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Saturday, November 24, 2012

An elegant exhibition ends Sunday at the National Gallery of Art

Robert Caney, Stage Set With a Statue of St. George Slaying the Dragon, 1870/1890. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Joseph F. McCrindle Collection

When Joseph McCrindle (1923-2008) was five and growing up in a New York City mansion, his socialite mother dumped her husband and her son and ran off with a count to Europe leaving Joe in the care of her wealthy parents who treated their grandson probably like most treat their grandchildren: “Whenever and whatever you want.”

His grandmother, an "assiduous collector" of art, schooled her grandson from a young age in its purchase.
Thomas Rowlandson, A Soldier's Widow, possibly 1815/1820. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Joseph F. McCrindle Collection.  Does she remind you of the Wife of Bath?

Joe traveled on the family yacht on frequent trips to Europe where he learned other languages (he was later a translator) and his grandmother took him to art auctions and encouraged him to bid (at age eight).  

In his diary entry on June 3, 1931 while in Paris (and noted in the exhibition catalogue), Joe wrote that his grandmother became "furious" with him for a purchase along the Seine of a "Catholic prayer book in a terrible state."  "Mademoiselle" made him take it back to the dealer, and "I exchanged it for a guide of Dieppe written in 1905." 
John Singer Sargent, Spanish Church Interior, 1880. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Joseph F. McCrindle Collection

Joe spent his allowance on rare books and, during his life, bought more than 2,500 works of art.  To the National Gallery of Art, he left more than 300, and 71 which cover the 16th through 20 centuries are on display on the ground floor in the Gallery's West Building in an exhibition entitled The McCrindle Gift: A Distinguished Collection of Drawings and Watercolors. Guiseppe Passeri, Aurora's Tryst with Time Interrupted, c. 1700. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Joseph F. McCrindle Collection

According to National Gallery curators Margaret Morgan Grasselli and Arthur Wheelock, the show includes works which have never hung together and many which have not been studied.    

McCrindle was a "connoisseur and collector of beautiful things," said Mr. Wheelock. A label at the exhibition calls the art enthusiast a man "who admired works not because of the names of their makers, but for the verve and rhythm of the line and, often, the whimsical nature of the image."
Edward Lear, Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, at Sunset, 1865 or later. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Joseph F. McCrindle Collection

McCrindle traveled constantly, collecting art "like [on] a nonstop shopping spree.  He bought to please himself rather than to accumulate an investment portfolio," wrote William Grimes in the New York Times' McCrindle obituary July 18, 2008.
Pavel Tchelitchew, Tree into Double-Hand (Study for "Hide and Seek"), 1939. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Joseph F. McCrindle Collection.  This is an example of a "metamorphic composition" when two objects combine to form something else. You may know some people like this.

In 1991 to commemorate the Gallery's 50th anniversary of its founding, McCrindle bestowed his first gift to the National Gallery, a painting by Luca Giordano whose Diana and Endymion hangs in Gallery 30 on the main floor.  Other paintings the philanthropist donated to the National Gallery are found in galleries on both floors of the West Building. 

Much more detail on his life (he was the founder of the Transatlantic Review) and the exhibition are found in the distinguished color catalogue available in the National Gallery's gift shops

What:  The McCrindle Gift:  A Distinguished Collection of Drawings and Watercolors

When: Now through Nov. 25, 2012, from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday - Saturday; 11 a.m. - 6 p.m., Sunday, and closed on Christmas Day

Where: The National Gallery of Art, West Building, Ground Floor galleries. (The closest entrance is Seventh Street, NW.) The National Gallery of Art and Sculpture Garden is located at the National Mall along Constitution Avenue and between Third and Ninth Streets.

How much: Admission is always free

For more information: (202) 737-4215

Metro station:  Judiciary Square, Navy Memorial-Archives, or the Smithsonian










Ippolito Caffi, Interior of the Colosseum, c. 1843. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Joseph F. McCrindle Collection

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