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September 14, 2023

Acquisition: Selection of Prints from the Brandywine Workshop and Archives

John Thomas Biggers
Family Ark Triptych (Color), 1992
color offset lithograph on three sheets of wove paper
overall: 74.6 x 125.8 cm (29 3/8 x 49 1/2 in.)
sheet (.a): 74.5 x 35.6 cm (29 5/16 x 14 in.)
sheet (.b): 74.5 x 54.8 cm (29 5/16 x 21 9/16 in.)
sheet (.c): 74.6 x 35.4 cm (29 3/8 x 13 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Gift of Funds from the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Brandywine Workshop and Archives (BWA) in Philadelphia, the National Gallery of Art has acquired a selection of more than 100 prints created there by 50 artists over its 50-year history. Made possible by a generous gift of funds from the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, this acquisition underscores the workshop’s stylistic and conceptual reach—among the themes explored by BWA artists are cultural identity, political and social issues, portraiture, and landscape, as well as patterning and pure abstraction. Not only do these prints broaden the National Gallery’s representation of works created in seminal printing workshops in the United States, they also enhance the collection by increasing the diversity of the artists it represents.

Over the last two decades the foundation has been a generous donor to the National Gallery’s modern and contemporary art program. In addition to providing funds for works of art, the foundation supported the publication that accompanied the groundbreaking 2022 exhibition The Double: Identity and Difference in Art Since 1900.

Since its founding in 1972 by Philadelphia artist Allan Edmunds (b. 1949), the BWA has become recognized internationally as a center for printmaking. Its creation coincided with a resurgence of printmaking in the United States that had begun in the 1960s as newly established workshops across the country encouraged artists to explore the potential of this medium. There was also a growing awareness of how the breadth of the nation’s cultural heritage might shape a new “American” identity, a sentiment reflected in the artists who created prints at the workshop.

Over the years, the diversity-driven BWA has developed a wide range of programs, including artist residencies and exchanges, exhibitions, lectures, and mural and video projects, with a particular focus on producing and sharing art that inspires and connects communities around the globe. To date, the BWA has sponsored over 300 residencies for artists from 35 states and 15 countries and has toured exhibitions to more than 25 cities in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and the United States.

Additionally, the BWA stewards a remarkable collection of prints comprising not only those made at the workshop but also works donated by artists and other printmaking workshops such as Self-Help Graphics in Los Angeles and the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop in New York. These prints are used for exhibitions and teaching and serve as inspiration for visiting printmakers during their residencies. The BWA continues to organize exhibitions, to encourage experimentation, and to serve as a technical facilitator of artists’ ideas both in its current home on South Broad Street—Philadelphia’s Avenue of the Arts—as well as off-site, engaging artists in collaborations with local printmaking facilities at Drexel University and Dos Tres Press, among others.

With this acquisition, the National Gallery adds 39 new artists to the collection and enhances holdings of many artists who are already represented. Highlights of prints by new artists include Telling Many Magpies, Telling Black Wolf, Telling Hachivi (1989), an homage to indigenous oral history traditions by Edgar Heap of Birds (Cheyenne and Arapaho Nations), an artist, activist, and professor who is particularly celebrated for his public artworks; Confused Paradi(c)e (1996) by the renowned artist Juan Sánchez (born in Brooklyn, of Puerto Rican descent), whose work focuses on questions of ethnic, racial, and national identity; and the intensely colored Caribbean Dreams (2001) by E. J. Montgomery, the multimedia abstract artist, influential curator, and international program developer for the distinguished Arts America Program of the United States Information Agency. Also of note is the screenprint Wissahickon (1975), which now joins other works in the National Gallery’s collection by Sam Gilliam, a preeminent artist who lived and worked in Washington, DC. Gilliam played a key role at the BWA as both artist and advisor, making prints there over many years and having the distinction of being its first artist in residence in 1975, when he created Wissahickon.

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