In the Harris Gallery, Floor 1
Betty Ann Besch Solinger (1930–2022) wrote of her late husband, “David lived a full ninety years and never stopped being thrilled by seeing a work of art he thought was beautiful. He believed profoundly that art was its own reward and had little regard for those who used it for self-embellishment.”
David M. Solinger (1906–1996) served in the US Army during World War II and built a law practice with a specialty in advertising and media law. After taking up painting as a hobby, he began a prodigious art collection and developed friendships with artists of his time, some of whom were also his clients.
In 1956 he became the first president of the Whitney Museum of American Art outside of the Whitney family, and he was a leading figure in their transition from a family museum to an international institution.
“David-the-collector was self-made, not born,” wrote Betty Ann. “He didn’t grow up with art on the walls, and when he went off to Cornell in the twenties, there was only one art course in the curriculum, on Greek sculpture, which he was quick to take.”
A member of the Cornell Class of 1926, Solinger was a founding member of the Johnson Museum Advisory Council and served as its chair from 1974 to 1988. As chair, he helped to secure the gift of Alberto Giacometti’s L’homme qui marche II (Walking Man II) for the Johnson Museum’s collection. Joanne Diotte (1900–1985) married Percy Uris in 1935. Percy, his brother Harold D. Uris (Class of 1925 and Trustee emeritus), and their wives were among Cornell’s first 185 foremost benefactors, their names inscribed on the terrace of Uris Library.
This special installation presents the nine works by Jean Arp, Alexander Calder, Joseph Cornell, Jean Dubuffet, Hans Hofmann, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Robert Motherwell that have become part of the Johnson Museum’s permanent collection through the bequest of David and Betty Ann Solinger. The gallery also contains examples drawn from David’s earliest gifts to Cornell, made in the 1950s with his first wife, Hope Gimbel Solinger, and several others from among the hundreds acquired over many decades with funds from the endowment established in David’s name.