Alfred Pope: An Evolution of Ingenuity
Dates: December 8, 2022 – May 30, 2023
35 Mountain Road, Farmington, CT 06032.
Hill-Stead Museum is pleased to announce Alfred Pope: An Evolution of Ingenuity, an exhibition that presents the little-known and under-appreciated father of Hill-Stead’s founder, Theodate Pope Riddle. On view will be a group of paintings and drawings he once owned, which are now scattered around the world, as well as selected works on paper, objects, and ephemera from Hill-Stead’s collection and archives that illuminate this fascinating, generous individual. The exhibition opening will be on December 8, 2022, from 6-8 pm.
The exhibition will take place in two distinct phases. The first, installed in Hill-Stead’s new and award-winning exhibition gallery will be on view from December 8, 2022, to February 17, 2023. The second phase, in which the artworks that Pope formerly owned with be re-installed in the Hill-Stead’s historic house, will begin on February 24, 2023, and last until May 30, 2023. Each part of the exhibition will offer two completely different visitor experiences. The first will highlight the many facets of Alfred – his pursuits and character – as well as the individual works and their stories coming into and leaving the collection, while the second aims to recreate the period rooms during the years of his residence (1901-1913), bringing back some of the paintings Theodate sold after his death.
Alfred Pope: An Evolution of Ingenuity celebrates a long-overlooked figure in the history of Hill-Stead and of American art collecting. Through this exhibition and accompanying catalog, we feature Alfred Atmore Pope (1842–1913) as a bold and leading collector of European modernism and position him rightfully among his peers. Further, the endeavor presents Pope as a multifaceted figure and elucidates his devoted and generous service to others, indelibly influencing his only child, Theodate (1867–1946), in her pioneering life of creative and philanthropic work.
The research for this exhibition identified artworks previously unrecognized as part of Pope’s collection, such as Alfred Sisley’s La Serpentine à Londres, and revealed significant archival information about those already documented. In particular, the scholarly findings reveal a rapidly growing body of evidence about the ways in which Theodate’s previously unknown activities, such as selling masterworks during World
War II, impacted our understanding of her father’s original collection, and by extension, the portion remaining at Hill-Stead today. These exciting findings present a more comprehensive and nuanced picture to explore and interpret Pope as a collector and Theodate as a daughter and steward of their respective legacies.
During his active collecting years (1889–1907), Pope acquired over 40 important works of art and thoughtfully pruned his collection through sales and exchanges, retaining only those works that elicited a profound emotional response. Since Theodate, too, sold several paintings in order to finance her own projects, only a small fraction of the original Pope collection remains intact, gracing the rooms at Hill-Stead today.
Alfred Pope: An Evolution of Ingenuity also examines and challenges long-held beliefs about Pope’s collecting strategies, practices, and motivations. Pope, who hailed from modest means and had no formal background in the arts, has long been revered as self-taught and ruggedly independent in the building and refining aspects of collecting. It was believed that he acted without relying on an advisor in any official capacity.
American artists Mary Cassatt and James McNeill Whistler were both close friends and are represented in Pope’s collection, and both tried to exert influence. The groundbreaking scholarship of this project has revealed that Cassatt indeed did.
Together, the show and catalog offer the first-ever comprehensive study and presentation on Alfred Pope, complete with a biography and a holistic assessment of his collecting pursuits and accomplishments. Through examination of his correspondence together with consideration of the entirety of his collection, both the works in this exhibition that were divested for myriad reasons and those that were retained and now comprise the museum’s permanent collection, Hill-Stead elucidates an unprecedented understanding of this important historic figure.
This exhibition is made possible by the generous support of the Edward C. and Ann T. Roberts Foundation and Centerbrook Architects & Planners.
The exhibition catalogue has been published with generous support from the McPhee Foundation with additional support from the Edward C. and Ann T. Roberts Foundation.