For over $ 35 million dollars!
It was shocking and unsettling not only for the perceived lapse in trust and responsibility by the library towards it gifts, but there was a hue and cry from New York's citizens and cultural elite because The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art had been outbid!
However, Kindred Spirits is not leaving the country and will remain on public display.
The New York Public Library, Astor, Tilden, and Lenox Foundation sold one of their library's, and New York City's, most prized works of art (and other important works) to increase its endowment in order to acquire more items for research. As of this writing, their endowment is about $ 500 million.
This Hudson River School painting depicts the prominent painter Thomas Cole and the poet William Cullen Bryant standing on a table rock in the midst of the Catskills mountains of New York State. It had been commissioned by Jonathan Sturges, a dry-goods merchant, one of Durand's patrons and in turn, Sturges presented it to Bryant's daughter Julia. It was Julia who gave the painting to the New York Public Library.
The subject of the painting is bittersweet; Thomas Cole had just died at the age of 47 of pneumonia and this was a memorial to him as well as a tribute for the great friendship and love of the pristine environment these three men (Bryant, Cole, and Durand) shared.
The title of the painting comes from a Keats Sonnet to Solitude:
|O SOLITUDE! if I must with thee dwell,|
|Let it not be among the jumbled heap|
|Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep,—|
|Nature’s observatory—whence the dell,|
|Its flowery slopes, its river’s crystal swell,||5|
|May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep|
|’Mongst boughs pavillion’d, where the deer’s swift leap|
|Startles the wild bee from the fox-glove bell.|
|But though I’ll gladly trace these scenes with thee,|
|Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind,||10|
|Whose words are images of thoughts refin’d,|
|Is my soul’s pleasure; and it sure must be|
|Almost the highest bliss of human-kind,|
|When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.|
I was personally shattered because I had stopped at this painting so many times throughout my youth whenever I visited the library for research (from sixth grade on), or was just wandering around this beaux-arts palace to knowledge taking in all the details of its interiors, and other works of art on display. Kindred Spirits was an old friend and I felt it was a family heirloom which hung in a rich uncle's home; indeed it was a family heirloom for New Yorkers. It became my oasis from the din and frenetic pace of one of the world's largest cities, and a reminder of the natural beauty further north in an almost mythical place called, New York State.
Where exactly was this untouched paradise? Who were these two men and what was the content of their conversation? Ah! A romantic enigma!
And who purchased this painting and where will it end up?
It has already left building that backs onto a park named for William Cullen Bryant and is currently on loan to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC until mid-march of this year. After that it will part of an exhibit on the Hudson River School at the Brooklyn Museum. From there it will travel to its permanent location at a new world-class museum being built in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Yes, It was bought by one of the richest women in the world, Ms. Alice Walton.
I have no doubt that the good people who live in and around the Ozarks will appreciate the unspoiled and idyllic setting of the Catskills and take the same interest in the two humans standing on the ledge conversing, but I cannot help but mourn the loss and resent the adjustment; my childhood friend has moved and I will be unable to visit with the same frequency.
Until then, I still have a bit of time to visit it the National Gallery of Art and will probably take at least one more peek at the Brooklyn Museum. (I have already bought a framed print.)
And watch for Kindred Spirits on a calendar at your local Walmart.
I haven't mastered the placement of photos, so the painter is Asher Durand, young William Cullen Bryant is looking left, Thomas Cole is looking right, and the black and white drawing is from a Dover coloring book.Touring Information:
New York State Map of Hudson River School sites and collections
William Cullen Bryant's pristine home and grounds in Cummington is open to visitation: ,The Homestead
Cedar Grove, the home of Thomas Cole and can be visited in upstate New York, within a comfortable drive from New York City. Cedar Grove administers and is one of the sights that make up the Hudson River School Trail.
March 15, 2007 is the last day to see Kindred Spirits at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. After that it will travel to the Brooklyn Museum to be part of a exhibition devoted to Durand Kindred Spirits: Asher B. Durand and the American Landscape, but it is unclear whether or not it will continue to tour with this exhibit to the Smithsonian American Art Museum (at the Renwick Gallery, near the White House), Washington, D.C., September 14, 2007–January 6, 2008; and the San Diego Museum of Art, February 2–June 1, 2008.
It's ultimate home will be the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas slated to open in 2009.