FOCUS ON GIVING
Focus on Giving spotlights the Museum’s generous donors and their commitment to the Museum’s mission of artistic excellence.
Mark Weil, an art historian and former director of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, and Phoebe Dent Weil, a conservator who pioneered the field of sculpture conservation in St. Louis in the 1970s, both long-time supporters of the Saint Louis Art Museum, announced in November the formal commitment to the Museum of their collection of European art—a generous promised gift which will enhance the lives of generations of Museum visitors.
The works of art that the Weils assembled over the years reflect their professional interests, and the scope of the collection—which includes paintings, sculpture, drawings, and prints—reaches far beyond that starting point. “Once you catch the ‘disease of collecting’ it’s not easy to stop,”Mark explains. “And the kinds of things that we bought became richer and more important.”
The world-class collection of prints from Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands will, in a single gesture, significantly enhance the overall quality of the Museum’s collection. Notable examples include outstanding impressions of Andrea Mantegna’s Entombment, Albrecht Dürer’s Adam and Eve, and Rembrandt van Rijn’s “Hundred Guilder Print.” The sculptures likewise range across media and time from the 15th to the 18th centuries, including such highlights as Benedetto Maiano’s John the Evangelist, Seated St. John the Baptist attributed to Jacopo Sansovino, and Gianlorenzo Bernini’s Cristo Morto.
A native St. Louisan, Mark grew up a mere three-minute walk from Forest Park. His grandmother Etta Steinberg was a Museum Trustee, and contributed major works of art to the Museum’s collection. Both she and Mark’s parents were life-long Museum supporters. The strong familial connections to the Museum continue to this day, with his brother John having served as chair of the Campaign for the Saint Louis Art Museum and on the Board of Commissioners, including most recently as President.
Mark returned to St. Louis in the late 1960s, after earning a PhD in art history from Columbia University, to join the department of art history and archaeology at Washington University in St. Louis.Mark attributes the origins of his collection of Old Master art to the fact that he was teaching Old Masters at Washington University in the early 1990s. He started collecting with the aim of illustrating techniques that were unusual.
Phoebe was accepted as part of the first class of the graduate training program in Art Conservation at the Institute of Fine Arts in New York in 1960, there earning a MA in Art History and Art Conservation. After completing an internship at the Central Institute for Restoration in Rome, she joined a team of academics at Washington University and began pioneering and publicizing the effort to conserve corroding public statues in St. Louis. Phoebe currently serves as Director of Northern Light Studio, which is devoted to research, practice, and teaching in the area of historic painting techniques.
Mark and Phoebe share an excitement about the educational opportunities their collection will provide Art Museum visitors. “We wanted to leave a study collection for the people of St. Louis so they can look at and learn about art from a body of material,” saysMark. “The fact that theMuseum recently built a state-of-the-art Study Room for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs made committing that part of the collection to the Museum inevitable.” The commitment of the Weil Collection continues a legacy of philanthropic giving which has built the Museum over 132 years into the internationally-recognized institution it is today.