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Breaking Ground: The Whitney’s Founding Collection

Apr 28–Sept 18, 2011

Max Weber (1881–1961), Chinese Restaurant, 1915. Oil on canvas, 40 × 48 in. (101.6 × 121.9 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase 31.382

Max Weber (1881–1961), Chinese Restaurant, 1915. Oil on canvas, 40 × 48 in. (101.6 × 121.9 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase 31.382

Ongoing support for the permanent collection and major support for
Breaking Ground: The Whitney’s Founding Collection is provided by Bank of America.

Bank of America

At the turn of the twentieth century, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, an heiress and sculptor born to one of America’s wealthiest families, began to assemble a rich and highly diverse collection of modern American art. This group of objects, combined with a trove of new works purchased around the time of the Whitney Museum’s opening in 1931, came together to form the founding collection. This exhibition features a selected group of works from the approximately 1,000 objects in the Whitney’s founding collection, including iconic paintings by artists such as Stuart Davis, Charles Sheeler, George Bellows, Rockwell Kent, Edward Hopper, and Georgia O’Keeffe, as well as works by lesser-known artists. 

Breaking Ground: The Whitney’s Founding Collection is the first in a multiyear series of exhibitions aimed at reassessing the museum’s collection. Unfolding in chronological order over a two year period, these exhibitions will explore overlooked developments in American art and reconsider iconic figures and masterworks within new frameworks and contexts. Breaking Ground is co-curated by Barbara Haskell and Sasha Nicholas.

Works from the Exhibition

Oscar Bluemner (1867–1938) , Last Evening of the Year, c. 1929. Oil on board mounted on wood, 13 3/4 × 9 3/4 in. (34.9 × 24.8 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art; gift of Juliana Force  31.115
John Steuart Curry (1897–1946), Baptism in Kansas, 1928.  Oil on canvas, 40 × 50 in. (101.6 × 127 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art; gift of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney  31.159
Howard G. Cushing (1869–1916), Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney, 1902.  Oil on canvas, 24 × 20 in. (61 × 50.8 cm).  Whitney Museum of American Art; gift of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney  31.162
Preston Dickinson (1881–1930), Industry, c. 1923. Oil on canvas, 30 × 24 1/4 in. (76.2 × 61.6 cm).  Whitney Museum of American Art; gift of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney  31.173
Rockwell Kent (1882–1971), The Trapper, 1921. Oil on canvas, 34 1/4 × 44 1/4 in. (87 × 112.4 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art; purchase  31.258
Edward Laning (1906–1981), Fourteenth Street, 1931. Tempera on canvas, 30 × 40 in. (76.2 × 101.6 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art; purchase  33.17
Charles Sheeler (1883–1965), Interior, 1926. Oil on canvas, 33 × 22 in. (83.8 × 55.9 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art; gift of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney  31.344
Max Weber (1881–1961), Chinese Restaurant, 1915. Oil on canvas, 40 × 48 in. (101.6 × 121.9 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art; purchase  31.382