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A. Conger Goodyear

Man Ray’s A. Conger Goodyear, 1936. Image courtesy of the G. Robert Strauss, Jr. Memorial Library, Gallery Archives.

Hailing from a successful Buffalo family whose many assets included lumber mills and railroads, A. (Anson) Conger Goodyear succeeded his father, Charles W. Goodyear, on the Board of The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy in 1912. Over the course of sixteen years, from 1912 to 1928, Goodyear supervised the daily operations of several national businesses at the same time he initiated, with his own money, and on occasion with contributions from his family, a rapid-fire series of landmark exhibitions and acquisitions for the museum. From his first encounter with modern sculpture at the 1913 Armory Show, where Constantin Brancusi’s Kiss of 1908 made a lasting impression on him, sculpture became his passion, and during his tenure as Board vice-president he produced, with assistance from Anna Glenny Dunbar, three monographic exhibitions: Meštrović Exhibition of Sculpture and The Bourdelle Exhibition of Sculpture, both 1925, and the Exhibition of Sculpture and Drawings by Aristide Maillol, 1925–26. Through Goodyear’s expanding list of museum and gallery contacts, the Bourdelle and Maillol exhibitions toured nationally. Goodyear was also instrumental in bringing the International Exhibition of Modern Art, assembled by Katherine S. Dreier and Marcel Duchamp for the Société Anonyme, to the museum in 1927. On its final day in Buffalo, Brancusi’s Mademoiselle Pogany II, 1920, was purchased out of the exhibition for the Collection.

In 1926, Goodyear spearheaded the Fellows for Life Fund. Designed as a cache of unrestricted dollars for the purchase of modern art, capital for the Fund was secured through a group of enlightened patrons, each of whom donated $1,000 per year. In the first year, Goodyear mustered forty-two individuals, including members of his own family and Seymour H. Knox, Jr., who had joined the Board the year before the Fund was established. Through the Fund, the museum acquired Pablo Picasso’s La Toilette, 1906 (the fallout from which eventually resulted in Goodyear being voted off the museum’s Board); paintings by Paul Gauguin, Berthe Morisot, Augustus Edwin John, and Paul Cézanne; and a bronze sculpture, Eve, 1881 (cast executed 1913), by Auguste Rodin.

Goodyear never wavered in his generosity toward the Albright Art Gallery, even after stepping down from the Board and relocating to New York to become president of The Museum of Modern Art. As early as 1926, Goodyear began to donate works from his own collection to the museum. Not surprisingly, his first gifts were sculptures by Bourdelle (in 1926), Wilhelm Lehmbruck (in 1927), Frank Dobson, (in 1928), and Maillol (in 1929).

Goodyear’s departure from The Museum of Modern Art in 1939 corresponded with his renewed philanthropy toward the museum. That same year, Goodyear donated a suite of drawings—by George Bellows, Salvador Dalí, Georg Kolbe, Maillol, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Jules Pascin, Charles Sheeler, and Eugene Speicher. Goodyear’s generosity continued unabated until his death in 1964, by which time he had donated nearly three hundred artworks—paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints—to the museum. He also bequeathed many important works to the museum after his death, including Giacomo Balla’s Dinamismo di un Cane al Guinzaglio (Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash), 1912; Salvador Dalí’s The Transparent Simulacrum of the Feigned Image, 1938; and Frida Kahlo's Self-Portrait with Monkey, 1938

Related Exhibitions 

The Long Curve:
150 Years of Visionary Collecting at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery

November 4, 2011–March 4, 2012 

Living Art: A. Conger Goodyear and Sculpture
November 4, 2011–March 4, 2012