Albert Miller Jr., 82, art benefactor

September 16, 1995|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Sun Staff Writer

Albert R. Miller Jr., a retired state planner and Baltimore art collector whose gift of late 19th- and early 20th-century American and European watercolors, drawings, etchings and oils greatly enriched the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, died Tuesday of a heart attack at Union Memorial Hospital. He was 82.

The Guilford resident donated the collection to the museum in Hagerstown in 1991. He had assembled it with his wife, the former Catherine Lavinia Newcomer, whom he married in 1945. She died in 1989.

The centerpiece of the 130 works is an early painting by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, entitled "La Mere Gerard."

"It's a wonderful collection that interfaces with our permanent holdings, which focus on 19th-century American art, and also features the works of European artists working during the same period," said Jean Woods, director of the museum.

Mrs. Woods described Dr. Miller as a "remarkable and wonderful man to know and work with."

Walters Art Gallery curator William R. Johnston said, "It really is a very personal and noteworthy collection collected by a man who sought out unusual works by American artists. It represents a strong, personal interest of a collector who did more than simply buy names."

At the Baltimore Museum of Art, where Charles Warren Eaton's "Evening Glow" was donated by Dr. Miller, curator Sona K. Johnston said of the collector, "He had a focused collection of many small masterpieces." She described his gift to the Baltimore museum as a "very meaningful work done in the style of the American artist George Inness."

Dr. Miller and his wife lived for many years in an 1810 frame house in New Market, where they collected glass in the Amelung and Stiegel traditions, eventually donating this significant collection to the Museum of American Glass at Wheaton Village in Millville, N.J.

Dr. Miller had retired in 1977 as director of development planning and research programs of the state Planning Department after a 25-year career. He had served as Maryland vice chairman of the Governor's Advisory Committee on the Susquehanna River Basin, and was an alternate to the Army Corps of Engineers coordinating committee of the Susquehanna River Basin Study.

He had been a part-time economics professor at the Johns Hopkins University and Loyola College, and taught in the early 1950s at George Washington University.

The Detroit native's interest in art was stimulated by his father, a photographer who collected paintings and operated an art gallery.

Dr. Miller was a graduate of a high school in Long Island, N.Y., George Washington University and Harvard, where he earned his doctorate. During World War II, he was a statistician for the War Department.

American artists represented in the collection he gave to the Washington County museum include Dwight William Tryon, Alexander Wyant, Winslow Homer, Bruce Crane, Robert Henri and Arthur Bowen Davies, and impressionist painters Frederick Childe Hassam and Marguerite S. Pearson.

Among the European artists' works are two rare etchings by French Impressionist Paul Cezanne. Theodore Rousseau, Constant Troyon, Charles Francois Daubigny, Jean Charles Cazin and Theophile de Bock --, a cousin of Vincent van Gogh -- also are represented.

Also noteworthy are works of the Barbizon artists who rejected the student-generated work and landscapes that were created in Paris studios in favor of rural landscapes and seascapes that were painted "en plein air" at the village of Barbizon, south of Paris.

The collection is to be opened to the public Oct. 12 for the first time in the Groh Gallery in the Hagerstown museum's new $3.2 million, 12,000-square-foot addition.

Dr. Miller is survived by two sons, Albert M. Miller of Canton and Winston B. Miller of Glenarm; a sister, Marilyn Gould of Miami Beach; and six grandchildren.

Graveside services were held yesterday at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens.

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