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NEW Pieces

Since its founding, The Drexel Collection has continued to expand and enhance its collection through donations and collection purchases. These new acquisitions are used to complement and refine the existing collection or fill presently existing gaps. New acquisitions are considered on their relevance and consistence with the purposes and programs of The Drexel Collection.

Recent Acquisitions:

Title: Portrait of a Child
Artist: Francis Martin Drexel
Creation Date: 1819
New Acquisition: 2016
Accession Number: 16.002.0001

Just added to the collection this spring is a wonderful portrait of a child in red velvet dress by Francis Martin Drexel, the father of Anthony J. Drexel, founder of Drexel Institute. The Drexel Collection has one of the largest collections of Francis Martin Drexel paintings, but not many of his portraits of children, so this piece is a wonderful addition to our collection.

Is this a portrait of a boy or girl? The boldly colored, sturdy velvet fabric and the stance of the child suggest that it is a portrait of a boy. Also the presence of a wheeled toy just off the left side of the canvas supports this attribution. Both boys and girls wore dresses as young children, before the male child reached breeching age. Breeching was a rite of passage for a young boy and was when he was first allowed to wear breeches or trousers. In some cases, only the stance of the figure helps determine whether the child is male or female, with female children generally depicted in more feminine poses.

Title: Tall-case clock
Artist: Artist Unknown
Creation Date: c. 1890
New Acquisition: 2015
Accession Number: 15.004.0001

The Drexel Collection recently received a wonderful donation of a tall-case clock from the Drexel family office. The clock was used in the original Drexel & Co. bank building of 1885 located at 5th and Chestnut.

This oak tall-case clock, c. 1890, is a wonderful example of the rich carvings found during the Victorian era, with its arched pediment carved with a mask and wave design and lion’s heads and cherubs lining the top edge of the pendulum case. The intricately carved brass face indicates the time, date and phases of the moon. The clock still runs and is in excellent condition. The plan is to have it installed in the Paul Peck Alumni Center, Frank Furness’s First Centennial Bank, to continue the tradition of displaying the clock in a bank building.

Title: New York Rooftops
Artist: Gershon Benjamin (1899-1985)
Creation Date: 1972
New Acquisition: 2015
Accession Number: 15.003.0001

New York Rooftops was painted by American modernist painter, Gershon Benjamin (1899-1985), in 1972. An exhibition of Gershon Benjamin’s work was hosted by The Drexel Collection in summer 2015. It is no coincidence that the exhibition was here. Alumna Joan Facey ’58, of the College of Engineering, found The Drexel Collection to be a source of rejuvenation and would often take short respites in the Anthony J. Drexel Picture Gallery to recover from her rigorous course load and immerse herself in the beauty of the artwork. Now chair of the Gershon Benjamin Foundation, Facey saw an opportunity to share the work of this important twentieth-century American Modernist painter with the community and students at Drexel University.

Continuing her generosity and joy in sharing Benjamin’s beautiful artwork with the students at Drexel, the Gershon Benjamin Foundation donated three pieces to The Drexel Collection, including New York Rooftops, 1972. The painting is currently on view in the Dean’s suite of the College of Engineering.

Title: Model of a Greek Temple
Artist: Unknown Artist, Albert Laessle (1877-1954) sculptor
Creation Date: 1898
New Acquisition: 2013
Accession Number: 13.004.0001

Discovered on the 4th floor of the Main Building in early 2013, this model of a Greek temple was built in 1898 as a teaching aid for the Architectural Drawing program at the Drexel Institute. The Drexel Collection took over the care and preservation of the temple having it conserved and installed on the 2nd floor of the Main Building, where an exhibit of projects and teaching tools from the Architecture Department will be on display.

