Friday, June 10, 2016

New Gifts and Purchases at Tacoma Art Museum

Published in the Weekly Volcano, June 9, 2016
A Canyon River with Pines and Figures (Yellowstone),” circa 1886. Oil on canvas, Grafton Tyler Brown, courtesy Tacoma Art Museum, museum purchase with funds from the Art Acquisition Fund and the Black Collective.
As an art critic and lifelong student of art, I must confess that my education is sorely lacking in certain areas — 19th and 20th century Western art being a prime example. I don’t mean Western as opposed to Asian or Egyptian or African; I mean American cowboy art and grandiose landscapes depicting the majesty of the Western scene. This means that I don’t know Grafton Tyler Brown from Grandma Moses, but apparently he’s a big deal among aficionados of Western art, and Tacoma Art Museum has recently purchased a “significant, rare landscape painting” by Brown. It is a large (five-foot wide) landscape of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone titled “A Canyon River with Pines and Figures (Yellowstone),” painted in 1886 while living in Portland. It is now on display in TAM’s Liliane and Christian Haub Gallery.
According to TAM, his works are highly sought by museums. They can be found in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Oakland Museum of California, and Tacoma’s own Washington State History Museum, which has a Brown painting of Mt. Tahoma, a.k.a., Rainier. The first retrospective exhibition of his work, Grafton Tyler Brown: Visualizing California and the Pacific Northwest, was presented by the California African American Museum, Los Angeles in 2003. It traveled to Baltimore, San Francisco, and the Washington State History Museum.
Brown was the first African-American artist to paint landscapes of the Pacific Northwest and California. The scenes he paints are calm and reverential.
“A Canyon River with Pines and Figures (Yellowstone),” pictures the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone with pine forests in the foreground, rugged sunlit rock walls leading the eye into the distance, and the Yellowstone River winding through the canyon.
“We are delighted to acquire Brown’s stunning landscape painting. This is our first significant purchase to complement the Haub Family Collection of Western American Art since the opening of the Haub Family Galleries in November, 2014. We are grateful for the community support that made it possible to acquire this exceptional museum-quality work,” said TAM Executive Director Stephanie Stebich. “This painting beautifully links TAM’s focus on the art of the Northwest with the art of the broader Western region. It helps us to tell a more complete story of Northwestern art and artists.”
“Grafton Tyler Brown has long been on TAM’s curatorial wish list, but his works have been rather scarce on the market until recently,” said Margaret Bullock, curator of collections and special exhibitions. “This is a lucky confluence of both the chance to acquire an evocative major work by this artist and having the funds to make it possible.” The Tacoma Pierce County Black Collective and the museum’s Art Acquisition Fund supported the purchase.
Brown’s painting is not the only new addition to the museum’s collection. Twenty additional gifts of Northwest art have also been added, including four mural studies by Kenneth Callahan; a pastel, charcoal and dry pigment work by Norman Lundin, professor emeritus at University of Washington; Robert Helms 1990 oil on panel “Bone Yard”; a selection of 13 works on paper including watercolors and prints by Alexander Phimister Proctor; and William Morris’s 1992 “Lace Urn,” a blown glass vessel in a metal stand. A selection of these works will be rotated into the exhibition What’s New at TAM? Recent Gifts to the Collection and will be on view through September 18.  

Tacoma Art Museum, Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., $12-$14, 1701 Pacific Ave. Tacoma,

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