Recent Acquisitions: 2018

The Lunder Collection

A number of notable works entered the Lunder Collection in 2018. Among these was Jackson Pollock’s Composition with Masked Forms (1941), a frenetic painting of encircling masked forms consuming one another. A joint gift and purchase for the Lunder Collection, the painting exemplifies a transitional period in Pollock’s career as he moved from surrealism into the pure abstraction and drip-painting style for which he is now celebrated. Claire Falkenstein also explored the language of abstraction in her sculpture Sun (1954–60). Interlacing copper wire and rods, Falkenstein was able to create a “linear drawing in space,” as she described it. Sun is equally dense and expansive and seems to float in the air. Explosive in appearance, it is an evocative solar representation, one quite fitting for the postwar age of atom bombs and space exploration.

The Lunder Collection acquired several artworks that engage with issues of race, gender, and sexuality over the past year, including David Driskell’s painting Soul X (1968). A painter, printmaker, sculptor, scholar, and curator, Driskell was not primarily an artist who made overtly political art. He responded to the turbulent year of 1968, however, with a number of politically engaged works. Soul X reflects on African American identity in the United States at a volatile and uncertain time. Ghada Amer’s embroidered painting HEND (2017) also joined the Lunder Collection this past year. Amer, an Egyptian artist working in the United States, uses embroidery as a drawing tool on canvas. In HEND she appropriates an eroticized image of a woman and uses the traditional feminine artistic medium of embroidery to reinvest the image with agency. Her practice asks critical questions about the gendered nature of art history, painting, and visual culture today.

Arthur Wesley Dow’s painting Hillside Pool (1900) complements over 350 prints by the artist already in the collection.  A view of a pond outside of Ipswich, Massachusetts—the landscape that inspired much of his work—the painting exemplifies Dow’s principles of design, composition, and use of color that he would further define in his influential pedagogical practice. Joining Dow’s painting in the collection are Abbott Handerson Thayer’s Portrait of Bessie Price (1897) and Henry Farny’s Marauders Fording a Stream (1906). The two paintings add depth to the Lunder Collection’s holdings of art related to the Gilded Age and the American West respectively.

Printmaking continued to be an area of growth for the Lunder Collection in 2018 with the addition of works by George Bellows, Utagawa Hiroshige, Katsushika Hokusai, Wenceslaus Hollar, and James McNeill Whistler. Hiroshige’s Minowa, Kanasugi, Mikawashima (1857) from his series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, and Hokusai’s illustrated books One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji (1834–49) and Manga (1814–78) join a deepening collection of Japanese prints. Although his images of Mount Fuji are his most well-known works today, Hokusai’s Manga (Sketchbooks) were the best-selling books of their time. Intended as artists’ manuals, fifteen volumes of Hokusai’s sketches were published between 1814 and 1878. They had an enormous impact on Japanese and European American artists alike, serving as a resource for subject matter and composition. Hollar, a printmaker born in Prague known for his panoramic views of seventeenth-century London, etched A Dark Fur Double Muff (1642) for a book featuring women’s fashion in England. Two prints by Whistler, Rag Pickers, Quartier Mouffetard, Paris (1858) and The Priest’s House, Rouen (1894-95), both rare impressions, and Design for a Fan (c. 1870) were acquired for the Whistler collection. Not only a painter and a printmaker, Whistler was also a designer and the fan is the first of its kind to enter the Lunder Collection.

Museum Purchases

The Colby Museum’s purchases are guided by commitments to deepening relationships with living artists, redressing absences in the collection, advancing more inclusive narratives, and supporting teaching. Many of these recent acquisitions emerged from or honored the Museum’s existing connections with artists working at the top of their fields, particularly when their primary medium represented an established growth priority. New media is one such area. A faculty member at the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture in 2014, the Mexico City-based artist Yoshua Okón was already familiar with Colby prior to his exhibition here. In February, the Museum opened Oracle, a two-channel video installation focused on the performances of ideologies on all sides of the immigration debate. To acknowledge the work’s impact on teaching across the curriculum, the Museum invited Okón to visit as the Miles and Katharine Culbertson Prentice Distinguished Lecturer, and subsequently procured Oracle.

