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Revealing Character: Juniata Professor's Collection Features Faces at Focal Point

(Posted November 2, 2009)

"Head of a Young Boy," attributed to Jusepe de Ribero

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- As a professor of philosophy, Robert Wagoner concentrated on understanding the mind; as an art collector, the Huntingdon resident decided the face is window to the artist's soul. Selections from Wagoner's personal art collection will be exhibited at the Juniata Museum of Art from Thursday, Nov. 12 through Feb. 27.

The exhibition, "Faces of Time: Drawings and Prints from Old and Modern Masters," will feature a gallery talk by Robert Wagoner, professor emeritus of philosophy at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 12, followed by a reception in the museum at 5 p.m. On Saturday, Nov. 14, at 1 p.m., there will be another reception at the museum hosted by Wagoner.

The artworks on display are all drawings or prints that feature the human face. The face reveals "the story of a person's life at a particular moment, a particular instant," says Wagoner, quoted in the exhibition's catalog.

Wagoner has been collecting art since 1961, when, as a graduate student at Harvard University, he "impulsively" bought an etching by modern artist Alberto Giacometti for $47.50. "Later when I came to Juniata I started going to auctions. I used many of these (works) in my classes," says Wagoner, who taught Philosophy of Art, Decadence to Disaster and other art-related courses at Juniata.
Wagoner has been buying drawings or etchings ever since, mainly because he values drawing and particularly the act of putting line to paper (or to stone or metal in the case of printmaking).

Although his collection of artworks contains some works that are not focused on the face, most of his later collecting has centered almost exclusively on art that reveals the face.

"You learn a lot about yourself over 20 to 30 years of collecting. As I collected more, I learned to look for things that were more challenging, pieces that had the power to grab my attention."
Robert Wagoner, professor emeritus of philosophy


Included in the exhibit are several works by "old masters" such as Gabriele Calieri's "Lady with a Pearl Necklace," Albrecht Durer's "Peasant Couple at Market," Peter Paul Rubens' "An Old Woman and Young Boy Holding Candles" and Rembrandt's "Old Bearded Man in High Fur Cap."

"You learn a lot about yourself over 20 to 30 years of collecting," Wagoner explains. "As I collected more, I learned to look for things that were more challenging, pieces that had the power to grab my attention."

Wagoner's collection also features contemporary and modernist artists. Some works are representational, such as Thomas Hart Benton's "Instruction" and David Hockney's "Celia." Other works are more abstract, such as Giacometti's "Head of a Man" and Francis Bacon's "Study for Portrait II (after the Life Mask of William Blake)."

Other works in the encompassing exhibition include "Portraits of the Blackfeet Chiefs Mehkskeheme-Sukabs & Titsiki-Stomik" by Karl Bodmer, "Black Girl" by contemporary artist Elizabeth Catlett, and "Conversation," by Edvard Munch." Other artists represented are Henri Matisse, Alphonse Legros, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Pablo Picasso.

Two contemporary artists' work is also represented in Wagoner's collection. David Bumbeck's "The Bathers" and "Untitled" by Nathan Wagoner, the son of Robert Wagoner and an artist whose work has been exhibited across the country. He is director of new media communication at Juniata College.

The Juniata College Museum of Art is located in historic Carnegie Hall at 17th and Moore streets in Huntingdon. Museum hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. For more information, please call the museum at (814) 641-3505, or visit the Juniata College Web site at http://www.juniata.edu/museum.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.