“Prolific.” “A major force in the art world.” “At the forefront of American art.”
Jasper Johns has been hailed as one of the 20th century’s most important American artists. His work appears in the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and in the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. From his early prodigious paintings, including “Flag,” perhaps his best known work, to what The New York Times calls the “more lyrical, less predictable” works of his later years, Johns’ iconic legacy has set the bar for American and world painters alike.
This past April, during the closing reception of Moments in Time: Lithographs from the HWS Art Collection, the Colleges were gifted with a Jasper Johns lithograph, After Holbein (1993), from Dr. George Abraham ’59.
“Johns is a seminal figure in the postmodern art world, and this is a fine example of his work in the 1990s after his Pop Art period,” says Kathryn Vaughn, the visual resources librarian at Houghton House.
A postmodern lithograph based on a 1536 painting of Henry VII by Hans Holbein the younger, After Holbein “displays innovative use of patterning, color, light and fine quality paper,” Vaughn says. “Printmaking, especially lithography, has been an important part of Johns’ oeuvre. It has interested him particularly in the reuse of imagery-his own and, as in this case, that of artists from the past-which has allowed him to explore new artistic meanings and styles.”
Hobart and William Smith President Mark D. Gearan praised the new addition to the Collections of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. “This extraordinary work considerably complements the Colleges’ growing collection of important art. The lithograph will be a source of pleasure and pride for the Colleges and an invaluable teaching tool for our students. We are thankful for Dr. Abraham’s wonderful gifts and for his unwavering service to the Colleges.”
Abraham, who has also contributed to the restoration and reframing of art works from the Collections, says, “After seeing the treasure trove of truly profound art owned by the Colleges, I wanted to ensure that pieces from the Collections continue to be seen by both the HWS community and the art community as a whole. With works of such a high caliber, there’s a tremendous amount of artistic value, historic relevance and teaching potential in having these pieces on exhibition throughout campus.”
A native of Geneva, Abraham was recently on campus to celebrate his 50th Reunion. He graduated with a bachelor of science in math and chemistry and was involved with the Herald, Little Theatre, Schola Cantorum and Canterbury Club. After graduation, Abraham went on to earn both his master of science degree and medical degree from State University of New York at Buffalo. His medical career has taken him to California, New York and Washington, D.C. where he worked on a variety of national initiatives surrounding cancer research and treatment.
“One of my patients was a famous D.C. gallery owner,” Abraham says. “He encouraged me to start collecting and sold me my first pieces, helping me build up a core of early 20th century master prints.”
Abraham eventually returned to upstate New York where he served in a variety of leadership positions at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, in addition to Director of the Center on Aging and the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center.
The author of more than 100 scientific articles, three books and three patents, he is currently a Medical Center Professor Emeritus of Medicine, Microbiology, Immunology and Pediatrics, and Oncology. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center. One of the greatest credits to Abraham’s career in research was the discovery of an incipient gene mutation that causes benign lymphocytes to morph into malignant tumors. The discovery of this cell receptor now serves as a therapeutic target in cancer treatment and gene therapy methods.
But throughout the years, Abraham has remained an avid art donor and collector-purchasing a Degas etching for $99 and a Whistler from Vincent Price.
A dedicated philanthropist, Abraham also serves on the Board of the Geneva Arts Development Council and, in addition to the Johns lithograph, has donated to the Colleges several paintings by James Rosenquist and Robert Rauschenberg.
Abraham is the recipient of the National Arthritis Foundation Research Award, the Allergic Diseases Academic Award and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences Medical Scientist Training Program Grant. In 2005, President Gearan awarded him with the President’s Medal.