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$100 Million Gift Boosts Va. Museum's American Art Holdings

By Jacqueline Trescott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts announced last night that it is receiving a gift of $100 million in money and 19th- and 20th-century art from collectors James W. and Frances G. McGlothlin.

The gift is one of the largest in the Richmond institution's 69-year history, said Michael Brand, the museum's director.

"This gift will have a major impact on the museum. In terms of the art, this will transform our American collection. The interest of the McGlothlins is a period where we have always been interested. It is an important area and an expensive area to collect in."

The McGlothlin assembly includes works by American artists from the 19th and 20th century: George Bellows, Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, James McNeill Whistler, Childe Hassam and Martin Johnson Heade. The art ranges from oil paintings, pastels and watercolors to sculptures, and it forms "one of the most important American art collections still in private hands," Brand said. The art is valued at $70 million.

The McGlothlins are native Virginians and now live in Austin. James McGlothlin made his fortune in the state's coal industry.

"We have spent the last decade immersed in the world of American art, never suspecting early on that our desire to learn and appreciate this legacy could result in so meaningful a gift to Virginia," James McGlothlin said in a statement. He is the chairman/CEO of the United Co. of Bristol, Va., a financial services conglomerate with interests in oil and gas and industrial supply distribution. Frances McGlothlin is a trustee of the museum.

An exhibition of 35 selections from the collection, dating from the early 1870s to 1924, opens at the museum on Thursday. Among those on view will be Sargent's "Portrait of Ambrogio Raffele," Heade's "Two Magnolias and a Bud on Teal Velvet," Cassatt's "Lydia Seated on a Terrace, Crocheting," and Whistler's "Green and Silver -- the Bright Sea, Dieppe."

The gift includes $10 million for the museum's building drive. It plans to open a new wing, designed by British architect Rick Mather, in the fall of 2008. The campaign has raised more than $152 million, including the new gift, and needs an additional $8 million.

The rest of the McGlothlins' donation, $20 million, will support an endowment for the collection, with funds for conservation, research and the acquisition of other works.

The museum is one of four state-supported art museums in the country and receives half of its operating budget from the state. Its holdings include 20,000 works and it is well known for collections of Native American, African and Himalayan art, as well as art nouveau and art deco works, Faberge objects and English silver.

The McGlothlin bequest, said Brand, will complement the significant collections of American art in Washington, Philadelphia, New York and Boston.

"With this gift, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts becomes an important stop on the southern tip of this corridor, deepening the story of American art for those wanting to experience the finest works produced by American hands and minds," he said.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company