Collection shows founders' art appreciation

Exhibit gathers pieces from around the world

Exhibit gathers pieces from around the world

January 25, 2007|by JULIE E. GREENE

Tri-State area residents have an opportunity during the next few months to get a rare glimpse into the homes of the Singers.

Many pieces from the personal art collection of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts' founders, including works rarely on exhibit in the U.S., are part of an exhibit opening Saturday at the museum in Hagerstown's City Park.

"Loving Art: The William & Anna Singer Collection" includes works that have been on display in the Netherlands and Norway, including the Norwegian home of the Singers, says Ann Prentice Wagner, curator for the museum.

Singers and friends

Many of the 63 works were at one time on display in the Singers' homes where they were enjoyed by the couple and their many friends. Several of those friends are responsible for the art the couple collected, either having created it or given or sold it to the Singers, Wagner says.


Those friends included American impressionists Willard Metcalf (1858-1925) and Richard Miller (1875-1943), who have works in the exhibit.

The show also features bronze sculptures by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), the oil painting "White House, Gloucester" by American impressionist Childe Hassam (1859-1935), the oil painting "Flemish Girl" by Dutch artist Frans Deutmann (1867-1915) and several Asian pieces such as a pair of Chinese vases with a cherry blossom pattern and a marble Buddha.

The exhibit also features "Portrait of Countess Borye des Renaudes," an oil on canvas by French portrait artist Charles-Emile-August Carolus-Duran.

Carolus-Duran (1837-1917) was an important teacher of the great American portrait artist John Singer Sargent, no relation to the Singers, Wagner says.

Some of the portraits, such as an oil on canvas of Martin Borgord (1866-1935), are of artist friends the Singers had. Borgord's portrait of the Singers hangs in the same section of the Groh Gallery as the portrait of him by Miller.

The exhibit was organized by the local museum's sister museum, the Singer Museum in Laren, Netherlands, Wagner says. That museum is celebrating its 50th anniversary while the local museum is commemorating its 75th anniversary. Both were established by the Singer family.

Vast collection

William H. Singer Jr. (1868-1943) was a painter who enjoyed painting Norwegian landscapes. His wife, Anna Brugh Singer (1873-1962), grew up in Hagerstown, not far from where the museum would open in 1931.

The couple lived mostly in Europe, where they collected art for their homes, and William Singer pursued his painting, according to exhibit information.

The Singers acquired more than 3,000 pieces of American, European and Asian art from 1900 to 1940, according to exhibit information.

While about half of the pieces in the exhibit are part of the local museum's permanent collection, this is an opportunity to see pieces in the Singers' collection displayed together, Wagner says.

An open photo album shows where two of the works were displayed in the Singers' home in Olden, Norway, Wagner says.

The Singers had homes in Laren; Olden; and Blaricum, Netherlands; and an apartment in Paris, where, briefly, William Singer studied art.

From all parts

The Singer Collection's permanent homes are divided among Hagerstown's museum; the Singer Museum in the Netherlands; Singerheimen, the Singer home - once known as Dalheim - in Olden, Norway; the West Norway Museum of Decorative Art in Bergen, Norway; and private collections.

The Washington County exhibit pulls pieces from all of these sources to form quite a varied show with oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, bronze sculptures, marble sculptures and decorative arts.

The Singers were able to afford such art purchases because William Singer was the son of a Pittsburgh steel magnate.

A new book, "Loving Art: The William & Anna Singer Collection," also provides insight into the couple's lives and artistic acquisitions.

The book - 256 glossy pages - was released in late 2006, when "Loving Art" was first on display in the Singer Museum in Laren, and is available for $49.95 plus tax in the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts gift shop.

This is the only American show for the exhibit.

If you go ...

WHAT: "Loving Art: The William & Anna Singer Collection" features art from museums in Hagerstown, the Netherlands and Norway as well as from private collectors

WHEN: Saturday, Jan. 27, through Sunday, April 15. Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

WHERE: Groh Gallery, Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, City Park, Hagerstown

COST: Free

MORE: For more information, call 301-739-5727 or go to

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