Publishing Billionaire Leaves Art Collection to Two Museums

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Richard Mellon Scaife.
Photo: Keith Srakocic/Associated Press.

Richard Mellon Scaife, the publishing billionaire, avid supporter of conservative causes, owner of Trib Total Media (whose holdings include the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review), and heir to the Mellon banking fortune, died suddenly on July 4, leaving his vast art collection to a pair of regional museums on opposite sides of his home state of Pennsylvania: The Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art, located outside Philadelphia, and the Westmoreland Museum of American Art near Pittsburgh. To the Brandywine he also left a conservancy he’d built on his estate, plus $15 million to manage and maintain it, the AP reports.

Scaife’s taste in art was as conservative as his politics: He collected especially American landscape paintings of the 19th and 20th centuries. He had some holdings of French and modern art, but claimed to dislike those works. Nevertheless, in a June 21 column about art, he espoused the work of Andy Warhol, whose portrait of Andrew Carnegie Scaife donated to Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art.

” Some of you may be surprised to learn that I admire Warhol’s work; it might not seem to be my style,” he wrote. “But art of all kinds is one of the greatest joys, great treasures, and most worthwhile philanthropies of my life and my family’s.”

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John Kane’s Highland Hollow (circa 1930–34) at the Carnegie Museum of Art.
Photo: Benjamin Sutton.

Scaife gave no specific directions as to how his collection should be divided between the two museums, except that eight paintings by John Kane—a self-taught American painter who depicted scenes of rural life in Western Pennsylvania and street scenes in Pittsburgh—should go to the Westmoreland Museum.

“I had no idea what was going to happen with the art collection,” Judith O’Toole, chief executive of the Westmoreland, told the Tribune-Review. “I’m kind of overwhelmed right now.”


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