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George Vanderbilt: A Modern Art Collector

Written By Amy Dangelico

Posted 01/02/18

Updated 03/13/24

Estate History

From a young age, George Vanderbilt inherited his father’s passion for admiring and collecting art. While George was inspired by the earlier artists his father admired, he also supported more modern, progressive artists who embraced contemporary themes and new technologies.

Let’s take a look at a few of the pieces in the Biltmore House collection that speak to George Vanderbilt’s love of ground-breaking artists and their work.

1. Ignacio Zuloaga’s “Rosita”

On display in the Louis XV Hallway

​Painter Ignacio Zuloaga drew from folklife and long-founded elements of Spanish painting—for instance, Rosita is lounging on a divan draped with a mantón de manila, an integral part of the costume worn by flamenco dancers. However, Zuloaga was also influenced by the philosophy and art of the French symbolists to explore different modes of expressing character and energy and encouraging personal interpretation. In this, the character and energy of Rosita is distinct; she is confident: a model at ease with being an object of beauty.

2. Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “Young Algerian Woman” and “Young Boy with an Orange”
Young Algerian Woman

On display in the Breakfast Room

Renoir painted alongside fellow artists Monet and others to create a wholly new style concerned with capturing light, movement, and other optical effects. This Impressionistic approach to handling light, as well as Renoir’s unique style of composition, his use of underlying foundations and free brushwork, and his informal, intimate subject matter were all ground-breaking developments—represented in both Young Algerian Woman (above) and Young Boy with an Orange (feature image).

Fun fact: The Renoir paintings in the Biltmore House collection were likely among the first of his works in America!

3. Maxime Maufra’s “Vue du Port” (“View of the Harbor in Sunset”)
Vue du Port

On display in the Breakfast Room

Frenchman Maxmie Maufra travelled to England as a young man and devoted time to study the Romantic landscapes of Constable and Turner. While their dramatic skies and turbulent seas were impactful, his work clearly shows the influence of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist schools in his handling of light and color.

4. Constantin Emile Meunier’s “Anvers” (“Antwerp”)

Not currently on display

Inspired by his travels and exposure to the industrial region of Belgium, Meunier made an important contribution to the development of modern art by elevating the image of the industrial worker, dock worker, and miner to an icon of modernity. While he certainly wasn’t the first to explore the theme of workers and industry, his portrayal of labor and laborers in forthright, heroic fashion was an altogether new approach.

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