Virginia Steele Scott Galleries
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The Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art—Expanded
Opens July 2014
First opened in 1984, and expanded in 2009, The Huntington’s Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art are growing again—this time into a 5,400-square-foot space in the Lois and Robert F. Erburu wing that was previously used for storage. Recent major acquisitions, such as a carved organ screen by Depression-era African American artist Sargent Claude Johnson (1888–1967), The Locomotive by Reginald Marsh (1898–1954), and Global Loft (Spread) by Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008), will join loans and works from The Huntington’s permanent collection to tell an expanded story of American art from the colonial period to the 20th century.
While Henry Huntington envisioned a collection of American art as early as 1919, his vision was not realized until 60 years later. In 1979 the Virginia Steele Scott Foundation made a major gift to The Huntington in memory of Virginia Steele Scott, art collector, patron, and philanthropist, which included a group of 50 American paintings, funds to construct a gallery to display the collection, and an endowment for its professional management. Designed by Paul Gray, The Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art opened to the public in 1984, inaugurating American art as a significant part of The Huntington's collections. Since then, the American art collection has grown dramatically, largely through the support of the Scott Foundation, the Huntington’s Art Collectors' Council, generous donations to the collection, and significant long-term loans.
Utilizing more than 16,000 square feet of display space, the Scott Galleries are one of the largest presentations in California of American art from the colonial period through the mid- 20th century. The Huntington's American art holdings now number about 245 paintings, 60 works of sculpture, 990 decorative art objects, 8,500 prints and drawings, and 1,800 photographs.
Frederick Fisher’s modern classical wing, the Erburu Gallery, joins the neoclassical Scott Gallery as the home of the American art collections. Together, the galleries sit beautifully in the Huntington landscape, inviting views of the mountains and gardens from the glass loggia and helping to develop a sense of interplay between the works of art inside and the gardens outside.
The installation in the Scott Galleries highlights recent acquisitions and long-term loans from public and private collections. Visitors will see paintings by John Singleton Copley, Frederic Edwin Church, Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, John Sloan, Robert Motherwell, and Sam Francis, among others, as well as American decorative arts ranging from silver by Paul Revere to furniture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. One of the highlights of the installation is Harriet Hosmer’s monumental marble sculpture, Zenobia in Chains, acquired by The Huntington in late 2007. Considered the artist’s most important work, it was believed lost until a few years ago, when it was discovered in a private collection. The 82-inch-high marble sculpture is on view to the public for the first time in nearly a century.
The galleries include a space for temporary exhibitions. The Susan and Stephen Chandler Wing showcases focused exhibitions from The Huntington’s rich collection of American prints, drawings, and photographs.
The Lois and Robert F. Erburu wing of the Scott Galleries set the stage for a major development in the displays of the art collections.
The 21,000-square-foot addition, designed by Los Angeles architect Frederick Fisher, was built to house the expanding collection of American art and opened to the public in 2005.
In addition to taking architectural cues from the surrounding buildings at The Huntington, Fisher looked to examples of art gallery design from early 19th-century Europe, such as John Soane's Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, and to more modern American and European examples such as the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebaek, Denmark. Famous for its connection to nature, the latter inspired the idea of a glass-fronted loggia that would communicate with the gardens outside, rather than closing them from view. The visitor sees art on one side, nature on the other, and the glass loggia sweeps along the front of the addition, linking the new building to the existing Scott Gallery.