Artistic Acquisition

Posted March 15, 2005 at 6:48pm

Senate officials unveiled a recently acquired painting by Italian-born artist Constantino Brumidi at a ceremony Tuesday in the Capitol’s Strom Thurmond Room. [IMGCAP(1)]

The painting, an oil sketch for Brumidi’s 1874 fresco “Signing of the First Treaty of Peace with Great Britain,” depicts the Sept. 3, 1783, signing of the Treaty of Paris, in which Britain formally acknowledged U.S. independence. The six men pictured in the sketch include American peace commissioners John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and John Jay, as well as William Temple Franklin, secretary to the American delegation. Two British commissioners, David Hartley and Richard Oswald, are also pictured.

The painting was purchased from a private owner in Boston, who stumbled upon it in a North Shore antiques store a few years back. It is one of several preliminary sketches Brumidi submitted for approval prior to the execution of his famous murals. The peace treaty fresco is located in the Brumidi Corridors directly above the entrance to the Senate Democratic Policy Committee room.

The sketch, the first acquisition paid for with monies from the newly created Senate Preservation Fund, is expected to go on display in the Capitol, although a location has yet to be determined, said Senate Curator Diane Skvarla.

Its cost was not released.

Heading the Museum. On Tuesday, the Smithsonian Institution named Lonnie Bunch, president of the Chicago Historical Society, the first director of the to-be-constructed National Museum of African American History and Culture.

As director, Bunch is charged with developing programs and exhibitions for the museum, crafting its mission, and coordinating the museum’s fundraising efforts and budget development.

Prior to taking the reins at the historical society in 2001, Bunch spent more than a decade working with the Smithsonian museums, including holding a variety of curatorial positions, most recently as associate director for curatorial affairs at the National Museum of American History. During this time, he led the team that developed the permanent exhibit “American Presidency: A Glorious Burden.”

Bunch has also served as curator of history and program manager for the California Afro-American Museum in Los Angeles, where his exhibitions included “The Black Olympians, 1904-1950” and “Black Angelenos: The Afro-American in Los Angeles, 1850-1950.”

The 52-year-old Bunch holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from American University. He has taught at numerous schools, including the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and George Washington University.

The hire will become effective in July. The Smithsonian Board of Regents is expected to announce a location for the future museum early next year.

— Bree Hocking