The Museum of Art is delighted to present the Rosenberg Collection, seen in its entirety, for the first time on the West Coast from February 15 to March 31. The exhibit consists of American Social Realism paintings from the years between World War I and II. When first married, and living in Germany as a GI, Arthur and his bride became interested in art after visiting the great museums of Europe. When they moved stateside to Long Island, they wanted to educate themselves about American art, so they went to the best resource they knew, the Encyclopedia Britannica Collection of American Art (1946). In the book, Arthur and Marilynn discovered there were a group of WPA artists who depicted the daily lives of people going through the depression. This era fascinated the Rosenbergs and they created a wish list of twelve important artists they would like to collect. The first acquisition was magical. A meeting with an enthusiastic art dealer on Long Island introduced them to Fletcher Martin, and a painting known as The Black King. This became their first purchase and the most important painting in the Collection. Their marriage became a passionate partnership with weekends spent going into Manhattan for a nice meal and a trip to the auction houses of Sothebys, Christies and Philips. Marilynn was the researcher, doing the legwork and locating the art. Arthur was the art specialist. He had an undeniable esthetic and knew which artworks should be a part of their collection, and which they should leave behind. They began to hobnob with art dealers and hoarded catalogues about the era. Piece by piece they collected their wish list and each acquisition was an accomplishment worthy of celebration.
It was painters such as Karfoil, Martin, Farnsworth, Soyer, Hirsch, Farnsworth, Wilson and Greenwood that captured the Rosenberg’s imagination. These Social Realist painters, also known as American Scene, or American Regionalist painters, had rejected the Modernist style. They chose to paint scenes from everyday life, especially from the viewpoint of the common man — seamstresses, people riding the subway, immigrants and minorities. Because of their choice of subject matter, American Scene artists were often labeled as Communists and Socialists in the 1950s and their art was relegated to less prestigious venues. Under appreciated by the public, Arthur and Marilynn Rosenberg recognized the artists’ importance and amassed one of the best and most comprehensive private collections of these artists in the United States. Now days, artwork by these painters are a part of every major art museum collection in the United States.
In celebration of this noteworthy exhibition, several special events will take place at the Museum of Art. On Saturday, February 16, 3 – 5 pm, there will be an opening reception for the exhibition with the Rosenbergs. Sunday, February 17, at 1 pm, Arthur and Marilynn Rosenberg, along with Ruta Saliklis, Museum Director of Exhibitions, will present a lecture about the Collection and their collector’s journey. Friday, March 1, 5 pm, will be a Members-only gallery walk-through of the Collection with the Rosenbergs, followed by a public reception from 6–9 pm, in conjunction with Art After Dark.
The San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, dedicated to the education, presentation and preservation of the visual arts on the Central Coast is located at 1010 Broad Street, on the west end of Mission Plaza. Hours are 11 – 5 daily. Closed Tuesdays. Free admission; for info visit SLOMA.org