The temple is not modeled after any particular temple, but is an exemplar of the basic elements of architecture for the students to study. The only decoration on the temple model are the pedimental sculptures depicting a scene of artisans at work. These pedimental groups were executed by 21-year-old sculptor Albert Laessle, who had been a student at the Drexel Institute and is a well-known sculptor from Philadelphia with one of his most famous pieces “Billy”, the beloved goat sculpture in Rittenhouse Square. Laessle’s signature on the pedimental group was discovered during conservation and was an extremely exciting new find for The Drexel Collection.



Title: Yakushi-ji Temple, Nara City, Japan
Artist: Tokujiro Nishi
Creation Date: 1978
Gift of Tokujiro Nishi: May 2013
Accession Number: 13.003.0001

Artist Tokujiro Nishi studied with the Japanese artist Masao Hato, founder of the Sakujitsu-kai artists, a group created to continue the tradition of oil painting in Japan introduced by the art historian Ernest Fenollosa. In spring of 2013, The Drexel Collection hosted a loan exhibition of Mr. Nishi’s paintings entitled An Exhibition of Oil Paintings by the Japanese Artist, Tokujiro Nishi funded by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. At the completion of the exhibition Mr. Nishi generously gifted this painting of the Yakushi-ji Temple to The Drexel Collection.



Title: A Plan of the City and Environs of Philadelphia
Artist: Matthew Lotter
Creation Date: 1777
Gift of Mrs. A. Barton Lewis: December 2013
Accession Number: 13.008.0014

This map of Philadelphia, created at the time of the Revolutionary War, was engraved and published by Matthew Albert Lotter. Depicted clearly in the map is Holmes’ grid plan for the city, situated between the rivers, numerous outlying ‘country seats,’ and the primitive road system. This map was donated along with several other maps and images of Philadelphia from Mrs. A. Barton Lewis, many of which are now hung in the President’s Office in the Main Building.



Title: Portrait of Mary Astor Paul (1889-1950)
Artist: Cecilia Beaux (1855-1942)
Creation Date: c. 1893
Bequest of Lady Mary Bessborough: June 2013
Accession Number: 13.005.0001

Joining two other portraits of the Drexel family by society portraitist Cecilia Beaux, this large portrait of then 4-year-old Mary Astor Paul, a granddaughter of Anthony J. Drexel, is a welcome addition to The Drexel Collection. A bequest from the late Mary, Countess of Bessborough, the daughter of the sitter, the painting will be hung in the Anthony J. Drexel Picture Gallery along with other family portraits, including a portrait of Mary Astor Paul as an adult by artist Philip Alexius de László (1869 - 1937).

Title: Portrait of Edward McCall
Artist: Francis Martin Drexel
Creation Date: 1827
Collection Purchase: October 4, 2013
Accession Number: 13.007.0001

The Drexel Collection has one of the largest collections of paintings by Francis Martin Drexel, the father of Anthony J. Drexel, who was a portrait artist before starting the firm Drexel & Co. From 1826-1829, Francis Martin Drexel was in South America painting portraits of prominent men and women. This portrait of Edward McCall is one of the paintings from this period, and is recorded in Drexel’s handwritten journal in South America as having been painted April 22, 1827. This portrait was purchased by The Drexel Collection in October of 2013 and is a great addition to the collection as it joins only one other painting we have from Drexel’s trip to South America. The painting is currently on view in the Anthony J. Drexel Picture Gallery.



CONSERVED Pieces

In 2012 The Drexel Collection began a comprehensive conservation survey, identifying the pieces in need of conservation and selecting professional conservators from around the Philadelphia area to help repair and restore these objects. Over 30 pieces in the collection have been conserved since 2012, including a range of objects from paintings and frames to clocks and furniture. This project will continue with not only the individual treatment of objects, but through preventive conservation by upgrading the storage and display areas to comply with the current museum standards.

