How did Matta’s Rain get here?

I have previously discussed how other objects have come to the museum, including: pottery sherds, cuneiform tablets, and a figurine of a woman baking bread. It is important to note that objects don’t just magically appear at the museum. The stories of how they come to us are an important part of our institutional history. Matta’s painting Rain is Associate Registrar Rachel Tassone’s favorite work in the collection. (Since she has been working with the permanent collection for 20 years, that is no minor compliment!)

The painting Rain was given to the museum in 1950 by James Thrall Soby. Soby (1906-1979) was an author, critic, connoisseur, collector and patron of the arts. You can read more about him on the Museum of Modern Art Archives website. He was very enthusiastic about Surrealism and wrote a variety of books on the subject. He attended Williams College as part of the Class of 1928, at the same time as Lane Faison (former director of Williams College Museum of Art and head of the art department from 1940 to 1969).

Here is a PDF of a letter from James Thrall Soby to Lane Faison when he was considering donating the Matta painting to the museum.

He also gave a few other works to the museum. If you visit our Online Collection and type in “James Thrall Soby” into the Quick Search box, you can view the other artworks.

Soby was also the executor of Kay Sage’s estate. Here is a PDF letter from Soby to Lane Faison describing that situation. The group of objects given from her estate include the painting Parce Que by Yves Tanguy, which is currently on view. You can view all the objects he facilitated in bringing here as executor of her estate by typing “Kay Sage” into the Quick Search box of our Online Collection.

Thanks to James Thrall Soby’s enthusiasm for Surrealism and passion for Williams College, Matta’s Rain has been published (see the bibliography here) and used in exhibitions many times since it was acquired in 1950. It has been greatly enjoyed by museum staff and visitors alike.


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