The first known painting by Vincent van Gogh to depict the outdoors is joining the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art thanks to the executive producer of Law & Order. Absent from everyone’s 2023 predictions bingo card, the New York museum announced today, December 20, that American television and film producer Dick Wolf has made a “transformative holiday gift” to the institution of over 200 works from his personal collection, including the aforementioned van Gogh, and a substantial financial endowment that will put his name on two galleries.
The Met’s announcement specifies that the gift from Wolf’s collection will enhance three of the museum’s curatorial departments — European Paintings, European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, and Drawings and Prints — with works across all media ranging from the 15th through 18th centuries as well as some modern selections. The museum declined to provide Hyperallergic a full list of artists and artworks included in Wolf’s gift at this stage, though its press release notes work by Bronzino, Orazio, Artemisia Gentileschi, Sandro Botticelli, and Guercino, among various others.
Van Gogh’s “Beach at Scheveningen in Calm Weather” (1882), which Sotheby’s notes in its 2022 lot description is the artist’s first depiction of the outdoors, stands out as a lucky star from Wolf’s collection. The artist rendered the landscape during the beginning of his foray with oil painting, noting in a letter to his brother Theo that he found paint to be “very appealing on account of it being a powerful means of expression.” According to some reports, the work was stored in a crate left with a mover when van Gogh’s family shifted towns. The artist never reunited with the paintings before he died by suicide, and neither his mother nor his sister came to collect them until long after he passed. But by then, the mover who was storing the crate had reportedly sold it to a junk dealer in 1902 for the equivalent of $0.50, who in turn flipped the works to an art dealer the following year.
“Beach at Scheveningen in Calm Weather” shifted ownership a few more times, exploding in value as it passed through collections and eventually selling last year for $2.8 million.
Other noteworthy highlights include Orazio Gentileschi’s “Madonna and Child” (c. 1620), which is already on display in the museum’s reopened galleries for European paintings from 1300 to 1800, and Sandro Botticelli’s own tempera on panel rendition of the same scene.
With Wolf’s accompanying financial contributions, the Met will be naming Galleries 500 and 503 in the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Department after the producer. The museum is working to integrate portions of Wolf’s collection to further amplify its existing display of 15th- and 16th-century sculpture and objects and will curate an installation of select drawings from Wolf’s gift down the line.
“I’m sure most collectors would agree that seeing your art displayed in the world’s greatest museum is an honor,” Wolf stated, highlighting that his collection was greatly informed by his childhood visits to the Met. “This is my holiday gift to the Museum, the people of New York, and the city where I first encountered the power and beauty of great art.”