The William S. Paley Collection

Venues and Dates

Portland Museum of Art, Portland, USA

May 2, 2013–February 23, 2014

Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec, Quebec City, Canada

October 10, 2013–January 5, 2014

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, USA

March 13–July 7, 2014

The William S. Paley Collection at The Museum of Modern Art constitutes one of the most important private collections to be entrusted to a public institution in recent years. This exhibition highlighting masterworks from the collection testifies to William Paley's passionate love for modern painting, sculpture and drawing, allied with perceptive judgment and a strong desire for the public to share his enthusiasm.

Founder Chairman of CBS, Inc., and a great pioneer in the evolution of broadcasting, Mr. Paley was MoMA's Chairman Emeritus at the time of his death in October 1990. He had an exemplary commitment to the highest standards in all the Museum's activities, and his many-faceted efforts on its behalf are an enduring part of MoMA's history. He had joined the Board of Trustees in 1937, when the institution was only eight years old, and from then on was an active force within the Museum, serving as its president from 1968 to 1972, and Chairman from 1972 to 1985. With perseverance and vision, he guided the Museum through periods of great challenges and changes. He was in every way a model trustee—dedicated, informed, and responsive—and a gracious donor of his time, funds, and works of art.

An exciting trip through Europe in 1933, arranged by his friend Averell Harriman, during which William Paley visited private collections, among them that of Cézanne's son, Paul, was the springboard to his collecting. He was actively encouraged in this pursuit by his first wife, Dorothy. In 1935 he made his initial purchase, a small self-portrait by Cézanne. 1936 was the most remarkable year for his acquisitions, which included a magnificent Tahitian Gauguin, two superb Matisses, and by far the best known work in the collection, Pablo Picasso's Boy Leading a Horse. After a hiatus during World War II, Mr. Paley continued to acquire works by 19th and 20th-century masters, but his collecting never quite recaptured the intensity of activity that had characterized it in the 1930s.

The majority of the art objects that Mr. Paley acquired were relatively intimate in both format and character. His collecting followed no grand strategies, but was serendipitous and highly personal in nature. He thought of his paintings as the most important components of a seamless private world whose other constituents, such as antiques and mementos of his professional and social life, held great personal significance for him. Mr. Paley was reluctant to disrupt the particular mix of these objects in his home. Therefore, except for certain loans made to enhance exhibitions at MoMA, his paintings rarely left their walls.

Virtually the entirety of his modern art holdings, an outstanding collection of more than 80 works of art, which includes major paintings by Cézanne, Derain, Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, Vuillard and others, was bequeathed to the William S. Paley Foundation for donation to MoMA.

This exhibition brings together more than 60 paintings, sculptures, and drawings, ranging in date from the latter half of the 19th century to the early 1960s. Among the works included in the exhibition are Gauguin's splendid The Seed of Areoi (Te aa no areois), 1892, an important female nude from the artist's first sojourn to Tahiti in the spring of 1891, and Cézanne's outstanding still life from the artist's mature period, Milk Can and Apples, 1879–80, a large and exquisite late pastel by Degas, Two Dancers, 1905, Derain's dynamic Fauve painting Bridge over the Riou, 1906, Picasso's celebrated monumental painting, Boy Leading a Horse, 1905–06, a commanding seven-foot-high painting that uniquely marks the artist's progress from his subdued Rose period to his more muscular proto-cubist phase; and his superb The Architect's Table, 1912, a concluding masterpiece of Picasso's high Analytic Cubism, and Matisse's striking tour de force from his years in Nice, and the last major picture of his favorite model, Henriette Darricarrére, Woman with a Veil, 1927.

A re-design of MoMA's 1992 fully illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition. With 180 pages and 162 illustrations, the catalogue features a preface by William Rubin and scholarly essays on each work in the Paley Collection by William Rubin and Matthew Armstrong. In addition, it includes provenance history, bibliographic references, and exhibition histories for each work.

The exhibition is organized by Lilian Tone, Assistant Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art, and will travel to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, de Young Museum, the Portland Museum of Art, the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. With this exhibition, The Museum of Modern Art will send for the first time paintings, sculptures, and drawings—several of which in permanent display at the museum galleries—of the highest caliber to Portland, Maine, Québec, Canada, and Bentonville, Arkansas