Written by Caitlyn Cooney, Curatorial Intern
The personal connection between a collector and their artworks, be it a marker of a significant memory, a part of their relationships with people, or a reminder of their cultural history, is not only necessary, but serves as the core motivation for their collecting. For collectors Robert and Thelma Nied, that personal connection to a work stems from their relationship with the artist, or their knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the artistic process that went into the making of a work. Because of this connection and investigative passion for each and every work they have accumulated, the Nieds still have every piece they have ever bought, making for an impressive and well-rounded collection.
Their history with the Cummer Museum has been a strong one, as their collecting career really set off upon their moving to Jacksonville and meeting former Cummer director, Robert Schlageter. Though they had collected various smaller pieces before their involvement with the museum, their collection grew exponentially after the fact. In 1981, they bought their first major painting from a Cummer Fundraiser, a landscape by Reynolds Beal. They then expanded their collection and their connections to the Cummer, frequenting events and fundraisers, eventually focusing their efforts on supporting local Jacksonville artists. With this, their personal connections to the pieces they acquired grew, as well as their level of community involvement. Mrs. Nied states, “I think it adds another dimension when you know the artist. You know their stories.”
Their interest and passion for the arts grew thereafter as Mr. Nied enrolled at Florida State College at Jacksonville and the University of North Florida upon retiring. There, he immersed himself into his artistic passion, studying both Art History and Art Processes. Mr. Nied stated, “I’m not good at art, but I enjoy it, I can see an image that I appreciate, and I can appreciate what the artist did to create it, and it adds to my enjoyment.” This passion for collecting and supporting the local arts community and understanding the value in supporting and collecting fine art is evident in many of the works exhibited in Collector’s Choice. Their painting by Reynold’s Beal entitled Matanzas River, St. Augustine, Florida (1919) captures the local culture in its vibrant use of color and landscape subject matter. The Impressionistic style lends itself to the Floridian scenery, characterizing the waterways and unique boats St. Augustine is known for.
The artistic culture of Jacksonville is something the Nieds have become a part of, woven into the creative fabric that makes Jacksonville the city that it is. The Nieds plan to leave works to the Cummer, as well as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville, and Florida State College at Jacksonville. “We’ve been fortunate,” says Mr. Nied. Mrs. Nied added, “It is really important to support the arts. If you want to live in a wonderful city, you have to have culture.” It is collectors like those featured that allow our culture to thrive, and our community to grow.
The exhibition Collectors’ Choice: Inside the Hearts and Minds of Regional Collectors will be on view from May 17th to September 14th, 2014.
For more information, please visit the Cummer’s website at http://www.cummer.org/