Dealer gives period prints

Cooper-Hewitt gets 85 watercolours of domestic interiors

NEW YORK. Since retiring to Santa Fe in the late 1980s, Eugene Thaw, the New York dealer of modern drawings, prints and paintings, has assembled collections of under-appreciated categories of art which he has then donated to museums in New York. His latest gift consists of

85 19th-century European watercolours of domestic interiors which have gone

to the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum

in Manhattan.

With artists from Austria, Denmark, England, Russia, France and Italy, the collection is among the best in the world, according to design historian Charlotte Gere, a contributor to the catalogue of the museum’s forthcoming exhibition (12 August to 25 January) of the works. Museum director Paul Warwick Thompson describes the gift as the most important to the Cooper-Hewitt’s drawings, prints and graphic design department in 30 years.

“These are not necessarily great works of art, though some of them are,” says Mr Thaw. The collection includes views of King Louis Philippe in his study at Neuilly (1845) by James Roberts, the music room at Potsdam (1852) by Eduard Gaertner, and a scene in the London house of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1884) painted by the artist’s 14-year old-daughter Anna, “a much better painter than her father,” Mr Thaw observes.

Generous donor

In 2002 Mr Thaw gave to the Metropolitan Museum more than 200 pieces of Eastern Eurasian Nomadic art dating from the tenth century BC to the second century, and in 2006 he donated a collection of 18th-century French ceramics produced in Moustiers-Ste-Marie and more than two dozen staircase models by master carpenters to the Cooper-Hewitt.

In a separate gift, Mr Thaw is donating some 135 plein air oil sketches, mostly 19th-century northern European works on paper. “I am working out a gift arrangement so that a portion will go to the Metropolitan Museum and the rest to the Morgan Library [he is a trustee at both institutions], but they’ll be able to borrow from one another,” says the collector. Nearly half are already hanging in the Metropolitan Museum’s recently reinstalled galleries of 19th-century art.

Mr Thaw says that because they have not been seriously collected, he was able to buy works for $15,000 to $60,000 each, though a rare Thomas Jones cost $150,000 and a Constable of Hampstead Heath a little more.

“The impact of Gene’s philanthropy, cannot be overstated,” says William Griswold, director of the Morgan Library and Museum. “He is without question among our very greatest benefactors.”

Jason Edward Kaufman

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