National Gallery adds three major works Outgoing chief leaves final-hour legacy

June 26, 1992|By Knight-Ridder News Service

WASHINGTON -- National Gallery of Art Director J. Carter Brown is leaving his museum with a final-hour legacy -- the acquisition of pieces by three 20th century artists with unique visions.

One of these, "The Japanese Footbridge" by Claude Monet, fills a gap in the National Gallery collection. Although the museum had 24 works by the impressionist master, this will be its first representation of his work from Giverny, France.

The painting, completed in 1899, depicts a footbridge over Monet's famous lily pond at his Giverny home. Dominated by an array of vibrant greens and blues, the painting serves as a preview to his later masterpiece, "Water Lilies."

National Gallery conservator Michael Swicklik was able to restore the painting to its original brilliance by removing a synthetic varnish which covered the work for years.

"We have, amazingly, 24 Monets now, but we didn't have a single one from Giverny, which has since become famous," said Mr. Brown.

"The Japanese Footbridge" now hangs in the museum's west wing and came to the National Gallery's collection as a joint gift of Victoria Nebeker Coberly, in memory of her son, and Walter and Leonore Annenberg.

The second major acquisition is "Harbor," a Cubist masterpiece by artist Georges Braque. This painting signals Braque's stylistic move away from Cezanne-inspired structural art to abstract imagery, which blossomed into geometric and multiplane images.

A towering 14-foot bronze sculpture by Joan Miro is the third of this recent round of acquisitions by Mr. Brown, who announced earlier this year that he will leave the National Gallery in September.

"Personnage Gothique" is one of the largest works ever done by NTC the surrealist artist and is the first Miro sculpture ever acquired by the museum.

Imposing in scope yet whimsical in nature, the animal-like imagery of the sculpture was a favorite of the artist late in his career.

An arched seated form, resembling a donkey, sports a large square head with circular forms on the outside and the familiar Miro starburst inside, all crowned off by tiny bird on top.

Both the Miro sculpture and Braque painting are currently on display in the gallery's east building.

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