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Met and Getty Museums Acquire Large Photo Trove and a Degas

Both the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and The Getty, Los Angeles, recently scored major acquisition coups. The Met celebrated the acquisition of an 8,500-work collection of 19th- and early 20th-century photographs that had been assembled by the Gilman Paper Company over a 20-year period (1977-97).

NEW YORK—Both the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and The Getty, Los Angeles, recently scored major acquisition coups.

The Met celebrated the acquisition of an 8,500-work collection of 19th- and early 20th-century photographs that had been assembled by the Gilman Paper Company over a 20-year period (1977-97).

The Getty has purchased a rarely seen Edgar Degas painting of two female hatmakers that the artist had worked and reworked for more than 20 years (1882-1905).

Among the photographs acquired by the Met are 21 by William Henry Fox Talbot, five by Julia Margaret Cameron, three by Jacques-Henri Lartigue, 47 by Eugene Atget, 25 by Alfred Stieglitz and “deep holdings” by Mathew Brady, according to the museum’s photography curator Malcolm Daniel.

There are also photographs by Brassaï, Lewis Carroll, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Alexander Gardner, Timothy O’Sullivan, Man Ray, Edward Steichen and Carleton Watkins, to name some.

The acquisition was part gift and part purchase. Although the museum has declined to disclose the amount paid, or the collection’s total value, it reportedly is worth more than $100 million. Daniel notes that museum curators were in discussion with Howard Gilman (1924-98), chairman of the family-owned Gilman Paper Company, as well as the company’s art-collection curator Pierre Apraxine, about acquiring the trove since the early 1990s.

“We had always hoped and had come to expect that the collection would come here,” says Daniel, “and we hoped it would come as a gift.” He points out that his predecessor, Maria Morris Hambourg, had developed a “close relationship” with both Gilman and Apraxine, helping to direct some of their purchases with a view toward matching the Gilman Company collection with holdings of the Met. “There was intense buying in the early 1990s,” he says.

After Gilman’s death it became evident that some portion of the acquisition would have to be a purchase. Over the next seven years the museum began assembling money for this purchase, combining contributions from the Met’s general art- acquisition funds with solicited gifts from trustees and a variety of foundations—among others, The Annenberg Foundation, the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The William Talbott Hillman Foundation, the Marlene Nathan Meyerson Family Foundation, the Sam Salz Foundation and The Alfred Stieglitz Society.

Degas Work on Display at the Getty

The Degas painting purchased by the Getty, entitled The Milliners, had been acquired from a private collection and was seen publicly only during the two times it came up for sale at auction. The museum would not release the purchase price of the picture, according to Getty spokesman John Giurini, who says the work is presently on display in the paintings gallery.

The Milliners, one of many paintings on the subject that the artist executed, has not been the subject of a significant study, the Getty spokesman said, but x-rays reveal that Degas reworked the image, transforming one of the two women from a customer to a worker.

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