Billionaire publisher Richard Mellon Scaife leaves art collection to 2 US museums

The Associated Press
July 15, 2014 08:47 AM

PITTSBURGH, Pa. - Billionaire publisher Richard Mellon Scaife, who two weeks before his death wrote about the importance of art and supporting American museums, left his own extensive art collection to two Pennsylvania museums on either side of the state.

His will directs that the collection be split between the Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art near Philadelphia and the Westmoreland Museum of American Art outside Pittsburgh. He also left Brandywine a conservancy built on the grounds of his childhood home in western Pennsylvania and $15 million for its management.

Scaife was an heir to the Mellon banking and oil fortune and owner of Trib Total Media, which includes the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and five other daily newspapers. He died July 4 at the age of 82.

Attorney H. Yale Gutnick, who represents the estate, described the art collection as expansive but said he could not estimate the value.

Most of the works are by American artists. Scaife had written that he loved 19th- and 20th-century American landscapes but did not care for most French or modern art, though he had acquired some of each.

Scaife announced in a column May 18 that he had an untreatable form of cancer.

In June, he wrote a column about his love of art. "Art of all kinds is one of the greatest joys, great treasures and most worthwhile philanthropies of my life and my family's," he wrote.

Bemoaning that arts usually suffer when schools, museums and cities fall on hard times, he wrote: "As I near the end of my life, I hope many others continue to support America's museums, artists and art programs so future generations can enjoy and benefit from them."

His will allows the two Pennsylvania museums to decide how to divide the collection. But it directs that the Westmoreland museum receive at least eight paintings by John Kane, an artist who lived most of his life in western Pennsylvania and whose works depicted Pittsburgh during the industrial boom.

"I had no idea what was going to happen with the art collection. I'm kind of overwhelmed right now," Judith O'Toole, chief executive of the Westmoreland museum, told the Tribune-Review when informed of the bequest.

Scaife spent part of his childhood at Penguin Court in the western Pennsylvania town of Ligonier; the estate was named for penguins that once roamed the grounds. The 50-room home on the site was razed in the 1960s and the land was turned into a conservancy, where he grew flowers year-round in a greenhouse.

"That he has chosen to leave the conservancy a property containing acres of mature forest reflects his belief in the importance of our mission," Virginia Logan, executive director of Brandywine, where Scaife had been a donor and trustee, told the Tribune-Review.

His will did not specify any individuals as benefactors. The will directs that assets he inherited from his parents be divided between two foundations, and that the rest of the estate go to a revocable trust. No value was given. His survivors include a daughter and a son.

Scaife's great-uncle, Andrew Mellon, donated a $40 million art collection and millions to create Washington's National Gallery of Art.

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