Crystal Bridges addition | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Crystal Bridges addition

Posted By on Wed, Oct 22, 2008 at 4:34 PM


Another of the American paintings acquired for the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville was revealed at a meeting in New York last night where Arkansas officials were pitching for business here.

It's John Singer Sargent's "Robert Louis Stevenson and His Wife."

NEW YORK, Oct. 21, 2008 – The genius of portraitist John Singer Sargent brings to life the image of a famous American author in the latest work to be revealed as part of the permanent collection of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Sargent’s Robert Louis Stevenson and His Wife was announced today as a part of the collection during an Arkansas economic development and tourism reception in New York City. The event was co-hosted by the Crystal Bridges Museum, the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. The group is in New York to meet with individuals and companies interested in doing business in Arkansas.

“What makes this painting so special is its spirit,” said Alice Walton, philanthropist and chairman of the Crystal Bridges Museum board. “Spirit is what makes paintings and places great. This painting will be at home at Crystal Bridges in Arkansas.”

Robert Louis Stevenson and His Wife is one of Sargent’s most recognized portraits. Painted in the resort town of Bournemouth, England, Sargent depicts Stevenson and his wife, Fanny, in the dining room of their home. Stevenson, pacing restlessly across the room, seems to be conversing with the viewer, while his extravagantly-dressed wife lounges in a chair facing away from Stevenson. Critical review of the painting was mixed. Some praised it as a new, refreshing take on composition while others dismissed it as too peculiar. Stevenson himself thought Sargent captured his odd, fidgety personality well.

"This richly complex painting speaks to the genius of Sargent's art,” said Bob Workman, executive director, Crystal Bridges. “While it is a double portrait, the unconventional composition conveys the personalities of the sitters: Stevenson's strident energy and his wife's pensive exoticism. The palette and paint application reinforces the complexities of the subjects depicted."

Despite their different personalities, there was great rapport between Sargent and Stevenson. Both men traveled frequently, keeping close ties to the expatriate community in America. Spurred by their connection to their home country, they developed a friendship during their painting sessions in England. After completing the portrait, Sargent gave it to Stevenson and his wife as a gift.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Crystal Bridges is envisioned as a premier national art institution dedicated to American art and artists. Under construction in Bentonville, Ark., the museum complex will encompass approximately 100,000 square feet of gallery, library, meeting, and office space, a 250-seat indoor auditorium, areas for outdoor concerts and public events, as well as sculpture gardens and walking trails.

Crystal Bridges will house a permanent collection of signature works from American artists. The growing permanent collection is composed of paintings and sculptures from the Colonial period through the modern era. Some announced works in the permanent collection are:  the Hudson River School masterwork Kindred Spirits by Asher B. Durand, which is currently on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City; Gilbert Stuart’s George Washington (The Constable-Hamilton Portrait), which is currently on loan to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Portrait of Professor Benjamin H. Rand, currently on loan to the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and the most extensive surviving group of Colonial American portraiture, the Levy-Franks family paintings, currently on loan to The Jewish Museum in New York City.

Crystal Bridges takes its name from a natural spring on the museum’s wooded site as well as the unique glass-and-wood building design created by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie. The 100-acre site of the museum complex and cultural center is located within walking distance of the Bentonville town square. For more information about Crystal Bridges, visit

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