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J. Paul Getty Museum Announces Gift by Dr. Richard A. Simms In Memory of James N. Wood

The Getty announced a gift of seven drawings to the J. Paul Getty Museum, including a pastel by the important Czech artist František Kupka (1871-1957), and eleven prints by the preeminent painter and printmaker James Ensor (Belgian, 1860-1949) to the Getty Research Institute. The works comprise a gift from Dr. Richard Simms of Los Angeles, who has been a generous supporter of the Getty and its programs for nearly a decade, and have been donated by him in memory of James N. Wood, the late President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust.

Deborah Marrow, Interim President and CEO said, “The Getty is extremely grateful to Dr. Simms for his active role on the GRI’s Collections Council, as well as his generosity as a lender and a donor. In 2003, he gave an etched version of Ensor’s masterpiece, Christ’s Entry into Brussels in 1888 to the Getty Research Institute and his 2010 gift in honor of Jim Wood enhances both the Special Collections at the Getty Research Library and the drawings collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum.” Marrow continued, “We are grateful to Dr. Simms for his continued support, philanthropy, and friendship to the Getty and all of its programs.”

German Drawings

The Getty Museum began collecting drawings nearly thirty years ago (in 1981) and has since acquired nearly 800 sheets, consisting of preparatory studies as well as independent works in various media including chalk, charcoal, crayon, ink, watercolor, metalpoint, and pencil. Many are by renowned old masters, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Albrecht Dürer. The collection also includes great 19th-century master drawings by van Gogh, Seurat, Gauguin, Degas, Rodin, and others.

Recently, the Department of Drawings has made a concerted effort to augment its collection of German and Central European drawings, more specifically those of the 19th and early 20th centuries. This is exemplified by the 2009 acquisition of two exemplary drawings by Gustav Klimt (Austrian, 1862-1918), Portrait of a Young Woman Reclining (189798) and Two Studies of a Seated Nude with Long Hair (1901-02).

Dr. Simms’ donation of drawings perfectly complements this initiative. His gift includes Kupka’s Girl Shading Her Eyes (circa 1908, pastel), Fritz Bleyl’s Landscape in the Tyrol (1924, charcoal), Hans Meid’s Park Scene From a Hotel Window, Eugen Napoleon Neureuther’s A Hungarian Prisoner (1831, watercolor), and three forest scenes and tree studies by Josef Wenglein.

The large scale, highly finished pastel by František Kupka (18711957) is an extremely important addition to the drawings collection. Kupka was a Czech painter who studied in Prague, Vienna, and Paris. He was very active in the Viennese art scene; exhibiting at the Kunstverein (art association), Vienna, in 1894. Living in Paris in 1906, he was exhibiting at the Salon d’Automne alongside contemporary painters like Matisse—thus the undeniably Fauvist characteristics of Kupka’s works during this period such as Girl Shading Her Eyes (1908). In this work, Kupka utilizes pastel, a medium known for capturing the richness of color, and portrays a beautiful young girl shielding her eyes from the brightness of the sun, which casts its unmistakable glow over her. Rather than depicting light and dark through traditional hues, Kupka employs unfettered, even shocking touches of red, fuchsia, lavender, canary yellow, and various shades of green. The pastel is a study for Kupka’s Little Girl with Ball (1908, oil on canvas), which is in the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

Kupka’s Girl Shading Her Eyes will have pride of place in the upcoming exhibition Spirit of an Age: Drawings from the Germanic World, 1770-1900, which will be on view at the Getty Center from March 29 through June 19, 2011. The exhibition will showcase recent acquisitions of Germanic drawings, most of which have never previously been displayed. For this exhibition, Dr. Simms is also lending a drawing by Adolf von Menzel (German, 1815-1905) of a Medieval Horse Muzzle (pencil), which will be displayed alongside the Getty’s Menzel, Figure Studies (1872, carpenter’s pencil). During this time, Dr. Simms’ other gifts to the Drawings Department will be on view in a gallery adjacent to the exhibition.

James Ensor

The gift of eleven etchings by the Belgian painter and printmaker James Ensor is not only an important addition to the GRI’s collection of 27,000 prints, but also complements Simms’ other donations of prints by Ensor, including the hand-colored impression of the jarringly fatalistic Gendarmes (1888, etching with watercolor, gouache and ink) in which two butchered fishermen are surrounded by grotesque representatives of state power. In the most recent donation, Simms included a richly inked impression of the Gendarmes (1888, etching). Like all the works from Simms’ collection, the two Gendarmes are of the highest quality and each in its own way reveals the radical genius of Ensor’s experimental etching techniques, as well as his astonishing handling of tone and color. In addition, Simms has also given the GRI two versions of the humbly powerful Sick Wretch Warming Himself (1895, etching), one of which is beautifully embellished with watercolor and colored crayon and, like the two Gendarmes, demonstrates how Ensor transformed a printed image into unique work of art.

Ensor trained as a painter and draftsman in the 1870s and took up etching in the 1880s, ultimately becoming one of the most influential painter-printmakers of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. After a few years at the art academy in Brussels and initial failure with the art establishment, he broke the bonds of both the academy and the newly pervasive French avant-garde with the singular masterpiece Christ’s Entry into Brussels in 1889 (1888, oil on canvas). This painting, which is now in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, along with the corresponding print donated to the GRI by Simms in 2004, came to life during a period of frenetic creativity in which Ensor adopted the role of a tortured or humbled Christ figure (Christ and the Beggars (1895, etching)) and obsessed over his mortality by showing himself as a skeleton (My Portrait in 1960 (1888, etching)).

In addition to these images, Simms has also donated signature works in which the artist imagined worlds populated by skeletons, masks, and monsters , including the scatologically playful Wizards in a Squall (1888, etching) and the psychologically poignant Scandalized Masks (1895, etching). For Simms, the imagery and techniques that define the cutting edge nature of Ensor’s oeuvre go hand-in-hand with Ensor’s life-long interest in old masters Rembrandt, Callot, and Goya, to name only a few. The nostalgic Village Fair at the Windmill (1889, etching) is in fact a homage to Ensor’s artistic heroes and more pointedly to the creative fertility of the Dutch and Flemish traditions from which he drew his creative vision. Simms’ donations to the GRI will be on view in the Museum’s paintings gallery alongside Ensor’s Christ’s Entry into Brussels in 1889 at the same time his other donations are on view in the drawings galleries.

Dr. Richard A. Simms is an internationally recognized collector of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century German prints and drawings. At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, he was chair of the Prints and Drawings Council and then a member of the Board of Trustees for 12 years. He now serves as the inaugural chair of the Collections Council of the Getty Research Institute. The Council is a community of donors, scholars, and collectors that builds collections and promotes scholarship at the Getty Center.

Image: Image at top: “Girl Shading Her Eyes,” 1908. František Kupka (Czech, 1871 – 1957). Pastel. © 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

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