A large grouping of works donated by two of West Virginia’s most prominent art collectors is now on display at the Art Museum of West Virginia University.
“Collective Insight: The Harvey and Jennifer Peyton Collection,” celebrates the expertise and foresight of the Peytons with a selection of more than 60 paintings, prints and drawings that represent some of the most important artistic movements of the twentieth century.
“The Peytons are the most profound donors in the history of the collection at WVU,” said Robert Bridges, curator. “They see the advantage of taking this art out of a private collection and putting it into our public collection where students and the community can benefit from it.”
Bridges framed the installation of “Collective Insight” as a timeline. On display in the Art Museum of WVU’s McGee Gallery, the exhibition begins with earlier works from artists including Robert Henri, Raphael Soyer, and West Virginia native William Robinson Leigh, and moves through some of the major American art movements of the twentieth century. Works from the 1930s and 1940s include WPA mural studies and examples of social realism before continuing into later examples of mid-centrury abstraction. Grant Wood, Ben Shahn and Jacob Lawrence are just a few of the more notable names in the exhibition.
“We have shown a few pieces given by the Peytons in past exhibitions, but when you show the whole collection together, you understand how incredibly detail-oriented they are as collectors and what smart acquisitions they have made over the years,” Bridges said.
A group of the works in “Collective Insight” carry themes of social justice. According to Bridges, the Peytons recognize that these are difficult but important works of art and must be presented appropriately.
“Museums have the ability to create a narrative and tell a story with their works, more so than when they are in a private collection,” Bridges said. “When it comes to such pieces, we can leverage those to start conversations and raise questions about things that have happened in the past and are currently happening in our world."
The Peytons’s generous donations to the Art Museum of WVU have spanned nearly two decades. They have also given works to the Sunrise Museum, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art and others.
Harvey Peyton graduated from WVU in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in English and received his Doctor of Jurisprudence from the WVU College of Law in 1974, where he was lead articles editor of the West Virginia Law Review and was honored with the Order of the Coif.
He has been practicing law for 35 years at Peyton Law Firm, which he founded, with offices in Nitro, Putnam County, W.Va.
Since 2015, the Art Museum of WVU has been the area’s best experience for regional and national works of art. Hours, directions and more information are available at artmuseum.wvu.edu.