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  • Private Collector Reveals Artistic Passions in Summer Show at Worcester Art Museum

    WORCESTER, MASS., JUNE 9, 2000 -Enjoy 28 works by significant masters such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Signac, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Thomas Hart Benton, Charles Burchfield, John Marin, and Alexander Calder, acquired by one of Worcester's most avid art collectors of the 20th century. On view at the Worcester Art Museum from June 24 - August 6, The Riley Collection: From Van Gogh to Hockney features acclaimed works that Chapin Riley, formerly of Riley Stoker Company, collected during the past 60 years.

    Displayed in the Museum's 19th- and 20th-century European galleries, the show reveals Riley's passion for collecting different types of art and features paintings, sculptures, and works on paper. Riley donated some of these works to the Museum, and others are from his personal collection.

    "Chapin Riley is one who benefitted from his life in Worcester is making every effort to give back to his hometown," said James A. Welu, director of the Worcester Art Museum, curator of European Art, and curator of this exhibition. "The Museum is extremely fortunate to be the beneficiary of Riley's great enthusiasm for art. Little did he realize what he would accomplish as a collector when he acquired his first work and hung it in a room in a YMCA almost 70 years ago."

    An active member of the Worcester Art Museum for more than half a century, Riley began actively collecting art in 1946, pursuing this passion while in Worcester and after moving to the West Coast. He originally focussed on American Art, and his first major purchase was Corn and Winter Wheat, a painting by Thomas Hart Benton, which Riley donated to the Worcester Art Museum in 1970. Riley was also attracted to Impressionism and Modernism and acquired several of the leading masters of these movements. Riley's move to Los Angeles in the mid-1970s prompted him to become more active in contemporary art, and he began collecting works by Sam Francis, David Hockey and others.

    Riley served on numerous committees at the Worcester Art Museum, and his favorite was the Committee on the Collections, which he chaired from 1963-1977. In 1994, Riley received the Museum's highest honor, the Stephen Salisbury Award, named for the Museum's founder.

    In the 1960s, Riley also got involved in Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), where he served as trustee. Through the ICA, he continued to meet major contemporary artists, including Alberto Giacometti and Jean Miro. Riley was instrumental in helping found the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (LAMOCA). He has also established an ongoing fund that will enable the Worcester Art Museum to add to its permanent collection.

    Museum Background

    Opened to the public in 1898, the Worcester Art Museum is the second largest art museum in New England. Its exceptional 35,000-piece collection of paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, photography, prints and drawings is displayed in 36 galleries and spans 5,000 years of art and culture, ranging from Egyptian antiquities and Roman mosaics to Impressionist paintings and contemporary art. Throughout its first century, the Worcester Art Museum proved itself a pioneer: the first American museum to purchase work by Claude Monet (1910) and Paul Gauguin (1921); the first museum to bring a medieval building to America (1927); a sponsor of the first major excavation at Antioch, one of the four great cities of ancient Rome (1932); the first museum to create an Art All-State program for high school artists (1987); the originator of the first exhibition of Dutch master Judith Leyster (1993); and the first museum to focus its contemporary art programs on art of the last 10 years (1998). The Museum's hours are: Wednesday through Sunday, 11am-5pm, and Saturday 10am-5pm. Admission: FREE for members; Non-members: $8 Adults; $6 Seniors and full-time college students with current ID; FREE for youth 17 and under; FREE for everyone Saturday mornings 10am-noon sponsored by The TJX Companies and Massachusetts Electric Company. For more information, call (508) 799-4406 or visit the Museum at 55 Salisbury Street in Worcester.