Worcester Art Museum Showcases its Permanent Collection, including Long-Lost Pissarro and Other Works Donated by Leading Worcester Family

WORCESTER, MASS., DECEMBER 20, 1999 - Missing for more than two decades, Camille Pissarro's Bassins Duquesne et Berrigny Dieppe, Temps Gris (1902) joins one of his earlier paintings, L'Ille Lacroix Rouen (1873), in this impressive exhibition of important works the Worcester Art Museum acquired through the generosity of the late Robert and Helen Stoddard, one of Worcester's great families known for their philanthropy, community leadership, and love of art.

On view from February 19 - April 17, 2000, Pissarro and Other Masters: The Stoddard Legacy features more than 80 works that once hung in the Stoddard home, including exquisite French Impressionist paintings, as well as other distinguished pieces the Museum acquired over the past 20 years through the Stoddard Acquisition Fund. These works range from a 17th-century portrait by Dutch master Frans Hals to a 19th-century oil sketch by French master Eugene Delacroix. The works also represent a wide range of media, from a red sandstone, 6th-century sculpture of a North Indian goddess of the Gupta period to a 1957 watercolor by American artist Andrew Wyeth.

European masters in the show include Jean-Antoine Houdon, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Chaim Soutine, and René Magritte. The show also features works by American masters such as Stuart Davis, Arthur G. Dove, Jacob Lawrence, Charles Sheeler, Georgia O'Keeffe, Andrew Wyeth, and Andy Warhol.

"This exhibition is intended to acknowledge the legacy the Stoddards left to the Museum, which they intended for everyone to enjoy," said James A. Welu, director of the Worcester Art Museum. "Bob and Helen Stoddard had a keen eye for art and became involved with the Museum in the 1940s. In addition to their strong leadership and extensive volunteer efforts, they enabled the Museum to acquire many fine works of art. We are extremely grateful for their friendship and generosity. I am particularly pleased that Bassins Duquesne et Berrigny Dieppe, Temps Gris, a personal favorite of Mrs. Stoddard, is now in the permanent collection of the Worcester Art Museum, which was her wish." The Stoddard collection greatly enhances the Museum's French Impressionism holdings, which date back to 1910 when Worcester was the first American museum to acquire Monet.

Noting that Worcester's collection is world-renowned because of the continued generosity of its local community, Welu added: "In addition to enhancing our French holdings, the Stoddards enabled us to add works to virtually every part of the Museum's collection." These include ancient Roman, Indian, Vietnamese, and Native American works, to name a few.

Known as a pioneer among American museums, Worcester was one of the first museums to exhibit (1904) and collect photography. Here too, the Stoddards have added to the Museum's collection with works by a number of noted photographers, including William Henry Fox Talbot, Julia Margaret Cameron, James Van Der Zee, and Berenice Abbott.

"Ours is a classic American museum, with major funding from the community's leading families like the Stoddards and others who helped set the cultural pace of New England's second largest city," Welu said. "The Worcester Art Museum is so dependent on the private sector because we receive no city funding. This private philanthropy has made our Museum one of the great cultural institutions in this country."

After FBI Seizure, Stolen Painting Returns to Worcester

On April 9, 1999, the Worcester Art Museum announced that it had acquired Pissarro's Bassins Duquesne et Berrigny Dieppe, Temps Gris, which had been stolen from the Stoddard home in 1978 along with nine other works, including two paintings by Renoir. The FBI seized the Pissarro oil painting in October 1998 from Wolf's Auction Gallery in Cleveland, Ohio, where it had been consigned for sale. The seizure induced an intense media focus on this French Impressionist painting that had been missing for two decades.

A Cleveland court decision on April 8, 1999 resulted in Bassins Duquesne et Berrigny Dieppe, Temps Gris being delivered to the Worcester Art Museum for its permanent collection. The painting was found to be in excellent condition. In preparation for the exhibition, the Museum's Conservation Department has removed the painting's discolored varnish and overseen the restoration of its frame.

None of the other works stolen in the mysterious 1978 robbery has been found, and the investigation continues.

The Stoddards were particularly fond of French art, and Bassins Duquesne et Berrigny Dieppe, Temps Gris hung over their mantle piece from 1951 to 1978. After the painting was stolen, the Stoddards acquired several other pictures, including Pissarro's L'Ille Lacroix Rouen, which took the treasured spot over the family's mantle piece. Both of these paintings will now hang together - for the first time ever - at the Worcester Art Museum. This show presents a unique opportunity for visitors to fully appreciate the art the Stoddards loved as well as other significant works they enabled the Museum to acquire. The exhibition is sponsored by Wyman-Gordon Foundation.

Robert and Helen Stoddard

Robert Stoddard, who died in 1984, was president and chairman of the board of Wyman-Gordon Company for more than 40 years. He also was a trustee of the Worcester Art Museum for 30 years, and served as chairman of the board of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Helen Stoddard was deeply committed to Museum programs until her death in 1998 at the age of 94. She was a founder of the Museum's Members' Council in 1949, and received its Volunteer Award of Merit in 1982. She was also in the Museum's first class of docents (1971), and remained an active volunteer into her nineties. One of the Stoddards' two daughters, Judy King, is currently a member of the Museum's Board of Trustees and serves on its Collections Committee.

After giving anonymously to the Museum for decades, the Stoddards created the Stoddard Acquisition Fund in 1979. Their gift more than doubled the Museum's endowment for acquiring art, and has funded some of the Museum's most signifi-cant purchases. These include the Museum's first Surrealist painting, Voice of Silence by René Magritte, which was just acquired and will be unveiled in the Stoddard show.

Pissarro and Other Masters: The Stoddard Legacy is an excellent opportunity to enjoy treasures from around the world and from of one of Worcester's prominent families of the 20th century.

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.