High Museum of Art chief preparer Brian Kelly (right) and Bonsai Fine Art museum preparer Seth Dalton (left) handle a Henri Fantin-Latour painting inside the Doris and Shouky Shaheen gallery at the High Museum of Art. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer
Photo: Alyssa Pointer

Shaheen collection opens to the public at the High Museum

Atlantans are lining up to see the Shaheen collection of impressionist paintings at the High Museum.

Until this summer, the 24 works by Renoir, Monet, Modigliani, Corot and others were hanging in the living and dining rooms at Doris and Shouky Shaheen’s Buckhead home.

After looking at the paintings for 30 years or so, the Shaheens decided it was Atlanta’s turn.

They donated the entire collection to the High Museum, which has dedicated a gallery to the couple. Earlier this month, their paintings were put on display in the Doris and Shouky Shaheen Gallery, in the Stent Family Wing.

The Shaheen gift tripled the High Museum’s holdings of impressionist and post-impressionist art. According to the museum’s director, Rand Suffolk, the gift is rivaled only by the 1958 donation of European art from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation in New York.

Among the highlights of the Shaheen collection are:

  • Three paintings by Claude Monet, including “Maison au bord de la route” from 1885.
  • A portrait of a young girl by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot.
  • A still life of flowers by Henri Fantin-Latour.
  • Two works by Henri Matisse, including “Femme assise devant son piano (Marguerite),” a study for a larger painting.
  • “Portrait de Beatrice Hastings” by Modigliani.
  • Three works by Camille Pissarro.
  • Four paintings by Alfred Sisley, including the landscape “Une rue à Marly” from 1876.

Paintings donated by Doris and Shouky Shaheen are prepped to be installed in the couples’ namesake gallery at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

These are the first works by Fantin-Latour, Modigliani, Matisse and Sisley to enter the High’s collection.

The gift includes a landscape by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, but Shouky Shaheen said he thinks the High might need a little more Renoir. “There’s some holes in this collection,” said Shaheen, 90. “I’m going to try to fill them up.”

Shouky and Doris Shaheen met in Dalton in the 1950s, where she had family, and he was part of his family’s carpet business. (His father had originally emigrated from Palestine.)

The couple moved to Atlanta in 1965. He built a warehouse business into a sizable empire and the two became active philanthropists, donating to universities and hospitals.

The Shaheens began collecting impressionist paintings in the 1970s, mostly through the auctions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

Shouky Shaheen — who retired at 88 but still goes into work most weekdays — isn’t done yet. On Nov. 13, while preparators were busy installing the Shaheen collection at the High, Shaheen was on the phone with Sotheby’s, bidding on a country scene by Camille Pissarro.

The painting is called “La Mère Jolly raccomodant,” and depicts a woman seated in a courtyard, working on her sewing. It failed to sell back in May and was being offered at a reduced price, and Shaheen couldn’t resist. “It’s a museum-sized painting,” he said of the 39-by-31-inch canvas. “It’s pretty big. I think the High will like it.”

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