The Kingdom of the Netherlands appointed George S. Abrams as Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau. He received the royal decoration in recognition of his important contribution to the study of Dutch art, particularly Old Master drawings. He accepted the award from Dutch Consul General Dolph Hogewoning at a dinner held in his honor at the Harvard Art Museums on November 3, 2017, which preceded a symposium dedicated to him, Dutch Drawings on the Horizon: A Day of Talks in Honor of George S. Abrams. On the same night, Abrams publicly announced his bequest of 330 Dutch, Flemish and Netherlandish drawings to the Harvard Art Museums. A business lawyer in the Boston area, Abrams established the most important collection of Dutch and Flemish drawing outside of Europe. He has also served as a long-time trustee at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and as Chair of the Drawings Collection Committee at the Harvard Art Museums.
Abrams’s transformative gift of Dutch, Flemish, and Netherlandish drawings to the Harvard Art Museums comes at a particularly promising time for Dutch, Flemish and Netherlandish studies in the Boston and Cambridge area, as it follows on the heels of the newly-founded Center for Netherlandish Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, which was part of the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo and Susan and Matthew Weatherbie endowment of 113 Dutch and Flemish paintings.
Even before his latest gift, Abrams and his late-wife Maida have been formative in building the Harvard Art Museum’s collection of Northern European drawings. Since the 1990s, Abrams and Maida have given 140 drawings to the museum, many of which formed the basis of pivotal exhibitions and catalogues dedicated to Dutch and Flemish drawing. Dr. William W. Robinson, former curator of Drawings at the Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum in Cambridge, curated Seventeenth-Century Dutch Drawings: A Selection from the Maida and George Abrams Collection (1991-1992), on view at the Rijksprentenkabinet in Amsterdam, the Graphische Sammlung Albertina in Vienna, the Pierpont Morgan in New York, and the Fogg Museum in Cambridge. In 2002-2003, Robinson curated Bruegel to Rembrandt: Dutch and Flemish Drawings from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, which was exhibited at the British Museum in London, the Institut Néerlandais in Paris, and the Fogg Museum in Cambridge. In 2016, Robinson and Susan Anderson (Curatorial Research Associate, Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum) curated a third exhibition, Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt, which corresponded to the catalogue of 100 highlights from the collection, also entitled Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt (Yale University Press, 2016).
The foci of the Abrams collection include an attention to genre scenes, natural history watercolors, and Rembrandt and his students and related work. With the latest bequest, Harvard Art Museums will now hold the preeminent collection of Dutch, Flemish and Netherlandish drawings outside of Europe. Abrams also has played an active role in shaping the scholarship of Old Master drawings at Harvard as he has served as head of the Drawings Committee at the Harvard Art Museums, and helped secure funding for the drawings department from the Stanley Durwood Foundation. This funding has supported a range of events from study days for junior scholars to the recently-held symposium held in honor of Abrams, Dutch Drawings on the Horizon: A Day of Talks in Honor of George S. Abrams. The foundation also established a fellowship in Dutch Art at the Harvard Art Museums. Currently, highlights from the Abrams collection are on view in an exhibition, The Art of Drawing in the Early Dutch Golden Age, 1590-1630: Selected Works from the Abrams Collection. The current exhibition is open from September 9, 2017 – January 4, 2018. For further information on the exhibition, see the HNA announcement and the Museum’s website.
Selections from the Abrams gift: