The Sunnylands Collection
The Annenbergs left all but their Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painting collection at Sunnylands so visitors can enjoy the full-range of artworks originally installed at the historic house. Among the fine art on view are works by Yaacov Agam, Harry Bertoia, Jean Arp, Emile Gilioli, Pablo Picasso, Jacques Villon, Andrew Wyeth, Romare Bearden, and Jean Fautrier. The Sunnylands Collection also includes important works of Chinese porcelain, Meissen vases, Chinese cloisonné objects and furniture, Tang Dynasty funerary sculpture, Flora Danica china, Steuben glass, and English silver-gilt objects.
Visitors interested in interior design and the decorative arts will experience rooms designed by the celebrated William Haines. Haines worked closely with the Annenbergs to create beautiful interiors featuring custom-made furnishings and carefully chosen objects of art.
A Monumental Gift of Art
The Annenberg Collection is one of the most important collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings in the world. It began with Walter and Leonore Annenberg's first art purchases in the 1950s: Vincent van Gogh's Olive Trees and Claude Monet's The Stroller. From the mid-1970s on, the Annenbergs used their Sunnylands home to showcase their growing collection. Paintings by Renoir, Degas, Monet, Gauguin, and van Gogh hung at Sunnylands and formed the foundation of the Annenberg Collection.
Walter and Leonore Annenberg donated the art collection, valued at more than $1 billion, to New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art. One of the single largest gifts to any museum, it now anchors the Met's 19th-century European collection.
Today, digitally-produced copies of the masterpieces adorn the walls of the historic house just as they did when Leonore Annenberg displayed them after the originals went to the Met. She worked closely with the Met to ensure that the reproductions were as close to the originals as possible. This project also is in keeping with Walter Annenberg's ideology: He once displayed a poster of van Gogh's Sunflowers in his office, stating that if he couldn't have the real thing, he still wanted to be close to it.
"We set out to get things that we genuinely loved and respected and wanted to live with." –Walter Annenberg
Among the paintings that hung at Sunnylands were Renoir's The Daughters of Catulle Mendès and the sensuous Reclining Nude; Cezanne's Seated Peasant; Monet's Camille Monet on a Garden Bench; and Picasso's At the Lapin Agile (Harlequin With a Glass).
Landscape architect James Burnett used Olive Trees by Vincent van Gogh as visual inspiration for the gardens at the new Sunnylands Center.
The Sunnylands Book Collection
The Annenbergs were avid collectors of books, owning more than 3,400 volumes. Like their art collection, their books reflected their personalities and relationships. More than a third of the books feature a signature and/or personal inscriptions to the Annenbergs by presidents, prime ministers, politicians, royalty, celebrities, historians, business leaders, authors, family, and friends. The book topics range from artists, paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts, to journalism, political science, history, and social sciences. The collection will be available for academic research purposes.
The Sunnylands Correspondence Collection
The Annenbergs kept up their relationships and friendships and nurtured them through beautifully written letters. The Sunnylands collection of correspondence features letters and cards from Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, Kennedy, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush, and their families. In addition, the Annenbergs stayed in close contact with members of the British royal family, evidenced by an impressive amount of sentiment-filled correspondence. Colin Powell, Kirk Douglas, and Princess Grace of Monaco, to name but a few, round out this very special and personal collection. The collection will be available for academic research purposes.