Highest-valued single art gift in VMFA history arrives in Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. — An “important work of American art” has found a new home at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. An anonymous donor gifted Asher B. Durand’s painting Progress (The Advance of Civilization) to the art museum in Richmond. The painting is the “highest valued gift of a single work of art in VMFA’s history,” according to a museum spokesperson. The painting reportedly sold for $40 million in 2011, according to the Tuscaloosa News.

“As one of the best known American paintings made in the nineteenth-century, Progress considerably elevates the quality of the Virginia Museum of Fine Art’s collection of American art,” VMFA Director Alex Nyerges said. “This incredible gift affords our visitors from Virginia and around the world the opportunity to experience a masterpiece by one of the country’s greatest painters.”

This is the first time Progress “has been held outside of private collections since it was painted in 1853,” a museum spokesperson shared.

“This painting suggests the artist’s awareness of recent Native American history,” Leo Mazow, VMFA’s Louise B. and J. Harwood Cochrane Curator of American Art, said. “As tightly composed and naturalistic as the painting is, lifelikeness and documentary history are less the point of the work than Durand’s effort to balance the signs of ‘progress’ in all its majesty, but with its very real costs.”

The work now joins the VMFA’s collection other Hudson River School painting by artists like Thomas Cole, Jasper Francis Cropsey, Frederic Edwin Church, George Inness and Robert Seldon Duncanson.

Progress will be on view in VMFA’s American Galleries as of December 18, 2018.

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