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Louis E. Stern Collection

DATES September 25, 1962 through March 10, 1963
ORGANIZING DEPARTMENT European Painting and Sculpture
  • September 25, 1962 Announcement was made shortly after the death of the eminent international attorney and art collector, Mr. Louis E. Stern, in January of this year, that his collection of paintings, sculpture, prints and drawings, objects of Oriental, primitive and ancient Near Eastern art, and his famous library of art books would be given to a foundation bearing his name to stimulate art education. In June of this year the Trustees of the Stern Foundation announced that The Brooklyn Museum had been chosen for the first public showing of more than 225 works of art selected from the collection. This major event of the art world opens in the Museum’s Special Exhibitions Galleries on September 25, where it will be on view through March 10, 1963.

    Studded with great names of French, Italian and American artists, as well as unknown masters of African, Indonesian, Mexican, Cambodian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Siamese, Egyptian and Greek art, the Exhibition includes such renowned paintings, among the more than 102, as Rousseau’s “Carnival Evening,” Cezanne’s oil of “Mme. Cezanne,” Modigliani’s “La Polonaise,” Redon’s “Butterflies,” and “Fringe of the Forest,” one of four by Courbet. Four by Klee includes his oil and tempera, “Three Houses,” and Rouault is represented by “Christ” and “Clown Fantastique.”

    Three fascinating sidelights in the Exhibition are particularly newsworthy. In Bonnard’s oil “Hommage a Maillol,” there is a standing nude by Maillol. The bronze of that nude by Maillol is also in the Stern Collection and will be shown with the Bonnard. Another Maillol sculpture in bronze, “Leda,” is in the still-life “Flowers with Leda,” by Vuillard. Both these works are in the Exhibition, as well as Renoir’s bronze plaque “Dancer with Tambourine” and his original sketch for it.

    The collector’s great friendship with Chagall was largely responsible for the superb collection of the Russian painters’ works which, in the Exhibition, number ten, and include, “Blue Cow,” “Purim Feast,” “Resurrection of Lazarus,” “In the Night,” and the somewhat idealized “Self Portrait.” In a letter to Chagall, Mr. Stern wrote, “...I have lived with my Chagalls and loved them beyond almost any other picture.”

    Among the pictures by Americans are Brook’s “Model Asleep,” two by Marin, “Cape Split, Maine 1941” and “Sunset,” and Shahn’s “Nearly Everyone Reads the Bulletin.” Twenty-seven prints and drawings by twenty artists date from the 1840 Ingres’ “Study for the Mural: Golden Age” to Giacometti’s 1958 pencil drawing, “Figure Study for Sculpture.”

    There are twenty-four illustrated books selected from Mr. Stern’s library which was considered to be the finest and most extensive privately owned collection of impressionist, post-impressionist and modern art books. The illustrators for the invaluable books of fiction and non-fiction shown in the Exhibition are: Bonnard, Braque, Burne-Jones, Chagall, Delacroix, Derain, Goya, Kirchner, Kokoschka, Manet, Matisse, Miro, Pascin, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Villon.

    In his foreword to the catalog “Modern Illustrated Books,” Mr. Stern wrote[:] “It will perhaps be simple if I disclose that I have been a collector of sorts from my very early manhood, even when I was still a law student. I have, at one time or another, collected prints consisting of etchings, lithographs, and other graphic media. I have collected drawings, paintings, sculpture, and a host of other objets d’art - so much so that some of my friends have referred to me as “a magpie” ...But whatever I have collected, it has always been accompanied by the collecting of books....that were within my financial reach and within my intellectual capacity to absorb.

    “When, some years ago, I became seriously interested in the nineteenth and twentieth century art, I at the same time began to acquire books illustrated by the same masters as the paintings which I acquired, or hoped to acquire. I found that, in looking at illustrated books by such masters as Toulouse-Lautrec, Bonnard, Rouault, Picasso, Chagall, and others, I was acquiring a close association with the art of each of these illustrators. I found an intimacy with each artist that I could not possibly get out of a painting. In following some of the illustrations, I became aware that I was led into various fields of culture. In Edgar Allan Poe’s Le Corbeau (“The Raven”) with Manet’s illustrations, it is almost impossible to escape the knowledge that Poe was recognized in France long before he was appreciated in his own country and the fact that an artist of the stature of Manet would illustrate a book is in itself significant.

    “There is also the practical side that paintings are not within financial reach of many people, whereas illustrated books still are, within limitations, fairly easy to acquire. For those who are looking for an alluring avocation coupled with an opportunity to reach out into other fields, and to enjoy themselves in the process, I cheerfully recommend book collecting generally, and illustrated books particularly.”

    This many categoried American collection contains works by most of the well-known nineteenth and twentieth century sculptors, represented by the twenty-seven pieces in the Exhibition. A wide variety of ancient Near Eastern art in the Brooklyn showing ranges from the painted limestone statue of a seated woman of the Egyptian late Dynasty V (c. 2400 B.C.) to the terracotta horse and rider from Cyprus of the late Archaic Period. Sixteen primitive wood, metal, stone and ceramic pieces date from a 1500 B.C. ceramic figure from the Valley of Tlatilco in Mexico to several nineteenth and twentieth century African pieces. The ten selected representations of Oriental art date from the first century to the fifteenth century A.D.

    Since the first public showing of any important collection opens new vistas and increases the dimensions of general enjoyment and study of fine art, it is a rare privilege for The Brooklyn Museum to present the Exhibition of the Louis E. Stern Collection for six months, through March 10, 1963 in the Museum’s Special Exhibitions Galleries.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1953 - 1970. 1962, 048-51.
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