Conversations with the Collection: A Terra Foundation Collection Handbook is now available through the University of Chicago Press and online at conversations.terraamericanart.org.

New Handbook Reveals Unique International Perspectives on 100+ Artworks from Terra Foundation Collection, Launches at Frick Collection Panel

October 4th, 2018

Chicago, IL—The Terra Foundation announced today the release of Conversations with the Collection: A Terra Foundation Collection Handbook, which showcases more than 100 paintings from the foundation’s exceptional holdings of historical art of the United States. In addition to full-color reproductions, contextualizing thematic essays, and interpretive texts for individual collection objects, the publication also contains short “perspective” essays by more than 30 international scholars, who introduce unique cultural viewpoints.

The handbook’s release will occur in conjunction with the panel discussion “Art as Cultural Emissary: A Dialogue on International Perspectives of American Art,” at 6:00 PM, on Thursday, October 11, at The Frick Collection, in New York. There is no charge for the event, but seating is limited and registration is required.

Consisting of nearly 800 paintings, works on paper, and sculptures, the Terra Foundation collection originated with Daniel J. Terra (1911–1996), a Chicago businessman and the son of Italian immigrants who began acquiring artwork in 1971, when he purchased three oil sketches by John Singer Sargent. Terra believed that art was a powerful expression of national identity and the cultural heritage of the United States. He went on to build and share his collection with the public through two museums, the Terra Museum of American Art (1980–2004), in Chicago, and the Musée d’Art Américain Giverny (1992–2009), outside Paris.

Conversations with the Collection chronicles the Terra Foundation’s decision to model itself as a ‘museum without walls,’ utilizing the collection as a catalyst for meaningful cross-cultural dialogues by situating works of American art outside their native context. The foundation began working collaboratively with partner institutions such as the Musée du Louvre, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and the National Museum of Korea to place artworks in front of audiences across the globe. The resulting projects elicited fresh and unexpected perspectives.

“The collection is central to what we do, and it assumes various shapes—each new context shifts the significance of a work of art,” explained Terra Foundation President & CEO Elizabeth Glassman. “The foundation’s collaborative projects often bring together experts from various cultural traditions to share ideas, confront national distinctions, question accepted methodologies, and pry away preconceptions. Many of these scholars have contributed to this handbook, stimulating the examination of collection objects with new lenses and forging connections with diverse audiences.”

For example, Valéria Piccoli, Chief Curator at the Pinacoteca de São Paulo, in Brazil, authored a short perspective essay for the handbook drawing parallels between the portrayal of human-induced environmental degradation in Sanford Robinson Gifford’s Hunter Mountain, Twilight (1866), from the Terra Foundation collection, and French-Brazilian painter Félix-Émile Taunay’s View of a Native Forest Being Reduced to Coal (c. 1840). “The way in which the ‘march of progress’ across the Americas transformed the landscape was often overlooked in the nineteenth century, and painting of the time generally represented a world of harmony free from conflict. The works of Gifford and Taunay nevertheless attest to the danger some artists saw in that footfall,” posited Piccoli.

Piccoli is among the panelists participating in the discussion “Art as Cultural Emissary: A Dialogue on International Perspectives of American Art,” co-organized by the Frick Collection’s Center for the History of Collecting and the Terra Foundation for American Art. Moderated by historian and art historian Neil Harris, of the University of Chicago, the panel’s other participants include Chen Yao, of Hefei University of Technology, in China, and Chris McAuliffe, of Australian National University, in Canberra. Together, they will examine the reception and interpretation of American art in countries outside the United States.

Commented Frick Collection Director Ian Wardropper, “We are delighted that the Frick’s Center for the History of Collecting has this opportunity to partner with the Terra Foundation in presenting a panel of international experts on American art. Since its founding in 2007, the Center has brought together scholars focused on collecting in all categories of art, including American art, as it has also awarded fellowships to an international community of scholars in the field of the history of collecting who hail from as far away as Australia, Slovenia, Israel. Thus the Center shares with the Terra Foundation a commitment to championing art as a cultural emissary.”

Conversations with the Collection: A Terra Foundation Collection Handbook is distributed by the University of Chicago Press. The handbook’s digital companion features the complete contents of the print publication, as well as exclusive content—deep-zoom images and original interpretative videos and other rich media resources for selected artworks—all of which can be accessed online at conversations.terraamericanart.org.

The Frick Collection, Center for the History of Collecting

The Center for the History of Collecting was established at the Frick Art Reference Library in 2007 to encourage and support the study of the formation of collections of fine and decorative arts, both public and private, in Europe and the United States from the Renaissance to the present day. The Center plays an active role in this field of inquiry by bringing together scholars engaged in research that reflects many facets of cultural history. To serve this community of scholars, the Center offers fellowships and seminars, hosts symposia and study days, and creates the tools needed for access to primary documents generated by art collectors and dealers. The Center is located within the internationally renowned Frick Art Reference Library (which is a key component of The Frick Collection), where its fellows can take full advantage of the library’s exceptional photograph archive and exceptional collections of auction, exhibition, and collection catalogues.

Terra Foundation for American Art

Since it was established in 1978, the Terra Foundation for American Art has been one of the leading foundations focused on the historical art of the United States. Headquartered in Chicago, it is committed to fostering exploration, understanding, and enjoyment of American art among national and international audiences. To further cross-cultural dialogue on American art, the foundation supports and collaborates on innovative exhibitions, research, publications, and educational programs. Recognizing the importance of experiencing original works of art firsthand, the foundation also provides opportunities for interaction and study through the presentation and ongoing development of its own art collection in Chicago. Implicit in such activities is the belief that art has the potential both to distinguish cultures and to unite them.