The Philadelphia Museum of Art has just received a “transformational” trove of artwork, including pieces by Cy Twombly, Horace Pippin, Agnes Martin, Philip Guston, and the first Edward Hopper painting the museum has ever owned.
The gift of more than 50 works of art came from the estate of Daniel Dietrich, a longtime museum donor and heir to the Luden’s cough drop enterprise. He died in September at age 73.
“He was sort of a philosopher and a poet. He liked paintings — like this Hopper — that have a spiritual quality,” said Kathleen Foster, curator of American art. “His house was full of these thoughtful, contemplative paintings. He himself was a Buddhist.”
The large work by Hopper, called “Road and Trees” (1962), is almost 3 feet by 5 feet and is now on view at the museum. The meditative image depicts little more than the title suggests: a line of trees from the perspective of someone driving along a road.
“As he got later in his career, the pictures get simpler and more streamlined,” said Foster. “You get to a picture like ‘Road and Trees.’ He’s taken out the figures, he’s taken out the buildings, in order to just bear down on the simplicity of this idea of the American road.”
The museum already owns a large collection of Hopper prints and drawings, which Foster says is one of the best in the world, but until now it had no paintings.
The gift also includes a large collection of drawings, photographs and documents from Thomas Eakins, including his palette and paintbrushes.
Foster could not describe the full extent of the gift, as all of the items are not yet in the museum’s possession. It’s also impossible to assess how how much it is worth. Dietrich likely purchased the Hopper painting many years ago, before the artist’s popularity went into the stratosphere.
In 2013, a similarly sized Hopper painting from 1932 was sold by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts for $40.5 million.