The Suzanne H. Arnold Art Gallery at Lebanon Valley College has received a major donation of 45 landscape paintings, most of them 19th-century American works, from Hilary Peery Vesell of Hershey.
The paintings were donated in honor of her late father, Dr. Elliot Vesell, an art scholar and the founding chair of pharmacology at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. He and his wife, Kristen, were generous, longtime patrons of the Arnold Gallery.
The donation will be designated The Vesell Family Collection, according to a press release from the college. Dr. and Mrs. Vesell had lent work for multiple gallery exhibitions, including “William Trost Richards Land and Sea” (2009) and “Visions of Nature: 19th-Century Women Landscape Artists” (2011).
Some of the donated works were in a previous show, gallery director Barbara McNulty told LebTown. Vesell was a highly regarded scholar on American art, “consulted by many,” she said.
This is a small portion of his collection, and “we’re just so thankful” to have it, McNulty said. Dr. Vesell “loved the landscape around this area and familiarizing people with the landscape genre.”
Thirty of the paintings are attributed to specific artists, and two are 18th-century English landscapes, which McNulty called precursors.
“There’s a lot to study in the paintings themselves,” which are executed in the style of the Hudson River School, she said. Next year, many works in the collection will be included in a landscape exhibition at the gallery, for which a catalog is being written.
“Creative arts majors and minors will be able to conserve, research and curate these works while learning museum standard professional practices,” McNulty said in the release.
The gallery previously received and cataloged 449 books on American art from the Vesells, she told LebTown.
In addition to being the founding chair of pharmacology at Hershey Medical Center, Dr. Vesell was assistant dean of graduate studies for 22 years at Penn State College of Medicine, the release noted. He published more than 350 articles on pharmacogenomics and received numerous awards and honorary degrees.
Dr. Vesell’s first publication on American art was written the summer between his graduating from Harvard and starting Harvard Medical School. It was the introduction to the “Life and Works of Thomas Cole” (Harvard University Press).
Seven of the 30 known artists in The Vesell Family Collection are women.
One is Susie M. Barstow, known for her luminous landscapes. Her contribution to the collection is “Early October near Lake Squam.”
Julie Hart Beers’ “Cows in a Landscape” (1867) is also one of the works. Beers is the sister of Hudson River School painters James McDougal Hart and William Hart, who taught her.
The State Department Art in Embassies page said Beers’ portfolio “includes many intimate landscapes painted along the Hudson River and in various New England states, as well as fresh, colorful still lifes.”
And, according to the profile, she “became one of the first American-born women to gain recognition as an artist.”