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McIlhenny Collection To Be Displayed at Philadelphia Museum

September 1, 1987

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ The personal collection of the late Henry P. McIlhenny, one of the world’s most highly regarded collectors of 19th century French and English masters, will be displayed for the first time this fall at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

McIlhenny was eulogized as the ″consummate Philadelphian″ after his death in May 1986 at age 75. While he was alive, the late pop artist Andy Warhol described him as the only person in Philadelphia with glamour.

But to the art world he was known as a collector with exquisite taste.

When he died, he left his collection of 54 paintings and numerous other art objects to the Philadelphia Museum, which he had served for over 50 years as first curator and later as chairman of the board of trustees.

″It truly is one of the greatest gifts ever to a museum,″ said museum spokeswoman Sandra Horrocks. ″He collected only the very best and was recognized as having one of the top 10 private collections in the world.″

The artistic value of the 54 paintings alone was described as ″just staggering″ by Anne d’Harnoncourt, museum director.

Among the best known paintings are Jacques-Louis David’s ″Pope Pius VII and Cardinal Caprara,″ Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres’ ″Comtesse de Tournon,″ Edgar Degas’ ″Le Viol,″ Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s ″Mlle Legrand,″ Paul Cezanne’s ″Mme Cezanne,″ Vincent van Gogh’s ″Rain″ and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec’s ″At the Moulin Rouge: The Dance.″

″Le Viol″ (″The Rape″) was considered to be McIlhenny’s best acquisition. In the work by Degas, the artist used flickering fire and lamp to push light and shadow to extraordinary expressive lengths in emphasizing the woman’s pathetic posture and the man in satanic shadow.

The paintings include single works by Richard Ansdell, Jean Simeon Chardin, Theodore Chasseriau, John Constable, Gus Courbet, Honore Daumier, David, Francois-Xavier Fabre, Constantin Guys, Camille Pissarro, Georges Seurat and Edouard Vuillard.

There are two each by James Collinson, Camille Carot, Ingres, Edward Lear, Henri Matisse, Georges Rouault and van Gogh; three each by Cezanne, Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec; four by Eugene Delacroix; seven by Degas; and eight by Edwin Landseer.

The exhibition, which opens Nov. 22 and runs through Jan. 17, 1988, will include over 250 works, including paintings, drawings, watercolors, sculpture, furniture, silver, porcelain and other decorative objects.

McIlhenny had been working out plans for the Philadelphia showing just before he died following complications from heart surgery.

He liked to have his collection seen and allowed tours of his townhouse until recent years when it became too much trouble for him.

The exibition has been designated honors the memory of McIlhenny’s mother, Frances P. McIlhenny, who also served as a trustee of the Philadelphia Museum and encouraged her son as a young collector.

McIlhenny said many times during his life he was born to be a collector. As a child, his parents took him to museums and his father, John D. McIlhenny, was president of the Philadelphia Museum of Art from 1920 to 1935.

He continued learning about art in college under the wing of legendary art critic and collector Paul Sachs. He bought his first painting, ″The Hare″ by Chardin, while still a student at Harvard University in 1930.

McIlhenny lived off the income of trust funds that came from family wealth accumulated by his Irish immigrant grandfather, who invented the gas meter.

His art work decorated his townhouse on Philadelphia’s fashionable Rittenhouse Square. Until 1983, some of his collection also graced Glenveagh, his 40-room castle in Ireland. He donated the castle to Ireland that year and moved his works to the townhouse.

McIlhenny sold paintings only when he needed a large sum of money. He once sold a Cezanne for $3.6 million so he could repave the driveway at the castle and buy the townhouse next to the one he already owned so he could expand.

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