Sunday Painting: Chester Dale by Diego Rivera

A few weeks ago I went to the National Gallery of Art here in Washington. It is truly spectacular in so many ways. In addition to the beautiful buildings and amazing collection, the NGA benefits from the fact that it is not as popular with visitors (I am guessing) as the Smithsonian is. And likewise it is far less congested than the Met in NYC or the Nat Gal in London. It makes for a wonderful experience.

Anyhoo, my office is a mere four minute walk from the the NGA but I hadn’t been there for some time. I took a look at the Canaletto exhibit but had more fun perusing the permanent collection. Sad for me and my Sunday Painting feature is the fact that the NGA, like so many other museums around the world, no longer has the acres and acres postcards that it used to. This is especially annoying for me as I tend to like works that aren’t necessarily the most popular. So the chances of finding postcards of the pieces that I like the most is getting slimmer and slimmer. I guess I need to combat this with the digital camera and paper and pencil for writing down names to look up later online.

One of the exhibits they currently have going on is highlights of The Chester Dale Collection, a collection of about 300 hundred works mainly from the 19th and 20th centuries.  There are many marquee paintings in this collection, but the one I was quite taken with was this portrait of the tycoon painted by Mexican artist Diego Rivera. Would you have guessed that this was a Rivera? I sure didn’t.

Chester Dale, 1945
Diego Rivera (1886-1957)
National Gallery of Art, Washington

7 thoughts on “Sunday Painting: Chester Dale by Diego Rivera

  1. C.B. James May 15, 2011 / 2:30 pm

    He's really pushing Mr. Dale the art collector here isn't he. He's just stopped looking at a book of Van Gogh's work to think about something. He's got a program from an exhibit of his own collection of French painting on his desk. And two meso-American works on the shelf behind him, very good ones, too.

    I like it.


  2. Relish x May 15, 2011 / 3:24 pm

    Oh bravo..I love Rivera. However my favourites have to be his trio of portraits of Mexican peasant women with white lilies. Absolutely beautiful…


  3. music-books-steve May 15, 2011 / 11:02 pm

    Isn't it funny about the museums close to us? I lived, at one time, across the street from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and had this romantic idea I'd be over there all the time, but .. not so much. Now, although we live an easy 20 minute drive away from both the MIA and the Walker, and are members of both, we get to them maybe twice a decade. We get to the Chicago Art Institute more often! Glad you do better at the National Gallery.


  4. music-books-steve May 15, 2011 / 11:05 pm

    Ohhh .. . I just noticed the Van Gogh in the picture book open on the table. By a truly spooky coincidence earlier this evening I was watching the online stream from Indiana University of a performance of a new opera called “Vincent” by Bernard Rands.


  5. Margaret Evans Porter May 16, 2011 / 12:09 pm

    I was amazed by how many of the treasures in the NGA permanent collection were acquired/donated by Chester Dale. This exhibition was enlightening!


  6. Susan in TX May 16, 2011 / 4:48 pm

    The National Gallery is indeed one of the biggest highlights in a city full of things to do. Love the Rivera!


  7. Thomas at My Porch May 21, 2011 / 5:11 pm

    CB: There was a story behind the portrait but I only remember that it was painted in Rivera's studio and that the artist used the book with the Van Gogh to keep Mr Dale occupied. And if I am not mistaken Dale had recently purchased that particular VG.

    Relish: I love his murals. I just did a jigsaw puzzle of one of the this year.

    Steve: I remember how close you were to MIA. After having spent a lot of time in a lot of art museums around the world, I am still impressed with the MIA's collection. I was disappointed the last time I was at the Walker for two reasons. One, I thought it disappointing that the addition didn't add much gallery space. And two, I forget what was on show at the moment but I remember thinking how I just wanted to see some paintings. Everything was a little too conceptual for me. Still, what a wonderful place to have in your city.

    Margaret: Do you know the story of Duveen? The art dealer who convinced all the American industrialists that they needed to own as many great masters as they could and then convinced them all to donate their collections to museums. Dale's collection wasn't a part of that, but if it wasn't for Duveen the NGA would not be the powerhouse it is today. Plus there are great tales about how he manipulated rich clients and the market to keep prices really high.

    Susan: It is certainly one of my favorite places in town. If you haven't been there, the recently renovated American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery is also pretty wonderful.


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