The Berger Collection Educational Trust has donated a major collection of British masterworks to the Denver Art Museum.
It’s the largest gift of European Old Masters since the museum received the Kress Collection in the 1950s. The gift, consisting of 65 works, will enrich the museum’s collection of European art, currently strong in early Italian Renaissance and French 19th-century artworks. The donation is part of the museum’s effort to strategically grow and enhance its encyclopedic collection in anticipation of its North Building’s 50th anniversary and revamped collection galleries, that set to reopen in 2021.
Core works from the trust have been on long-term loan since 1996, and the gift will now dramatically increase the museum’s holdings of 14th- through 19th-century European art. Major genres important to the British School, including portraiture, landscape and equestrian subjects, represent the bulk of the Berger trust gift.
“We are grateful to receive this important donation of British art from the Berger Collection Educational Trust, which will enable us to tell new stories with our collection,” says Dam director Christoph Heinrich. “Art inspires a greater understanding of and connection with our world, and we believe the acquired works will enhance and deepen the experiences of visitors into the future.”
The gift spans six centuries of paintings, drawings and medieval works. One of the earliest gifted artworks is a 14th-century Crucifixion, one of the best-preserved religious panel paintings of its period. Doroty, Lady Dacre by Sir Anthony van Dyck and Portrait of a Lady by Sir Peter Lely represent significant works by two 17th-century masters of portraiture.
“We’re delighted to integrate this significant gift into our collection of European art,” says Angelica Daneo, painting and sculptor curator at the DAM. “This is a transformational gift that complements and strengthens our existing holdings and allows us to offer our visitors a richer and broader narrative through focused and engaging juxtapositions, as well as educational programs and learning opportunities.”
The Berger trust gift is part of a larger donation that includes 12 Winslow Homer artworks that were donated to the Portland Museum of Art in Maine. To date, the gift made to the DAM and the Portland Museum of Art is the largest donation made by the trust in its two-decade history.
“William and Bernadette Berger were exceptionally committed to this city and community, to the arts and to education,” says Arthur Lipper, chairman of the Berger Collection Educational Trust board. “With this gift, the BCET trustees are fulfilling not only the mission of the trust but also the philanthropic intent of these visionary patrons. It is hoped the museum’s already excellent educational programs will be expanded.”