The galleries have been closed for six months to protect the art during a roof replacement. Eleven works have been reframed as a part of the ongoing Mellon reframing project.
The life estate remained with Mellon’s widow, Rachel Lambert Mellon, until her death on March 17, 2014. Mrs. Mellon held a life estate in 26 works of art originally bequeathed to VMFA in 1999 by Mr. Mellon. Among the highlights are six masterworks by Degas, Gauguin, Pissarro, Seurat, Dufy, and van Dongen.
“Through the Mellon family’s historic gifts to the Commonwealth’s art museum,” VMFA Director Alex Nyerges said, “they transformed the museum into a center for display, study and appreciation of the arts, especially of Britain and France. The works amplify our already strong holdings in British and American art, but significantly increase the French holdings, which are highlighted in these beautifully installed galleries. We are particularly excited that one of the new works, Van Gogh’s Daisies Arles will be featured in Van Gogh, Manet, and Matisse: The Art of the Flower, which opens March 21.”
The Mellon bequest provides for the reframing of key works over time. In these galleries, works have been reframed with appropriate period frames by Gill & Lagodich Gallery of New York. Reframed works include two Monets and three Boudins, as well as all the newly acquired works.
Featured new works include:
• Camille Pissarro (French 1830-1903) The “Royal Palace” at the Hermitage, Pontoise, May, 1879, oil on canvas. A landscape masterpiece from the height of Camille Pissarro’s fully-fledged high Impressionist period, representing the neighborhood of l’Hermitage in Pontoise, where he worked between 1866 and 1883. Pissarro heretofore has been represented by three other works: two Caribbean landscapes, and an earlier Pontoise streetscape.
• Paul Gauguin (French 1848-1903) Still Life with Bowl, ca. 1889, oil on canvas. A classic Post Impressionist still life by Paul Gauguin, until now represented by a much-earlier still life in the manner of Manet.
• Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853-1890) Daisies, Arles, 1888, oil on canvas. A major Arles
period still life of good size and excellent wall power by Vincent van Gogh, which will be
featured in VMFA’s upcoming exhibition Van Gogh, Manet, and Matisse: The Art of the Flower. This popular artist was represented previously by four landscapes: two in oil and two ink drawings.
• Georges Seurat (French, 1859-1891) Houses and Garden, ca. 1882, oil on canvas. A Pointillist landscape by Georges Seurat, VMFA’s only oil by this rare master.
• Kees van Dongen (Dutch, 1877-1968) Haystacks, ca. 1904-05, oil on canvas. A major early Kees van Dongen landscape in his rarely seen fully Fauve style, which will hang with the
Henri Matisse and the early Maurice de Vlaminck as major examples of this movement.
About Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon
Mr. Paul Mellon of Upperville, Va., was the son of Andrew W. Mellon, American financier, U.S.
Secretary of the Treasury, and noted collector of old master paintings who founded the National
Gallery of Art in Washington. Paul Mellon chose not to follow his father’s footsteps into business,
devoting his life to collecting art, major deeds of philanthropy, and an idealized version of English
country life (that he memorably described in his autobiography, Reflections in a Silver Spoon. Educated at Choate, Yale and Cambridge, Paul Mellon wittily described himself as a victim of “galloping anglophilia.” Paul Mellon’s deep appreciation for English culture is reflected in his encyclopedic collection of British art—first shown at VMFA in 1963—which he later gave mainly to the Yale Center for British Art, an institution founded by this gift. Also deeply involved with the National Gallery, to which he gave more than 1,000 works of art, he commissioned the NGA East Building and funded its construction in the late 1970s. Paul Mellon served VMFA as a trustee for 44 years. His nascent interest in British and sporting art blossomed after he served on the advisory
committee for VMFA’s 1960 exhibition Sport and the Horse.
Rachel Lambert Mellon, longtime VMFA supporter and patron of the arts and sciences, contributed
substantially to VMFA through her donation of the objects d’art that she personally commissioned
from the French-born surrealist jeweler and designer at Tiffany and Co., Jean Schlumberger. Paul
Mellon credited his wife as inspiring his interest in French art, and together they gave a portion of
their French collections (including nine rare wax sculptures and five paintings by Edgar Degas), as well as American and British works to VMFA.
About the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
VMFA’s permanent collection encompasses more than 33,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years of world history. Its collections of Art Nouveau and Art Deco, English silver, Fabergé, and the art of South Asia are among the finest in the nation. With acclaimed holdings in American, British Sporting, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist, and Modern and Contemporary art – and additional strengths in African, Ancient, East Asian, and European – VMFA ranks as one of the top comprehensive art museums in the United States. Programs include educational activities and studio classes for all ages, plus lively after-hours events. VMFA’s Statewide Partnership program includes traveling exhibitions, artist and teacher workshops, and lectures across the Commonwealth. VMFA, a certified Virginia Green attraction, is open 365 days a year and general admission is always free. For additional information, telephone 804-340-1400 or visit www.vmfa.museum.
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