The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco present Modernism from the National Gallery of Art: The Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Collection, an exhibition of 46 paintings and sculptures by many of the leading figures in postwar American art. The de Young is the sole venue for this exhibition, which includes works by Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Brice Marden, Barnett Newman, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, and Frank Stella.
Among the featured paintings will be Stella’s Flin Flon IV (1969), Jasper Johns’s Perilous Night (1982), and Roy Lichtenstein’s Painting with Statue of Liberty (1983). A centerpiece of the exhibition will be Barnett Newman’s The Stations of the Cross: Lema Sabachthani (1958–1966), a cycle of 15 paintings which will be presented in a dedicated room and experienced as the artist intended, as a single work in an intimate, contemplative space. A film of Newman discussing this work will be screened in the media room near the Herbst Exhibition Galleries.
“The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s longstanding relationship with the National Gallery of Art has enabled numerous works from the nation’s capital to be shown in our city,” says Colin B. Bailey, director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “Over the course of fifty years, Robert and the late Jane Meyerhoff assembled an unparalleled collection, and this marks the first time that a significant portion of it has been displayed outside the Washington-Baltimore area.”
In the late 1950s, the Baltimore-based real estate developer and philanthropist Robert E. Meyerhoff and his wife, Jane Meyerhoff, began collecting works by artists who rose to prominence in the wake of World War II. Over time, the Meyerhoffs also focused on the generation of artists who followed the Abstract Expressionists—Johns, Kelly, Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg and Stella—all of whom became close friends of the couple.
By the 1990s, the Meyerhoff Collection had expanded to include the rising cohort of artists who sought to reinvigorate the practice of painting in the postmodern era, such as Eric Fischl, Nancy Graves, Brice Marden, David Salle and Terry Winters. Seen together, the works in this exhibition allow visitors to explore deeply the visual and intellectual concerns that have defined American art since the middle of the 20th century.
In 1987, the Meyerhoffs signed an agreement with the National Gallery of Art for the eventual donation of their entire collection. This current exhibition consists of all the paintings and scuptures given to date, supplemented by six promised works from Mr. Meyerhoff’s own galleries.
“With the closing of the East Building galleries for renovation and expansion,” explained Harry Cooper, curator and head of modern art at the National Gallery of Art, “it made perfect sense to lend this amazing group of works. Thanks to the interest of Richard Benefield, deputy director of the Fine Arts Museums, everything fell into place. The generous galleries of the de Young will offer the ideal setting for these ambitious, imposing paintings.”