One Gift Leads to Another

On view in the American art galleries is a small, temporary installation, The Art and Craft of Arthur and Lucia Mathews. It’s an exciting project that allows us to show several recent gifts of objects created by the Mathewses, San Francisco-based Arts and Crafts painters and furniture designers.

Prior to 2007 LACMA didn’t own any work by the Mathewses. The way the gifts came to LACMA is a particularly intriguing one (told in this Los Angeles Times story from last year). In brief, former Board Chair Nancy Daly generously donated the Arthur Mathews painting Monterey Cypress, California.

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Arthur Mathews, "Monterey Cypress," California, c. 1930, gift of Nancy Daly

News of the acquisition was featured on LACMA’s website, which led to an out-of-the-blue email to the Decorative Arts and Design Department from a man who had inherited some Mathews furniture. His grandfather’s uncle was one of partners of the Mathewses furniture business—and he wondered if the museum would be interested in accepting it as well. Mathews furniture is as rare as hen’s teeth, so the answer was an unequivocal yes! There are very few extant examples, and most of them are at the Oakland Museum of California (however, there is one other piece of Mathews furniture on public view in Southern California—a chest in the American galleries of the Huntington Library). Among the objects LACMA received is a vividly painted blanket chest depicting a landscape of gently rolling hills with a flowering tree in the foreground, and a towering candelabra featuring a richer palette of reds, greens, and golds and accented with skilled carving.

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Lucia K. Mathews and Arthur Mathews, Chest, c. 1910–15, gift of William J. Zeile

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Lucia K. Mathews and Arthur Mathews, Candelabra, c. 1910–15, gift of the estate of John E. Zeile, Jr.

The installation is on view through December 6, 2009 in the Art of the Americas Building, toward the back of the American Art galleries on the third floor.

Bobbye Tigerman, Assistant Curator, Decorative Arts and Design

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