Another major purchase followed the long-term loan of a painting by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. When the Hood Museum at Dartmouth College closed its doors for a multiyear renovation in 2016, Colby borrowed several paintings to round out the permanent collection galleries, with Quick-to-See Smith’s The Rancher (2002) among them. The artist is an enrolled member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Indian Nation of Montana, and her visual language incorporates allusions to historical representations of indigenous people, references to reservation life, and citations from mainstream popular culture. After demonstrating the transformative impact of this loan in the Sally and Michael Gordon Gallery, the Museum identified the 1996 painting Flathead Vest (I See Red) as a strategic acquisition. Once it went on view, Quick-to-See Smith came to campus to deliver the Miles and Katharine Culbertson Prentice Distinguished Lecture in October.

As part of this ongoing effort to present a fuller expression of aesthetic impulses from across the globe, the Museum enlisted the generous support of a consortium of donors to purchase ain’t No Mo cotton, a 2017 canvas by the Los Angeles artist Henry Taylor. Taylor visited Colby during his tenure as a Skowhegan faculty member last summer, and this superlative example of contemporary figuration points to the renewed relevance of the genre. Hombre con nariz puntiaguda (Man with Pointed Nose), a 1939 portrait by Spanish Uruguayan artist Joaquín Torres-García, introduces another strain of modernism into the lower galleries of the AlfondLunder Family Pavilion. Likewise, Grafton Tyler Brown’s Yellowstone Falls (1891) interjects the perspective of a self-taught African American artist into galleries dedicated to representations of the American West.

Works on Paper

The acquisition of three ledger drawings—two as museum purchases and one as a gift from Donald Ellis—coincided with the reinstallation of a Lunder Wing gallery dedicated to the American West. One of these works, a double-sided example attributed to Bear’s Heart (Cheyenne), dates to 1875–78 and depicts a train approaching a town en route to Fort Marion, the Florida prison that held seventy-two Native American prisoners from the so-called Red River War, a military campaign launched by the United States Army in 1874 to remove the Comanche, Kiowa, Southern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes from the Southern Plains. On the reverse is a drawing divided horizontally by a gentle undulating line that ingeniously functions to represent rolling hills and two views of a Cheyenne encampment.

The collectors Auldlyn Higgins Williams and E. T. Williams Jr. facilitated the acquisition of the Hale Woodruff portfolio Selections from the Atlanta Period, 1931–46. Published in 1996 by the legendary Printmaking Workshop founded by Robert Blackburn, the portfolio consists of eight linocuts. Woodruff initiated the series in 1931, the year he began teaching at Atlanta University, and added to it until 1946. Encompassing images of violence, poverty, beauty, and political resistance, the series addresses the African American struggle against white oppression, treating this difficult subject, as Woodruff remarked in 1942, “as a field, as a territory.” The muscular rhythm of these works is comparable to that of the artist’s career-defining Amistad murals for the Savery Library at Talladega College in Alabama of 1939–40.

Works by twenty-one American, French, Russian, and British photographers constitute the more than 150 photographs that entered the Colby collection in 2018. The earliest in this group are two extraordinary mid-nineteenth-century views of Paris by Édouard-Denis Baldus, one of which features the grimy yet still imposing facade of St-Germain-l’Auxerrois, the former parish church of the Louvre Palace, which became a museum in 1793. The modern city as a site of ongoing transformation figures as well in works by the twentieth-century photographers Karl Struss, Dmitry Baltermants, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Mark Citret, Nathan Lerner, and Danny Lyon. Other works by Lyon, a pioneer of the immersive photo essay, focus on the brutality of Texas prisons in the late 1960s, a series chillingly entitled Conversations with the Dead, and the scrappy cultural economy of 1980s racetracks in The Pitts. Works by the inimitable Diane Arbus mine social contexts and signifiers of class, while two-person portraits by Mike Disfarmer forthrightly register familial connections and the awkward staging of photo studio intimacy. In a category all its own is an untitled artwork from 2017 by Claudio Parmiggiani, a gift of the Alex Katz Foundation. Working in a sealed-off room, Parmiggiani arranged vase-like forms on a group of boards and then filled the room with smoke, an operation that left behind ghostly silhouettes evocative of the photogram, a photographic technique in which objects are placed on photo-sensitized paper and exposed to light.

PLEASE NOTE: Not all works in the Colby Museum collection are on view at any given time. If you have a question about works on view, please call 207-859-5600 prior to visiting.