What’s Mine Is Yours:
Private Collectors and Public Patronage in the United States. Essays in Honor of Inge Reist
Edited by Esmée Quodbach
New York and Madrid: The Center for the History or Collecting at Frick Art Reference Library in association with the Centro de Estudios Europa Hispánica and the Center for Spain in America, 2021.
This publication is devoted to the history of private collectors and their relationships with and gifts to public institutions in the United States. Thirteen authors bring to life the long tradition of private collecting and public philanthropy in America and reveal new insights into the formation of many of its major art institutions. The essays are divided chronologically, covering the early United States, the Gilded Age, and the twentieth century. “What’s Mine is Yours” is published in celebration of Inge Reist, founding Director and now Director Emerita of the Center for the History of Collecting at the Frick Art Reference Library.
The book’s cover features Charles Willson Peale’s self-portrait, The Artist in His Museum (1822), which embodies the book’s theme. Peale dramatically lifts away a velvet curtain unveiling his private collection, The Peale Museum, the nation’s first such public institution. He was also the founder of the Pennsylvania Academy, now the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. The munificent figures chronicled in this volume both followed and built on the model set by Peale, and many serve as exemplars for today’s collectors. “What’s Mine is Yours” provides a compelling resource for those interested in the history of collectors and their influences in the building of art museums in the United States.
Essays in the publication trace the relationship of American private collections and public institutions over three centuries. Public-spirited collectors such as Henry Clay Frick, Andrew W. Mellon, and Solomon R. and Irene Guggenheim fulfilled their desires by establishing The Frick Collection, the National Gallery of Art, and the Guggenheim Museum, respectively. Other standalone museums were later absorbed by larger institutions, such as John G. Johnson’s collection, which was first left to Philadelphia and later fell under the stewardship of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Authors also explore collectors who had major impacts on large public institutions. Eleanor and Edsel Ford, for example, were instrumental supporters and contributors to the Detroit Institute of Arts. Samuel Putnam Avery was a civic-minded art dealer, adviser, and collector whose porcelain collection helped shape the Department of Asian Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Some collectors, including Catharine Lorillard Wolfe, Michael Friedsam, Adelaide de Groot, and Martin A. Ryerson, made significant gifts to pre-existing museums such as The Met and the Art Institute of Chicago. Finally, Robert Gilmor, Jr., and arguably Mary Jane Morgan, had aspirations of building public collections, yet they were not successful for various reasons.
Although not mentioned in the book, another benefactor of The Frick Collection, Helen Clay Frick, is also an important part of this narrative. She created the Frick Art Reference Library (a co-publisher of this volume) as a memorial to her father, Henry Clay Frick. As the New York Times predicted in 1935 at the opening of The Frick Collection, the Library has played a significant role in the field of art history and is equally treasured by art collectors, scholars, curators, dealers, authors, and publishers. It was in the spirit of Helen Clay Frick, therefore, that three remarkable women, Anne Poulet (Director Emerita of The Frick Collection), Patricia Barnett (Chief Librarian Emerita of the Frick Art Reference Library), and our honoree, Inge Reist, launched the Center for the History of Collecting in 2007.
The focus of the volume—private collectors and their relationships with and gifts to public institutions in the United States—was borrowed from a keynote address delivered by Reist at Dumbarton Oaks in 2016. The authors all have longstanding connections to the Center for the History of Collecting: many are former research fellows, symposium speakers, or contributors to its publications—several having performed all of these roles—while others have served on its Advisory Committee.