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The Harnett Collection of American Painting

January 10 to January 26, 1989

Marsh Art Gallery


Joel Harnett, a 1945 graduate of the University of Richmond. discovered his interest in art when he met his wife, Lila. She had studied painting at the Art Students League in New York City. As a young couple they shared a love of art and of the collecting of art. Today with great generosity they share their collection, the fruit of some thirty years of intelligent and loving discrimination, with Joel's alma mater.

Both diversity and coherence, in addition to a striking level of quality, characterize the Harnett collection. Having to limit themselves in some fashion, they decided early on to collect only American artists. Their preference has been for art with a referential content and what Lila Harnett describes as a "nourishing" substance. More specifically, they have sought out artists with an individual, even singular vision, prominent among whom are Charles Burchfield, Reginald Marsh, Edward Hopper and George Tooker. This criterion makes for diversity: the imaginative "Gothic" landscapes of Burchfield. the acutely observed urban bustle of Marsh, the lonely light-filled spaces of Hopper, the quiet intense psychological dramas of Tooker. The depth in which they collect the work of these men lends their collection a satisfying coherence, even as they continue their fascination with singular vision in individual works by artists of a younger generation, such as Pearlstein, Beal and Birmelin.

Publication Date



University of Richmond Museums


Richmond, VA


Harnett Collection, American art, American painting, University of Richmond Museums, Charles Burchfield, Reginald Marsh, Edward Hopper, George Tooker


Art and Design | Fine Arts | Printmaking

The Harnett Collection of American Painting