Full Circle: The Irene Leache Memorial Gift
In the late 19th century, Irene Leache and Anna Wood moved to rough-and-tumble Norfolk and inspired the arts through the establishment of discussion clubs, art shows, music recitals and other intellectual offerings.
In the 20th century, Anna Wood established the Irene Leache Memorial (ILM) in honor of her dear friend, just a few months after Leache died in Norfolk in 1900. That organization would become the origin of the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences, now the Chrysler Museum of Art.
In the 21st century, the legacy of Irene Leache and Anna Wood continues to flourish throughout the Chrysler's galleries. In an extraordinary gesture, the ILM generously gifted its invaluable art collection to the Museum in April 2014. The Memorial also donated a large sum of money that now endows the Irene Leache Curator of European Art.
"Our gift of the art and curatorial endowment fulfilled the founding vision of Annie Wood to create an art collection – and a museum in which to house it – in memory of Irene Leache. We were very pleased that this core collection finally became a permanent part of the museum and it is our hope that future generations will be inspired by the legacy of these remarkable women to foster the arts in our community," said Vickie Bilisoly, ILM president.
Many of the 27 artworks in the ILM's gift, which date from the 14th to the 19th centuries, have been displayed in the Museum since its opening in the ‘30s. The gift contained mainly Medieval and Renaissance art, which further enriched the Chrysler's heritage of important European paintings and sculpture. It is worth noting that it would be difficult and costly to obtain those works today. The gift also included decorative items and resource materials now archived at the Jean Outland Chrysler Library on Old Dominion University's campus. The ILM board of directors, as well as the Chrysler's trustees, all voted unanimously in favor of the gift to the Museum.
Former Irene Leache Curator of European Art, Jeff Harrison, who retired from the Museum in May 2015, viewed the ILM's gift as invaluable to the Chrysler's collection.
"Their early acquisitions of paintings by Nadda Ceccarelli, Francesco Botticini, and Cornelis van Cleve, among others, have proven to be shrewd and invaluable additions that any museum would love to have," Harrison said while discussing the importance of the ILM's collection. "Were it not for their distinguished sculptures of the Madonna, the Archangel Michael, and Saints Peter, Mark, and Margaret, the Chrysler would have virtually nothing in that medium to display in our galleries for those critical centuries," he added.
Several works of art gifted by the ILM are currently on display.