The Sonnenschein Collection of 58 old master drawings was gifted to Cornell College in the early 1950s by Mr. Robert Sonnenschein II, whose father, Chicago lawyer Edward Sonnenschein (1881-1935), amassed a vast and diverse art collection in the early 20th century. As a gesture of his friendship with Cornell College President Russell D. Cole, Robert Sonnenschein II donated part of his father’s drawing collection to Cornell. At the time of the donation, the drawings were unframed and unaccompanied by any documentation, apart from some artist attributions on the mats and supports of the drawings. The collection was exhibited at Cornell in 1966, 1972, and 1977 accompanied only by tentative artist attributions and without any proper study having been conducted. In the 1990s, the drawings were professionally appraised by a Chicago art appraisal company for insurance purposes. After a temporary loan to Davidson College in 1997, the collection was largely forgotten until the summer of 2016, when, as part of Cornell’s Summer Research Institute, students Jessica Meis ’19 and Steven Coburn ’18, under the direction of Christina Penn-Goetsch, Ph.D., Professor of Art History, undertook a project to study the drawings and ultimately create a physical and online exhibition of the collection. The virtual exhibition was mounted with the goal of providing greater accessibility to the collection.
The students’ research quickly revealed a conspicuous lack of accurate and thorough documentation and study of the drawings. Some results of the research portion of the project included: proper and complete documentation through high-resolution photographs of each drawing including versos (back of the drawing) and watermarks, determining provenance, identifying subjects, and reattributing drawings to specific artists. From March 26 to April 22, 2017, the Sonnenschein collection will be exhibited in Cornell’s Peter Paul Luce Gallery with a closing reception, and an online exhibition will be launched to showcase the collection in light of the many exciting discoveries made.
Jessica Meis, ’18
Steven Coburn, ’18
Art & Art History
Sponsor: Christina Morris Penn-Goetsch