American Figurative Works 1908–1940: The Soyer Bequest
The Soyer Bequest reflects the combined interests, tastes, and friendships of two artists of differing professions—the painter Moses Soyer (1899–1974) and his wife, Ida (1908–1970), a dancer. Having become acquainted with the excellent reputation of the Montclair Art Museum, the Soyers agreed to an exhibition in 1971 of their collection, which became a tribute to Ida. In 1974, Moses Soyer formally bequeathed the collection to the Museum. Their bequest of over 100 paintings, works on paper, and sculptures greatly augmented MAM’s collection. Works by Edward Hopper, Ben Shahn, Philip Evergood, Robert Henri, Chaim Gross, Joseph Stella, and others, including Moses Soyer’s twin brother Raphael, have provided crucial representation of American figurative art between World Wars I and II.
Each work collected by the Soyers had a personal meaning as the memory of an encounter, as a discovery about another artist’s sensibility, and as an intimate token of mutual respect. The collection documents an era during which the Depression and the fellowship of artists under the Federal Art relief projects engendered a sense of humanism, as well as social and political awareness. Thus, like the American scene art of Moses Soyer, which was rooted in the people of his New York City environment, the assembled works explore the modern human condition. Although all the artists adhered to representational approaches to their figurative subjects, the variety of their individual approaches reflects their broadminded, progressive esthetics and values.
Gail Stavitsky, chief curator, and Maryanna Roberts, collections assistant, organized the exhibition at MAM.
All Museum programs are made possible, in part, by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, and by funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and Museum members.