Geneseo’s Lederer Gallery is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year with “The Permanent Collection at 50,” which will be on display until Oct. 16. Located in Brodie Hall, the gallery was named after Bertha V.B. Lederer, who began teaching at Geneseo in 1945. Dedicated to the appreciation of art, she became chair of both the art department and the division of fine arts. After her retirement, Geneseo returned the favor by naming the Brodie Hall gallery in her honor.
To celebrate the history of the gallery, Lauren Slezak ‘14 curated “The Permanent Collection at 50,” which made its debut on Sept. 14. For this unique exhibition, the gallery functions as an artistic, historical timeline. All of the pieces on display have either been purchased by Geneseo or donated, thus making them part of a permanent collection here at the college. The exhibition is meant to illustrate the growth and expansion of the collection itself, as well as the variety of different works from different time periods that have found a home at Geneseo.
The timeline begins on the back wall of the gallery with an oil portrait by Carlo Falcini Dipye. The portrait—also the oldest work in the collection—was created in 1850 and arrived on campus in 1925. The timeline continues from there, wrapping around the gallery in a chronological progression. The gallery displays a variety of styles and mediums from different eras, working its way toward the present. Each piece is labeled with the artist, title and medium, as well as the date it arrived at Geneseo.
The amount of diversity in the collection is captivating, ranging from daguerreotypes—the first photographic process that involves an image on a silvered copper plate—to digital art, with sculpture and ceramics intermingled. One of the first pieces that meets the eye is an ornate set of silver titled “Tea and Coffee Service Objects,” which were donated by Lederer herself.
Two other notable pieces by Henri Goetz and James Coignard are part of the Silverman Collection, a French collection Lederer obtained with the help of none other than the late Edgar Tafel. Tafel—former student of Frank Lloyd Wright—was the architect of the Brodie Fine Arts Building. This illustrates that although the various forms of art in the collection may seem to be worlds apart, they can all be linked together by the history of Geneseo and its appreciation for the arts.
As visitors walk along the gallery to view each piece, they are taken on a journey through time. After completing the circle, the last piece in the chronology is an oil painting by Cicely Cottingham titled “Now you feel how nothing clings to you (so inconvenient).” This colorful, textured painting was created in 2016 and hangs side-by-side with Dipye’s portrait.
Seeing the two works beside each other—the past and the present—exemplifies a striking artistic transformation. Both pieces are done in the same medium by utilizing oil on wood panel, but show over 150 years’ worth of artistic history and aesthetic—and both have a place in Lederer Gallery.
“The Permanent Collection at 50” is a visual testament to the evolution of art at Geneseo. Lederer’s philosophy on art was to teach her students to be aware of the world in a more artistic way: “Art education … should teach them how to see,” and this collection gives us a magnifying glass.