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The Walter O. Evans Collection of African American Art


Through December 31, 2003, the Telfair Museum of Art, the oldest art museum in the South, is exhibiting The Walter O. Evans Collection of African American Art.

The Evans Collection is one of the finest private collections of its kind in the country. Featuring more than 70 paintings, sculptures, drawings, and photographs dating from 1848 through 1997, the collection is a tribute to the vital artistic legacy of African Americans. Beginning with works created just after the Civil War, the exhibition presents a chronological view of African American fine art traditions and is an extraordinary exploration of the scope and diversity of African American art. (right: Charles White, Sojouner Truth, 1940)

Telfair Executive Director Dr. Diane Lesko notes that the collection is "stylistically diverse featuring early works by pioneering neoclassical sculptor Edmonia Lewis, the first African American artist to achieve international critical recognition, an early landscape by Henry Ossawa Tanner, the most celebrated black American artist of the nineteenth-century, and extraordinary collages by Romare Bearden." (left: Henry Ossawa Tanner, Florida, 1894)

In the collection, the works of the 1920s and '30s by Aaron Douglas and Richmond Barthé demonstrate the flowering of African American culture attending the New Negro movement that underpinned the vibrant Harlem Renaissance. During the Depression era, hundreds of talented American artists were employed through the Works Progress Administration (WPA), including Charles White and Dox Thrash, both of whom are represented in the Evans Collection. One of the great black self-taught artists of the twentieth century, Horace Pippin, is included, as well as sculptor Elizabeth Catlett, celebrated for her powerful works exploring the status of women in society.

Catlett, who now divides her time between Cuernavaca, Mexico, and New York City, is the scheduled International Paper Distinguished Lecturer for this exhibition. She spoke about her life and work at the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences on October 7. (right: Margaret Burroughs, Girl Seated, 1959)

Telfair Curator of Fine Arts, Holly Koons-McCullough observes, "The Evans Collection is remarkable for both its quality and its comprehensive scope, ranging from mid-19th-century works by neoclassical sculptor Mary Edmonia Lewis to 20th-century abstractions by Alma Thomas. Additionally, the collection contains the largest number of works by pivotal 20th-century artists Jacob Lawrence and Romare Bearden in private hands, including Lawrence's Genesis series and numerous original collages by Southern-born Bearden."

This remarkable collection is a testament to the discriminating taste of Dr. Walter O. Evans, a Telfair trustee who was born in Savannah and recently returned to the city. Named one of America's top 100 collectors by Art and Antiques magazine, Dr. Evans has been collecting art since the late 1970s, beginning with his initial purchase of a portfolio of prints by Jacob Lawrence. Over time, he developed personal friendships with many of the artists represented in the collection. Evans also collects rare books, manuscripts, and literature by prominent African American figures. (left: Jacob Lawrence, Genesis Creation, 1989)

The Walter O. Evans Collection of African American Art is presented by International Paper Company. E93, V103.9, and AM900 "The Light" Cumulus Broadcasting stations are media partners for the exhibition The Walter O. Evans Collection of African American Art.



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