Dedication to Breeskin is deserved

April 14, 1996|By John Dorsey

The late Adelyn Breeskin was the most important person in the history of the Baltimore Museum of Art. If she had done no more than encourage Etta Cone to leave the Cone collection to the museum, she would have earned that title. But in her 20-year tenure as director, from 1942 to 1962, the museum gained several other collections and vastly expanded its building complex.

There's another reason, however, why "A Decade of Print Acquisitions" will be dedicated to Breeskin. Few now know that Breeskin first came to the museum in 1930, shortly after it moved to its present site, as print curator. At the time, the BMA had little art, and Breeskin set out to remedy that. Her first year at the post, she persuaded the Garrett family to bring back its collection of 20,000 prints from the Library of Congress in Washington, where it had been on loan since 1904, and put it on deposit at the museum. (In 1946, the Garretts gave the collection to the BMA.)

In 1933, Breeskin secured from the Maryland Institute, College of Art the loan of the Lucas Collection of almost 20,000 works of art, the vast majority of them prints. (The Institute is now threatening to sell part or all of the collection, but that's not Breeskin's fault.) So within three years she had brought to the museum about 40,000 works of art.

Furthermore, she encouraged other collectors' interest in prints and drawings, including Blanche Adler and Etta Cone, and herself took a major interest in developing the museum's holdings in German expressionist prints, working with the well-known local dealer Ferdinand Roten. "She was a collection builder," says Jay Fisher, BMA curator of prints, drawings and photographs. That she was. How appropriate that "Print Acquisitions" be dedicated to her to commemorate the 100th anniversary of her birth.

Pub Date: 4/14/96

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