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George Abrams to donate landmark collection to Harvard museum

Steve Gilbert

George Abrams (right) with Netherlands Consul General Dolph Hogewoning at a dinner honoring Abrams.

Twenty-seventeen may be many things, but in Boston, at least, it’s shaping up to be the Year of the Dutch.

George Abrams, the powerhouse collector of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish drawings, surprised guests at a dinner in his honor Friday when he announced he was giving his landmark collection of works on paper to the Harvard Art Museums.

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But the dinner’s guest of honor was in for a surprise of his own: Taking to the podium in the museum’s Calderwood Courtyard, Netherlands Consul General Dolph Hogewoning appointed Abrams a Knight in the order of Orange-Nassau, praising the collector’s enduring contribution to Dutch art before pinning a medal to Abrams’s lapel.

The Abrams collection, which he built over many decades with his late wife, Maida, marks the third major private collection of Dutch art from the Golden Age to enter Boston museums in less than a month, transforming the region into a global center in the field. Friday’s dinner was also attended by Boston-area collectors Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo and Susan and Matthew Weatherbie, who last month gave the Museum of Fine Arts a combined 113 Old Master Dutch paintings and established a Center for Netherlandish Art.

“It was a singular pleasure,” Abrams told the crowd of his passion for drawings in his collection, which includes several works by Rembrandt van Rijn. “I felt like he was talking to me.”

Joining Abrams at the celebration was Harvard Art Museums director Martha Tedeschi, Bruce Museum executive director Peter Sutton, Harvard University provost Alan Garber, and a host of Abrams’s friends, family, and scholars of Dutch art. Many of them gathered again Saturday for a daylong symposium at the museum in Abrams’s honor.