Amer­i­can art col­lec­tor’s love blooms at Pek­ing Univer­sity

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By LIN QI in Bei­jing linqi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

At 73, Don­ald Stone has been an avid col­lec­tor for nearly six decades. His trea­sures vary from draw­ings and prints of Western masters, such as Raphael and Pi­casso, to Chi­nese an­tiq­ui­ties from the Shang Dy­nasty (c.16th cen­tury-11th cen­tury BC). His as­sem­blage is not built on fam­ily wealth but on his salary as a teacher.

Stone re­tired from the English depart­ment of Queens Col­lege at City Univer­sity of New York in 2006. Soon af­ter, he be­came a se­nior pro­fes­sor of English at Pek­ing Univer­sity.

Since then Stone has do­nated about 400 of his art as­sets to the Arthur M. Sack­ler Mu­seum of Art and Ar­chae­ol­ogy at Pek­ing Univer­sity. Stone plans to give more of his col­lec­tion to the same mu­seum. Mean­while, he is show­ing his do­na­tion of prints through 10 ex­hi­bi­tions there.

The ninth dis­play, ti­tled Gods and He­roes, is now on show: 55 orig­i­nal etch­ings and lith­o­graphs ex­em­pli­fy­ing how Western artists adopted clas­si­cal tra­di­tion in cre­ation. They in­clude a com­plete set of French painter Jean Honore Frag­o­nard’s Bac­cha­nals se­ries and Ge­orges Braque’s six Theogony etch­ings.

Prints are as valu­able for un­der­stand­ing an artist as other medi­ums, Stone says. The jux­ta­posed works of Pi­casso and Braque, both of whom played an im­por­tant role in the de­vel­op­ment of cu­bism, for in­stance, il­lus­trate how they went in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions af­ter even­tu­ally giv­ing up cu­bism.

“Pi­casso dis­cov­ered Ro­man clas­si­cal art. He went through a pe­riod of paint­ing his chil­dren and mis­tresses in a very clas­si­cal Ro­man style,” Stone says, “while Braque went back to the be­gin­ning of Western art, Greek mythol­ogy.”

Stone’s pas­sion for art was cul­ti­vated in his teens when he fre­quented mu­se­ums and bought post­cards at auc­tions.

He be­gan col­lect­ing se­ri­ously some 40 years ago, when he was work­ing on a book in Lon­don. He took a bus from where he lived to the li­brary, get­ting off half­way to save half of the ticket price.

One day he passed by an art gallery win­dow and saw a draw­ing of Gio­vanni Bat­tista Tiepolo, an 18th-cen­tury Vene­tian painter. Out of cu­rios­ity he went in — and pur­chased the first item of his col­lec­tion.

“Once it started, it felt like eat­ing peanuts out of a bag — you want to search for more.”

He bought a draw­ing ev­ery two to three years, some­times do­nat­ing to the small col­lec­tion of the Na­tional Gallery of Art in Wash­ing­ton.

Stone first came to China in 1982, to teach as a vis­it­ing scholar at Bei­jing’s Cap­i­tal Nor­mal Univer­sity. He re­turned reg­u­larly, lec­tur­ing at univer­si­ties and aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions na­tion­wide.

“In Amer­ica ev­ery ma­jor univer­sity has an art mu­seum. Prince­ton has a per­ma­nent col­lec­tion of works of masters such as Van Gogh, Monet and Renoir. It is free. Stu­dents can just come over to see th­ese beau­ti­ful pieces and then go back to their stud­ies,” Stone says.

In China, he laments, “it is not com­mon”.

Stone’s col­lec­tion not only de­lights the stu­dents at PKU. It has toured Ma­cao and Urumqi, the Xin­jiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion, where hun­dreds of peo­ple lined up in snow to see their first Pi­casso work.

Stone’s gen­eros­ity has some­times yielded sur­prises.

He once bought one of six Matisse prints at a Paris art store. He told the Jewish owner, Ann Pfeffer, that his pur­chase would go to the Sack­ler mu­seum in China. Later he opened the pack­age, he found Pfeffer had given him all six for the price of one, $3,500.

Back at the store, the dealer told him that she had made no mis­take: She was giv­ing the other five as gifts to China, be­cause China was one of very few coun­tries that wel­comed Jewish refugees dur­ing World War II.

Last year, Stone won the Chi­nese Govern­ment Friend­ship Award, the coun­try’s top award to for­eign ex­perts for mak­ing con­tri­bu­tions in dif­fer­ent fields.

“I love be­ing here. I taught at Har­vard, New York Univer­sity

Once it started, it felt like eat­ing peanuts out of a bag — you want to search for more.”

and City Univer­sity of New York. I speak of my life as ‘BC’ and ‘AC’ — be­fore China and af­ter China,” he says.

Stone says the fa­vorite of his col­lec­tion is a paint­ing of Liu Yong­ming, a pupil of ink-and­color mas­ter Wu Guanzhong.

Af­ter dis­cov­er­ing Liu in 1991 at an ex­hi­bi­tion at the Na­tional Mu­seum of China, Stone asked the artist to paint mag­pies, a com­mon bird he saw in Bei­jing.

“I have draw­ings and prints scat­tered all over in my apart­ment in New York. But that w is what I first see in the morn­ing when I get out of bed, and the last thing I see be­fore I turn off the light.

“It is in my bed­room. It was painted by an artist I love, of sub­jects I love, and it is a gift to me.”

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

US art col­lec­tor Don­ald Stone vis­its Bei­jing with a part of his col­lec­tion, in­clud­ing etch­ings by Pi­casso.

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