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The Zimmerli’s collection of European art in all media ranges in date from the Renaissance to the present and totals close to 10,000 objects, with its primary strength in French nineteenth-century works on paper, notably prints and rare books. Strongly represented subjects include portraits and caricatures, landscapes, and popular entertainments. Also among the European holdings is a renowned collection of Japonisme, late nineteenth-century works by European artists inspired by Japanese art and aesthetics.
The collection of approximately 250 European paintings includes characteristic examples from the Italian Renaissance, seventeenth-century Italian and Dutch works, and eighteenth-century works from England and France. Notable among the nineteenth-century paintings are Claude Monet’s rare portrait of his father (1865) and several small landscapes by such seminal painters as John Constable, Gustave Courbet, and Theodore Rousseau. Portuguese Still-Life (1914), an important painting by Sonia Delaunay, and Profile (ca. 1955) by Jean Arp are two significant twentieth-century European paintings in the collection.
Focused on nineteenth-century French works, the collection of European sculpture is anchored by the only complete set in the United States of Honoré Daumier’s Celebrities of the Juste Milieu terra cotta busts (1832-1835) that caricature some of the most prominent government officials of the day. Other important French sculptures include Auguste Rodin’s Fleeting Love, which relates to his masterwork The Gates of Hell, and François Rude’s Head of the Gaul, based on his sculpture for the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The museum also has a small group of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures among its holdings.
Of the 10,000 works of European art in the collection, 8,000 are works on paper, and of this number, 5,300 items are nineteenth-century French. The extensive collection of European works on paper includes significant prints by Northern European masters from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, notably Albrecht Dürer and Rembrandt. Significant works by Giovanni Battista Piranesi and William Hogarth are highlights of the eighteenth-century holdings. Nineteenth-century French prints and drawings comprise the greatest part of the European collection. The Zimmerli’s collection of late nineteenth-century color lithographic posters is one of the best in the United States.
Japonisme is significantly represented among the European prints and drawings, with extensive holdings by artists including Félix Buhot, Henri Guérard, and Henri Rivière. The collection also includes a selection of Japanese ukiyo-e color woodcut prints and some 250 Meiji-era photographs (1868–1912) that provides context for the European works influenced by Japan. Watercolors by Eugène Delacroix, Paul Signac, and J.M.W. Turner, and pastels by Henri-Gabriel Ibels are among the highlights of the drawings collection. The collection of twentieth-century prints includes works by Raoul Dufy, Sonia Delaunay, and Fernand Léger. Photography is represented by a small group of works by Eugène Atget, rare works by Henri Rivière, and vintage prints related to the Eiffel Tower and the great expositions in Paris of 1889 and 1900.
The Zimmerli owns more than 3,000 rare books and journals focused on the period between 1875 and 1914 in Paris. Landmarks of book illustration in the collection include the first French edition of Goethe’s Faust (1828) with lithographs by Eugène Delacroix, Edouard Manet’s illustrations for Stephane Mallarme’s first translation into French of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven (Le Corbeau, 1875), and Eugène Grasset’s Quatre Fils d’Aymon (Four Sons of Aymon, 1883). A major resource for primary material on Montmartre, Parisian popular culture, and Japonisme during the fin de siècle, the collection features complete or near-complete runs of the most important journals of the period. A finding aid is available here. Also among the significant holdings is Le Mur, a unique “journal” of original drawings and writings created by the artists who frequented the Cabaret des Quat’z’Arts.
The European decorative arts collection features ceramic, glass, and metal objects from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries related to the Art Nouveau movement. Notable works include a table lamp (ca. 1920) by Emile Gallé and a grotesque ceramic head (ca. 1892) by Jean Carriès. The large ceramic figure La Japonaise (1867) by Théodore Deck is among the collection’s important examples of French and English stoneware inspired by Japanese ceramics or decorated with Japanese motifs.