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It is constantly activated to tell new stories, reconsider narratives, and spark intellectual and creative exploration.

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Collection Highlights

Featured Acquisitions

Melvin Edwards (American, b. 1937), Chaino, 1964. Welded steel and chains, 62 x 102 x 26 in. Museum purchase, Karl E. Weston Memorial Fund, M.2015.10

We grow and evolve the collection in response to global cultural shifts, changing curriculum and student body, and evolving artistic and museum practices.

Pocket-Sized Portrayals

This group was assembled to explore connections between our portraiture holdings and the important parallel tradition of miniatures.

WALLS

Installation of WALLS, spring 2017

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.

Modern & Contemporary Chinese Art

Wei Dong (Chinese, b. 1968), Kite Flying, 1995. Ink and color on paper, 26 3/4 x 53 9/16 in. Gift of Red Rock Studio, Hong Kong, A Williams Alumnus M.2007.20.23

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.

Prendergast Archive and Study Center
Maurice Brazil Prendergast (American, 1858–1924) Festa Del Redentore

Maurice Brazil Prendergast (American, 1858–1924) Festa Del Redentore, c. 1899. Watercolor and pencil on paper, 11 x 17 in. Williams College Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Charles Prendergast, 91.18.5

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.

Public Art
Louise Bourgeois, Eyes (nine elements), 200. Photo by Elizabeth Leitzell

Louise Bourgeois (American, 1911–2010), Eyes (nine elements), 2001. Granite, bronze, and electric light. Commissioned on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the museum with funds from the Museum Fellows, friends, and endowments. M.2001.14. Photo by Elizabeth Leitzell.

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.

Collection Care
Joshua Reynolds (British, 1723–1792), Portrait of Master Henry Vansittart, 1767. Oil on canvas. Bequest of Charles M. Davenport, Class of 1901.

Joshua Reynolds (British, 1723–1792), Portrait of Master Henry Vansittart, 1767. Oil on canvas, 30 1/16 x 25 1/16 in. Bequest of Charles M. Davenport, Class of 1901, 43.2.5

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.

Sol LeWitt

Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing #1089, Installed in WCMA atrium 2015.

LeWitt’s wall drawings derive from a set of instructions, created by the artist but executed by others, just as a composer writes a musical score for an orchestra. Like a musical performance, the drawings are meant to be temporary and are adjusted to fit the context each time they are created.