Judith Leyster, “The Last Drop (The Gay Cavalier),” circa 1639, oil on canvas, 35 x 29 inches, Philadelphia Museum of Art

A major East Coast museum just announced its plans to mount a celebratory exhibition that commemorates its acquisition of a major European Old Master collection, 100 years ago.

Before John G. Johnson (1814-1917) died, he made sure his robust collection of European Old Master artworks was taken care of by giving it to the city of Philadelphia. That collection is held today by the renowned Philadelphia Museum of Art, which recently announced a November 3, 2017 opening for “Old Masters Now: Celebrating the Johnson Collection.” The exhibition brings together many highlights from the collection, which was received upon the donor’s death in 1917.

Rembrandt van Rijn, “Head of Christ,” circa 1648-56, oil on panel, 14 x 12 5/16 inches, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Titian, “Portrait of Archbishop Filippo Archinto,” 1558, oil on canvas, 45 x 35 inches, Philadelphia Museum of Art

According to the museum, “The exhibition presents a fresh look at one of the finest collections of European art to have been formed by a private collector in this country. On view will be major works by artists such as Botticelli, Bosch, Titian, Rembrandt, and Manet, among many others. It will also open a window on the work of museum curators and conservators, illuminating how our understanding of these works continues to evolve.”

Rogier van der Weyden, “The Crucifixion,” circa 1460, oil on panel, 71 x 36 1/2 inches, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Jan van Eyck, “Saint Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata,” circa 1430-32, oil on vellum on panel, 5 x 5 3/4 inches, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Timothy Rub, the museum’s George D. Widener director and CEO, added, “Over time our appreciation of Johnson’s extraordinary gift continues to grow, and yet it remains a source of endless fascination with many discoveries still to be made. We are delighted to open a window onto our work, offering visitors a fresh look at the process of scholarship and conservation that we bring to the care of our collection and an insight into the questions, puzzles, and mysteries that continue to occupy our staff.”

Édouard Manet, “The Battle of the USS Kearsarge and the CSS Alabama,” 1864, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Claude Monet, “Railroad Bridge, Argenteuil,” 1874, oil on canvas, 21 3/8 x 29 inches, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Continuing, the museum writes, “The exhibition also explores those areas of European painting in which Johnson focused in depth, including Italian, Dutch and Netherlandish, and French art. The number of Dutch paintings he acquired was among the largest of his day, and is especially rich in landscapes by Jacob van Ruisdael and animated genre scenes by Jan Steen. Rembrandt’s ‘Head of Christ’ will also be on view in this section.”

“Old Masters Now” opens on November 3 and will continue through February 19, 2018. To learn more, visit the Philadelphia 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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