About The Collection
The Huntington's European art collection encompasses
a broad range of styles, cultures and media, from antiquity to the twentieth
century. It features one of the most significant collections of British art
outside the United Kingdom, including important holdings of 18th- and
19th-century sculpture, as well as decorative arts from 15th-century silver
through the 19th- and early 20th-century designs of William Morris and his
followers. Famous for its collection of grand manner portraits, it is also
distinguished by important examples of 19th-century landscape painting by
Constable and Turner, and 17th-century portraiture by Peter Lely and Anthony van
The European art collection also includes extensive
holdings of art from outside Great Britain. It is particularly strong in
Renaissance bronzes and 18th-century French decorative art and sculpture,
including a major group of terracottas by Clodion and works in marble and bronze
by Jean-Antoine Houdon. The collection of French paintings contains works by the
most important artists of the 17th and 18th centuries, such as Claude, Watteau
The collection of British portraits of the late 18th and early 19th-century is
considered one of the greatest outside London. Many of the best works by the
most important English painters of the period were large formal portraits; 14 of
the finest examples are on display in the Thornton Portrait Gallery, including
portraits by Joshua Reynolds, George Romney, and Thomas Gainsborough, whose
works on view include Blue Boy (ca. 1770) and Karl Friedrich
Abel (ca. 1777), as well as Reynolds' Sarah Siddons as the Tragic
Muse and Thomas Lawrence's "Pinkie" (1794). In addition to painted
portraits, the Thornton Portrait Gallery also features an important collection
of British portrait busts, representing most of the important sculptors working
in England during the period.
Elsewhere in the Huntington Art Gallery, other
periods of British painting are represented. Seventeenth- and early 18th-century
portraits, including works by Van Dyck, Lely, and Allan Ramsay, can be found in
the anteroom to the Thornton Portrait Gallery. The rise of landscape painting
around 1800 is represented by important works from J. M. W. Turner and John
Constable, on view on the second floor. An important group of miniature
portraits can be seen in two new displays: early miniatures, including a
portrait of Queen Elizabeth I by Nicholas Hillard, are shown downstairs, while
18th- and 19th-century examples by artists such as Richard Cosway are on display
upstairs. British drawings and watercolors are presented in changing exhibitions
in a dedicated room in the upstairs west wing.
British decorative arts
include an important collection of silver, comprising works from the 15th
through the 19th centuries, extensive holdings of furniture, and porcelain and
pottery from the great manufactories of the industrial revolution, such as
Chelsea, Derby and Wedgwood.
A recent acquisition of works relating to
William Morris established a new focus on the Design Reform movement from the
1840s through the early 20th century. The major renovation of the Gallery,
completed in 2008, included the conversion of a stairwell into a space to
display a 15-foot-high stained glass window (ca. 1898) produced by Morris and
Co. after designs by Edward Burne-Jones.
The collection of French art, mostly from the 18th century, is characteristic of the taste for grand-siècle style among American millionaires in the early 20th century. The downstairs rooms of the Huntington Art Gallery are furnished with French furniture and decorative objects, arranged to evoke the taste and lifestyle of Henry and Arabella Huntington. A set of Beauvais tapestries after designs by François Boucher, purchased by Huntington in 1909, hangs in the large library. This room also includes two of the great Savonnerie carpets designed for Louis XIV's redecoration of the Louvre palace in the late 17th century.
A large part of the French art collection is displayed in new galleries devoted to the Arabella D. Huntington Memorial Art Collection, in the upstairs east wing. This collection begins with Jean-Antoine Houdon's original life-size bronze Diana the Huntress, first publicly exhibited in 1782. The collection was assembled by Huntington in his wife's memory. Other highlights include five Beauvais tapestries from the Italian Village Scenes, a wonderful Houdon marble bust of Mme de Vermenoux and a substantial group of Sèvres porcelain.
The Adele S. Browning Memorial Collection displayed alongside includes an important group of paintings by leading artists of the ancien régime, such as Antoine Watteau, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, and Jean-Baptiste Greuze.
Nineteenth-century French art is represented by a group of paintings by artists associated with the Barbizon school. These were purchased by Henry Huntington before his marriage, and before he began to develop a new collecting focus on 18th-century art. These paintings are displayed with a group of 19th-century French sculptures in the upstairs northwest hallway which includes a major bronze by Alexandre Charpentier.
Other European Art
A small group of Renaissance paintings in the upstairs east wing, also part of the Arabella D. Huntington Memorial Art Collection, has as its centerpiece an exquisite Virgin and Child (ca. 1460) by the Flemish master Rogier van der Weyden. Renaissance bronzes in this wing form a group around Nessus and Deianira, a spectacular cast of a famous work by 16th-century Italian sculptor Giambologna. City views by Italian artists such as Antonio Canaletto and Bernardo Bellotto were collected by Englishmen as souvenirs of their "grand tours" of Europe and hang on the second floor in the southeast hallway.
As The Huntington's European art collection continues to grow by gift and purchase, installations in the Huntington Art Gallery will be dynamic, with new works going on view throughout the year.