Four pieces of Gari Melchers’ art will make their way from Washington to the home and studio of the 20th-century artist in Stafford County. Last week, the University of Mary Washington Board of Visitors approved a transfer of three sketches and one painting to Gari Melchers Home and Studio in Falmouth. The artwork was previously held by the trustees of the Corcoran Museum of Art in Washington, D.C., which closed in 2014 after 145 years of operation.
As part of a massive distribution this week, the National Gallery of Art (NGA) – current custodians of most of the Corcoran collection – offered to transfer the four pieces, which are among only about 100, less than one percent of the collection, going to institutions outside of D.C.
“This is because Gari Melchers Home and Studio not only interprets Melchers’ legacy, but also has the largest single collection of his works in the world,” said Scott Harris, executive director of University of Mary Washington Museums.
Three of the items are rough sketches of nude females. The fourth is an oil portrait of James Parmelee (1855-1931), a Cleveland, Ohio, financier who founded a company that developed some of the first batteries made for consumer use, according to Harris. Parmelee, who was a patron of the National Cathedral and the Smithsonian Institution, is typical of the clientele from whom Gari Melchers made his living as a portraitist.
Ann B. Robertson, a 1974 alumna of UMW and an exhibition officer on the NGA’s staff, played a role in securing the donation. Gari Melchers Home and Studio’s Former Director David Berreth and Curator Joanna Catron were closely involved in discussions with the NGA staff.
In addition to the value such works will add to the mission of Gari Melchers Home and Studio, a museum property operated by UMW, it is worth noting that Melchers was once a trustee of the Corcoran Museum of Art.
Gari Melchers Home and Studio is a 28-acre estate and former residence of the artist Gari Melchers and his wife Corinne. The property is both a Virginia Historic Landmark and a National Historic Landmark. Located at 224 Washington St. in Falmouth, Virginia, a quarter mile west of the intersection of U.S. 1 and U.S. 17, it is open daily with an admission charge.