Making an Impressionism on Denver

  • Arts & Culture
  • 2014

The Denver Art Museum has been admired for its contemporary, Native American, and Western art. In 2006 the building gained a major Daniel Libeskind-designed expansion, thanks to a $20 million gift from longtime trustee Frederic Hamilton, who made his fortune in the oil business. “However, our museum is derelict in one significant area, and that is Impressionism,” states Hamilton. In early 2014, however, the benefactor filled that hole by promising to the museum his personal collection of 22 great Impressionist paintings, by the like of Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Manet, van Gogh, and Cézanne. These were described by Rusty Powell of the National Gallery of Art in Washington as “an extraordinary grouping of works by the greatest artists of France. It would be a big deal for any museum to get.” Valued at approximately $100 million, they will give Denver the biggest collection of Impressionist art in the Western U.S. when they transfer to the museum at Hamilton’s passing. The city got a taste of what is to come when Hamilton lent the collection for a temporary exhibit in early 2014. The crowds that thronged to see the masterworks finalized Hamilton’s decision to will them to the public institution instead of passing them on to his heirs, as he had originally intended.