Minnesota Marine Art Museum officials unveiled a big addition Sunday - a painting by Vincent Van Gogh. "The Beach of Scheveningen," an oil painting the world-famous artist completed in 1882, was one of five new works revealed at an invitation-only event for museum supporters.
The paintings are on loan from the collection of Bob Kierlin and his wife, Mary Burrichter. The Van Gogh further bolsters a collection already featuring works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro, and gives people another reason to visit and support the museum, officials said.
"A lot of people who don't know golf know Tiger Woods," said Jon Swanson, the museum's curator of collections and exhibits. "A lot of people who don't know basketball know Michael Jordan. We have something here that's going to draw people in. You can't get any better than Van Gogh."
Museum officials did not reveal many details about the new paintings before Sunday. They included the names of four of the artists in invitations but only said the fifth artist would rival Monet and Renoir. That curiosity spurred about 80 people to RSVP for the fundraising event, and drove most discussions as attendees waited for the black cloths covering the five works to be removed.
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The suspense grew as the other four works were revealed. Frederic Edwin Church's "Autumn." Thomas Moran's "Near Southampton." Winslow Homer's "Winding Line." John Singer Sargent's "Landscape with Trees, near Calcot on River Thames."
Kierlin and Burrichter bought the four paintings in November, adding to their personal collection of about 340 works, in addition to about 120 the couple has donated to the museum. Each unveiling Sunday prompted "ooh's" and applause.
But the crowd's attention was focused on the last covered painting, and Kierlin built the anticipation, reading from a letter written by a museum curator he did not name about the still-not-named work.
"Its enormous art historical importance is implied by the fact that this painting is the first step on the road that would make him one of the most celebrated artists in the world," wrote Dr. Fred Leeman, former chief curator of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
The crowd was not disappointed, clapping passionately when the work was finally unveiled. Attendees gave Kierlin and Burrichter a standing ovation minutes later.
"This is a real treasure for us to be able to share this with everybody," said Kierlin about the painting purchased in March from a private dealer in Switzerland.
Attendees swarmed around the paintings, a deep crowd quickly forming around the Van Gogh. Nearby, Swanson smiled at the thought of how the museum's newest jewel will draw art lovers from Winona and beyond. The public will have its first chance to see the work when the museum opens at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
"Not only do we have four outstanding paintings, and the fifth is by Vincent Van Gogh," he said. "I mean, come on, guys."