Highlighted Object:

Title: Landscape
Artist: Frances Drexel Paul (1852-1952) after Markó Andrea (1826-1895)
Creation Date: 1879
Conservation Date: 2015-2016
Accession Number: 05.00A.0002

Francis Martin Drexel, father of Anthony J. Drexel, portrait artist turned banker was not the only artist in the family. Frances (Fannie) Drexel Paul, Anthony and Ellen Drexel’s second child, was also a talented painter. In The Drexel Collection we have one piece by Frances, a landscape after Italian artist Marko Andrea (1826-1895). Marko Andrea was known for his paintings of the Italian countryside, which were incredibly detailed with a clear brightness. This copy by Frances captures Andrea’s technique, which is especially evident now that the piece has been conserved.

The conservator, Aella Diamantopoulos, has worked on several of the paintings and frames in The Drexel Collection, stabilizing flaking paint and gilding, cleaning varnish and inpainting losses. For this piece she surface cleaned both the painting and the frame. She removed the discolored varnish from the painting and inpainted all of the losses using reversible techniques. Lastly, she re-stretched the painting on its original stretcher to remove any warping. For the frame, Aella discovered that the outer portion of the frame was not original to the piece and was too heavy for the painting. This was removed and returned to the collection and the remaining frame was filled and retouched.

Before Conservation

landscape before conservation with frame
 

After Conservation

Landscape after conservation

Title: President James MacAlister’s Desk
Artist: Unknown
Creation Date: 19th century
Conservation Date: 2015
Accession Number: 13.00A.0012

Many of you may have worked at the large desk located on the 3rd floor of the Main Building, but did you know that it was the same desk used by Drexel University’s first president? James MacAlister was hand selected by Anthony J. Drexel to lead his new school, Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry. He was also given $1 million to purchase art and artifacts for The Drexel Collection. Many of the pieces you will find throughout the cases in the Main Building come from President MacAlister’s travels throughout Europe aimed at purchasing art that displayed good design to teach the students of the Institute.

The conservator of this piece, Alan Andersen, has worked on several pieces in the Drexel Collection including tall-case clocks, gaming tables and looking glasses. For this piece he repaired a large area of water damage that was discoloring the surface of the table and carved and replaced sections of the feet that were missing. Once the new sections were completed they were blended to match the rest of the table and the table was waxed to protect it from further damage. We also installed a glass top on the table as additional protection from water and heat damage.

Title: Entrance to the Grand Canal
Artist: Félix-Francois Georges Philibert Ziem (1821-1911)
Creation Date: mid-19th century
Conservation Date: Fall 2015
Accession Number: 20

Félix Ziem was a French painter in the style of the Barbizon school. The painting, Entrance to the Grand Canal, was bequeathed to the Collection by Anthony J. Drexel’s brother-in-law, John D. Lankenau. He is well-known for canal scenes like this one and his use of a golden glow throughout his images.

The painting was gently surfaced cleaned and the cradle on the back was repaired to release the tension on the wood panel by conservator Aella Diamantopoulos, formerly of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Aella has been working with The Drexel Collection since 2012, assisting us with our conservation initiative to move the majority of the paintings currently in storage to display in the Anthony J. Drexel Picture Gallery.

Title: Portrait of a Woman
Artist: Francis Martin Drexel
Creation Date: 1822
Conservation Date: Fall 2014/Winter 2015
Accession Number: 12.002.0001

Francis Martin Drexel (1792-1863) was the father of Drexel University’s founder, Anthony J. Drexel (1826-1893). He started the Drexel & Co. bank in 1838 where A. J. Drexel was a partner. Prior to his banking business, Francis worked as a portrait painter in Philadelphia and South America. The Drexel Collection has one of the largest collections of portraits by Francis Martin Drexel, totaling approximately 34 paintings, and this portrait has some of the most elaborate detailing in the sitter’s costume found in Drexel’s portraits. It will return to the Anthony J. Drexel Picture Gallery where the majority of the Collection’s Francis Martin Drexel paintings are displayed.

The painting was surface cleaned to remove the varnish that had discolored the image and obscured the details in the embroidered scarf draped across the woman’s lap and all of the ruffles and frills in her bonnet and collar.

