When Enlightened Art Collecting build up entire Museum

Just opened few days ago in Palazzo Reale in Milan a can’t-miss exhibition, IMPRESSIONISM AND THE AVANT-GARDE MOVEMENTS:  Masterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art (From 8 March to 2 September) which brings to Italy, some for the very first times, true masterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of the most important American Museum.  More than a mere exhibition, it is an occasion, and a rare one at that, to admire the selection of 50 masterpieces created by major painters living between the 1800s and 1900s,  during the height of their artistic expression, in their revolutionary journey to the art of the modern age, from the Impressionism to the first avant gardes.  However, this exhibition in the meantime also offers the occasion to tell about a valuable story of enlightened american collectors, who knew how to appreciate and valorize from the very first moment this new revolutionary art which was coming from Europe at that time.


The singularity of this museum, indeed lies in having amassed its own patrimony thanks to the donation of strongly influential collectors who often created their own collections in close collaboration with the artists, an element that adds enormous value to the museum’s patrimony,  which  now also continues to be augmented with works by young artists.

In an exhibition created to highlight every single work perfectly, you can appreciate some masterpieces by true master of modern art as  Pierre Bonnard, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Paul Gauguin, Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir until the very first experimental avant garde works by  Georges Braque, Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Constantin Brancusi, Pablo Picasso, passing through the Surrealism movement with Salvador Dalí e Joan Mirò. In addition, there re also some masterpieces by some Female artists as  Mary Cassatt, Marie Laurencin, Berthe Morisot.

Renoir – Impressionismo e Avanguardie: Capolavori dal Philadelphia Museum of Art , Milano


In the 19th century Philadelphia was one of the biggest city of United States, widely reconized as also the most beautiful  one, as well as one of the richest one due to the new opportunities offered by the modern age and the industrial revolution with new means of transport and new  possibility for trade   and banks. So, here there was a very prosperous, but also  educated and enlightened bourgeoisie, who aimed to turn it into the Capital for Culture in  United States. Born immediately after the World’s Fair in the United States, held right in Philadelphia in 1876, the Philadelphia Museum of Art  today, holds more than 240 thousand works, representing more than 2thousand years of artistic production.
The collections of modern and impressionist art,” explain Jennifer Thompson and Matthew Affron, curators at the museum and of the exhibition itself, “are the crown jewels of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
However, the very particularity of this Museum as well of this specific collection is that they  are the result of donations, not only of single works, but entire collections characterised by the powerful personalities of the collectors themselves. Indeed, Philadelphia at that time was the very capital for american art collects at the middle of 1800s, and the inhabitants of Philadelphia were among the first collectors of impressionist art, in large part, thanks to the artist Mary Cassatt who lived for quite a while in Paris and was a go-between for her country-mates and French art merchants and artists.”
Indeed, a very interesting thing in this exhibition in Milan is the choice to divide the exhibition into several section dedicated to different collections and donations, thus recognizing a very important space to valorize these stories of enlightened collectors and to recognize the role private collectors have always played in building up, preserving and transmitting to posters the artistic heritage of all the ages.


In addition to the Cassat’s one ( acquired when W.P. Wilstach Fund allowed to buy the family collection) other great donations which made up this prestigious museum collection were by collectors and often big entrapenours and important family names as , Frank Graham Thomson, Samuel Stockton White III (who in his youuth also had modelling for Rodin), Henry P. McIlhenny and his sister Berenice McIlhenny Wintersteen, as della s the very important collection by Albert Eugene Gallatin (who created in 1927 the very first public collection of modern art , The Gallery of Living Arta, hosted in New York University) , the Louise e Walter Arnsberg’ collection ( made up with Duchamp special advisory) and the Louis E. Stern’s one acquired in 1964.


Degas – Impressionismo e Avanguardie: Capolavori dal Philadelphia Museum, Milano

This exhibition is part of  Musei del mondo a Palazzo Reale (Museum of the world in Palazzo Reale) which has been started in  2015, and aims to bring very important museum collection all over the world to Milan, with mutual loans and international collaborations.  If we just think that these masterpieces were in the house of those enlightened private collectors who generously decided to donate them to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, that in its turn  loans them to Milan for 5 month, make this exhibition a very unique and can’t-miss occasion to appreciate these high-hand works, having a taste of this prestigious museum collection but without losing the will to visit one day the Philadelphia Museum itself, who by 2020 will be also extended by the archistar Frank O. Gehry.


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