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The Art of Generosity

October 04, 2003

Businessman Edward W. Carter spent decades becoming an expert on art, philanthropy and civic leadership. In 1965, in a Times profile of Carter, writer and cultural critic Art Seidenbaum described him as the driving force behind the then-new Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "More than any of the men and women who poured money and time into the Hancock Park complex, Ed Carter made it happen," the profile said.

Carter negotiated the partnership with the county and led years of fund-raising for the institution. He persisted in his stewardship, crafting a proposal that ensured independent management of the museum. He was its founding president.

Carter supported higher education at UCLA, Occidental College, Stanford and Harvard. He aided the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the San Francisco Opera. He and his wife, Hannah, also built an art collection of masterworks from the golden age of Dutch painting, the 17th and 18th centuries.

"The Carter paintings," wrote John Walsh in the introduction to the catalog of the exhibit "A Mirror of Nature," at LACMA in 1981, "astonish by their quality and then, when one has seen them all, by the distinct taste they reveal. Few great collections of Dutch paintings have been so sharply focused: there are landscapes and seascapes, town views, still lives and church interiors by nearly all the major masters, and that is all."

More than two decades ago, the Carters promised full ownership of their collection of about 30 pieces to the museum. Ed died in 1996. Now 11 of the paintings have changed hands, a gift announced last week by Hannah Carter, who is in her late 80s. They are displayed, along with other Dutch paintings, in a permanent gallery paid for and named after the Carters. The gift is notable, but it is worth more in the context of the giving that went before.

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