The George A. Lucas Collection is a Baltimore Treasure. George Lucas was born in Baltimore in 1824, the son on Fielding Lucas Jr. who is one of the founders of the Maryland Institute College of Art. At the age of 30 George A. Lucas abandoned a life as a civil worker to settle in Paris, never to return to the United States. The year was 1857.
George Lucas met, socialized with, and, in turn, collected from such artists in Paris at the time as Mary Cassatt and James Abbott McNeil Whistler, themselves expatriates from the United States. The relationship between Mary Cassatt and George Lucas was a great example of the artist and patron. In her inscriptions you can see her gratefulness to Mr. Lucas for buying her work and, in turn, supporting her lifestyle in Paris.
The collection of her work that he created is substantial and iconic, mostly depicting her favorite subject: Mother and Child. We also see some Parisian women. Lucas collected many different prints of the same image on different papers with different wipings and colors.
James Abbott McNeil Whistler and George Lucas had an extremely close friendship. Not only did Lucas collect Whistler’s work, but he also commissioned work by the artist. Lucas had a studio added to the side of his house for Whistler to inhabit and work in while creating a commissioned portrait.
George Lucas dies in Paris in 1909. He leaves his gigantic collection in the hands of Henry Walters to give to the Maryland Institute College of Art for learning purposes of the students. MICA did not have the proper facilities to archive and protect the collection, however, and the collection was loaned to the BMA in 1934. Rumors say that at MICA the collection could be found in every available storage space and prints were even used to block light from the windows.
In 1996 the BMA was able to purchase the entire collection from MICA, with one exception. In 1965, MICA sold approximately 300 duplicate prints from the collection to a local collector for $1,550, which averages at $5.15 per print. Aside from that, the collection remains intact and one of Baltimore’s greatest artistic treasures. The collection can be visited by appointment with the Prints and Drawings Collection at the BMA.