National Gallery picks up works by European masters


WASHINGTON — The National Gallery of Art in Washington has acquired dozens of new paintings, sculptures and drawings, including its first paintings by 17th-century Dutch Golden Age painter Cornelis Bega and 19th-century French artist Jean-Leon Gerome. The acquisitions were approved by the National Gallery of Art’s board of trustees in May and paid for with private money and donations. Among the other acquisitions were two sculptures by Robert Smithson, ambrotype self-portraits by the photographer Sally Mann, and a Florentine wax relief attributed to 18th-century sculptor Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi.

“The Gallery is thrilled to accept so many fine works across mediums and spanning the 17th to the 21st centuries, including many important firsts for the collection,” Director Earl “Rusty” Powell III said in a statement.

“View of Medinet El-Fayoum” is the gallery’s first painting by Gerome, although it has two prints and one drawing by the artist. It is a valuable addition to the gallery’s 19th-century French Galleries in the West Building, which reopened after a two-year refurbishment in January 2012. Known for his Orientalist paintings of historical scenes, Gerome was one of the most successful painters in France during what is now called the academic period. Orientalist art has become increasingly popular in recent years. In 2009, Sotheby’s sold Gerome’s “A Bashi-Bazouk and His Dog” for nearly $800,000 in a sale of Orientalist works.

Bega’s “The Alchemist” is another notable addition, now on view in the Dutch Galleries of the West Building. The painting depicts an alchemist working in a dimly lit shop