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4.0 out of 5 stars An impressive private collection of American art, 4 Jan. 2013
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Dr R (Norwich, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: American Dreams: Paintings and Decorative Arts from the Warner Collection (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts) (Paperback)
This book was published in 1997 to coincide with an exhibition of works from the Warner Collection at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, in 1997-8. The collection was built by Warner, now well into his 90s, during the long time that he was Chairman and CEO of Gulf States Paper, now the Westervelt Corporation, and is widely regarded as one of the choicest private collections of American art.

The catalogue has 35 full colour plates and 78 black and white illustrations. An introductory essay, "A Useable Past: Jack Warner Collects American Art" describes the origins of Gulf State Paper, Warner's life and what motivated him to amass his collection. This started in the late 1940s with purchases of some of Auduban's hand-coloured prints but the next purchase was not until the 1970s with Charles Bird king's portraits of Native American chieftains. In turn, this stimulated purchased of paintings from the American West which has developed into an extensive holding of major works by American artists as well as French and American furniture, and ceramics and glass from the early 19th century. At the time of this exhibition, the collection was housed at a number of locations in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Each colour plate is associated with additional illustrations of items from the collection and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to demonstrate the breadth and depth of the collection and to put the coloured plates into context. Warner's pride in his American heritage shows in Robert Edge Pine's "George Washington", c. 1785, and in Jamie Wyeth's "Dome Room", 1995, which shows Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. Amongst the major artists whose work is included are Cole, "The Falls at Kaaterskill", 1826; Church, "Above the Clouds at Sunrise", 1849; Durand, "Progress (The Advance of Civilisation)", 1853; Mount; Gifford, Homer, "The Noon Recess", 1873; Heade; Chase, "Keying Up"/"The Court Jester", c. 1875; Whistler, a chalk and pastel "Corte de Paradiso", 1880; Sargent, "Capri", 1878; Duveneck; Peto; Theodore Robinson, a beautiful snow scene, "Winter, Giverny", 1889; Hassam, "Celia Thaxter's Garden", c.1890, and Hopper, "Dawn Before Gettysburg", 1934.

However there are also works by lesser-known artists, including GWilliam Aiken Walker's "Plantation Economy in the Old South",c. 1876, showing the economic importance of black sharecroppers a decade after the Civil War; George De Forest Brush's "The Shield Maker", 1890, in which a Native American is in the process off removing feathers from a recently-killed pink flamingo; Robert Blum's "The Picture Book", c. 1890; Albert Herter's Family Group", c.1890, and Daniel Garber's Impressionistic "Tanis", 1915, one of my favourite portraits, radiating sunshine and warmth, and showing all the innocence of childhood. This has also been chosen to illustrate the front cover.

In 2011, the Westervelt-Warner Museum, founded eight years earlier by Warner to house his collection, became the Tuscaloosa Museum of Art. The same year, The Warner Foundation, headed by Jack and Susan Warner, filed suit against the Westervelt Company, seeking to resolve ownership of a list of items, including frames, chandeliers, candlesticks and other furnishings and works of art.

This is an interesting look at a collection of 19th and early 20th century American paintings that demonstrates Warner's lack of interest in modernism.
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