Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art officially accessions Bloch Impressionist masterpieces

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Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art officially accessions Bloch Impressionist masterpieces
Vincent van Gogh, Dutch (1853-1890). Restaurant Rispal at Asnières, 1887. Oil on canvas, 28 7/8 x 23 5/8 inches. Promised gift of Marion and Henry Bloch.

KANSAS CITY, MO.- The Committee on Collections routinely meets at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art to review and recommend works for acquisition into the museum’s collection. June’s meeting was monumental, with the presentation of the Marion and Henry Bloch Collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Art. The viewing took place in one of the museum’s conservation labs with Henry Bloch and three of his grown children present.

“The vote to bring into the museum’s collection these great works of art is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell CEO & Director of the Nelson-Atkins. “While this has been in the making for many decades, still it was a historic moment to see Henry present his gift to the Committee on Collections. It is truly a transformative act of generosity, and we look forward to sharing these treasures with everyone in Kansas City once the gallery renovation is complete.”

Henry Bloch told personal stories about acquiring many of the paintings, after which the committee voted unanimously to recommend to the Board of Trustees that the art enter the Nelson-Atkins’ collection. The Board enthusiastically ratified the gift on Monday, June 15.

Until recently, the works of art were in the Bloch home and had been part of the family’s day-to-day lives for many years. Now the collection is kept at the Nelson-Atkins, and digitally photographed replicas of each masterwork hang in the Bloch home.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am to see these paintings at the museum,” said Mr. Bloch. “The replicas look wonderful at the house, and it gives me great peace of mind and a wonderful sense of security knowing the art is being cared for at the Nelson-Atkins.”

With the Bloch Collection now at the museum, specialists can begin deeper research and preparation of the works before they are on public display. Nicole Myers, Associate Curator, European Painting and Sculpture, and Mary Schafer, Conservator, Paintings, will conduct studies to further the scholarly knowledge around these masterpieces of French painting. Their findings will enhance understanding, both for display and for the French painting collection catalogue, which is currently underway.

The art will be integrated with the museum’s European collection, a project that is the result of a thoughtful planning process and strategic initiative. As part of accepting the Bloch Collection into the Nelson-Atkins collection, the museum has begun an $11.7 million renovation, funded by the Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation. The northeast quadrant of the Plaza level will be closed during the construction period, but other galleries on that level will remain open. The rest of the museum will not be affected by the renovation and will be open as usual. The new galleries are expected to open in early 2017.

“Henry Bloch’s gift of his collection is compounded by the foundation’s gift to renovate the galleries,” Zugazagoitia said. “These are two distinct and complementary gifts, and we are honored and humbled by such a level of generosity.”

The collection was showcased during the 2007 opening of the Bloch Building and bequeathed to the museum under the leadership of Director Emeritus Marc F. Wilson in 2010, as part of the museum’s 75th Anniversary call for art.

“Our collection was built from a passion for beautiful paintings and Impressionist art,” Mr. Bloch said. “I am indebted to former Director Ted Coe, from whom Marion and I always had great advice, and I am also grateful to Marc Wilson for his guidance as we considered where our collection belonged. I am delighted that my collection will soon be displayed with so many other great works, giving depth and understanding to the Impressionist movement and its followers.”

The collection of 29 masterpieces represents acquisitions assembled by the Blochs over a period of more than 20 years. The result of careful research and consultation with curators and conservators, the collection is a balanced selection of superlative works from the seminal artists of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist periods. Among the famed pieces are Édouard Manet’s The Croquet Party, Vincent van Gogh’s Restaurant Rispal at Asnières, Paul Gauguin’s The Willow Tree, and Paul Cézanne’s Man with a Pipe.

There are three works by Camille Pissarro and Eugène Boudin and two by Alfred Sisley, along with individual paintings by Gustave Caillebotte and Claude Monet. Impressionist portraits are represented by Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Berthe Morisot, one of the first women to join the Impressionists as a professional painter. Degas’ beloved dancers are here in two mediums – in the beautiful pastel Dancer Making Points and the petite bronze Grand Arabesque, Third Time.

Cézanne’s Man with a Pipe and van Gogh’s Restaurant Rispal at Asnières are two examples of masterpieces that the Blochs were able to secure at auction. A Cézanne landscape, Quarry at Bibémus, is complemented by an important landscape by Gauguin, The Willow Tree. There are also paintings by the stylistically revolutionary George Seurat and his follower Paul Signac.

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