On rare occasions, the public is given opportunities to experience the diligent pursuits of a visionary art collector. The results are typically outstanding.

Private collections are often just that, but the Portland Museum of Art has been granted access to an excellent collection of American 19th-century painting. “Magnificent Stillness: American Art from a Private Collection” showcases 15 paintings assembled by PMA Trustee and patron Dr. Walter Goldfarb and his late wife, Marcia. The Goldfarbs began collecting several decades ago, and the exhibition is representative of their excellent aesthetic eye. Their collection focuses on three primary categories of painting: ship portraits by Robert Salmon and others, landscapes in the tradition of the Hudson River School, and trompe l’oeil still life.

Fitz Henry Lane, “Christmas Cove,” 1863, oil on canvas, 15 1/2 x 24 in. Collection of Walter B. and Marcia F. Goldfarb

In addition to Robert Salmon, featured artists include Martin Johnson Heade, John Frederick Kensett, Fitz Henry Lane, John Haberle, William Michael Harnett, and John Frederick Peto. Of particular note is Kensett’s “A Quiet Day on the Beverly Shore, Magnolia, Mass.” of 1871. Its pictorial illusionism and naturalistic detail are emotionally moving. A powerful zigzag composition provides our pathway through the scene from bottom right to middle left. Sailboats slip across a gleaming bay underneath a sparsely populated sky. Although dominated by the blue hues of the sky and water, Kensett offers respite for the eye in the warming pinks, oranges, and browns of the beach and rocky projection. There is a calming resonance within this piece that additionally flows throughout the entire exhibition, which will surely leave a delightful impression on museumgoers.

 William Michael Harnett, “Latakia II,” circa 1880, oil on canvas, 11 x 15 in. Gift of Walter B. and Marcia F. Goldfarb

“Magnificent Stillness: American Art from a Private Collection” opened on June 26 and will hang until November 8.
To learn more, visit Portland Museum of Art.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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