In 1943 Grenville Lindall Winthrop bequeathed his entire collection of more than four thousand works of art to his alma mater, Harvard College. During his life, he almost never lent objects from his collection to museums, and in keeping with his wishes, the works have always been at Harvard, available to students and scholars, rather than on loan to other institutions. Over the course of four and a half decades, Winthrop assembled objects from almost every culture and historical period. In particular, no other collector could claim the depth of Winthrop's reach in both French and British art together. Rather than purchase already-formed collections of drawings, Winthrop was a pioneer in establishing a collection of works on paper, piece by piece.
Winthrop acquired more works by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres than any other private collector of his day. The exhibition features thirty-four, including Raphael and the Fornarina (1814), Odalisque with the Slave (ca. 1837–40), and fourteen drawn and painted portraits. Winthrop also collected pictures by Ingres's teacher, Jacques-Louis David. Of note are Study for "The Oath of the Tennis Court" (1790–91) which documents a defining moment of the French Revolution, the portrait of David's friend and fellow revolutionary Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès (1817), and sketchbooks containing more than one hundred studies for David's monumental Coronation of Napoleon I (Le Sacre).
Works by the French Romantic painters include Théodore Géricault's Cattle Market (1817) and Postillion at the Door of an Inn (1822–23), and Eugène Delacroix's A Turk Surrenders to a Greek Horseman (1856). In addition to pictures by many of the leading French Impressionists, the exhibition features eleven sculptures by Auguste Rodin.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti's The Blessed Damozel (1871–78) and Edward Burne-Jones's watercolors, Days of Creation (1875–76) are among the important group of stellar paintings and drawings by the British Pre-Raphaelites. Winthrop assembled one of the finest collections of works by William Blake, represented here by one of the artist's rare paintings, Christ Blessing (ca. 1810), as well as by watercolors from his celebrated Book of Job (1821).
A great admirer of the progressive artists of nineteenth-century America, Winthrop owned a group of watercolors by Winslow Homer, among them Mink Pond (1891) and Adirondack Lake (1892). The expatriate American artists John Singer Sargent and James Abbott McNeill Whistler are represented in this exhibition as well; the former by five pictures, the latter by eight, including a shimmering Nocturne in Blue and Silver (ca. 1871–72).