Saint Louis Art Museum receives 22 major works from American philanthropist

The promised gift from Emily Rauh Pulitzer includes paintings and sculptures by 20th-century European and American artists including Miró, Picasso and Guston

Joan Miró, Painting (1953). © Successió Miró / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris 2021. Photo: Dave Ulmer.

Joan Miró, Painting (1953). © Successió Miró / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris 2021. Photo: Dave Ulmer.

The Saint Louis Art Museum (SLAM) in Missouri has received a promised gift of 22 paintings and sculptures from the collection of the American curator and philanthropist Emily Rauh Pulitzer, the widow of the media heir Joseph Pulitzer Jr. The donation includes works by 17 European and American artists, including Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Constantin Brancusi, Joan Miró, Philip Guston, Ellsworth Kelly and others.

Rauh Pulitzer worked as a curator for the museum for nine years, beginning in 1964, and had previously served as the assistant curator of drawings at Harvard University’s Fogg Art Museum. Her late husband began collecting 20th-century art in the mid-1930s, and the couple also amassed a vast collection throughout their 20-year marriage.

The Pulitzers have previously donated 144 artworks to SLAM and helped support major capital campaigns. The family has also made significant gifts to other US institutions, including donating $45m and 31 artworks to the Harvard Art Museum in 2008.

“Emily Pulitzer has few equals as a curator, board member and generous, public-spirited donor to the great civic and educational institutions in this country,” Min Jung Kim, the recently appointed Barbara B. Taylor director of the SLAM, said in a statement.

Constantin Brancusi, Mademoiselle Pogany III (1933). © Succession Brancusi – All rights reserved (ARS) 2021. Photo: Robert Pettus.

“I am reminded of the statement by professor Seymour Slive, the legendary director of the Fogg Art Museum, when he once told me that the only way to build a great public museum collection was to acquire great private collections,” she adds. “Pulitzer is the living embodiment of that observation. The museum will forever be in her debt.”

Kim says the gift will have a transformative impact on the SLAM’s collection. “The iconic Brancusi sculpture Mademoiselle Pogany III (1933), for example, will reframe the museum’s collection of Modern sculpture, which currently has no work by this pioneering artist,” she said. “Two canonical paintings by Joan Miró, 48 (1927) and Painting (1953), will also be crucial additions, offering an area of Miró’s output that is not currently represented in the museum’s collection.”

Museum leaders also announced a commitment to continue to collaborate with the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, a non-collecting museum founded by Rauh Pulitzer that presents contemporary and historic art, as well as music, poetry and dance. Since the foundation opened in 2001, the SLAM has loaned 84 works from its collection to 15 of the foundation’s exhibitions, while also collaborating on educational programmes and other initiatives.