ST. PETERSBURG — The permanent collection at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg is three works richer after Friday's Collectors Choice Gala, adding paintings by Marguerite Zorach, Edward Gay and Margarett W. Sargent.
The annual fundraiser, organized by the Collectors Circle museum support group, lets members vote on acquisitions. Three works were up for a vote this year, but after a virtual tie for second and third place, funds were raised on the spot to acquire all three.
"The MFA is grateful to the Collectors Circle and to all the donors in the room on Friday evening who made these acquisitions possible," said executive director Kristen Shepherd. "I am especially proud that two of the three works acquired were by women artists."
The historic acquisition comes shortly after a cache of Impressionist paintings that had been on long-term loan to the museum were reclaimed by the estate of their deceased owner. Shepherd said the timing is pure coincidence and wasn't reactionary.
Shepherd sees the benefit of being the recipient of such a generous loan for 40 years and said she is proud of the museum's "comprehensive collection, everything from ancient art to contemporary art."
The pieces the group voted on Friday were selected by Shepherd, in concert with the museum's curators. The three paintings were brought in from New York galleries and hung in the museum during the gala. The goal is to obtain works that would fill gaps in the museum's collection, so this year they sought 19th and 20th century American artists.
Zorach's Wash Day, New York City (circa 1925) brings Fauvist and Cubist styles that the museum's collection hadn't previously addressed. The California-born artist embroidered tapestries to sell during the Depression, and she includes one in this painting of her New York City apartment.
Sargent, cousin of famed artist John Singer Sargent, was a modernist artist who painted portraits and figurative works. Her painting, After Dinner, Paris, not only grew the museum's collection of works by women but also serves as a counterpoint to other portraits and cafe scenes in the Poynter Gallery, where it is hung.
Under the Birches (1872) is an early work by Gay, an Irish-born artist who was part of the Hudson River School, a group of mid 19th century landscape painters. It was most likely exhibited at the National Academy of Design during his lifetime, and remains in pristine unlined condition today, complete with its original frame.
The museum's permanent collection contains 20,000 objects, 39 of which were acquired by the Collectors Circle, including the new works already on display for public viewing. Also on display is "The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip." Opening Sunday is "Dorothy Height's Hats," showcasing 42 of the civil rights icon's treasured hats.
The Museum of Fine Arts, located at 255 Beach Drive NE, is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, Friday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday; and noon-5 p.m. Sunday.