Gloucester Daily Times: A homecoming for the James collection

September 8, 2023


A commitment to gift an exceptional collection of more than 300 pieces of Cape Ann American art by former Rockport residents Janet and William “Wilber” Ellery James, now of Palm Beach, Florida, marks the largest single donation of works in its 148-year history, the Cape Ann Museum said this week.

It’s a landmark donation museum Director Oliver Barker says should be transformative to the institution.

The collection features more than 300 works by Milton Avery, Anna Hyatt Huntington, Marsden Hartley, Jane Peterson, Paul Manship, George Aarons, Cecilia Beaux, Adolph Gottlieb, Eric Hudson, Theresa Bernstein, Winslow Homer and Stuart Davis among many others.

The museum says the promised donation will bring new genres and masterworks to its holdings. News of the gift comes as the museum works to strategically expand its collections in advance of its 150th anniversary in 2025.

“What they (Janet and Wilber James) have done particularly in recent years is they have tried to help the museum fill holes in our existing collection,” Barker said in an interview Thursday at the museum, “so that we can better tell the stories about why this singularly unique place has been so influential locally but also on a national scale.”

In fact, museumgoers who want to get a taste of what the collection is all about can head to the museum at 27 Pleasant St., adjacent to City Hall, and see more than 30 works in the exhibition “Coming Home: Selections from the Janet & William Ellery James Collection,” located in the gallery directly opposite the ongoing landmark “Edward Hopper & Cape Ann” exhibition. The works in “Coming Home” are meant to complement the Hopper exhibition and Gloucester’s 400+ anniversary celebrations. [...]

Barker said the works in the collection are not only significant to Cape Ann, but would be significant to many other institutions.

“We are talking about works by some of America’s great 20th century artists from Marsden Hartley to Anna Hyatt Huntington, Milton and … Sally Michel Avery. So these are really significant pieces for us because they round out or help us round out the Cape Ann story,” Barker said. “They are works that many institutions would love to have.”

The museum said the gift builds on more than a century of generous donations of artwork, artifacts and archival materials from community members, who like Janet and Wilber James, cherish Cape Ann and are inspired by the impact such gifts have on the museum.

A homecoming for the James collection | Local News | gloucestertimes.com 

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