Morton and Toby Mower, both doctors, love hearts and art. Their two passions come together this week during Rembrandt Art for Hearts, an exhibition benefiting the life saving mission of Starting Hearts.
Starting Hearts presents Rembrandt Art for Hearts today through Aug. 7 in the Grand View room in Lionshead. The exhibition features one of the world’s largest compilations of Rembrandt etchings from the Mowers’ private collection.
Festivities kick off tonight during the opening night collector’s reception. Wine, beer and appetizers from Vail Catering Concepts will be served. The Mowers will speak about their collection and docent tours take place at 5 and 6 p.m. Tickets are $100 and include wine, beer and food.
The exhibition continues daily through Aug. 7. General admission runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with $10 tickets. Art for Hearts After Dark runs from 5 to 7 p.m. nightly with $20 tickets that include a complimentary glass of wine or beer. All proceeds directly benefit Starting Hearts and its life saving mission, which is to save the lives of sudden cardiac arrest victims in Eagle County. The non-profit provides hundreds of free CPR trainings every year and is on a mission to install more automated external defibrillators (AEDs) throughout the community.
The couple started their Rembrandt collection in 1996, for no other reason than to fill some empty wall space in their new apartment, Toby said. Their art dealer recommended that they fill their walls with Rembrandts, and that’s how the collection was started.
The Mowers didn’t realize how special the collection was until a professor from John Hopkins University came over, took one look and was fascinated by the etchings. Morton thought there must be something interesting with the etchings, so he began reading up on the work.
“I started buying more pieces and then things got out of hand and I ended up with a big collection,” Morton said. “We now have so many. We have plenty that are rare and plenty that are common.”
At first, the collection wasn’t framed. They stored the extra pieces under the bed in the guest room. But over the years, the Mowers started loaning the collection for fundraisers and those organizations began framing them.
‘ETCHINGS LIKE PHOTOGRAPHY’
The Mowers now have more than 160 original Rembrandt etchings, all printed during Rembrandt’s lifetime and printed from early print pools. The early prints are the sharpest, the most beautiful and most important, Morton said. The Mowers concentrate on buying etchings from the early print pools and constantly upgrade their collection to get the best prints.
Out of the 160 etchings, the Mowers both have the same favorite piece: “Death of the Virgin.” Toby loves this piece because of the detail, while Morton loves it for its beauty and scientific background. Morton said Rembrandt depicted “Death of the Virgin” differently than the other artists of his time. Most of the other artists just had the apostles surrounding the death bed, but in Rembrandt’s version, he had the whole town there, including himself, trying to figure out how to save the virgin.
“The more you delve into his work, the more interesting they become,” Morton said. “I think they are all fascinating because they document what life was like in that era. His etchings were like the photography of the day. Some are very interesting in a scientific sense.”
Rembrandt was a master of using light and shadow, Morton said. Prior to Rembrandt, there were engravings that gave you black and white lines but no shading. But for the first time, Rembrandt was able to show motion with shadows, with people interacting and telling a story in his etchings.
Toby suggests viewing the details of the etchings and examining every little line.
“The detail of his work is absolutely phenomenal,” she said.
Morton is a cardiologist and the co-inventor of the automatic implantable cardioverter defibrillator. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2002 for the development of the automatic implantable cardioverter defibrillator with Michel Mirowski. Toby is a retired registered nurse with a master’s degree in clinical psychology. The Mowers have a home in Beaver Creek and are very involved with Starting Hearts, having discovered it a few years ago after reading about it in the Vail Daily. They learned that founder Lynn Blake was a recipient of Morton’s defibrillators. Blake, an Eagle County resident and sudden cardiac arrest survivor, attributes her survival to CPR and early defibrillation. Blake founded Starting Hearts in 2010 and has made it her personal mission to save more lives.
“We think Starting Hearts is a great organization,” Toby said. “They are trying hard to do the right thing, as far as saving lives.”
The Mowers hope Rembrandt Art for Hearts will bring awareness to Starting Hearts’ mission and raise money for more AED adoptions in preparation for 2015.
“We want to make the Vail Valley the place to be if you are going to have a cardiac arrest. Because there will be so many defibrillators scattered around town that you will be likely to survive,” Morton said. “In fact, if you are going to have a cardiac arrest in 2015, this is the place to be.”
Starting Hearts is an Eagle County nonprofit dedicated to saving the lives of sudden cardiac arrest victims in Eagle County. Meredith Richards is the director of marketing and development for Starting Hearts. Email comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.