Fall 2017 Director’s Letter

As I begin my 20th and final year as the Henry J. Heinz II Director of this venerable teaching museum, I find myself thinking often about the many fine professors, students, artists, patrons, members, colleagues, and Governing Board members whose imaginative thinking, good deeds, and acts of generosity have made life here at the Yale University Art Gallery so interesting.

Foremost among them was my Yale colleague and close friend Richard “Chip” Benson, Dean Emeritus of the Yale University School of Art, who sadly passed away on June 22, 2017. Beginning in his early childhood, Chip worked diligently with his hands and tools in inventive ways and eventually mastered the art of photography. He was the best printer of photography books and photographs that has ever lived. In addition, his remarkable curiosity and vivid imagination, coupled with a keen ability to think, speak, and write clearly, enabled Chip to become a truly great and beloved instructor. He took to teaching like a duck to water, gladly sharing all he knew with his many students and the fine faculty at the School of Art, which he led and administered so deftly and well. The Gallery and the School of Art will hold a memorial for Chip on Saturday, October 7, 2017, which will begin with a program in the Gallery’s Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Lecture Hall at 1:00 pm. All who knew this wonderful man and his extraordinary work are invited to attend the program, after which a broad array of Chip’s photographs and book projects will be on view.

This past summer, I was honored to be included in the opening celebration for the Centro Botín, in Santander, Spain. A strikingly beautiful new art and cultural center designed by Renzo Piano, the Centro Botín honors the remarkable civic and artistic legacy of Emilio Botín (1934-2014), the former Executive Chairman of Banco Santander, who was also known for his decades-long special interest in global higher education. Emilio became a friend to the University and the Gallery not long after his daughter, Paloma Botín, a Yale parent and a current member of the Gallery’s Governing Board, alerted her father to the attribution to Diego Velázquez being confirmed for the Gallery’s Education of the Virgin (ca. 1617-18). Emilio immediately took a personal interest in the research and restoration of this great masterwork, sponsoring it with a substantial grant from the Banco Santander Foundation and visiting the Gallery’s conservation laboratory four times while the painting was being restored. Over time, this support also allowed the carefully conserved painting to travel to Spain in 2014 for a preview showing in Madrid before it became the focus of a special exhibition held in Seville, where the artist had painted his first major canvas at the young age of 18.

The Education of the Virgin now resides in a place of honor in our European art galleries, reminding us of a fine man whose legacy is secure for the ages. If he was still alive, Emilio would have rejoiced in his grandson Pepe’s recent graduation from Yale College with a degree in architecture. Having served as a Gallery Guide during all four years of his undergraduate study at the University, Pepe chose to leave a gift of his own creation to his alma mater: a beautifully researched architectural tour of the Gallery’s renovated buildings, narrated by him in English and Spanish, which will be made available to visitors on our new audio guide, currently in development.

Reflecting on the remarkable growth of the Gallery’s holdings since my arrival in 1998, it is worth noting that in the past 20 years we have created, funded, and staffed four new departments-African Art, Indo-Pacific Art, Numismatics, and Photography. In the summer, we presented a selection from the Susan and John Jackson, B.A. 1967, Collection of Numismatics, introducing rare and important examples of paper money and financial instruments to our already-strong encyclopedic holdings of coins and medals. Through other magnanimous gifts, we have also added many singular works of great quality to our renowned collection. Most recently, William L. Bernhard, B.A. 1954, announced the promised gift of 18 works from the collection that he amassed with his late wife, Catherine G. Cahill, and he has placed two marvelous objects, Vincent van Gogh’s Orchard Bordered by Cypresses (1888) and Pablo Picasso’s La rue Lepic (ca. 1900), on loan for visitors to enjoy immediately. Our American paintings collection was also recently honored with Joan Davidson’s gift of Moonlight (ca. 1888), by Ralph Albert Blakelock, which offers myriad opportunities to consider the artist’s methods and use of materials. On your next visit to the Gallery, I encourage you to seek out the Blakelock, Picasso, van Gogh, and Velázquez, among other works. Please join me in admiring them for their beauty, and also for the generosity of our donors and patrons, through which these works have come to be on public view in perpetuity. More than 4,000 works are currently on display and freely accessible in our galleries, and hundreds of thousands of images of other works in our collection are available on our website. Many of our objects are also on loan to other university and college art museums, part of our mission to be generous with our sister institutions and thus expand the reach of this teaching museum. Such efforts have made our work increasingly gratifying, as time passes and new generations of visitors come to the Gallery to be entranced by our collection.

Sincerely,

Jock Reynolds

The Henry J. Heinz II Director

Jock Reynolds, the Henry J. Heinz II Director

 

 
 

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