There are two big surprises of historical proportions on display at the Crary Art Gallery starting this month. They will be officially unveiled to the public on Sunday, November 6, at 2pm, during the opening of the traveling show, "Ann Bagby: A Collaged World". But here you can get a sneak preview of them both.
The first is a 377-year-old Rembrandt etching donated very recently to the Crary by a former Warren resident.
"First Oriental Head", an etched print by Rembrandt van Rijn, the famous Dutch painter and printmaker who lived from 1606-1669, still looks pristine despite its advanced age. All those centuries were obviously spent in good care from its private owners.
Who was the noble-minded last private owner who gave the print to the Crary Art Gallery - and by extension, to all? Dr. Neil M. DeStefano, originally from Warren and graduating with the Class of 1948, is a surgeon who lives in North Carolina. Collecting art is a passion for him. After several decades of living, practicing, and raising a family in the South, he decided to share his love of art with his boyhood hometown and offered the Rembrandt print to the Crary. At their October meeting, the Crary's Board of Directors voted enthusiastically to accept it into the permanent art collection, and it will now be one of the first things visitors to the gallery will see.
The Crary is Warren County's only dedicated art museum. The generous donation by Dr. DeStefano adds significantly to the holdings. Because it is in the permanent collection, future generations in Warren will be able to appreciate this as well.
Hanging next to the "new" Rembrandt is another surprise of historical importance: hundred-year-old platinum-print photographs, four of them, by one of America's most famous photographers, Edward S. Curtis. They were discovered among the Crary Art Gallery holdings a few months ago in a large unmarked envelope found in a box of photographs by Clare Crary (the gallery's namesake) in an art storage room. The find was immediately recognized for what it was, and a lot of quiet excitement has been brewing since then.
Curtis spent his life visually documenting the fast-disappearing tribes of North America, starting in the 1890s and continuing until the 1930s. His photos were extremely popular in his day, and continue to be part of important collections. The Crary's works were discovered when the exhibition committee was poring through photographs for last summer's show of Clare Crary's portraits. They had clearly never been framed or displayed since they were purchased by Mr. Crary, probably in the very early part of the twentieth century. Care was taken to properly preserve and frame them after their recent discovery, and now they can finally be seen - more than one hundred years after Curtis went behind the camera lens, determined to bring the faces of these western tribes to an appreciative audience.
Board members who have pondered the significance of these works, speculate that Mr. Crary was deeply inspired by this photographer, and this may have been his reason for purchasing these works for himself. There is no diary record to confirm this theory, but Mr. Crary similarly dedicated much film to documenting people living in the vestiges of old traditions around the world, just before the 20th century was to catch up with them. Too, some of his printing techniques early in his career showed influence from Curtis' unique methods.
These photographs and the Rembrandt etching will now be exhibited for all Crary Art Gallery visitors to enjoy. They are accompanied by informative wall texts about the artists' lives and art. These works will be on long-term display, but visitors will want to check the Crary's website (crarygallery.org) for hours and days of operation, as the Gallery doors are only open every other month, when a new traveling exhibition is featured. Starting Nov. 6 and running through Dec. 3, the Crary is open Thursdays 11-5 pm, Fridays 11-8 pm, Saturdays 11-5 pm and Sunday 12-4 pm. Admission is always free.
Article courtesy Thomas Paquette.