The Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State announced a transformational gift of 140 American works on paper, recently donated by Penn State alumnus Dr. John P. Driscoll. The expansive gift, one of the most important in the forty-seven-year history of the University’s art museum, establishes a significant American drawings collection at the Palmer Museum of Art.
The John Driscoll American Drawings Collection spans more than 150 years of American art history from 1795 to 1950, and in many ways, reflects the wide-ranging scholarly and collecting interests of its namesake.
Highlights of the collection include a rare and early charcoal sketch by the neoclassical painter John Vanderlyn, important Hudson River School drawings by Jasper Francis Cropsey, Sanford Robinson Gifford, David Johnson, Jervis McEntee, and William Trost Richards, as well as city and architectural scenes by the most accomplished artists of the nineteenth century. Works on paper by women artists and a rare sketchbook by Jane Peterson, as well as Native American and western subjects, are well represented in the collection.
Additional important works by Edwin Austin Abbey, Kenyon Cox, Arthur B. Davies, and Charles Hawthorne traverse the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and lead into an important group of six drawings done between 1908 and 1934 by the early American modernist Marsden Hartley. Driscoll’s gift also includes oil paintings by Arthur B. Davies, John Francis, William Sidney Mount, and Russell Smith, as well as the only extant complete set of Marsden Hartley’s 1923 “Berlin Prints.”
Marsden Hartley (1877–1943), Flowers in Goblet #3, 1923, lithograph, 16 ⅜ x 10 ½ inches. Palmer Museum of Art, John Driscoll American Drawings Collection
John William Hill (1812–1879), Under the Falls, Niagara, c. 1870, watercolor on paper, 29 x 21 1/2 inches. Palmer Museum of Art, John Driscoll American Drawings Collection
Driscoll, who earned a master’s degree as well as Ph.D. in art history from Penn State, is a scholar, collector, gardener, and art dealer based in New York City. His involvement with Penn State’s university art museum dates back nearly fifty years to the summer of 1972, when he began working at the museum as a graduate assistant. In 1976, he became the museum’s first official registrar. In late 1978, Driscoll left Penn State for a position as curator of the William H. Lane Foundation in Massachusetts, followed by a guest curatorial post at the Worcester Art Museum before establishing an art gallery in Boston and then, acquiring Babcock Galleries, New York, in 1987. In 2012, he renamed the business Driscoll Babcock. This year marks the gallery’s 167th year, making it New York’s oldest art gallery.