Skip to Main Content

Modern American Prints and Drawings from the Kainen Collection

September 1, 2014 – February 1, 2015
West Building, Ground Floor, West Outer Tier Galleries

Stuart Davis, Barber Shop Chord, 1931, lithograph, Gift of Ruth Cole Kainen, 2005

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

Ruth and Jacob Kainen donated more than 2,000 works, primarily prints, drawings, and rare illustrated books, to the National Gallery of Art. Ruth Cole Kainen (1922–2009) studied English at the University of Oregon and music at Yale University before working for various cultural organizations. In 1958 she settled in Washington, DC, and soon after she began to acquire art. Her marriage to Jacob Kainen (1909–2001) a decade later marked the union of two formidable collecting talents. As an artist in New York City during the 1930s, Jacob knew such key figures as Stuart Davis, Arshile Gorky, and Willem de Kooning. And as curator of graphic arts at the Smithsonian from 1942 to 1970, he made important acquisitions and wrote scholarly texts on the prints of eighteenth-century artists, including Canaletto and John Baptist Jackson, among other subjects. Together, Ruth and Jacob Kainen built a collection of impressive variety and quality.

Two recent exhibitions at the National Gallery of Art have celebrated works from the Ruth Kainen bequest. The first featured northern mannerist prints, and the second presented German expressionist prints, drawings, and rare illustrated books. This third and final exhibition in the series presents a selection of modern American holdings—exceptional prints and drawings from the first three-quarters of the twentieth century. The first room explores the period leading up to World War II, in which many artists, such as Childe Hassam and Stuart Davis, departed from strict representation. The second room moves toward pure abstraction in the postwar period with works by Jackson Pollock, David Smith, and Willem de Kooning. This exhibition represents only a small fraction of the works donated by Ruth and Jacob Kainen, and pays tribute to their connoisseurship and generosity.

All works are from the collection of the National Gallery of Art.

Organization: Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Attendance: 79,053