During its annual Member’s meeting last week the Delaware Art Museum announced that it acquired 61 works of art by 37 artists over the last 18 months. New acquisitions include five costume studies by Howard Pyle for the play Springtime, an embroidered tunic and matching shoes by Pre-Raphaelite artist Marie Spartali Stillman, a large-scale painting by painter Peter Williams, and two sculptures for the Copeland Sculpture Garden. The works date from 1856 through 2016 and include photographs, paintings, prints, drawings, illustrations, sculptures, and decorative arts.
“The Museum is also focused on diversifying the collection by adding work by more women artists and artists of color and continuing support of local artists. Since the start of 2016 the Museum has acquired 21 works by 16 women,” explains Museum’s Chief Curator and Curator of American Art Dr. Heather Campbell Coyle.
The gift of Marie Spartali Stillman’s tunic and shoes was the result of the Museum’s 2016 groundbreaking exhibition, Poetry in Beauty: The Pre-Raphaelite Art of Marie Spartali Stillman, organized by Dr. Margaretta Frederick, the Annette Woolard-Provine Curator of the Bancroft Collection at the Delaware Art Museum, adding to the Museum’s collection of British Pre-Raphaelite art. “Marie Spartali Stillman has received little recognition within the history of art for a number of reasons, including persistent attitudes towards women artists during that time,” explains Frederick.
Similarly, acquisitions of work by women artists Helen Farr Sloan and Elizabeth Osborne came out of the Museum’s recent exhibitions featuring the artists. The Sloan sketchbook, donated by the artist’s longtime friend Paul Preston Davis, was included in the Museum’s 2015 show, and Osborne’s painting, Black Doorway I from 1966,is now on view in the Lynn Herrick Sharp Gallery for contemporary art.
In addition to the works by female artists Stillman, Sloan, and Osborne, the Museum acquired a pastel by Gretchen Moyer, three illustrations by Clara D. Davidson, and a self-portrait by American impressionist Lilla Cabot Perry–the first works by these artists to enter the collection. An embroidered book by Annie Morris and a stunning exhibition watercolor by Barbara Bodichon have already made appearances in the Pre-Raphaelite galleries. In addition, the Museum added to its holdings of work by local artist Margo Allman, a longtime exhibitor (Allman’s work was first purchased by the Museum in 1963).
On view in the second floor gallery for contemporary art is a major painting acquisition by University of Delaware Professor Peter Williams. Smile was completed during Peter’s summer 2016 residency at the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans. The Museum’s Curator of Contemporary Art, Margaret Winslow, introduces the painting: “The work references New Orleans, its history, colors, and architecture and the 1811 slave rebellion–one of the largest in United States history–that took place in the city. Williams presents these references in a stage-like composition with the figures connected by structures informed by minimalism and pattern and decoration painting of the 1970s.” A cast of regularly occurring characters, such as his superhero “The N-Word,” populate his geometric, pop-art landscapes and comment on race relations today.