American Collection

The American art collection at the museum is comprised of works that represent a wide variety of genres, media, and time periods. Important focuses within this collection include the work of early twentieth-century photographer Edward Steichen, including a rare landscape painting. American printmaker Jacob Lawrence is represented with a collection of prints that explore his interest in social justice and the experiences of African Americans throughout history. The collection also includes examples of nineteenth-century portraiture, printmaking and genre sculpture. A selection of works from this collection is on permanent view in the museum.

Other examples of American art are found in our regional Northwest Collection.

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Across the Valley of the Morin- Clouded Night

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) Across the Valley of the Morin- Clouded Night, 1910, Oil on canvas, 24.25" x 25.125"

Gift of Mark and Janeth Hogue Sponenburgh

  • Culture: North American / United States
  • Currently on view: Mark and Janeth Sponenburgh Gallery, Hallie Ford Museum of Art
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American Collection

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)

Steichen painted this moonlit view of the valley of the River Morin during his time in France. It is one of a series of nighttime landscapes the young artist created while exploring the expressive potential of both painting and photography. In a romantic tradition that extends back to Washington Allston's Moonlit Landscape (1819) and includes James A. M. Whistler's Nocturnes as well as Albert Pinkham Ryder's paintings, Steichen's gently illuminated Valley of the Morin evokes a mood of poetic reverie. As does his photograph Mary Learns to Walk, this painting features soft light, blurred contours, and rich tonalities. Mark and Janeth Sponenburgh, who donated these works to Willamette University, acquired them from the son of Arthur and Beatrice Robinson, early patrons of Steichen.

Billingsgate

James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) Billingsgate, 1859, Etching, 14.5" x 17"

Gift of Dan and Nancy Schneider

American Collection

James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)

Camp Fire or Making Friends with the Cook

John Rogers (1829-1904) Camp Fire or Making Friends with the Cook, c. 1862, Bronze, 11.75" x 10.5" x 7.0"

Gift of Dan and Nancy Schneider

  • Culture: North American / United States
  • Currently on view: Mark and Janeth Sponenburgh Gallery, Hallie Ford Museum of Art
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American Collection

John Rogers (1829-1904)

John Rogers was the most famous of a group of American sculptors who, during the Civil War and after, rejected Neoclassicism in favor of realistic depictions of typical American subjects. Known as "Rogers Groups," his small plaster or bronze figural ensembles showed American life in cheerful, positive terms, while often, as in this example, touching on such issues as the Civil War or relations among the races. Rogers's sculptures parallel American genre paintings of the era-works dealing with the activities of everyday people.

Carpenters

Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) Carpenters, 1977, Lithograph, 21.75" x 26"

Maribeth Collins Art Acquisition Fund

American Collection

Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000)

Colonel William Williams (1788-1850)

John Wesley Jarvis (1780-1840) Colonel William Williams (1788-1850), 1815, Oil on canvas, 30" x 25.125"

Gift of Mark and Janeth Hogue Sponenburgh

  • Culture: North American / United States
  • Currently on view: Mark and Janeth Sponenburgh Gallery, Hallie Ford Museum of Art
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American Collection

John Wesley Jarvis (1780-1840)

Jarvis was a prolific portraitist in New York state when Gilbert Stuart, John Vanderlyn, Samuel Morse (to whom this portrait has been attributed) and Jarvis himself were painting idealized likenesses during America's golden age of portraiture. Jarvis painted Williams in a simplified version of the Neoclassical style popularized by Jacques Louis David in France. Jarvis present Williams' head and upper body in a clear directly lighted manner against a neutral ground, depicting William, a Utica, NY, printer and editor, as "a very handsome man, faultless in his attire and whole make-up, hair in rich curls, hands, nails, and whole person immaculate," as a contemporary described him. Williams touches his red pen case, emblematic of his profession as an editor.

Douglass

Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) Douglass, 1999, Screenprint, 26.375" x 18"

Maribeth Collins Art Acquisition Fund

American Collection

Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000)

"Douglass" is a depiction of Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave who worked to fight slavery in the mid-1800's. He founded the first black newspaper, the North Star, in order to inform the black community as well as lobby business and the government.

