The collection covers American visual arts from the 18th Century to 1980, with an emphasis on 19th Century and early 20th Century art. Naturally, because this is a research library, the collection does not circulate. While there, one can also access JSTOR and ProQuest (American Periodicals Series and International Bibliography of Art).
The reading room is open to the public free of charge. September through May, it is open on Tuesdays, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and by appointment on other weekdays, but in June and July it is open by appointment only. Note that it is closed in August, on French national holidays, and from Monday, December 23rd, 2013 through Friday, January 3rd, 2014 (Christmas).
In the 1970s, the late businessman and art collector Daniel J. Terra (1911–1996) began to amass his collection of American art that encompassed American history from the colonial era to 1945. He founded the Terra Foundation for American Art in 1978.
The TFAA staff conducts research on objects in the Terra Foundation for American Art Collection, employs conservation practices to maintain the items in the collection, and acquires artworks that compliment the collection. Currently, the collection is comprised of 725 paintings and works on paper that 235 artists produced between 1740 and 1945. It is possible to purchase prints of some paints in the collection online.
The Terra Foundation for American Art formerly operated two museums, one in Chicago and another in Giverny, France. [Giverney is a picturesque village that attracted Claude Monet (1840-1926), who lived there with his family from 1883 until his death in 1926. His presence, in turn, caused a group of American artists to form a colony there.] Daniel J. Terra opened the Terra Museum of American Art in north suburban Evanston in 1980 with a collection of fifty paintings.
In 1987, the Terra Museum of American Art moved to downtown Chicago. The Terra Foundation for American Art opened its second museum in 1992, the Musée d’Art Américain Giverny, which focused on American impressionists.
The TFAA closed the Terra Museum of American Art in 2004 and formed an alliance with The Art Institute of Chicago that called for the long-term loan of artworks to The Art Institute of Chicago. Further, the TFAA turned the French museum into a more scholarly center in 2009 and opened the Paris Center that same year.
Since 2005, forty to fifty paintings from the collection have been on display at The Art Institute of Chicago. In addition, all of works on paper from the collection are housed in the Jean and Steven Goldman Study Center of the Department of Prints and Drawings at The Art Institute of Chicago. One can make an appointment to see the works on paper by e-mailing pstudy [at] artic.edu or by calling (312) 443-3660.
As I mentioned last week, the TFAA and The Newberry Library co-organized the exhibit Home Front: Daily Life in the Civil War North at The Newberry Library, which closes at the end of March. “Home Front explores the domestic side of life during the Civil War, an aspect of the era which generally receives less attention than the battlefields but nevertheless is crucial to a richer understanding of this important period in United States history,” said Terra Foundation for American Art President and CEO Elizabeth Glassman. “Projects such as this are crucial to our mission of fostering the exploration, understanding, and enjoyment of the visual arts of the United States.”
In 2005, the TFAA expanded its grant-making program. Since then, it has provided approximately $35,000,000 for over 350 exhibitions and scholarly programs in more than thirty countries, including Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Russia, China, Japan, and Australia.
Under the heading Terra Collection Initiatives, the TFAA curatorial staff and institutional partners develop collaborations. The Terra Foundation offers exhibition grants.
The TFAA states on its Web site, "In recognition of the importance of experiencing original works of art, the Terra Foundation for American Art supports exhibitions that enlarge the understanding and appreciation of historical American art made between 1500 and 1980. To be eligible for funding, exhibitions that take place internationally or in Chicago may be aimed at the general public, scholars, or both; exhibitions that take place only in the United States, but outside of Chicago, must present historical American art in an international context and reach a scholarly audience."
The Paris Center of the TFAA facilitates the use of TFFA Collection throughout Europe. It offers public programs, "with an emphasis on cross-cultural and interdisciplinary perspectives," as stated on the Web site. An example would be the presentation “Mark Rothko’s Breakthrough and the Art of Medieval Europe,” at the Paris Center on October 10, 2013, when art historians Thomas Crow, professor at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts, and Éric de Chassey, Director of the Académie de France à Rome—Villa Médicis, for a discussion about the painter Rothko.
The staff at the Paris Center also organizes exhibitions, lectures and symposia; scholarships, fellowships and visiting professorships in the U.S., U.K., France, and Germany; TFAA Research Travel Grants for foreign scholars to visit the U.S.; and the International Essay Prize. There are ten fellowships for the eight-week-long Summer Residence in Giverny, France.
The TFAA International Essay Prize recognizes excellent scholarship by a foreign scholar in the field of historical American art (circa 1500–1980). "The winning manuscript will advance understanding of American art, demonstrating new findings and original perspectives, and will be translated and published" in American Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s scholarly journal, which covers the cost of image rights and reproduction.
The winner receives a $1,000 cash award and a travel stipend of up to $3,000 to give a presentation in Washington, D.C. The first winner was Sergio Cortesini of the University of Cassino in 2010 for “Unseen Canvasses: Italian Painters and Fascist Myths across the American Scene.”
In 2011, Alex J. Taylor of the University of Oxford won for “Unstable Motives: Propaganda, Politics, and the Late Work of Alexander Calder.” The next year, Sophie Cras of Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne won for “Art as Investment and ‘Artistic Shareholding’ Experiments in the 1960s.” In 2013, Edyta Frelik of Maria Curie Sklodowska University in Lublin, Poland won for “Ad Reinhart: Painter as Writer.”
The TFAA has an endowment of approximately $250,000,000. It spends around $12,000,000 annually on art exhibitions, projects, and research.