CONNECT
NEWS FROM CONNECTICUT COLLEGE April 2014

The Met exhibits Japanese art collection of Betsy Feinberg ’66


04/2/2014
 Betsy Feinberg '66 and her husband Robert have collected more than 300 pieces of modern Japanese art over the past 40 years, building one of the premiere collections from the period outside of Japan. Photo by Keith Weller.

Betsy Feinberg '66 and her husband Robert have collected more than 300 pieces of modern Japanese art over the past 40 years, building one of the premiere collections from the period outside of Japan. Photo by Keith Weller.

Two dollars doesn’t go as far as it used to — ask any coffee drinker.

In the 1970s, however, you could get a much better return on such a small investment. Just ask Betsy Greenberg Feinberg ’66 and her husband, Robert.

A $2 poster of a 16th century Japanese screen that the couple purchased at the Metropolitan Museum of Art decades ago was the inspiration for a collection of historic art that is currently on exhibition at that same New York museum. The exhibition, “The Flowering of Edo Period Painting: Japanese Masterworks from the Feinberg Collection,” has been on display since February and will run until Sunday, September 7.

The Feinberg Collection is considered by the museum to be “one of the premiere private collections of Japanese painting from the Edo period (1615-1868) outside Japan.” The exhibition includes 93 sets of scroll paintings and folding screens from the period in Japanese history when modern Japanese art was being formed. This pivotal time in Japan’s history included the transformation of the small fishing village of Edo into modern Tokyo, one of the largest cities in the world.

The exhibition at the Metropolitan brings the collection full circle, back to the museum in which the couple first bought their $2 poster. Shortly after that acquisition in 1972, Betsy’s sister Amy Greenberg Poster ’68, who was then the assistant curator of Japanese art at the Brooklyn Museum, arranged for the Feinbergs to visit a Manhattan art dealer.

At the time, art from this period in Japanese history was undervalued in both Japan and the west, and the Feinbergs were able to discover and purchase works of excellent quality. This led, unexpectedly, to the formation of a broad collection of paintings and screens over the past 40 years.

The collection now includes hundreds of paintings and screens, a selection of which toured Tokyo, Kyoto and Tottori City in Japan in 2013 and returned for exhibition at the Metropolitan early this year. The couple’s full collection of more than 300 paintings, sets of paintings and pairs of screens will ultimately be gifted to the Harvard University Museum in Cambridge, Mass. (Robert Feinberg is a 1961 graduate of Harvard.)

Betsy, who majored in history and went on to earn a master's in special education from Hunter College, is a former itinerant public school teacher of children who were blind and visually impaired in Montgomery County, Md. She currently volunteers with several organizations serving people of all ages with visual impairments. The couple resides near Washington, D.C.