The Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation has donated a collection of more than 1,300 works of art to the College’s Berman Museum.
The diverse collection includes paintings, sculpture, and prints by artists such as Harry Bertoia, William Glackens, Chaim Gross, and James and Jean Pierre Vasarely, as well as works on paper by George Bellows, Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, John Sloan, James Whistler, and a wide range of other artists. The gift also includes extensive holdings of works by the sculptor Lynn Chadwick and the Pennsylvania artists Albert Jean Adolphe and Walter Elmer Schofield. The works in the current gift had been on long-term loan to the Berman Museum; with the formal accessioning into the Museum collection, the 1,300 works of art now form the core of the Museum’s permanent collection.
Among the many notable pieces included in the gift are works by:
• Harry Bertoia (Italian, 1915-1978) Tonal, n.d., bronze
• William Glackens (American, 1870-1938) Chester, Nova Scotia, 1910, oil on canvas
• Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923 – ) Orange, 1988, lithograph on paper
• Jean Pierre Vasarely (French, 1934-2002) Quadrature DU Cercle X, Violet, 1972, acrylic on canvas
• James Peale (American, 1749-1841) Portrait of Mrs. William Duncan, n.d., oil on canvas
• Andy Warhol (American, 1928 -1987) Birmingham Race Riot, 1964, screenprint on paper
The collection reflects the dedication to supporting living artists and the passion for collecting of the late Philip and Muriel Berman, who established The Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art in 1989. Nancy Berman, President of the Berman Foundation and daughter of Philip and Muriel, has given the collection to Ursinus College in honor of her parents.
“My parents believed that exposing students to art would help lay a foundation for a life of creativity, enjoyment and curiosity…no matter what discipline they studied,” said Nancy Berman. “They found a willing and responsive partner in Ursinus College when they came together nearly 25 years ago to create an art museum on the campus of my dad’s alma mater. With this gift, the Berman now has a permanent collection that can be exhibited, loaned out to other institutions and used for research by the students and the faculty. I can think of no better way to honor my parents’ remarkable legacy.”
Ursinus College President Bobby Fong said that the Bermans “envisioned a museum that would enhance the lives of the students at Ursinus College and inspire the creative sensibilities of every member of our community. Since its founding, the Berman Museum indeed has become an integral part of our campus life. The collections at the heart of the Museum’s acclaim have included art and sculpture on loan from the Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation. The Foundation’s decision to convert the loan into a permanent gift to the College not only is exceedingly generous; it also affirms that the Bermans’ original aspiration for the Museum has been realized.”
Jill Marsteller, Senior Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Ursinus College added, “before our Common Intellectual Experience, the Bermans inspired us to think about ‘the big questions’ in life through their gifts of art. They loved the idea of art being part of a public dialogue and they thought one of the best places to introduce individuals to art was on a college campus. The Bermans wanted to spark emotion and to create space for different viewpoints to emerge through constructive dialogue. They knew that art, like music, was a universal language even as it evoked different interpretations. Their opening exhibition was entitled A Passion for Art. In the subsequent three decades that passion has been a contagion of the very best kind and there is no better place for it to be rooted than on this liberal arts campus.”
The exhibition honoring the gift, A to Z: Highlighting the Berman Collection presents a selection of more than two dozen works from the gift of The Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation. On view from October 20, 2013 through January 12, 2014, A to Z is the first exhibition to be presented by the Berman Museum’s new Director Charles Stainback, who joined the Museum in April 2013. The exhibition was organized by Stainback, Ursinus Professor of Art History Matt Shoaf, and an interdisciplinary mix of Ursinus students, whose majors range from psychology to international relations. A to Z speaks to the breadth and depth of the collection as both an exhibition vehicle and a teaching resource. The works in A to Z are presented in alphabetical order by the artist’s last name, an unconventional exhibition strategy designed to foster new ideas and unexpected connections between objects. The exhibition is the first in a series of new initiatives Stainback is launching to redefine the role of the arts on the Ursinus campus, making the Museum a hub for the exchange of ideas between students and faculty, and enriching the educational experience of students across fields of study.
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From their belief in the power of art to stimulate people and transform lives, the Bermans built a collection known for its depth and breadth, and helped build one of the finest museums of its kind.