The Cleveland Museum of Art Acquires British Masterpiece and Highly Important Watercolors
Cleveland (October 19, 2023)—Recent acquisitions by the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) continue to add to the quality of the collection and to expand its depth and breadth. Visitors will soon be able to view a masterpiece by Johann Zoffany and important watercolors by Eugène Delacroix and Emma Amos.
The Dutton Family in the Drawing Room of Sherborne Park, Gloucestershire byJohann Zoffany
Conversation piece represents the culmination of Zoffany’s achievements in the genre
The Dutton Family in the Drawing Room of Sherborne Park, Gloucestershire,c. 1772.Johann Zoffany (German, active England, 1733–1810). Oil on canvas; unframed: 101.5 x 127 cm; framed: 124.5 x 149.9 x 7.6 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund, 2023.122
The Dutton Family in the Drawing Room of Sherborne Park, Gloucestershire, is a masterpiece by Johann Zoffany, exemplifying the quintessentially English genre of which he was the most accomplished practitioner––the conversation piece. The Dutton family was painted around 1772, at the height of Zoffany’s career. The painting is in extraordinary condition, extensively published, has been a cornerstone of groundbreaking exhibitions, and twice achieved the record price for the artist at auction.
The CMA’s British paintings collection is distinguished primarily by great landscapes, individual portraits, and miniatures but has lacked that linchpin genre, the conversation piece. During the eighteenth century, these informal group portraits flourished among the newly wealthy middle class, for whom the genre provided the opportunity to perform the coded gestures of polite society and showcase the fashionable interiors that attested to their refinement. But the painting is also a timeless testament to that most intimate and complex network of relationships—the family. Conversation pieces give us an intimate glimpse into how British families socialized and decorated—or as importantly—how they wanted to be remembered as living.
The Dutton Family is among the final great conversation pictures remaining in private hands and represents the culmination of Zoffany’s achievements in the genre. This portrait depicts parents socializing with their son and daughter playing cards in a country house. The family is dressed in mourning following the death of a loved one. Executed with his trademark virtuosity and love of significant detail, this family portrait was so treasured by generations of Dutton heirs that it remained in the family collection for more than 150 years.
A Young Black Woman Fetching Water by Eugène Delacroix
Created in a new style consisting of bold colors and subject matter drawn from