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European Paintings

The Museum's collection of Old Master and 19th-century European paintings – one of the greatest such collections in existence – numbers approximately 2,500 works, dozens of which are instantly recognizable worldwide. The French, Italian, Flemish, and Dutch schools are most strongly represented, with fine works also by British and Spanish masters.

The history of the collection is marked by extraordinary gifts and bequests. In 1901 the Museum received a bequest of almost seven million dollars from Jacob S. Rogers for the purchase of works of art in all fields. The Fortune Teller by Georges de La Tour and Cypresses by Vincent van Gogh are just two examples from among many hundreds of works of art bought from this fund over the years. The bequest of Benjamin Altman in 1913 brought a number of major works to the Museum, including important paintings by Botticelli, Memling, and Rembrandt. In 1917 a bequest and funds for additional acquisitions were received from Isaac D. Fletcher. Velázquez's splendid portrait of Juan de Pareja was acquired in 1971 principally from the Fletcher Fund.

In 1929 the bequest of the H. O. Havemeyer Collection brought not only Old Masters but also unrivaled works by the French Impressionists. Among the works owned by Mr. and Mrs. Havemeyer were El Greco's View of Toledo, the portrait of Joseph Antoine Moltedo by Ingres, many paintings and pastels by Degas, and Monet's The Four Trees ("Poplars"). Michael Friedsam's bequest in 1931 strengthened the department's holdings of early French and Flemish paintings. The collection formed by Jules Bache, which included superb French 18th-century paintings and notable works by Crivelli, Goya, and Van Dyck, was deposited in the Museum in 1949.

In recent years, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman presented to the Museum many paintings of outstanding quality. Their gift in 1981 – Rubens's portrait of himself, his wife, and their son – is an outstanding example of the discriminating generosity that has made the Museum what it is today.

Most recently, in 1993, the Museum opened its Nineteenth-Century European Paintings and Sculpture Galleries, a suite of 21 rooms that display the Museum's extensive collection of Romantic, Barbizon, Impressionist, and Post-Impressionist paintings and 19th-century European sculpture. Many of the greatest European canvases of the 19th century are on display there, including Manet's Young Lady in 1866 ("Woman with a Parrot"), Monet's Garden at Sainte-Adresse (one of 37 Monets in the collection), Van Gogh's Wheat Field with Cypresses, Gauguin's Ia Orana Maria, and Cézanne's Mont Sainte-Victoire (one of 21 Cézanne oil paintings in the Museum). The Annenberg Collection of 53 Impressionist and post-Impressionist masterworks, a promised bequest, are on display in these galleries for six months each year.

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September 1999

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