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National Gallery finalizes acquisitions from defunct Corcoran Gallery

The National Gallery announces final acquisitions from defunct Corcoran collection ... and the parsing begins

Of the more than 17,000 objects in the now-defunct Corcoran Gallery of Art's collection, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., has acquired more than a third: a total of 6,500 objects that includes paintings by Hudson River School landscapist Fredric Edwin Church and Philadelphia master Thomas Eakins. There are works of sculpture, too, such as Hiram Powers' dramatic 19th century marble "The Greek Slave" and Frederic Remington's early 20th century rootin' tootin' cowboy bronze, "Off the Range (Coming Through the Rye)."

These, among 31 objects from the recent haul, go on view at the National Gallery this weekend in the exhibition "American Masterworks from the Corcoran, 1815-1940." A smaller, related exhibition will display works on paper, also from the Corcoran.

In an unprecedented arrangement, the National Gallery was able to acquire the works as part of a legal settlement that allowed the dissolution of the beloved Corcoran, which had been plagued by financial problems. The remaining works from the Corcoran's collection are expected to go to other Washington-area institutions.

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Naturally, this is the part where the parsing begins. 

Washington Post critic Philip Kennicott — who describes the acquisition process as "the art-world equivalent of a six-month hot-dog-eating contest" — says that the new additions will bolster weak areas of the National Gallery's collection, such as photography.

A worthwhile accompanying slide show examines 13 pieces that will bolster the National Gallery's generally conservative holdings in interesting new ways. This includes a work by California assemblagist Noah Purifoy (whose work is going on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art this summer).

Over at the New York Times, critic Holland Cotter says the acquisitions will improve the National Gallery's holdings of art by women and African American artists.

"The true value of the Corcoran acquisition," he writes, " ... is that it gives the National Gallery of Art, a sluggishly conservative institution, a chance to break with routine, interrupt old deadlocks, throw unalike things together, toss out handed-down scripts."

Want to see the whole megillah? ARTnews has helpfully posted the entire list of National Gallery acquisitions. This should keep the arty Internet occupied for at least a weekend.

"American Masterworks from the Corcoran, 1815-1940" and a related exhibition, "Focus on the Corcoran: Works on Paper, 1860-1990," go on view Saturday through May 3 at the National Gallery of Art, 6th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C., nga.gov.

Find me on Twitter @cmonstah.

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