Hill-Stead Museum

January 27 — April 28, 2013
The Art of Collecting: Alfred Atmore Pope & Randolph Linsly Simpson



Exhibition in brief: Hill-Stead Museum, in collaboration with The Amistad Center for Art & Culture (amistadartandculture.org), presents a unique exhibition featuring selections from its decorative arts holdings in dialogue with historical pieces from The Amistad Center. The exhibition focuses on two pioneering individuals, Alfred Atmore Pope and Randolph Linsly Simpson, exploring the relationship between their collecting ideologies. Though separated by time and aesthetic predilections, the two men were united by a passion for artistic excellence. Alfred Atmore Pope's early interest in French Impressionism is the foundation of Hill-Stead's collection, but the museum's holdings are diverse and extensive. Randolph Linsly Simpson's devotion to African American history and memorabilia became the basis for The Amistad Center's collection. This exhibition opens a dialogue between the two, allowing visitors to perceive the pieces, and their historical significance, in a new context. Objects will be shown in monthly rotations, with related programming. Hill-Stead Museum thanks The Edward C. & Ann T. Roberts Foundation, without whose generous support this show would not be possible.

The Edward C. & Ann T. Roberts Foundation logo

 

The Collectors

Alfred Atmore Pope, photo by Gertrude KasebierAs a collector, Alfred Atmore Pope was concerned not with quantity but with quality. Unlike his contemporaries who ostentatiously amassed hoards of precious objects, Mr. Pope acquired relatively few works of art. For this reason as well as several others, he exemplifies admirably the definition which Sir Kenneth Clark has given, in his introduction to Great Private Collections, of the grand amateur as one whose collection is "not too big or too systematic," but looks "completely at home in its surroundings," "is personal, an extension of the character of the collector." Pope was not looking for self-glorification through his collecting. He was indeed unique among collectors for a restraint that led him, when there was no more space, to acquire nothing else.

On close inspection, the collection is eclectic yet always seemingly focused around a sensibility of beauty. Pope's highest aim was to thoroughly enjoy his acquisitions, and even more, to share them with others who could appreciate their beauty and artistry.

"I must go home to recover my breath and build up to the anticipation... you know everything comes to the collector who waits." [A.A. Pope to J.M. Whistler, September 22, 1894, London]

 

Randolph Linsly Simpson, photographer unknownRandolph Linsly Simpson came by his interest in collecting objects related to the African American experience in America through a family heritage of support of nineteenth century abolitionist causes, by inheriting works and objects from family who collected before him, and through a formative experience of visiting the grave of Frederick Douglass, the former slave and orator, who was buried near Simpson’s childhood home in Rochester, New York.

The Passionate Collector describes how Simpson’s "desire to preserve African American history strengthened his conviction to build a significant collection to tell the stories and preserve the incredible achievements of African Americans." Simpson’s collection reflects many interests in the subject but his attention to the presidency of Abraham Lincoln is notable. Simpson, who was considered by some both a scholar and a collector, amassed more than 6,000 objects which were kept in his Northford, Connecticut home until being dispersed to The Amistad Center for Art & Culture at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.

"For my part I quite sympathize with your desire to make your way back and get your breath again — Even the mad collector must pause whether his arms be full of pots and plates or he be overwhelmed with paintings and packing cases! And you have them all..." [J.M. Whistler to A.A. Pope, September 1894, London]

 

Behind the Exhibition

The Art of Collecting; Alfred Atmore Pope & Randolph Linsly Simpson is predicated on a collecting conversation from various perspectives, but centered on these two pioneering individuals who, though separated by generations, were united by their commitment to champion new areas of collecting. Alfred Atmore Pope's early interest in French Impressionist painting is only the foundation of Hill-Stead's collection. The depth of other objects he found fascinating marks the departure point for crafting this exhibit. Randolph Linsly Simpson's devotion to African American history and memorabilia became the basis for the Amistad Center for Art & Culture's holdings.

The groups of decorative arts pieces, curios, and African American historical objects are organized into categories that explore the relationship between the collecting theories of Pope and Simpson and the ways the two cultural institutions have evolved. The collecting interests of the two were very different but the themes of patriotism, inter-ethnic contact, and respect for the memorial provide structure for the exhibit.

The overall objective of the exhibit is to educate, inform, and enlighten the public about both the collecting methodology and inspirational motivations of these two prominent collectors, and the artistic excellence of their collections.

Co-curators
Melanie Anderson Bourbeau, Hill-Stead Museum
Dr. Wm. Frank Mitchell, The Amistad Center for Art & Culture

 

Exhibit Rotations

Barye Cougar bronzeJAN 27–APR 28: SCULPTURE
All eight of Hill-Stead's Antoine-Louis Barye bronzes are being shown together for the first time in the sculpture unit of the exhibition in the second library. The bronze sculptures are clustered together, along with Hill-Stead's Reclining Nude by Alexander Stirling Calder, and the Amistad Center for Art & Culture's Uncle Ned's School (John Rogers, 1866) and Street Scene Inspired by J.G. Brown's The Card Trick (unknown artist, 1930). Along with exploring the two collectors' interest in three dimensional art, Hill-Stead's sculptures are positioned and accessible in entirely new ways, allowing for close-up inspection and comparison.

