The Fragrance of Orchids

Asian Art from the Alex and Suzanne Rosenkrantz Collection

MAY 7, 2011 – FEB 12, 2012

Over the course of almost five decades together, Suzanne and Alex Rosenkrantz, indefatigable travelers and collectors of Asian art, filled their home with Chinese porcelains, paintings, sculpture and decorative arts, Oriental rugs and textiles, and the occasional work of Japanese art. Visitors would quickly realize that the collection had a unique flavor, reflecting both traditional European Orientalist taste and Suzanne’s distinctive flair for living graciously. In their home, not unlike a Confucian scholar’s desk, every object had its own special place, carefully chosen by the couple to become an integral part of the narrative of their lives together.

The couple met in postwar Paris, where Alex, who had served in France during WWII, was working for the Allied Ari Forces’ Central European Command. Then a graduate student at the Sorbonne, the vivacious and elegant Suzanne became Alex’s tutor in French and was soon smitten with the dapper American. Their circle of friends in Paris came to include leading American intellectuals and artists introduced to the young couple through Suzanne’s family—she was the niece of Emery Reeves, publicist and close friend of Winston Churchill and a noted art collector—and through Alex’s diplomatic connections at the Allied Command. They married in 1951, and two years later Alex brought Suzanne to his home in Aberdeen, Wash. where he was part owner of the family business, Western Steel and Supply.

From their home base in Aberdeen and later in Olympia, Washington, Suzanne and Alex traveled the world, with frequent trips to Europe to ski at St. Moritz or visit Emery’s villa on the French Riviera. They regularly patronized Asian art and antique dealers from Amsterdam to Zurich and Seattle to Singapore, always savoring the thrill of the hunt for just the right addition to their collection.

A promised gift since 1997, the Alex and Suzanne Rosenkrantz Collection of Asian Art became part of the Museum’s permanent collection following Suzanne’s death in March of 2010. Together, Alex and Suzanne had planned for the day when their gift would come to the Portland Art Museum to be enjoyed by all. The Rosenkrantz bequest will enchant Museum audiences for decades to come, as their treasured works rotate into the Asian galleries. This inaugural display presents choice highlights from the collection: thirty-six examples of ceramics, sculpture, metalwork, and textiles. Thanks to the Rosenkrantz’s foresight and generosity, visitors to the Museum will experience for themselves the pleasure of finding just the right object, one that enhances the joy of living.

Curated by Maribeth Graybill, Ph.D., The Arlene and Harold Schitzer Curator of Asian Art.

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