Museum gets new gem

Donation yields Picasso for Hagerstown

Donation yields Picasso for Hagerstown

January 20, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

One of the crown jewels of Washington County, the art museum in Hagerstown's City Park, has added a gem to its permanent collection thanks to a Chicago donor.

"Grand Nu de Femme," a 1962 cubist linocut print of a nude by Pablo Picasso, was donated to the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts by James R. Donnelley in honor of his wife, Nina Herrmann Donnelley, and her late parents, Phillip August and Sarah Neely Herrmann. The Herrmanns were long-time Hagerstown residents.

"Mr. Donnelley knows this will be a really major thing for us," museum Curator Ann Prentice Wagner said. "We will love it and show it off as opposed to a much larger collection," where it might not get the spotlight treatment.

True to her word, the Picasso was hung Jan. 2 in the museum's lobby so it is one of the first things visitors entering the museum see.


"It's a fine piece and I hope they enjoy it," Jim Donnelley said in a recent phone interview from Chicago. "We'll get out to see it next time my wife and I visit the museum."

Donnelley said he bought the print in 1968. He and his wife have four other Picasso pieces at their home ? three drawings and a watercolor.

"I collect what we like," said Donnelley, who is the retired vice chairman of the printing company R.R. Donnelley and Sons Company and is current chairman of the National Merit Scholarship Corp.

Nina Donnelley said she found it heartwarming and touching when her husband donated the Picasso to honor her and her parents.


Picasso (1881-1973) is a Spanish artist who worked for much of his life in France. He is most well-known for his paintings and for leading the development of cubism.

Cubism "blew away" rules developed during the Renaissance that the view shown in a painting should be a single view shown in a single instant, Wagner said. There was no change in view or time.

Cubism, however, showed multiple points of view at the same time, allowing for expressiveness and distortion, Wagner said. The woman in Picasso's linocut is seen from at least four angles. Her face is in profile to the viewer, but one eye looks directly at the viewer, Wagner said. The back of her hair falls in front and one leg shows her other profile.

Raising the bar

"Grand Nu de Femme" was made with the reduction linocut method. This particular print is one of 50 of the linocut.

Linocut prints are made by carving linoleum blocks. Ink is applied to the block, then fine paper is pressed against the block to transfer the image. Typically, a different block is carved for the application of each color.

In a reduction linocut, the same block is used for all colors. Color is generally applied from lightest color to darkest. First the block is cut to remove linoleum from the areas of the block the artist wants to remain white on the paper. The lightest color is applied to the raised areas of the linoleum and paper is applied to the block.

This first printing leaves white areas and the lightest color on the paper. Then the artist cuts away areas of the block he or she wants to remain the lightest color and inks up the next darkest shade, and so on.

The big picture

Wagner, the museum's curator, said the Picasso print "helps us to tell a lot of very important stories about European and American modern art."

The work ties into other pieces in the museum's permanent collection, Wagner said. Near the Picasso is an untitled oil-and-sand painting by Reuben Kadish. Kadish was an American artist who was influenced by Picasso, as were artists such as Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollack and Willem De Kooning.

Because "Grand Nu de Femme" is on paper, it will not always be available for public viewing, Wagner said. To protect it from indirect sunlight, the print will be hung periodically, for about three months at a time. It should be up through March, when it takes its first break.

If you go ...

WHAT: Pablo Picasso's cubist 1962 reduction linocut print, "Grand Nu de Femme."

WHEN: 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: Washington County Museum for Fine Arts, City Park, Hagerstown

COST: Admission is free; suggested donation of $5

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

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