Asian Snuff BottleJAN 27–MAR 10: CURIOS
The overall theme in this rotation is Curios: personal memory vs. public memory. This grouping pairs items of lesser decorative arts significance (but no less visually intriguing) in Alfred Pope's collection with items that appear to have been souvenirs of travel acquired by his daughter Theodate and her husband John. Many of these items are typically tucked away in drawers and boxes at Hill-Stead. Of particular note is the collection of snuff bottles that Alfred Pope originally acquired, and which Theodate added to years later. The Amistad Centre for Art & Culture is represented by two large framed works reflecting both Randolph Simpson's original collection as well as the organization's contemporary acquisitions. Whereas the geographic theme of the Amistad collection is the United States, Hill-Stead's group in this rotation is primarily Asian.

Indo-Persian Gouache, detailMAR 12–APR 28: PERSONAL ADORNMENT
The second rotation focuses on the theme of personal adornment with examples of fine art and personal objects from both collections. The most visually striking examples are Hill-Stead's pair of Indo-Persian goauche paintings (artist and date unknown), which are always on view but in a back bedroom that tours typically do not enter, and the Amistad Center's linoleum print Getting Fixed to Look Pretty (Nefertiti, 1978). In this rotation, Hill-Stead's objects span a wide geographic continuum while the Amistad Center's objects remain tightly focused on the African-American experience in America.

 

Exhibition-Related Programming

FEBRUARY 3, Sunday, 1 pm
FIRST SUNDAY GALLERY TALK: A Closer Look at Sculpture in Hill-Stead's Collection

While Hill-Stead is recognized for its unparalleled collection of Impressionist masterpieces, the Alfred Atmore Pope collection also includes a small but fine group of sculptures. In this gallery talk, discover the eight bronzes by the French sculptor of animals, or animalier, Antoine-Louis Barye (1795-1875), who was recognized for his careful observation of detail; view the bust of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius; and see a plaster-of-Paris figure by the American sculptor Alexander Stirling Calder. Free to members or with museum admission.

FEBRUARY 18, Monday, 12–3 pm
PRESIDENTS' DAY FAMILY OPEN HOUSE

Celebrate President's Day with a family trip to Hill-Stead. Usually closed to the public on Mondays, the museum will be open for this special event. Tour the museum at your own pace 12–3 pm, enjoying the winter exhibition, "The Art of Collecting: Alfred Atmore Pope & Randolph Linsly Simpson," and participate in the following activities:

  • 12–1 pm: Children's Activities: Create a sculpture or design a postcard in the Makeshift Theater
  • 1–2 pm: Contemporary dance performance by Dimensional Dance, followed by a short dance lesson by Dimensional Dance's Ruth Lewis, for children and adults
  • 2–3 pm: Children's Activities: Create a sculpture or design a postcard in the Makeshift Theater
This event is presented in conjunction with The Amistad Center for Art & Culture. Admission is $5 for children ages 3–12; $6 for adults accompanied by a child; FREE for children under 2 and for members of Hill-Stead Museum and The Amistad Center for Art & Culture. Hill-Stead Museum thanks the Hartford Stage for supplying the dance floor for this event.

MARCH 3, Sunday, 1 pm
FIRST SUNDAY GALLERY TALK: Asian Treasures in Hill-Stead's Collection

View the Asian objects collected by the Popes and Riddles on their travels, including ceramics, prints, netsuke, snuff bottles, and much more. Free to members or with museum admission.

APRIL 7, Sunday, 1 pm
FIRST SUNDAY GALLERY TALK: Souvenirs from Abroad

What mementos did the Popes bring back from the many places they travelled? Find out where they went abroad and what souvenirs returned with them in this fascinating talk. Free to members or with museum admission.

APRIL 25, Thursday, 7 pm
NINA STANLEY MEMORIAL LECTURE with Lark Mason

Stay tuned for more information on this exciting lecture with the founder of iGavel, Inc., and expert on The Antiques Roadshow.

 

Selection of Images

Uncle Ned's School by John Rogers, Simpson Collection of The Amistad Center for Art & Culture
John Rogers
Uncle Ned's School, 1866
The Amistad Center for Art & Culture, Simpson Collection
1987.1.4218.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charles Sumner by RL and Co, Simpson Collection of The Amistad Center for Art & Culture
RL and Co
Charles Sumner, 1870
Plaster
The Amistad Center for Art & Culture, Simpson Collection
1987.1.3139.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indo-Persian gouache in Hill-Stead's collection
Men on Horseback (detail)
Indo-Persian gouache, artist & date unknown
Alfred Atmore Pope Collection (since 1920s)
Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington CT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indo-Persian gouache in Hill-Stead's collection
The Outing (detail)
Indo-Persian gouache, artist & date unknown
Alfred Atmore Pope Collection (since 1920s)
Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington CT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barye bronze in Hill-Stead's collection
Antoine-Louis Barye (French, 1796–1875)
Lion with a Serpent
Bronze on marble base, c. 1838
Alfred Atmore Pope Collection
Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington CT

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