Delaware Art Museum gets $1.7 million in gifts

 Portrait of Samuel Bancroft Jr., c. 1909 byWinifred Sandys (1875-1944).Watercolor on ivory(image courtesy Del. Art Museum)

Portrait of Samuel Bancroft Jr., c. 1909 byWinifred Sandys (1875-1944).Watercolor on ivory(image courtesy Del. Art Museum)

Three separate gifts will fund an endowment for the curator of the Delaware Art Museum’s Bancroft Collection of Pre-Raphaelite Art.

The Delaware Art Museum has been through a rough period, following the decision to auction off several pieces to fill a funding shortfall. 

But now, there’s some good news. The museum has received a combined $1.7 million in gifts from two anonymous donors and from Peggy and Ed Woolard of Wilmington. The money will be used to create the Annette Woolard-Proivne Endowed Curator of the Bancroft Collection. Annette Woolard is Peggy and Ed’s daughter and is also a current trustee at the Delaware Art Museum.

“Endowed curator positions help museums attract and retain the most talented scholars in the profession,” said museum CEO Mike Miller. “These gifts demonstrate the community’s ongoing support and desire to see the museum thrive.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

The Bancroft Collection includes more than 100 paintings, prints and drawings collected by Wilmington textile mill owner Samuel Bancroft, who died in 1915. The Pre-Raphaelite collection was bequeathed to the museum in 1935 along with 11 acres of land on Kentmere Parkway in Wilmington.

Paid off

At the end of September, the museum finally paid off its $19.8 million bond debt that was issued in 2003. The debt has been a controversial subject as the museum’s trustees approved a plan to sell off some works of art to pay it off. The debt was originally due to be paid in fully by 2037, but a confluence of the recession and tighter credit standards required accelerated payments on the debt. 

Proceeds from the sale of William Holman Hunt’s “Isabella and the Pot of Basil,” the recent private sale of Alexander Calder’s “Black Crescent,” and funds from the museum’s investment portfolio will cover the cost of the bond debt. 

In June, Christie’s auction house sold William Holman Hunt’s 1868 painting for close to $5 million. Confidentiality agreements associated with the private sale of Calder’s “Black Crescent” prohibited the museum from disclosing that sale price.  

The art sale resulted in the Association of Art Museum Directors sanctioning the Delaware Art Museum, as well as its loss of accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums.

“This process has been excruciatingly difficult for everyone involved,” Miller said last month. “Thankfully, we have been bolstered and supported by our loyal Members and donors. We are so appreciative of the overwhelming support from our community.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal