A day after her 104th birthday, Lessie Smithgall and her family on Thursday unveiled the largest gift in the Quinlan Visual Arts Center’s history.
Smithgall, co-founder of The Times, joined with descendants of Leslie and Edith Quinlan on Thursday afternoon for a private reception in the Edith Quinlan Rankin Conference Room.
The piece, “Rembrandt’s Father in a High Hat” by Rembrandt van Rijn, came from the private collection of Charles and Celestia “Lessie” B. Smithgall, founders of The Times.
Lessie Smithgall said the idea to donate to the Green Street arts center came from her son, Thurmond.
“It was hanging in our home, and when my husband bought it, I do not know,” she said.
The Dutch ink etching on paper dates back to 1630, picturing what is believed to be Rembrandt’s father wearing a cloak and cap.
The donation is the biggest contribution to the collection, said Amanda McClure, the Quinlan’s executive director.
“We’re excited about it because it’s going to bring some more attention to the arts center,” she said. “Something as amazing as a Rembrandt is going to get some extra attention and get people in the door.”
Smithgall’s donation will be available for the public to see beginning today during regular operating hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.
“I think it’s so wonderful that the museum never charges an admission fee,” Smithgall said.
Edith and Leslie Quinlan’s granddaughter, Lilith Quinlan, said the piece was a wonderful addition to the permanent collection.
“It’s certainly a step into art history, and Rembrandt is so well-known that I’m hoping it will bring more people in to see that and also see the wonderful things that can happen here,” Lilith Quinlan said.
Lilith Quinlan was raised by her grandparents in a home across from the arts center, and watched it grow from plans to construction to now its new greatest piece.
“I think that dream of that investment has really come true, and that’s very moving for me to see it,” she said.