Oberlin Blogs

The Allen's Greatest Hits, 2011 edition (part 3 of 3)

January 9, 2012

Prof. Erik Inglis ’89

In addition to seeing which pieces are most popular with students, and how they're distributed in time chronologically, it's also very interesting to see when the Allen acquired these works. The majority came to the museum between 1940 and 1960, including the five most popular works. The Modigliani, for example, was given to Oberlin by Joseph and Enid Bissett in 1955.

Painting of a naked woman lounging

It proves that a gift to a museum retains its value long after it is given. Oberlin was thrilled to receive this piece in 1955, and it was a great benefit to the collection instantly. But, as its popularity for student papers demonstrates, it is no less important to the collection now, a half-century later. The enduring importance of pieces like this one always reminds me of how much we benefit today from the actions of our predecessors.

But not all the hits came to the museum between 1940 and 1960. The list of most popular works also included one given very early in the museum's history; Ernest Lawson's Harlem River, which two students wrote on, was painted between 1910 and 1915.

Surrealist painting of a pond with hues of blue and brown

It was given to the Allen by A. Augustus Healy in 1919, only two years after the Museum opened. Healy was president of the Board of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences (now the Brooklyn Museum), and his wife Mary, née Currier, was the daughter of an Oberlin professor.

It's also refreshing to see that new acquisitions are already attracting student interest: among the works selected this year are several that have arrived within the last four years, mostly as gifts to the Museum:

František Kupka, Plans Cosmiques, given by Frederic (OC 1955) and Zora Pryor;

Max Beckmann, Königin Bar (Self-Portrait), given by Pamela and James Elesh (OC 1964):

A surrealist drawing of a man looking over his shoulder with many faces and shapes behind him

Leonard Ochtman, Winter Afternoon, purchased using the James K. (OC 1946) and Anne Fassett (OC 1947) Sunshine American Art Fund:

A realist painting of a snowy lake with houses surrounding

Ana Mendieta, Untitled (Guanaroca [First Woman]), given by Cristina Delgado (OC 1980) and Stephen F. Olsen (OC 1979):

a stone carving of a simplistic woman

Tim Hawkinson, The Fin Within, purchased using the Ruth Roush Fund for Contemporary Art and Art Object Sales Fund:

A sculpture slightly resembling a fish or mermaid fin

It's exciting to think that just as the Monet still matters to students a century and a half after it was painted and sixty years after it arrived in Oberlin, these new acquisitions are already attracting attention, and will still before the eyes of students in 2072.

(Many of these and other recent acquisitions can be found here).

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