To celebrate The Hyde’s 50th year as a museum, it is showing 50 of its most prominent works of art collected over the past half-century. The exhibition, “50 at 50: Five Decades of Collecting at The Hyde, 1963-2013,” not only shows a stunning array of artistic styles by 50 different artists, it reveals the evolution of the museum’s collection.
The collection includes about 3,000 pieces of decorative art, furnishings and fine art. Curator Erin Coe and assistant curator Jayne Stokes had the job of choosing 50 works, a process that took more than half a year.
Coe said the foundational collection, the one the museum opened with, is roughly 400 works collected by Charlotte Pruyn Hyde and her husband, Louis Fiske Hyde. Over the past 50 years, the museum has received about 1,000 items, many of which were furnishings and decorative art, from the estates of Mrs. Hyde and her sisters.
‘50 at 50: Five Decades of Collecting at The Hyde, 1963-2013’
WHERE: The Hyde Collection, 161 Warren St., Glens Falls
WHEN: Through April 14. Museum hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $8; $6 for students and seniors; free for children 12 and under and active duty U.S. military and family.
MORE INFO: 792-1761, www.hydecollection.org
Eliminating these two groups from consideration and focusing on fine art, with an emphasis on painting, narrowed the choices down to about 1,000 pieces.
To select 50 from that group, Coe and Stokes set some criteria. “I felt that they had to represent a milestone in the museum’s evolution as an art museum. For example, a work that maybe inspired an exhibition — a milestone, a touchstone, something that is really transformational,” Coe said.
One work that met this criterion is Adolph Gottlieb’s “Composition” (1956). In 2005, The Hyde featured the exhibition “Adolph Gottlieb: 1956,” inspired by this work.
The other criterion was that the works had to augment, strengthen or enhance the founders’ collection.
An example of this is the 1876 Winslow Homer painting “Adirondack Guide.” Homer was a favorite of the Hydes, and in the 1930s they acquired three of his watercolors.
Another painting that speaks to the Hyde’s taste in art is Paulus Moreelse’s painting from the 1620s called “Portrait of a Girl.”
“The Hydes were very interested in the old masters and particularly the Dutch school,” said Coe, noting that this acquisition strengthened and built upon that part of the collection.
Other works in the show are ones that “found their way home,” as Coe put it. For example, Charlotte Hyde gifted her sisters with several paintings from her own collection. Over the years, family members have donated them to the museum’s collection. Charlotte Hyde purchased four landscape paintings from the estate of Willard Leroy Metcalf and gave them to her sisters. Metcalf’s “The Blossoming Maple” (ca. 1909), which is featured in the exhibition, was a gift of Mary H. Beeman to the museum’s Pruyn Family Collection in 1995.
The museum has also continued the collecting style of the Hydes. In addition to acquiring works by the great masters, the Hydes also collected works by their contemporaries, like Picasso. “We’re building and expanding on the vision that the founders had,” Coe said.
“We’re embracing the spirit of that collection by looking to the art of our own time and looking to the art of the 20th century.”
Examples of this are Robert Cottingham’s 1967 oil work “Gulf Truck,” done in a pop art-realist style and acquired in 2003; Raphael Soyer’s 1964 oil “Alice Rewald,” which was acquired last year and will be exhibited for the first time; and Richard Callner’s “Spanish Lake II” (1994), which visitors may be familiar with because of Callner’s close affiliation with the Albany Institute of History & Art.
Organized by acquisition
Rather than arranging the works by style or time period, Coe decided to hang them according to the date they were acquired. “It’s really interesting, because you have all of these really startling juxtapositions,” she said.
For example, French artist Fernand Leger’s lithograph “City Landscape,” acquired in 1996, is in between George McNeil’s acrylic work “The City Weeps,” done in 1993 and acquired by the museum in the same year and Homer’s “Adirondack Guide” (1876), which was given to the museum in 1998.
Coe hopes that this arrangement will spark dialogues about the various works of art from different time periods, as well as how they speak to the growth of the museum’s collection.
The chronological arrangement will also allow visitors to see how the museum’s physical space has affected the collection. In 1989, the museum opened the education wing, adding an art storage area and loading dock. “After 1989, the growth of the collection really takes off — it really accelerates because we have a place to store it and receive it,” Coe said.
In addition to honoring the foundational collection and the Hyde’s style of collecting, the exhibition looks to the future of the museum. “Anniversaries are an opportunity to reflect and look back, but they also provide us with a vision to the future,” Coe said. Speaking to the future of the collection is Arthur James Emery Powell’s oil work “Winter Landscape” (ca. 1930), which was given to the Hyde by Thomas Clark as the first of several promised gifts.
Sculptures around the Wood Gallery punctuate the exhibit, such as John Raimondi’s 1948 bronze “Dance of the Cranes.” Informational panels hanging throughout the gallery highlight milestones in the museum’s history.
One difficult decision Coe and Stokes had was which of Dorothy Dehner’s works to choose, as the museum recently received a donation of 10 of her paintings.
To solve the problem, Coe organized a companion exhibition in the Hoopes Gallery, “Dorothy Dehner at The Hyde,” which will include prints, drawings, watercolors and a bronze sculpture by this modernist, including the recently donated paintings that have not been exhibited until now. Dehner lived with her husband, artist David Smith, in Bolton Landing during the 1940s.
The 50th anniversary will also be celebrated throughout the museum with the placement of a special “50 at 50” logo on works that were acquired after 1963.
Visitors can create their own customized tour using an audio guide. If a work’s label has a number, visitors can call it on their cellphones, enter a code number, and listen to a narrative.
Coe hopes the exhibitions will provide opportunities to discuss the history of The Hyde Collection and great moments for the institution as well as inform visitors about the guidelines it uses in building the collection.