About the Collection
Robert Lehman (of Lehman Brother’s fame) was one of the most prolific art collectors of the twentieth century. He bequeathed his collection to the Met with the stipulation that it be displayed as a collection rather than scattered through existing galleries. The Met took the stipulation seriously and built a new wing reminiscent of Lehman’s private residence to house and display his collection. Paintings and drawings, particularly from Europe, dominate the collection, but there is no unifying theme beyond the collector’s individual taste. The wing is spacious, airy and usually less crowded than the rest of the museum and a welcome break from the academic intensity of other galleries.
What You Will See
Lehman had a particular interest in Italian and Northern European Renaissance art, but the collection extends well beyond that time and region, with objects spanning the centuries from the third century through the twentieth. Paintings are the core of the collection, but many decorative works, drawings and small sculptures are scattered through the gallery as well. Given the breadth of the collection and lack of a unifying connection between the works beyond the collector, works are best appreciated individually rather than their contribution to a theme or genre. Wander the gallery and find your favorite. Only a small portion of the 2,600 items in the collection are on display at a given time and rotate regularly, so repeat visits to the gallery are necessary.
Why You Should Go
The private art collections of wealthy New Yorkers are the foundation of most of the great museums in the city, including the Met. Most museums supplement the private donations with additional acquisitions and meld collections to form a unifying theme. However, a few institutions, like the Frick Collection or the Morgan Library, focus on the founding collector and their vision. The Lehman Collection is the Met’s contribution to collector-focused installations and is a rare departure from the museum’s encyclopedic mission. Stop by and appreciate art from the point of view of a particular collector and contrast Robert Lehman’s eye with those of the other great New York art collectors.