While the traveling Picasso exhibit might be getting the big press these days, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts' permanent collection received a largely unnoticed acquisition recently. The museum soon will add 10,000 prints to its inventory, making up more than a third of the objects in the museum's entire print collection.
Donated by a Richmond-raised art collector and scholar, Frank Raysor, the acquisitions span 500 years from the Renaissance to the present, and include works by DA¬rer, Rembrandt, Goya, Matisse, Homer, Cassatt and Dali.
“It's really a big deal for the museum,” says Mitchell Merling, curator of the Mellon collection and head of the European art department. “We're immediately the go-to place for the study of European prints.” The pieces include more than 2,500 of Wenceslaus Hollar's roughly 3,000 works, as well as the complete output of artists FAclix Bracquemond and Alphonse Legros. “We're covering a lot of terrain,” he says.
Raysor, an executive retired from the Seagram Corp., spent time at the museum in his youth and bought certain pieces specifically for the museum. “He remembers Richmond fondly, but has lived in New York for the past 35 years,” Merling says. Part of the collection represents Raysor's roots in Virginia, with featured homegrown art by Richmonder Nell Blaine, former VMFA artist in residence Will Burnett, and Winslow Homer's work “Sunday Morning in Virginia.”
“Frank had in mind putting together the exhibition to have as much by certain artists as possible,” Merling says. Because of the size, the museum can process only 2,000 prints a year; 1,500 prints have been moved so far.
“We can do 100 more exhibits from the collection,” VMFA Director Alex Nyerges says, adding that the current exhibit “A Celebration of Print” represents only 1 percent of Raysor's donation. “If that's not staggering, I don't know what is.”
Other showings at VMFA include the Picasso exhibit, a Nigerian art exhibit and a collection of Civil War drawings. “It's an embarrassment of riches at the museum right now,” Merling says. S
“A Celebration of Print: 500 Years of Graphic Art from the Frank Raysor Collection” runs at VMFA, 200 N. Boulevard, through May 22. Admission is free. For information go to vmfa.state.va.us.