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Coming into focus

Museum reveals three more works in collection.

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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art drew back the curtain on three more pieces in its collection recently, in a news release about loans to venues across the country.

The museum, being built by Wal-Mart heir Alice Walton and slated to open in 2010, has placed 13 works in various institutions. The three paintings previously unpublicized include George Wesley Bellows' “Excavation at Night” (1908) at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; Maria Oakey Dewing's “Rose Garden” (1901) at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., and Samuel F.B. Morse's portrait, “Marquis de Lafayette” (1825), at the New York Historical Society.

The Bellows painting, described by the academy as a “tour de force” by the Ashcan School artist, is a night scene depicting construction of Penn Station in New York City. It was at one time owned by Berry-Hill Galleries in New York.

The Dewing fetched a record price for a work by the artist when it sold at auction at Sotheby's for $1.16 million in May 2000; Walton's likely purchase of the painting at a Sotheby's auction in May 2006 for $2 million set another record.

The rare portrait by Morse, the inventor of Morse code, was sold by the New York Public Library at auction at Sotheby's in November 2005 for $1.36 million. It was at that auction of works consigned by the library that Walton bought the Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington for $8.1 million. The painting is on loan to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.

What else might Walton have picked up at those particular auctions? We turn to Ann Berman, who writes for Maine Antique Digest. Berman speculated that Walton also bought John Singleton Copley's portrait “Mrs. Theodore Atkinson Jr.” (1765) for a record $3.37 million. In the portrait, the 19-year-old Mrs. Atkinson holds a flying squirrel on a leash.

Berman did not mention it, but it would be fair to speculate that along with “Rose Garden” Walton purchased Copley's portrait of John Hancock, which sold for $1.69 million at the 2006 auction. The portrait was painted circa 1770-72.

An Arkansas landscape was in the 2005 auction: Thomas Hart Benton's “Jon Boat — Buffalo River” (1967). It sold for $340,800. Walton is not usually so obvious, but it seems like a good fit for Crystal Bridges.

M2 Gallery at 11525 Cantrell Road celebrates its first anniversary Feb. 29 with an exhibit, “One,” introducing painter William Goodman from Jackson, Miss., and Hot Springs sculpting team Jim and Gloria Davis. New work by other gallery artists, among them Jason Gammel, Amy Laser, Cathy Burns, V.L. Cox and Joe Barnett. A reception is set for 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“Way of the Cross,” 14 oils depicting the Passion of Christ by Randall M. Good, goes on exhibit March 1 at Blue Moon Gallery, 718 Central Ave. in Hot Springs. Randall created the Old Master-styled oils on commission for a church in Hope. The artist will be on hand during the exhibit's run to give talks and the gallery will keep late hours for groups of 10 or more. The show runs through March 18.

Painter Al Allen, who taught at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for 27 years and who achieved local and national acclaim for his hard-edge portrayals of house exteriors, particularly windows in shadow, died Feb. 14 in Kansas City. He was 82. A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 1.

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