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The heart of the Freeport Art Museum is an extensive and expanding art collection that spans 4,000 years of humankind’s aesthetic endeavors. Beginning in 1976, FAM accepted a collection of art acquired by Mr. W. T. Rawleigh, a prominent Freeport industrialist who traveled the world in connection with his business and collected art for his personal collection. His generosity in sharing his acquisitions led to our first collection. The collection has continued to grow through acquisitions and generous donations from collectors across the country. The Museum’s tribal holdings are one of the largest in Illinois. FAM received a gift of Indonesian textiles valued at nearly $500,000. This donation was part of a total collection shared with the Art Institute of Chicago and the Fowler Museum at UCLA. FAM was honored to be a part of this distinguished group of museums.
During the first quarter of the 20th century, W.T. Rawleigh founded an international corporation and amassed a personal fortune. Like other men of his era, he regarded his bounty as a charge to share with the community. To that end he used his fortune to beautify Freeport. The Rawleigh collection formed the core of what is now the Freeport Art Museum.
Rawleigh's collection of pottery from the Pueblo cultures of the Southwest is especially fine. Perhaps the central feature of the collection is the European paintings, principally 19th century academic masters, but including an anonymous 17th century portrait. Two unusual aspects of these holdings are a unique and extensive collection of pietra dura, stone mosaic paintings of the early 20th century, and a singularly interesting series of paintings of the natives of Madagascar. Major Asian items in the collection include a 19th century palace screen and a set of Hindu kalamkari (hand painted temple banners) from India. The major sculptures are 19th century marbles and bronzes from Italy, France and Belgium, and a 17th century Spanish polychromed wood statue of St. Anthony of Padua.
Many other collectors have broadened and deepened the scope of the museum's holdings, attracted by this nucleus and by the reputation, location and public service of the Freeport Art Museum. Today the collection of the Freeport Art Museum bears testimony to the original foundation created by W.T. Rawleigh.
One of the first major donations from outside the Freeport area, this distinguished collection of antiquities includes the mummy case of a child, perhaps the most popular item in the museum. Also in the Egyptian group are a painted funerary box, canopic jars, and mummified animals, as well as jewelry, amulets and other small artifacts.
From the Luristan Mountains of Iran there are a number of bronze pieces dating to the first millennium B.C. Created by ancient nomads moving west into Europe, small bronze horse trappings and finely fashioned spearheads complete our holdings.
Ancient Greece is represented in this collection by a fine red-figured amphora and a variety of Hellenistic gold, including a victor's laurels, diadems and jewelry. Gold jewelry and a collection of 1st-century A.D. glass comes from the Roman empire. Spectacular gold granulation work is seen in Etruscan jewelry as well. The collection includes an Etruscan bronze mirror, with typical engraved images of gods and heroes.
This donation of a wide range of objects from a major museum benefactor establishes whole areas within the collection, as well as expanding and enriching every other area. Extensive ethnographic holdings, representing five continents, magnify the significance of this collection, allowing whole cultures to be represented.The Dedrick donations include the oldest pieces in the Pre-Columbian, Ancient Near East and Classical collections. This collection also brings early prints (including Schongauer, Durer and Lucas Cranach, among others), as well as prints of the 17th and 18th centuries (Gottsius, Hogarth, and William Blake).
Textiles are the greatest strength of this collection, which begins with Coptic material. The collection includes tribal costumes, tapas, ikats, warrior costumes, headdresses, a mountain Toraja warrior's armor of deer jawbones, and gold fabrics of the Maninkabau.
In addition, a major group of Pre-Columbian pottery, small stone carvings, and carved petrified ivory spans the Western Hemisphere from the Bering Straits to South America. Textiles, baskets, and pottery of the 19th and 20th century Native American groups represent almost as wide a geographical distribution.
This benefactor was a retired professor of art, with many ties to the late 20th century European and American art world. Consequently, the collection also includes a very large number of modern and contemporary paintings and prints, both European (Redon, Miro, Ernst, Belmar, Kollwitz and others) and American (A.B. Davies, Blackshear, Ginzel, Jenkyn, Poska, Langoussis and more).
Dr. Rilling and his family, who live near Philadelphia, have generously shared with our museum a broad cross-section of their remarkable collection of tribal arts. Hundreds of objects, including a “spirit canoe” from Irian Jaya and “orator’s table” from Papua New Guinea have enriched our holdings. We have also received a number of Polynesian palace bark cloths.
To expand our collection of sub-Saharan African objects, Dr. Rilling has donated many fine ceramic and wooden pieces from the Nupe, Tuareg, Ashante, Yoruba and Dogon tribes.
Rounding out the corners of the collection are several fine examples of pieces from North Africa (including a woven camel basket), Southeast Asia (Balinese dance masks), and the South Pacific (coiled feather money from the Solomon Islands).
The Museum has been fortunate to receive gifts from "friends of friends." These benefactors, not personally known to us, have chosen our museum as a suitable home for their treasures. We received a large group of early Ecuadorian pottery, including both slip-decorated vessels and figurines, from a collector in Indiana. From the collection of a textile scholar/conservator in California, we received a group of 19th and early 20th century Bolivian textiles. This type of specific donation enables us to expand already existing areas of the collection.