The permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg is richer by three works that were recently added, the result of funds raised by the Collectors' Circle and contributions from individual donors.
It's an eclectic trio: a bucolic French landscape, an academic drawing and a startling photographic portrait. But their differences are their strengths because each fills a void in the museum's collection.
William Anderson Coffin (1855-1925) was better known as an art critic and writer than painter, but he studied seriously in France after graduating from Yale University and continued to paint when he settled back in the United States. This landscape is a view of the village of Grez-sur-Loing, a French artists' colony whose visitors included writer Robert Louis Stevenson, composer Frederick Delius and painter John Singer Sargent. While not an "academic" painting (heroic, historical scenes were favored with meticulous technique with seamless brushstrokes), it is also not in an emerging genre that came to be known as Impressionism. It has a bit of the Barbizon School's romanticism without the gauziness. It adds to the collection's 19th-century holdings an example of work created in a famous artists' colony that the museum doesn't have and is connected to others in the museum by Coffin's relationships with their artists. This painting was acquired with funds provided by the Collectors' Circle, a fundraising group for the museum.
Until recently, all of photographer Cindy Sherman's portraits were of herself, including this 2003 work, Woman in Sun Dress. But she creates personas, not self-portraits, that make her unrecognizable and exaggerate the details of the character she portrays. Here, a person whose type we have seen if we have lived in Florida for any length of time. Its narrative makes it a good choice for the museum. Sherman (b. 1954) is one of the world's most well-known contemporary photographers and this work is a prestigious addition. This purchase was made with funds from Kathy and Patrick Beyer, Chitranee and Dr. Robert L. Drapkin, Terence Leet, Martha and James Sweeny, and Carol A. Upham.
The museum has few drawings in its collection of more than 15,000 works, only about 50. So when a good one becomes available for the right price (though museums rarely discuss prices publicly), it's good for the collection. Georges Clairin (1843-1919) was a French academic painter with exquisite technique. You see it in this study, probably for one of his famous paintings for the Paris Opera in the late 19th century. This drawing is the gift of John Schloder, director emeritus of the museum.
Lennie Bennett can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8293.