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Albert Bierstadt (1830–1902); Mount Rainier, ca. 1863. Courtesy of The Currier Gallery of Art

Ranking in the top ten biggest individual gifts in 2001 was the substantial bequest of successful Wall Street stockbroker Henry Melville Fuller (1914–2001). Totaling $83 million, his generosity will benefit three institutions for years to come: Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, The Currier Gallery of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire, and the Manchester (NH) Historic Association.

The icing on the cake is that Fuller, a collector and connoisseur, left his highly regarded collections to two of these institutions. Trinity received Russian books and artifacts, including a Romanov family photo album; and the Currier now has the remainder of his American art collection (he donated works during his lifetime as well), including paintings by Jasper Cropsey, Albert Bierstadt, and Martin Johnson Heade.

To a small, private museum like the Currier, whose annual budget was just $2.5 million, Fuller’s gift of $43 million is astronomical. Individual cash donations to art institutions rarely reach that level. (For instance, the heftiest single gift ever given to a much larger New England museum was $6 million.)

Fuller, who was a Manchester native, left the money to supplement an already fine collection of paintings and decorative arts at the Currier. Director Susan Strickler says the money will be used to purchase nineteenth-century American paintings and other works as well as to expand educational programs. Read more on the Fuller bequest to The Currier Gallery of Art in the next issue of The Catalogue of Antiques & Fine Art.

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