Students in a new course, Acquiring Art: Selecting and Purchasing Objects for the Williams College Museum of Art, purchased this work of art for the museum collection. The class is interdisciplinary in true liberal arts fashion and co-taught by Professor of Economics Stephen Sheppard and Curator of American Art Kevin Murphy at WCMA. In the classroom, the students learn to evaluate works from the perspectives of the art market and art history in equal measure.
The class divided into teams, contacted galleries, and poured over auction catalogs to select an object they believe should be added to WCMA’s collection, based on the museum’s collecting priorities and strategic plan. After viewing their selections on a class trip to New York, the groups proposed their object to WCMA’s committee. The selected work is this painting, Keene Valley, Adirondacks, 1876 by American artist Hermann Fuechsel.
In his day Fuechsel was a well-known landscape painter. He trained in Dusseldorf and had a studio in the famous Tenth Street Studio building where Albert Bierstadt and Frederic Church also lived and worked. Keene Valley, Adirondacks is a depiction of an epic American landscape. Painted at the end of Reconstruction, it can be read as a meditation on the difficulties of national healing after the Civil War. “The students found a work that is in pristine condition with much of its original frame intact,” says Murphy. “Through their market research, they realize that paintings of this quality in untouched condition are rare at any price. The entire class should be proud, they put forth an incredible slate of candidates for acquisition, with WCMA as the true winner.”