The William S. Paley Collection at The Museum of Modern Art, which constitutes one of the most important private collections to be entrusted to a public institution in recent years, will be shown to the public in its entirety for the first time.
Mr. Paley, founder and guiding spirit of CBS and a towering figure in the modern entertainment, communication, and news-dissemination industries, left his collection of more than eighty works of art to the William S. Paley Foundation for donation to The Museum of Modern Art, where he was chairman emeritus at the time of his death in October 1990. This exhibition pays tribute to Mr. Paley’s dedicated service to the Museum over a period of more than half a century.
The Paley Collection, which includes paintings, sculpture, and drawings, ranges in date from the latter half of the nineteenth century through the early 1970s. It is especially rich in works by Cezanne, Matisse, and Picasso, and includes as well significant works by Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, Derain, Bonnard, Gauguin, Rouault, and other modern masters. Among the pieces on view in the exhibition are Gauguin’s splendid The Seed of the Areoi (Te aa no areois) (1892), an important female nude from the artist’s first sojourn in Tahiti; Cezanne’s superb 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); and Matisse’s striking masterpiece from his years in Nice, Woman with a Veil (1927). Many of the pieces in the collection fill important gaps in the Museum’s collection, while others further enrich areas of strength.
The William S. Paley Collection is a highly personal one, built according to the dictates of private taste rather than to any more public concerns. As William Rubin notes in his preface to the catalogue accompanying the exhibition, in the middle 1930s, when William Paley bought many of his paintings, “…there were relatively few collectors of modern art—and nothing chic about possessing it.” Mr. Paley’s passion for art made his collection a fundamental component of his private world. The works are, for the most part, intimate in both format and character, scaled for personal enjoyment and contemplation.
Mr. Paley’s affiliation with The Museum of Modern art commenced in 1937, only eight years after the Museum was founded. He served successively as trustee, chairman of the Painting and Sculpture Committee, president of the Museum, and chairman of the Board, under whom the 1982–84 expansion was carried out. He was chairman emeritus from 1985 until his death. It is with deep gratitude that the Museum pays this tribute to William Paley’s dedication, service, taste, and generosity.
Organized by William Rubin, director emeritus, Department of Painting and Sculpture.