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Portrait of Collector

The National Gallery of Art honors Chester and Maud Dale with a fitting exhibition

12:00 AM, Feb 3, 2010 • By KATHERINE EASTLAND
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Politely indulging the Dales’ desire to be made grand (and remembered) in paint, the gallery highlights four Dale portraits, two of each, his and hers. These likenesses read as curiosities more than as great works, and are further evidence of the Dales’ penchant for traditional subjects. The portrait of Chester by Salvador Dalí is a case in point: He holds his black poodle like a football under his arm, sits on a landscape doubling as a throne, and behind him there is a great, blue sky with clouds and a wisp above his head, as if it is a most natural (though clearly affected) halo. The painting has its quirks, but does not exude Dalí’s typical verve.

This special, longstanding exhibition is a better portrait of the Dales, and perhaps a more favorable one, too. Chester and Maud aren’t the invisible wallets behind the works anymore, and end up looking like they had a bloodhound’s nose for exquisite art. When you go, make sure to check out the other ways they're presented in this show: through the library, also bequeathed to the gallery, of 150,000 volumes, and a selection of black-and-white photographs of the couple and their art-filled home. One of the pictures shows this Monet casually hanging in the dining room. Can you imagine looking at Rouen cathedral while eating breakfast?

"From Impressionism to Modernism: The Chester Dale Collection" is on view at the National Gallery of Art until July 31, 2011.

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