An Ohio Couple Just Donated $100 Million Worth of Art by Picasso, Matisse, Vuillard, and Others to the Cleveland Museum

It’s the museum’s largest gift in more than 60 Years.

Edouard Vuillard, Woman Sweeping at 346 Rue Saint-Honoré (1895). Courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Edouard Vuillard, Woman Sweeping at 346 Rue Saint-Honoré (1895). Courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

An Ohio couple has donated more than 100 works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and other artists to the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Valued at over $100 million, the gift from Joseph and Nancy Keithley, Clevelanders who have maintained a longstanding relationship with the museum, is the largest the institution has seen in more than 60 years. Ninety-seven of the newly donated works have been transferred to the museum outright, while 17 others are promised to enter the collection in the future. 

For the museum’s director, William Griswold, the news came as something of a surprise.

This was not a promised gift,” he tells Artnet News. “It’s something that all of us devoutly hoped might come to the museum, but quite frankly I didn’t think I’d see it during my tenure here. It was thrilling news when Joe and Nancy informed me last November that they wished to make this gift—and to make it right away.”

Pierre Bonnard, <i>Fruit and Fruit Dishes</i> (c. 1930). Courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Pierre Bonnard, Fruit and Fruit Dishes (c. 1930). Courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

More than a dozen paintings by post-Impressionists Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, and Maurice Denis are among the works donated by the Keithleys, as are two canvases each by Milton Avery, Georges Braque, and Joan Mitchell. The collection also includes prized paintings by Camille Pissarro, Andrew Wyeth, and Henri-Edmond Cross; a series of watercolors by John Marin; and a group of Chinese and Japanese ceramics.

A selection of the donated works—including pieces by Braque, Matisse, Mitchell, and Wyeth—will go on view as soon as March 13 in the museum’s permanent collection galleries. While a more comprehensive exhibition of the Keithley gift is set for the fall of 2022.

For the museum, the gift was rare not only because of its size and scope, but because of the institution’s typical acquisition habits. 

“Ours is not primarily a collection of collections in the way that most museums’ collections are,” Griswold says. “Because we’ve been the beneficiaries of considerable acquisition funds, this is an institution that has had the luxury of building its collection in large part through purchase.”

Joseph P. and Nancy F. Keithley. Courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Joseph P. and Nancy F. Keithley. Courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

“Because of that,” he continues, “we have a collection of great breadth and outstanding quality, but we don’t have enormous depth in many areas. With this gift, we have increased our depth in certain areas overnight.” The director points to its holdings of Impressionism and post-Impressionism—and, particularly, the Les Nabis school of French artists—as being bolstered by the Keithleys’ gift.

Joseph Keithley, an engineer, led an Ohio-based company that manufactured electronic testing instruments for 17 years. His wife Nancy became a trustee of the Cleveland Museum in 2001, and has served on numerous committees since. For decades, the couple has consulted curators and directors at the CMA in building its collection, Griswold notes, and in 2013, they established the Keithley Institute for Art History, a joint program between the museum and Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University for curatorial and museum administration studies.

See more works of art from the Keithley donation below.

George Braque, <i>The Port de l'Estaque, The Pier</i> (1906). Courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

George Braque, The Port de l’Estaque, The Pier (1906). Courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Henri Matisse, <i>Tulips</i> (1914). Courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Henri Matisse, Tulips (1914). Courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Eugène Boudin, <i>Seascape with Open Sky</i> (c. 1860). Courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Eugène Boudin, Seascape with Open Sky (c. 1860). Courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Gustave Caillebotte, <i>Chicken, Game Birds, and Hares</i> (c. 1882). Courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Gustave Caillebotte, Chicken, Game Birds, and Hares (c. 1882). Courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Vilhelm Hammershøi, <i>Strandgade, Sunshine</i> (c. 1906). Courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Vilhelm Hammershøi, Strandgade, Sunshine (c. 1906). Courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

John Marin, <i>The White Moon, Sailboat</i> (c. 1922). Courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

John Marin, The White Moon, Sailboat (c. 1922). Courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art.


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