The Georgia Museum of Art and the Terra Foundation join forces

The foundation keeps a collection of more than 750 paintings by 242 artists, which it lends to various international organizations

On June 1, the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia began a new partnership with the Terra Foundation for American Art when it received four oil paintings from the renowned Terra Collection to be loaned for the next four years. The collaboration also includes a grant of $25,000 each year from the loan to fund exhibitions and programs related to these works. The museum will work with the Terra Foundation to center marginalized and underrepresented perspectives in American art by pairing the foundation’s paintings with works from its own collection that resonate with these expanded narratives.

John Singleton Copley, Portrait of a Lady in a Blue Dress, 1763. Oil on canvas, 50 1/4 × 39 3/4 inches. Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1992.28. Photograph © Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago.

Founded by Daniel J. Terra in 1978, the Terra Foundation houses a collection of more than 750 paintings by 242 artists, which it generously loans to various international organizations to expand scholarship and appreciation of American art. The four paintings on loan to the museum are ‘Portrait of a Lady in a Blue Dress’ by John Singleton Copley (1763), ‘An Old Time Letter Stand’ by John F. Petto (1894), ‘The Invalids, Paris ‘ by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1896) and ‘Bucks County Barn’ by Charles Sheeler (1940). A fifth painting, “Telegraph Poles with Buildings” by Joseph Stella (1917), will arrive in 2023.

The museum has included these works in its permanent collections. Copley’s portrait encourages conversations between Northern and Southern colonial portraiture, and spring 2023 programming will examine it in light of the connections between colonial portraiture, whiteness, the economics of slavery, and the ecology of commodities like indigo in the Americas. Sheeler’s painting hangs next to the museum’s painting of a red barn by Georgia O’Keefe, raising the question of how rural subjects served the cause of American modernism, which is often understood as an urban phenomenon.

The paintings will also serve as a catalyst for the museum’s In Dialogue series. These focused exhibitions analyze a single work from the permanent collection in conversation with related objects that illuminate unexpected connections or new discoveries. Tanner’s painting is the first work to engage in these conversations, exhibited alongside William Edward Scott’s Harbor Scene and Palmer Hayden’s Boats in the Harbor (on loan from Larry and Brenda Thompson) in the exhibition In Dialogue: Henry Osawa Tanner, Mentor and Muse,” on view through June 18, 2023. Tanner, an African-American artist who found artistic freedom in France, mentored and encouraged successive generations of black artists.

In addition to their physical display in the galleries, the loaned paintings will play an active role in the museum’s educational and scholarly engagements. The museum will host public lectures by Nika Elder and Kathryn Jentleson in the spring of 2023, as well as symposiums and classroom tours that introduce the works and incorporate them into interactive elements of the visitor experience. A partnership with UGA’s Historical Clothing and Textiles Collection in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences also allowed the museum to place garments from different eras in conversation with both the Terra Foundation paintings and its own collection.

Curator of American Art Geoffrey Richmond-Moll said: “We are excited to revisit works that may be familiar to us in the new context that these loans and related funding provide us.”

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