Property from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Clarence McKenzie Lewis, Jr.
Clarence McKenzie Lewis, Jr.'s, collecting interests and instincts were developed early on in his life. Born in New York in 1911, Mr. Lewis was the son of investment banker Clarence McKenzie Lewis, Sr., and Annah Churchill Ripley. Lewis's maternal grandmother, Mary Churchill Ripley, was an Oriental scholar and author of several books including The Oriental Rug Book, published in 1904 and reprinted for more than 30 years thereafter. Under the tutelage of his grandmother, Lewis spent long hours studying Chinese tapestry and porcelain, and Japanese metalwork. This keen observation and appreciation of quality and detail would have a profound impact on Lewis's collecting later in life. Ripley left her grandson a fine collection of Japanese tsuba (swordguards), which he added to throughout his lifetime, as well as a collection of Chinese porcelain which remains in the Lewis family.
Mr. Lewis's father and paternal grandmother, Helen Forbes Salomon, also shaped his appreciation for beautiful objects and his interest in European art. Mr. Lewis, Sr., and his mother, Mrs. Salomon, following the death of Annah Churchill Ripley in 1918, together commissioned John Russell Pope to design a 44-room Tudor manor house on the thousand acre "Skylands" estate in Northern New Jersey, which Lewis, Sr., purchased in 1922. Lewis traveled with his father and sister to Europe frequently during the 1920s to find furniture and antiques to furnish their country estate, and he began to acquire some European drawings and etchings on his own. Mr. Lewis, Sr.'s, passion was landscaping and botany, and Skylands was subsequently purchased in 1966 by the state of New Jersey and designated the state's official botanical garden in 1984. Mr. Lewis, Sr.'s, papers are held by the New York Botanical Garden, where he was a trustee.
Mr. Lewis married Alverta Van Dusen of Philadelphia in 1945 following his service as a Captain in the U.S. Army in Italy during World War II. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he joined the U.S. Treasury's Tax Legislative Council and crafted significant portions of what became the 1954 Internal Revenue Code. During the Eisenhower administration, he moved with his wife and four sons to Pittsburgh to join the law firm of Kirkpatrick, Lockhart as head of the tax department. While in Pittsburgh, he served as a Trustee of the Carnegie Museum where he initiated an expanded acquisition program. During these years, Lewis applied his highly cultivated and discerning eye to form an extraordinary collection of Paul Klee works on paper, as well as other works of the Impressionist and Modern period. In 1961, he and his family returned to Washington D.C. where he worked for the Agency for International Development's Alliance for Progress. In the 1960s, his collecting interests extended to Rembrandt etchings, Latin American art, Japanese sculpture and early 20th century photography. During this period Lewis further augmented his collection of Klees, forming one of the finest private collections spanning the varied oeuvre of this brilliant artist. Mrs. Lewis kept pace with her husband's artistic interests, working as a docent and on the acquisitions committee at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Together, they made donations of many works to the museums with which they were associated and to their undergraduate schools, Vassar and Princeton.
Mr. Lewis shared his love of art with his sons starting in their childhood, perhaps remembering how the adults of his childhood had shared their love of beautiful objects with him. On a family trip to Italy in 1958, he asked his sons each to identify their favorite works in the great museums of Florence, Venice and Rome and to give an explanation of why they had made their selections. In 1961, he made a pilgrimage to the Klee institute in Bern, Switzerland, two of his sons in tow.
Lewis's work in social and economic development in Latin America led to consultancy and fund-raising for a national organization of urban youth groups, Youth Organizations United, in the late 1960s which continued until he retired in 1975 for reasons of health. He died in 1979.
During the past 29 years, Mrs. Lewis has maintained the collection while pursuing her own interests in the visual arts through the Corcoran and as an amateur painter. She returned to Philadelphia, the city of her birth, with the collection in 2001.
Photograph of the Lewis family in Rome, 1958.