Renoirs among new High Museum acquisitions

The High Museum of Art has added two paintings by Pierre Auguste Renoir to its permanent collection, the first by the French master to find a home at the Atlanta museum. But that's not all, not by a long stretch.

The High has been actively acquiring art, adding more than 300 works since the summer of 2008 to all of its collections, from African to modern and contemporary.

An art museum's permanent collection is an organic thing, forever expanding as purchases are made and gifts are given. But by any measure the High, with a collection now topping 12,000 works, has been busy growing.

The Renoir paintings, "Woman Arranging Her Hat" and "Still-Life With Apples" (both circa 1890) were donated by long-time High patrons Michelene and Bob Gerson, and join Impressionist paintings by Claude Monet, Camille Pissaro and Frederic Bazille in the museum's holdings. Other additions to the European art collection include a Rodin bronze sculpture, a rare complete portfolio of etchings by Eugène Delacroix and prints by Honoré Daumier and Pierre Bonnard.

Photography has been one of the High's biggest growth areas, after receiving an anonymous donation of more than 100 works by French photographer Eugène Atget, and after the museum purchased 53 works by Peter Sekaer. The museum's holdings of the late American photographer (1901-1950) are the most comprehensive of any U.S. visual arts institution. The High will mount a show of this compatriot of Walker Evans next July.

New York collectors Herbert and Dorothy Vogel gave the High a group of modern and contemporary works by artists including Richard Tuttle, William Anastasi and Stephen Antonakos. Artist Chuck Close also added to the modern and contemporary collection by gifting the color woodcut "Self Portrait" (2007).

The American art collection benefited from a gift of 15 paintings from the estate of Atlantan Barney "Bim" Franklin, a Coca-Cola Bottling Company executive and artist, including works by John Ferren, Ilya Bolotowsky and George L.K. Morris.

The African art collection, a growing High strength, has added a late-19th century staff finial made by an Ivory Coast artist. Possibly employed to communicate with ancestral spirits, it depicts a bearded figure seated on the shoulders of a standing male figure. The collection also was given 16 Paleolithic and Neolithic stone sculptures from the southern edge of the Sahara Desert.

The decorative arts collection, which includes a comprehensive survey of Southeastern works, added "American Bottle Case" (circa 1800-1830), attributed to North Carolina cabinetmaker Joseph Freeman. It joins 34 pieces of pre-1900 Southern furniture in the High's holdings..

The folk art collection added an assemblage/painting by William Hawkins, enhancing its already strong grouping by the Kentucky-born self-taught artist. A circa 1815 whitework coverlet spun from Newton County cotton and featuring a Tree of Life embroidered motif was donated by descendants of its creator, Saleta Henry Stansell.