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Selections from the Eva Underhill Holbrook Memorial Collection of American Art
January 15 - March 20, 2005
(above: Childe Hassam (American, 1859-1935), Bridge at Old Lyme, 1908. Oil on canvas, 23 5/8 x 25 5/8 inches. Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, Eva Underhill Holbrook Memorial Collection of American Art, gift of Alfred H. Holbrook, GMOA 1945.47)
Selections from the Eva Underhill Holbrook Memorial Collection of American Art will be on display at the Georgia Museum of Art from January 15 through March 20, 2005.
This exhibition will feature paintings, dating from 1818 through 1946, from the museum's permanent collection. Featured artists include George Bellows, Thomas Hart Benton, Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley, Robert Henri, Winslow Homer, Georgia O'Keeffe, Maurice Prendergast, John H. Twachtman, and James A. McNeill Whistler. (right: Robert Henri (American, 1865-1929), Sissy, 1924. Oil on canvas, 24 x 20 inches. Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, Eva Underhill Holbrook Memorial Collection of American Art, gift of Alfred H. Holbrook, GMOA 1947.103)
"The Holbrook collection includes some stellar examples by several of America's most significant American artists," says Paul Manoguerra, curator of American Art at the Georgia Museum of Art. "As a collector, Mr. Holbrook had a keen sense of which American artists and paintings would maintain their significance over future decades."
Alfred Heber Holbrook, founder of the Georgia Museum of Art, was a lawyer in Manhattan when he and his wife, Eva Underhill Holbrook, discovered a passion for art. Following his wife's death in May 1940, Holbrook pledged to open an art museum in her memory. In an effort to begin his collection, Holbrook would leave his law practice early everyday to meet with dealers to buy works of art on his undersized budget. Holbrook's main focus of interest was American Impressionism and Realism.
At the age of 65, he retired from the practice of law to establish the art museum he had so beautifully pictured in his mind. At that time, Holbrook's collection numbered 100 pieces and spanned approximately a century of American image making.
Holbrook required several provisions for his ideal museum. First, the museum had to be in the South, a region underserved by art museums. Second, Holbrook wanted the museum to be part of a university. He felt that the museum, above anything else, should be a learning experience and a university setting was the best locale. Last, the university had to have a reputable and esteemed art program that focused not only on drawings and paintings but also on sculpture, ceramics and other art forms.
Luckily, one afternoon Holbrook met Holger Cahill, federal art director under Franklin Roosevelt. Holbrook asked Cahill for advice on universities that would meet his three requirements for the museum. Cahill recommended the University of Georgia, based on the reputation of Lamar Dodd, the school's art director.
In October 1944, at the age of 70, Holbrook visited Athens, Georgia. Pleased with what he saw, he moved to Athens, enrolled in art courses, and became an active part of the University of Georgia's art community. In May 1945, Holbrook donated his entire collection of paintings to the university and became the first director of the new Georgia Museum of Art.
On November 8, 1948, Eva U. Holbrook's birthday, the first two galleries of the museum opened in the basement of the old library on the university's historic north campus. (right: Julian A. Weir (American 1852-1919), Roses, n.d. Oil on canvas, 15 5/8 x 11 1/2 inches. Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, Eva Underhill Holbrook Memorial Collection of American Art, gift of Alfred H. Holbrook, GMOA 1945.95)
An immediate success, the museum quickly became known throughout the Southeast. Until his death in 1974 at the age of 99, Alfred Holbrook spent many hours each day in the museum and continued to play an active role in the museum's development and future success. In 1996, the museum moved to its new permanent location, a 52,000 square foot building with 9,000 square feet of gallery space. The 30th anniversary of the death of Alfred H. Holbrook further reinforces his excellent decisions made as a young collector. Today, the Eva Underhill Holbrook Memorial Collection of American Art features some of the best and most well-known objects in the museum's collection.
More About Holbrook and His Collecting Interest
From an essay published for Forty Years of Collecting, by Donald Keyes, former curator of paintings, Georgia Museum of Art:
Highlights from the Exhibition
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