Title: Isle of Sylt
Artist: Eugène Gustav Dücker
Creation Date: 1879
Conservation Date: Fall 2014
Accession Number: 10

There are four paintings by Eugène Gustav Dücker in The Drexel Collection. All of them were donated by Anthony J. Drexel’s brother-in-law, John D. Lankenau, whose collection of 19th century European paintings was the catalyst for building the Anthony J. Drexel Picture Gallery on the third floor of the Main Building. Currently the Picture Gallery houses paintings by Francis Martin Drexel, portraits of the Drexel family, and a number of landscape and genre paintings from Lankenau’s collection.

As can be seen when comparing the before and after conservation images, the discoloration of the varnish and the dirt accumulated on the surface distorted the appearance of the painting. Before conservation, the scene is dark and foreboding, but after the varnish was removed and the surface cleaned a whole new painting was revealed. The scuttling clouds and daydreamer lying on the shore create a charming scene that invites the viewer in.

The conservation of the Dücker seascapes and other paintings donated by John D. Lankenau is an ongoing project by The Drexel Collection to return these paintings to the walls of the Anthony J. Drexel Picture Gallery.

Before Conservation

  

After Conservation

Title: Landing the Boat
Artist: Eugène Gustav Dücker
Creation Date: 1880
Conservation Date: Spring 2014
Accession Number: 46

Donated to The Drexel Collection in the early 1900s by Anthony J. Drexel’s brother-in-law, John D. Lankenau, this painting is a wonderful example of landscape painting from the Düsseldorf Art Academy. Eugène Gustav Dücker was mainly associated with the Düsseldorf Art Academy where he succeeded Oswald Achenbach in teaching the landscape course. Dücker encouraged his students to paint in nature, embracing the plein-art tradition. Many of his paintings in The Drexel Collection are focused on the sea and the daily activities surrounding it.

The painting was incredibly discolored due to the yellowing of the varnish. The varnish was removed and the painting cleaned to reveal the intricate details of the rocky shore and the vibrant colors of the sky through the clouds. The frame was also repaired with missing pieces replaced and inpainting completed throughout the gilded areas.

The Drexel Collection is home to several landscapes by Dücker and is in the process of having them all conserved so they may return to the Anthony J. Drexel Picture Gallery.

Title: Banjo Clock
Artist: Artist Unknown
Creation Date: 19th Century
Conservation Date: Fall 2013
Accession Number: 3403

An elegant 19th century banjo clock, named for its unique shape, this clock is one of the many excellent examples of clocks and watches within The Drexel Collection. Joining the ranks of the David Rittenhouse Astronomical-Musical clock and the rare conical clock by Eugene Farcot and Albert Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, located in the Great Court, this banjo clock was a clear choice for conservation.

To bring the clock to its original glory, the dial was refinished, the movement was overhauled including cable replacement and rebuilding the pulley system for the pendulum and the decorative reverse painting on glass along the neck of the clock was retouched.

Now that the banjo clock is revived and ready to run, it is currently adorning the walls of the President’s office; ready to keep pace within the active setting of Drexel University.

Title: Portrait of a South American Official
Artist: Francis Martin Drexel
Creation Date: 1827
Conservation Date: September 12, 2013
Accession Number: 01.001.0001

Conserved this past summer, this portrait is one of the few in The Drexel Collection that was painted by Francis Martin Drexel while in South America. As one of the few examples in The Drexel Collection of this period of Francis Martin Drexel’s career it was a priority to have it conserved.

During conservation the surface of the painting was cleaned and the varnish was removed. The conservator then consolidated the painting to stabilize areas where the paint was flaking, especially around any cracks in the paint layer. The canvas was then removed from the stretcher and relaxed to diminish the warping and the edges were reinforced. The canvas was then reattached to the stretcher and the missing keys were replaced. The losses in the frame were repaired and after reassembly the reverse of the painting was protected with a foam-core backing board.

With the conservation complete, the painting is now on view in the Anthony J. Drexel Picture Gallery along with a number of other portraits by Francis Martin Drexel.