[Ruth B. Benedict], a Washington physician and art patron, lunched nearly every Wednesday for 18 years with [Andrew Robison], senior curator of the National Gallery of Art, to discuss - and argue about - life and art, especially art. Topic A was Robison's stewardship of the gallery's great collection of prints and drawings. Topic B was the exquisite collection of prints and drawings that Benedict spent much of her life assembling. Robison recalls those lunches as fifteen hundred of the best hours of his life.
Benedict, born in Germany on the eve of World War I, came to the United States with her family as a young girl. She grew up in New York City, graduated from Wellesley and took her medical degree from New York University. Benedict moved to Washington at the beginning of World War II and worked as an internist with the Group Health Association before going into private practice for nearly half a century.
While her taste was catholic, Benedict had a particular fondness for night scenes, among the most difficult subjects of works on paper. She organized a 1983 exhibition of nightworks at the gallery, and her bequest includes a number of them, including an example of a 1658 Rembrandt print that was long believed to show a nude woman cooling her heels in a stream. Benedict's much clearer impression proves it to be a woman washing her feet in her bedchamber.
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