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Ambassador George Crews and Cecilia DeGoyler McGhee Collection

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Ambassador George Crews and Cecilia DeGoyler McGhee Collection

The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art is grateful to Ambassador and Mrs. George Crews (Cecilia DeGolyer) McGhee of Middleburg, Virginia, for the recent gift of their collection of icons. With this gift, the McGhees continue the spirit of philanthropy begun by Mrs. McGhee's father, Everett Lee DeGolyer (1886-1956), whose 1949 donation of 129 rare books formed the core of the prestigious History of Science Collection of The University of Oklahoma Libraries.

"Icon" derives from the Greek word for "image" (eikon). Depicting holy persons or biblical scenes, icons are devotional paintings that serve in the Eastern Orthodox Church as visual aids for religious instruction and as objects of veneration. The production of icons, as much an exercise of faith as creativity, requires conformity to traditional guidelines on subject-matter, form, and composition. Icons are made for both the home and for inclusion in large altar screens (iconostases) in churches. The icons in the McGhee collection are from Greece, Russia, Romania, and Asia Minor and date from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

Ambassador McGhee graduated from The University of Oklahoma in 1933 and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. After a career in the petroleum industry, McGhee served the U.S. government in a number of prominent posts, including the Ambassadorship to the Federal Republic of Germany (1963-68). McGhee began collecting icons in the early 1950s during his tenure as U.S. Ambassador to Turkey.