Once again, as in recent years, generous donors and patrons are mainly responsible for the Museum's acquisitions of major art works in 1984–85. The Metropolitan's own unrestricted purchase funds have been so outdistanced by soaring prices for works of art during the last decade that without the magnanimity and generosity of the Museum's friends, this year's group of new acquisitions would be of minor importance.
1984–85 was the year of twentieth-century art in regard to notable acquisitions. One bequest in this area is so large and so significant that it dominates all the Museum's other acquisitions for the year. Scofield Thayer, the pioneer collector of modern art and editor in chief of The Dial, a magazine of arts and letters founded in 1919, bequeathed to the Metropolitan his entire collection of more than five hundred works of art, a collection he formed between 1919 and 1924. The Dial provided a distinguished forum for avant-garde writers and critics—among them, e. e. cummings, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, D. H. Lawrence, Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore, and Virginia Woolf—as well as furnished its pages for the reproduction of the works of art that Thayer specifically acquired for publication in his magazine. The Scofield Thayer bequest includes a constellation of thirty-eight works on paper by Egon Schiele, three prints and four paintings by Henri Matisse, twenty-three paintings and works on paper by Pablo Picasso, and thirty-five sculptures and drawings by Gaston Lachaise.
Other remarkable acquisitions in the field of twentieth-century art entered the Museum's collection in the past year. Heinz Berggruen, the foremost collector of the art of Paul Klee, one of the most original and influential artists of this century, gave to the Museum ninety paintings and drawings by that artist, three of which are reproduced in this publication. The Berggruen gift has provided the Metropolitan with a group of Klee's works that is not a random selection but is, rather, an exceptionally informed, sensitive, and varied whole, representing Klee at every stage of his career and at his very best. The discernment of another collector strongly manifests itself in the nine important paintings and works on paper by Willem de Kooning—four of which are published herein—that were acquired by a combination of gift and purchase from the estate of Thomas B. Hess, the former Consultative Chairman of the Department of Twentieth-Century Art at the Metropolitan and a distinguished connoisseur of this artist's oeuvre.
Many individual sculptures given to the Museum during the past year are deserving of special notice. A cluster of Rodin bronzes was given to the Metropolitan by B. Gerald Cantor, a collector who has devoted years of his life to the study of Rodin's art and whose benefaction has enriched the Museum's extensive holdings by this great French sculptor. An important work by the noted English sculptor Anthony Caro, entitled Odalisque, was given by GFI/Knoll International Foundation. In another area, Alice Heeramaneck, who remains a great friend of this institution, presented us with a superb Mughal nephrite-hilted dagger, which ranks among the finest of its kind.
As on so many occasions in recent years, it would be impossible to write a foreword to this publication without thanking Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, whose gifts this past year have greatly enriched the quality and range of the Metropolitan's collection of European seventeenth-century paintings. In addition to two large and powerful Italian Baroque masterpieces—Guercino's Samson Captured by the Philistines and Domenichino's late and commanding altarpiece The Assumption of the Virgin with Saints Nicholas of Myra and Anne—the Wrightsmans presented to the Museum a work of poetic character, entitled Clothing the Naked, by the Flemish painter Michiel Sweerts, whose works are rare indeed, and Eustache Le Sueur's The Rape of Tamar. The Le Sueur canvas handsomely closes a gap in the Museum's holdings that we were made keenly aware of at the time of the exhibition France in the Golden Age: Seventeenth-Century French Paintings in American Collections, when a painting by that artist owned by the Art Institute of Chicago was chosen for the cover of the French edition of the catalogue.