Skip to Main Content
May 27, 2022

Acquisition: William Christenberry

William Christenberry, 'Memory Form II'

William Christenberry
Memory Form II
, 1997–1998
archival board, wood, encaustic, black paint
overall: 34.29 x 65.41 x 29.85 cm (13 1/2 x 25 3/4 x 11 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Gift of Stephen Bennett Phillips in honor of Sandra Deane Christenberry

William Christenberry (1936–2016) is best known for his artistic exploration of place, in particular the Black Belt region of Alabama, where he spent his childhood in Hale County. Working in a wide variety of media, including painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, and assemblage, Christenberry focused on architecture, abandoned structures, and nature, and he studied the psychology and effects of place and memory. The National Gallery of Art has acquired the sculpture Memory Form II (1997–1998), a gift from Stephen Bennett Phillips in honor of Sandra Deane Christenberry, the artist’s widow.

In 1968 Christenberry moved to Washington, DC, where he quickly became a revered teacher and mentor at the Corcoran School of Art. However, his art remained focused on the landscape and built environment of Alabama, where he would return each summer to photograph shacks and stores and to collect signs and other artifacts that reflected the spirit of the place. His efforts were not simply nostalgic. Christenberry had an eye for decay and was deeply aware of the dark history of the region, with depictions of Ku Klux Klan hoods occasionally appearing in his work. Memory Form II is somewhat unusual in the artist’s oeuvre. Rather than a detailed, realistic model of a particular building, it is a poetic evocation of a general type of structure common in the South—the so-called dogtrot house with a central breezeway, which –Christenberry has reduced in this sculpture to a mysterious opening. As a result of the artist’s patient application of encaustic and paint to wood, the sculpture appears almost tomb-like, encased in time and memory.

Contact Information

General Information
For additional press information please call or send inquiries to:
Department of Communications
National Gallery of Art
2000 South Club Drive
Landover, MD 20785
phone: (202) 842-6353
e-mail: [email protected]

Chief of Communications
Anabeth Guthrie
phone: (202) 842-6804
e-mail: [email protected]

The National Gallery also offers a broad range of newsletters for various interests. Follow this link to view the complete list.

Related Resources