William S. Huff: Ensuring the Crone Legacy
Elbert Hubbard said "Art is not a thing, it is a way." For William Huff, it is a way to preserve the legacy of his great-uncle by marriage, Samuel Hester Crone.
Last fall, the Art Museum of the University of Memphis (AMUM) was honored to announce the creation of The Samuel Hester Crone Gallery, a gift of William S. Huff, in memory of Elsa S. Huff. A longstanding friend to the University, William generously donated his extensive Crone archive and art collection with an endowment for its preservation and study.
The Huff Collection began when William was a young man and his mother presented him with some 200 sketches by the artist. William's effort to expand the collection and expand the academic research on Crone led him across Europe and to members of his own extended family and to extended Crone family members in Memphis.
Samuel Crone was born 1858 in Columbia, Tennessee and moved to Memphis as a toddler. At the age of 17, he left Memphis to study at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, Germany. He spent nearly four decades moving around Europe, where he developed a level of skill comparable to the most prolific and well-known artists of his time. In 1913, at the age of 55, he returned to the United States but died a few days later in Portersville, Pa., forty-five miles north of his wife Sarah's birthplace of Allegheny City, later part of Pittsburgh.
"The drawings are absolutely wonderful," states AMUM Director Leslie Luebbers. "Even the quickest little line sketches are pretty glorious. They range in style from his earliest kind of academic paintings, which are in the style of late Baroque painting, up to abstract expressionist landscapes. In particular, an eye-witness series of the 1906 eruption of Vesuvius is spectacularly expressionistic."
The gift itself has been years in the making. William has already made a gift of his whole collection of Crone's sketches, and he has created an endowment that will provide support for the preservation, study, and expansion of that collection. In addition to the sketches, William has made provisions in his estate plan for Crone's paintings as well as paintings and works by other Munich-trained artists to come to the museum. Staff at the University is in the processes of developing an in-depth online resource of Crone's works and a biography. Huff's gift is a significant base on which to advance AMUM's commitment to the rich legacy of our region by providing access, research and preservation of our cultural heritage from the 19th century until today.
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