In 1927, Charles Phelps Taft and Anna Sinton Taft bequeathed their art collection and home to the people of Cincinnati “in such a manner that they may be readily available to all.” The Taft Museum of Art opened to the public in 1932. Ever since, the collection has been displayed throughout the Tafts’ former home, an architectural gem built in 1820. While the historic house undergoes a major rehabilitation project, making it inaccessible to the public, the museum will move more than 80 highlights from the collection to the Fifth Third Gallery for this special exhibition. See your old favorites as the Taft presents them in a new light.
In a New Light explores a broad range of eras, cultures, and art forms through their historical context, subject matter, materials, and makers. European decorative arts and Chinese porcelains dazzle the eye with their intricate designs and brilliant colors. Nineteenth-century American furniture impresses us with its stately elegance. European and American portraits and landscape paintings show off the mastery of some of the greatest artists of the past. Through select works, the exhibition will reveal centuries-old social concerns such as the distribution of wealth, environmental destruction, and gender and racial inequality.
In 1903, Charles wrote to his brother, William Howard Taft, “Annie and I have about made up our minds that it would be just as well to invest money in pictures as to pile it up in bonds and real estate.” The selections in this exhibition prove their investment paid off. Through their vision as art collectors, Charles and Anna Taft left a legacy to the people of Cincinnati that continues to inspire and offer new insights for each generation.
This new volume presents highlights of the Taft Museum of Art’s exceptional collection, which spans over 750 years of creative endeavor. Donated to the city of Cincinnati in 1927, Charles and Anna Taft’s collection features beautiful porcelain from the Ming and Qing dynasties, paintings by masters including Rembrandt, Jan Steen, Gainsborough, Goya, Ingres, Corot, Whistler, and Sargent, and decorative pieces including crystal, gold, silver, and enamel work. The 80 pieces that feature in this volume, chosen from the 790-piece collection, are presented in four sections, coinciding with the museum’s major areas of specialization: European painting, European decorative arts, American art, and Chinese art.
Each piece is accompanied by an entry detailing its history and that of its artist or maker written by Taft curatorial staff. Taft chief curator Lynne D. Ambrosini’s essay explores the collecting practice of Charles and Anna Taft, including the inspiration they derived for their own collecting from visits to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Museum director Deborah Emont Scott’s Foreword provides a history of the Taft bequest and its lasting significance to the city of Cincinnati and its present-day inhabitants.