The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, which is in the midst of a $33 million renovation, announced Friday that it has received a $9.6 million gift to beef up its already rich holdings of English and European works from the 18th century and earlier.
The gift from Charles H. Schwartz, who died in 1995, is the largest in the museum’s 169-year history and will be a “game changer for the European collection,” said Oliver Tostmann, recently hired away from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to serve as the Wadsworth’s curator of European art.
Susan L. Talbott, director and chief executive of the Wadsworth, said in an interview Friday that the bequest will allow the museum to deepen its Renaissance collection, particularly in sculpture. Depending on market conditions, the Wadsworth should be able to draw about $475,000 a year for purchases from the endowment fund created by the gift.
“We haven’t had a gift like this ever,” said Talbott. “We are on the verge of completing the most major renovation and reinstallation of the collection that we’ve experienced in 30 years. This gift really comes at an absolutely critical time in our history that I think is going to be remembered for generations to come.”
Schwartz died in 1995, but the bequest was delayed because his partner, Nathaniel Robertson, was to be provided for in his lifetime, said Talbott. Robertson died last year.