THE BALTIMORE Museum of Art has acquired a painting by Morris Louis which director Arnold Lehman calls "one of the most significant single gifts of modern art in the museum's history."
Painted in 1958, "Dalet Beth" is one of the artist's "veil" paintings, a series which consists of works with bright, curving color shapes covered by translucent veil-like tones. It was presented to the museum by the artist's widow, Marcella Louis Brenner of Chevy Chase.
A national trustee of the museum, Brenner gave the painting to recognize the BMA's commitment to build a new west wing for modern art, scheduled for completion in late 1993. Presently the painting is displayed in the Hooper Wing. It has been on extended loan to the museum.
While testifying Wednesday at a hearing on a bond issue for the new wing, Lehman told members of the State Senate Budget and Taxation Committee in Annapolis that the painting is valued at $500,000 to $750,000.
Morris Louis (1912-1962) was born in Baltimore and received his diploma from the Maryland Institute, College of Art in 1932. After working in New York from 1936 to 1945, he spent the rest of his career in Washington. It is said that he gained early artistic inspiration from seeing the Cezannes and Matisses in the Baltimore collection of Etta and Claribel Cone.
In 1954, Louis began his innovative series of paintings which were later known as the "Veils." His method consisted of pouring greatly thinned paint onto a tilted, unprimed canvas surface.
The BMA hosted a major exhibition of Louis's veil cycle paintings in 1978. The artist was also one of four celebrated in the exhibition which opened the museum's east wing in 1982.
"Dalet Beth" is the first Morris Louis painting to enter the museum's permanent collection.