Pittsburgher Charles J. Rosenbloom (1898–1973) was a lawyer, businessman, philanthropist, and passionate supporter of the state of Israel; he was also a music lover, bibliophile, and art collector of breadth, refinement, and taste. A staunch supporter of many Pittsburgh institutions, he was already a noted art collector when he began his official association with Carnegie Institute and its Fine Arts Department (later Carnegie Museum of Art), when he was elected trustee of the Carnegie Institute and member of the Fine Arts Committee in December 1939. He remained a devoted friend and benefactor of the museum throughout the rest of his life. In addition to his long service on the museum board, throughout the years he provided funds for a diverse group of acquisitions, gifted art from his collection, loaned works for important exhibitions, and, finally, hand-picked a large and important part of that collection as a bequest to the museum.
Small Prints, Big Artists: Masterpieces from the Renaissance to Baroque opens Saturday, May 31, featuring many of the important artworks donated by Charles J. Rosenbloom.
The diversity and quality of the works in the museum’s collection with a Rosenbloom connection is truly remarkable. His first gift was a painting by André Derain, Portrait of an Englishwoman, given in 1940, no doubt to mark his official affiliation with the museum. During his lifetime he gave about 250 works, ranging from Old Master works on paper; a rare volume of Goya’s Los Caprichos (The Caprices); Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works by Manet, Degas, Cézanne, Cassatt, Matisse, and van Gogh (whose etching The Man with the Pipe, Portrait of Dr. Gachet is the only work in this medium by the artist); and Japanese woodcut scrolls, including the 1939 series Kasenen (Katyayana) by Munakata Shikô.
While his lifetime gifts and his bequest, realized in 1974, include paintings, sculpture, and works on paper, it is the latter that were the core of his art collection. And in several areas, they have subsequently constituted the core of the museum’s collection. His bequest of prints by three of the greatest print masters—Dürer, Rembrandt, and Whistler—is illustrative. They total about 150 works (about half of the entire bequest, with more than 50 each by Dürer and Rembrandt and nearly the same number by Whistler). Among them are some of the most famous images in the genre: Dürer’s Adam and Eve (1504, in a spectacular impression), Rembrandt’s The Three Trees (1643) and The Agony in the Garden (c. 1659), and Whistler’s Nocturne from the First Venice Set (1879–80).
It should be pointed out that several other institutions have benefited from Rosenbloom’s service, financial support, and eventual generosity. In addition to gifts made during his lifetime, he bequeathed the main part of his important collection of rare books, manuscripts, and musical scores, including many first and early editions, to libraries at Yale and Carnegie Mellon University. As was his custom, the list of the items for each institution was carefully and personally selected by the benefactor himself. The same was true for his art collection. In numbers, he divided it chiefly and nearly equally between Carnegie Museum of Art and the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. However, the individual works destined for each institution were selected carefully: they represent not only an attempt to divide the collection based on the respective needs of each institution but also a sophisticated collector’s personal considerations. For example, as a rule, Rembrandt’s prints with Jewish and Old Testament subjects were given to the Israel Museum while those designated for the Carnegie showcased a broad and comprehensive representation of the artist’s work in the medium.
Prints from the Rosenbloom collection have been showcased in many exhibitions at Carnegie Museum of Art over the last 75 years, beginning with a 1938 loan exhibition of his early acquisitions. It is fitting that in this 40th anniversary year of his important bequest to the museum, they are again an integral part of the upcoming exhibition Small Prints, Big Artists: Masterpieces from the Renaissance to Baroque.