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Acquisition Highlights

In over 75 years of its existence the National Gallery of Art has amassed one of the world’s most significant collections of European and American masterworks of paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, prints, drawings, and photographs. From a beginning with a selection of 126 paintings and 26 sculptures given by the Gallery’s founder Andrew W. Mellon, the collection has grown to more than 145,000 works today.

The National Gallery of Art’s mission is to preserve, collect, exhibit, and foster understanding of works of art, and the permanent collection is the very core of that mission. The Gallery’s treasures come from many diverse times and places of origin and each work of art in the permanent collection is a private donation, acquired either directly or with contributed funds. Listed below are some of the most important recent additions to the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Art.

2020 Acquisition Highlights

María Berrío, A Sunburst Restrained

María Berrío, A Sunburst Restrained, 20192019

María Berrío, A Sunburst Restrained, 2019, collage with Japanese paper and watercolor on canvas, Gift of Erika and John Toussaint, 2020.2.1

The Gallery has acquired its first work by Colombian artist María Berrío (b. 1982), who is known for her luminous collages of Japanese papers painted with watercolor. She arranges the collages to depict female figures in spaces of refuge and imagined utopias that incorporate the cultural influences and flora of South America.

In A Sunburst Restrained (2019) two female figures recline in a tiled setting. A fluid pink ground fills the bottom third of the composition, over which a branch full of leaves and lemons appears, cutting across the foreground and cropped by the bottom edge of the canvas. The artist attributes her inspiration for this work to Pablo Neruda’s poem "Ode to a Lemon," which links the greatness of celestial light to the modest but life-affirming form of a lemon. Berrío has imbued her rendering of the two women and the lemons with such barely contained vitality and light.

Barbara Morgan, Martha Graham, American Document ("Puritan Love Duet" with Erick Hawkins)

Barbara Morgan, Martha Graham, American Document (

Barbara Morgan, Martha Graham, American Document ("Puritan Love Duet" with Erick Hawkins), 1938, gelatin silver print, R. K. Mellon Family Foundation, 2020.4.1

The Gallery has acquired a photograph by Barbara Morgan (1900–1992) of pioneering American choreographer and dancer Martha Graham. Morgan met Graham in 1935 and embarked upon a series of photographs of Graham and her dance company. Graham created a series of dances based on American subjects, including American Document, which incorporated episodes from American history set to music by Ray Green and accompanied by spoken quotations from historical documents. Martha Graham, American Document (“Puritan Love Duet” with Erick Hawkins) (1938) shows Graham in one section of the dance, “Puritan Love Duet,” with Hawkins, the first male dancer to appear with Graham’s company. Morgan’s photograph joins one other photograph and two prints by the artist in the Gallery's collection.

Oliver Lee Jackson, Triptych (3.20.15, 5.21.15, 6.8.15)

Oliver Lee Jackson, Triptych (3.20.15, 5.21.15, 6.8.15), 20152015

Oliver Lee Jackson, Triptych (3.20.15, 5.21.15, 6.8.15), 2015, applied felt, chalk, alkyd paint, and mixed media on wood panel, Purchased with funds from the Glenstone Foundation, 2019.143.1

The Gallery has acquired one of Oliver Lee Jackson's (b. 1935) most remarkable works, the large Triptych (3.20.15, 5.21.15, 6.8.15) (2015), consisting almost entirely of colored felt cut and applied to board. In each panel, dark forms suggesting figures or parts of figures seem to move, dance, or run in and through fields of light blue, orange, pink, green, and white. Figurative references—looming heads and recumbent bodies—are also contained within the fields of color. The imagery, with its simultaneous suggestions of joy and intense energy, dance and flight, echoes thematic material that has permeated Jackson's career, from the dynamism of his works of the 1970s inspired by newspaper photographs of the 1960 massacre in Sharpeville, South Africa, to persistent themes of a grand dance evoking a sense of spectacle and ritual. While collage and cut-outs have a long history in 20th-century art, Jackson's embrace of felt, which he values for its saturated color and optical neutrality, is distinctive. He folds and overlaps the cloth to create sensations of depth that complicate (without ever contradicting) the inherent flatness of the materials.

Triptych joins four paintings by Jackson that are already in the collection, expanding the Gallery's holdings of the work of this powerful modern American artist.

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Acquisition Highlights

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Recent Acquisitions (March 12, 2020)