Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Cabinet, Herter Brothers (German, active New York, 1864-1906), ca. 1878-80. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Promised Gift of Barrie A. and Deedee Wigmore
Gallery view of "Aesthetic Splendors: Highlights from the Gift of Barrie and Deedee Wigmore," The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Ms Frelinghuysen’s presentation will focus on the extraordinary promised gift to the Metropolitan Museum of Art by longtime collectors and art patrons, Barrie A. and Deedee Wigmore. This gift comprises 88 superlative examples of American Aesthetic Movement and Gilded Age furniture, metalworks, ceramics, jewelry, lighting and paintings.
To quote the Wigmores, “Having our collection go to the American Wing is like having it stay in the family.” Assembled over four decades, the collection features outstanding works by luminaries of American painting and decorative arts. In addition to their early purchases of second-generation Hudson River School painters, the Wigmores were among the pioneers in collecting the decorative arts of the 1870s and 1880s, the period when the Aesthetic Movement was in full favor in America. They concentrated on premier furniture firms—notably Herter Brothers and Kimbel & Cabus of New York and A. and H. Lejambre and Daniel Pabst of Philadelphia. One of the most exceptional examples is a large Herter cabinet with delicate marquetry decoration of butterflies and spider webs, intricate carving, and gilding. The Wigmores were also among the first to recognize the significance of “art brass,” and their impressive holdings include exuberant work by the principal makers, notably the Charles Parker Company in Meriden, Connecticut. Their gift also includes several large-scale Rookwood Pottery vases, dating to its first years of operation, as well as Aesthetic silver, primarily from the Gorham Manufacturing Company, and examples of the evocative art jewelry produced by Louis C. Tiffany in the early years of the 20th century.
The Wigmore’s collection is one of the pre-eminent holdings of late 19th century American Art in private hands and has been given as part of The Met’s 2020 Collections Initiative celebrating the Museum’s 150th anniversary. The exhibition, installed in the Met’s American Wing, evokes the scrupulously restored interiors of the Wigmores’ 1883 home, with period light fixtures and reproduction wallpapers of the same era. Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen is the Anthony W. and Lulu C. Wang Curator of American Decorative Arts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She graduated from Princeton University, received an M.A. from the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture, and started her career at the Metropolitan Museum as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow. Since then Ms. Frelinghuysen has curated, published, and lectured widely on the subject of American ceramics, glass, stained glass, and late nineteenth-century furniture, as well as all aspects of the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany. In 2016 she was the Clarice Smith Distinguished Scholar Lecturer, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and in 2014 she was awarded the Frederic E. Church Award for contributions to American Culture. Most recently, she co-authored the book on the American Art Pottery of Robert A. Ellison Jr., a recent gift to the Metropolitan. She is also currently collaborating on another publication on American late 19th and early 20th century ceramics entitled Gifts from the Fire, as well as a book on the Stained-Glass Windows of St. Andrew’s Dune Church in Southampton, New York. Ms. Frelinghuysen is a member of a number of professional advisory committees and serves on the board of the Shelburne Museum, as trustee emerita of the American Ceramic Circle and the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, and as an Honorary Member of the Advisory Council of the Princeton University Art Museum.