Hailing from a successful Buffalo family whose many assets included lumber mills and railroads, A. (Anson) Conger Goodyear was elected to the Board of the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy in 1912, following in the footsteps of his father, Charles W. Goodyear. Over the course of 16 years, from 1912 to 1928, Goodyear supervised the daily operations of several national businesses at the same time he initiated, with his own money and occasional contributions from his family, a rapid-fire series of landmark exhibitions and acquisitions for the Albright Art Gallery.
Goodyear’s first encounter with modern sculpture took place in New York at the 1913 Armory Show. There, Constantin Brancusi’s Kiss, 1908, made a lasting impression on him, and sculpture became his passion. During his tenure as Board vice-president he produced, with assistance from Anna Glenny Dunbar (then the museum’s Honorary Curator of Sculpture), three monographic exhibitions: Exhibition of the Work of the Eminent Jugoslav Sculptor Ivan Meštrović, 1925; Sculpture by Antoine Bourdelle, 1926; and the Exhibition of Sculpture and Drawings by Aristide Maillol, 1925–1926, 1925–26. Goodyear was also instrumental in bringing the International Exhibition of Modern Art, organized by Katherine S. Dreier and Marcel Duchamp for the Société Anonyme, to the museum in 1927. On the exhibition’s final day in Buffalo, the museum purchased Brancusi’s Mademoiselle Pogany II, 1920, for its collection.
In 1926, Goodyear spearheaded the Fellows for Life Fund, which was designed as a cache of unrestricted dollars for the purchase of modern art. Capital for the Fund was secured through a group of patrons, each of whom donated $1,000 per year. In the first year, Goodyear mustered 42 individuals, including members of his own family and Seymour H. Knox, Jr., who had joined the Board the year before the Fund was established. Through the Fund, the museum acquired Pablo Picasso’s La toilette, 1906 (the fallout from which eventually resulted in Goodyear’s being voted off the Board); paintings by Paul Cézanne, Augustus John, and Berthe Morisot; and Auguste Rodin’s bronze sculpture Eve (après la faute) [Eve (After the Fall)], 1881 (cast executed 1913).
As early as 1926, Goodyear began to donate works from his own collection to the museum. Not surprisingly, his first gifts were sculptures by Antoine Bourdelle (in 1926), Frank Dobson (in 1928), and Aristide Maillol (in 1929). In 1939, after returning from New York, where he served as the first president of The Museum of Modern Art, Goodyear donated a suite of drawings by George Bellows, Salvador Dalí, Georg Kolbe, Maillol, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Jules Pascin, Charles Sheeler, and Eugene Speicher. Also in 1939, Goodyear was elected an Honorary Member of the museum’s Board and wrote the foreword for the inaugural exhibition catalogue for The Room of Contemporary Art, which he helped found. In 1940, he gave his first gift of paintings, including Maurice Sterne’s Bali Boy, 1913, and Camille Pissarro’s Paysans dans les champs, Éragny (Peasants in the Fields, Éragny), 1890, and in 1954, he gifted 49 works, the majority of which were drawings.
Goodyear’s generosity continued unabated until his death in 1964, by which time he had donated nearly 300 artworks to the museum. He also bequeathed many important works, including Giacomo Balla’s Dinamismo di un cane al guinzaglio (Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash), 1912; Dalí’s The Transparent Simulacrum of the Feigned Image, 1938; and Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with Monkey, 1938. Shortly before his death, the museum established the A. Conger Goodyear Fund for the acquisition of new artwork, greatly enhancing its ability to grow its collection in the years to come.