NEW YORK—At The Met Breuer this summer, the exhibition Obsession: Nudes by Klimt, Schiele, and Picasso from the Scofield Thayer Collection will present a selection from The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Scofield Thayer Collection of some 50 erotic and evocative watercolors, drawings, and prints by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Pablo Picasso, whose subjects, except for a handful, are nudes. The exhibition will provide a focused look at this important collection and mark the first time this brilliant group of works are being shown together; it also marks the centenary of the death of Klimt and Schiele.
The exhibition is made possible by the Barrie A. and Deedee Wigmore Foundation.
An aesthete and scion of a wealthy family, Scofield Thayer (1889–1982) was co-publisher and editor of the literary magazine the Dial from 1919 to 1926. In this avant-garde journal he introduced Americans to the writings of T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, D.H. Lawrence, Arthur Schnitzler, Thomas Mann, and Marcel Proust, among others. He frequently accompanied these writers’ contributions with reproductions of modern art. Thayer assembled his large collection of some 600 works-mostly works on paper-with staggering speed in London, Paris, Berlin, and Vienna between 1921 and 1923. While he was a patient of Sigmund Freud in Vienna, he acquired a large group of watercolors and drawings by Schiele and Klimt, artists who at that time were unknown in America. When a selection from his collection was shown at the Montross Gallery in New York in 1924—five years before the Museum of Modern Art opened—it won acclaim. It found no favor, however, in Thayer’s native city, Worcester, Massachusetts, that same year when it was shown at the Worcester Art Museum. Incensed, Thayer draw up his will in 1925 leaving his collection to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. He withdrew from public life in the late 1920s and lived as a recluse on Martha’s Vineyard and in Florida until his death in 1982.
Obsession: Nudes by Klimt, Schiele and Picasso from the Scofield Thayer Collection is organized by Sabine Rewald, the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Curator for Modern Art in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue published by The Met. An essay by James Dempsey, instructor at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and an authority on Scofield Thayer, discusses the collector’s professional and private life. In her essay, Sabine Rewald discusses in depth the works of the three artists and also examines Thayer’s purchases between 1921 and 1923, as documented in invoices.