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Alex Hillman Family Foundation Collection: French Art of the 19th and 20th Centuries

DATES February 15, 1986 through May 31, 1988
ORGANIZING DEPARTMENT European Painting and Sculpture
COLLECTIONS European Art
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  • February 15, 1986 The Hillman Foundation Collection of Modern French Painting, a selection of thirty-four superb Post-Impressionist and early twentieth-century paintings and works on paper from the Alex Hillman Family Foundation, will be on loan to The Brooklyn Museum from February 15, 1986 to January 5, 1987. The Hillman pictures will be on view in the European Painting Galleries on the fifth floor, where they will complement the Museum’s own collection of works from the same period.

    The strength of this collection lies in its French pictures by renowned artists such as Renoir, Cézanne, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Matisse, as well as by Picasso and Modigliani, who, though not French, lived and worked in France for most of their lives. Works in the exhibition span a period of approximately seventy years, beginning with two Renoir landscapes of about 1878 and ending with a Matisse paper cutout of 1949. Viewed with the Museum’s permanent collection and, from March 14 to May 5, with a selection of late nineteenth-century French works of art on loan from the new Musée d’Orsay in Paris, they will provide an impressive display of one of the most fertile eras in the history of art. It was during this period that many artists broke with long-accepted conventions of depicting the visible world realistically, following instead a more subjective approach to emotional expression and intellectual inquiry that included experimentation with new and often arbitrary ways of using color and form.

    The Hillman Foundation collection reflects the taste and enthusiasm of Mr. and Mrs. Alex Hillman. Mr. Hillman, who in the 1930s began publishing fine editions of the classics for which he commissioned illustrations by American artists, started to collect contemporary American paintings as an outgrowth of his publishing business. After his marriage to Rita Kanarek in 1932, collecting became a joint enterprise and no purchase was made unless both partners agreed. The couple began to concentrate on French paintings and in 1948 embarked on a decade of energetic collecting, which they continued on a somewhat smaller scale until Mr. Hillman’s death in 1969. Quality was always a major concern, and they made a point of buying works that represented important achievements of particular artists. The Hillman collection is now a private trust, and the Museum Is particularly indebted to Mrs. Alex L. Hillman, president of the Alex Hillman Family Foundation, for generously lending a substantial part of the collection to the Museum for nearly an entire year.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1971 - 1988. 1986, 007.
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