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  • by Jennifer Gunlock, Collections Manager

Building a Collection

Five years ago the Jonathan Art Foundation sat down to strategically refine its current acquisition policy, with the keen knowledge that the collection was on the verge of becoming among the premier scholarly Southern California Impressionist art collections in the state. This goal was initiated by generating a list of key artists not yet included in the collection, and a list of artists whose brilliance could be better represented with the inclusion of more important pieces. With enormous financial assistance from the Jane Lauman Trust, JAF leapt forward to achieving that goal.

JAF’s Collections Committee has been very fortunate to have in its ranks members with a passion for, and thorough knowledge of, the California Impressionist market. These people have donated their time to scour the local auction houses for prime works that fit within JAF’s budget. Committee members review auction catalogues to identify potential acquisitions. In doing so, the Committee focuses on a variety of factors, including a painting’s quality, condition, size, and relevance to the artist’s known work, and its relevance to the overall collection. The Committee also considers where the piece would likely be displayed in the Club. Curatorially speaking, the Committee strives to maintain a collection that offers a stylistic or thematic cohesiveness, while also allowing each work to bring a unique, rich perspective to the group as a whole.

If a potential acquisition generates favorable interest in the Committee, members will arrange to view it in person. It is always astounding how digital images can absolutely misrepresent a painting. A painting’s scale, materiality, condition, and just presence can never truly translate in a jpeg. If, after an in-person viewing, the piece is still a serious consideration, the painting is brought to the JAF Board for a final vote. JAF has an informal policy that it only purchases works that receive unanimous Board approval. Pieces that elicit mixed reviews never make the cut.

One example of the great curatorial expertise we’ve been privileged to have is that of Richard Reitzell, descendent of historic CA painter Jean Mannheim (1863-1945). Spotting the painting Arch Beach, Laguna in the Bonhams auction catalogue in 2014, he immediately recognized it from his family’s home collection years ago. The painting had since been a part of the Irvine Museum collection and has been included in several Irvine and Laguna Art Museum exhibitions. You can now see this magnificent piece at the Town Club.

JAF hopes you enjoy the artwork on display at the Club and the collection’s continual evolution, as we strive to find the best works that capture the light and richness of California’s beautiful landscape.

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