We grow and evolve the collection in response to global cultural shifts, changing curriculum and student body, and evolving artistic and museum practices.
All of our collection data is available on GitHub. Students, faculty, researchers, artists, and others can download metadata and thumbnail images for the entire collection. These open-access resources provide a real-world data set for teaching statistics, computer science, and data visualization. They transform the collection into an object of study in its own right, a primary source for projects in digital humanities.
The WALLS (Williams Art Loan for Living Spaces) collection is designed by students, for students. Its 120 works of art leave the museum each semester to take up residence in student dorm rooms.
In 2007, Red Rock Studio, Hong Kong gifted twenty-seven artworks dating from the later twentieth century to 2004. The group represents a range of styles, featuring artists who created these works during a time of extraordinary cultural transformation in China.
With the largest collection in the world of works by the brothers Charles and Maurice Prendergast, we are a primary center for the study of these American artists in a transatlantic context of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
In February 2018 WCMA debuted Situation VI–Pisces 4, c. 1972 by renowned artist Sam Gilliam (b. 1933). For over sixty years, Gilliam’s meticulous attention to line, color, and material has allowed him to dispense with traditional understandings of painting, sculpture, and performance to test the very limits of form. Situation VI–Pisces 4 is a signature drape work of gigantic scale. It’s painted with synthetic polymer paint on polypropylene fabric, which settles into a pleated arrangement of folded material. With no specific instruction for installation, each time the work is displayed is like a unique, site-specific performance. Gilliam earned a place in art history when he deliberately draped canvases, creating fluid, sculptural objects out of two-dimensional paintings. In spring 2018 Sam Gilliam In Dialogue, curated by WCMA Assistant Curator, Horace Ballard, will place the Gilliam in conversation with other works from the collection.
We began our strong tradition to collect public art in 1965. Since then, the Class of 1961 established a fund in 2010 to continue our commitment to acquire and display sculptures and installations across campus, including a 30-foot work by George Rickey. The campus is also home to commissions by Jenny Holzer and Louise Bourgeois.
When this painting by Joshua Reynolds was sent to the Williamstown Conservation Center for treatment the extent of the thickness of toned varnish that had been applied during a past restoration was not known. The conservator described that it was like “scooping into a layer of mayonnaise.” Removing the surface coating revealed bare canvas with no ground layer. It is the opinion of the conservator that the painting was originally an unfinished portrait.
Portrait of Master Henry Vansittart was executed in September of 1767 and owned by the family until at least 1899. It was last known to have belonged to Captain Robert Arnold Vansittart. At some point, probably shortly before the First World War when many British families were experiencing difficult financial times, it came into the ownership of Asher Wertheimer Galleries, Bond Street, London. It is possible, but not certain, that the restoration happened during this period. From there the painting was sold to Charles Davenport, Williams Class of 1901, who bequeathed it to WCMA in 1943.
This group was assembled to explore connections between our portraiture holdings and the important parallel tradition of miniatures.