The Kress Collection
Self-made millionaire Samuel H. Kress (1863-1955) opened the first S. H. Kress Five and Dime Store in 1896. Beginning in the 1920s, as political and economic upheaval brought quantities of European art onto the market, he amassed an extraordinary collection. Kress fervently believed that art should be accessible to the public; accordingly, he disbursed his collection over time "to provide for the study and enjoyment of the public as complete a representation as possible of the Italian School of painting and sculpture of quality." Over 400 works were given to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.; the Kress Foundation has given another 3000 to municipal and academic museums throughout the country. Today, the Kress Collection is represented in 33 states, fulfilling Samuel Kress' wish that his collection be shared with as wide an audience as possible.
The works in the Kress Collection at Pomona College are, first and foremost, objects of intrinsic beauty and historical interest. For over thirty years they have offered our public the intense pleasure and intellectual stimulation provided by exceptional works of art. At the same time, these objects have been the focus of ongoing scholarly research and debate. The attributions of many Kress paintings were made in the late 1930s by an impressive group of art historians and connoisseurs whose expertise was sought when Mr. Kress first acquired the pieces. Comments by such art historical luminaries as Lionello Venturi, Roberto Longhi, Wilhelm Suida, and the famed Bernard Berenson are to be found in our files. Since that time, younger scholars have taken on the challenge of precise attribution, occasionally contradicting their elders. The debate surrounding the authorship of the small early sixteenth-century panel of Christ in Repose is an excellent example of the scholarship engendered by the Kress Collection and a perfect illustration of the way in which great works of art continue to attract, provoke, and enlighten.