Douglass

Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) Douglass, 1999, Screenprint, 26.375" x 18"

Maribeth Collins Art Acquisition Fund

American Collection

Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000)

Douglass" is a depiction of Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave who worked to fight slavery in the mid-1800's. He founded the first black newspaper, the North Star, in order to inform the black community as well as lobby business and the government.Looking at his poignant, powerful and compelling paintings we feel the whip, the heaviness of the load being pulled, the hunger of the children huddled in the dark corners and the barren fields, and we feel the presence of power. The presence of power in Jacob Lawrence's "Douglass" evokes perfectly the total foolishness of slavery. No other work more vividly portrays the ignorance of those who would enslave others than in the setting of Frederick Douglass, journalist, statesman, freedom fighter, and gentleman at work on his newspaper. What mindlessness could have sacrificed two hundred years of full participation with the business of human kind. What absence of humanity would force degradation and degeneration on a people in the interest of profit and then perpetuate its continuance on the basis of skin color. This fine representation of Douglass is a lightning rod.

Mary Learns to Walk

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) Mary Learns to Walk, 1906, Gum bichromate photograph, 16.25" x 12.5"

Gift of Mark and Janeth Sponenburgh

  • Culture: North American / United States
  • Currently on view: Mark and Janeth Sponenburgh Gallery, Hallie Ford Museum of Art
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American Collection

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)

A "pictorial" photograph, hand-manipulated during the printing process, this is one of a series Steichen made of his wife and daughter at Huntington, Long Island. This image, or a close variant, was published in Camera Work in 1913. Chijo Takeda, a Willamette University art major who studied this work, argues that it was Steichen's studio prototype from which he made copy photographs for exhibition. On this prototype, Steichen supplemented the image with handmade marks and abrasions to suggest highlights and "painterly" artistic passages. Certain areas are shaded with pencil, and these apparently also represent Steichen's working of the print as a unique, expressive original. He also signed and dated the picture in pencil. Takeda argues that this hand-worked prototype then became the subject of subsequent photographs, copies that were printed for exhibition. If this thesis is correct, the image before you is rare surviving evidence of Steichen's creative process.

Olympic Mountains, Washington

Frederick Ferdinand Schafer (1839-1927) Olympic Mountains, Washington, c. 1900, Oil on canvas, 20" x 36"

Mark Sponenburgh Purchase Fund

American Collection

Frederick Ferdinand Schafer (1839-1927)

Return from Toil

John Sloan (1871-1951) Return from Toil, 1915, Etching, 4.25" x 6"

Gift of Dan and Nancy Schneider

American Collection

John Sloan (1871-1951)

The Noon Recess

Winslow Homer (1836 - 1910) The Noon Recess, 1873, Wood engraving, 11" x 15.75"

Gift of Department of Art and Art History and the Elmer Edwin Young Art Fund

American Collection

Winslow Homer (1836 - 1910)

This print was published in Harper's Weekly on page 549, June 28, 1873. The poem on p. 550 of Harper's Weekly (verso of print) reads: The Noon Recess Yes, hide your little tear-stained face Behind that well-thumbed book, my boy; Your troubled thoughts are all intent Upon the game your mates enjoy, While you this recess hour must spend On study bench without a friend. Ah, well! There's one grand lesson yet O'er which your tears must e'en be shed; The problems of this changeful life Have puzzled many a wiser head Than yours may prove, my little man; So cling to sunshine while you can. Ah! Weary one, whose brain is filled With tiresome sounds the livelong day, E'en now your heart doth half incline To let the captive out to play; For yonder someone waits for you: Shall love, or duty, find you true?

Untitled

Larry Poons (b. 1937) Untitled, 1978, Acrylic on canvas, 92" x 26.75"

Maribeth Collins Art Acquisition Fund and gift of Dan and Nancy Schneider

  • Culture: North American / United States
  • Currently on view: Mark and Janeth Sponenburgh Gallery, Hallie Ford Museum of Art
  • See more artwork from this collection
American Collection

Larry Poons (b. 1937)

A major American modernist, Poons is best known for his abstract paintings of oval forms distributed on a color field. This painting is from a later "archaeological period" of his work, in which he explored the drip and splatter techniques of Jackson Pollock, carrying these Abstract Expressionist techniques to an extreme--building the paint surface to a thick, textured crust suggestive of hardened lava. He poured and flowed the pigments onto large unstretched canvases, then cut them into segments that became separate paintings such as this one.