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Release Date: July 3, 2014

Final Exhibition from the Kainen Collection Showcases the Vitality and Innovation of American Art; On View from September 1 to February 1, 2015

Stuart Davis Barber Shop Chord, 1931 lithograph in black on wove paper image: 35.3 x 48.4 cm (13 7/8 x 19 1/16 in.) sheet: 45.2 x 55.8 cm (17 13/16 x 21 15/16 in.) Gift of Ruth Cole Kainen

Stuart Davis, Barber Shop Chord, 1931
lithograph in black on wove paper
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Ruth Cole Kainen

Washington, DC—Modern American Prints and Drawings from the Kainen Collection, on view from September 1 to February 1, 2015, is the final in a trio of exhibitions celebrating the 2012 bequest of Ruth Cole Kainen (1922–2009), a passionate collector who enriched the National Gallery of Art's holdings across a range of schools, including the first seven decades of 20th century American art.

Ruth Cole Kainen, trained in music and a patron of all the arts, was married to Jacob Kainen (1909–2001), a New York painter who relocated to Washington, DC, in the 1940s to become a curator in the Division of Graphic Arts at the Smithsonian's U.S. National Museum (now the National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center).

"Many of the works in this exhibition are by artists that Jacob knew personally from his exemplary career as an artist and curator," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. "He maintained friendships with pioneering artists like Stuart Davis, Arshile Gorky, and Willem de Kooning, whose works he also collected. By the time he met Ruth, she was already an astute connoisseur and generous arts patron in her own right. Together they became one of the most dynamic couples in Washington art circles."

About the exhibition

This intimate exhibition fills two galleries with 37 prints, drawings, and watercolors that exemplify American art as it advanced from 1904 to 1976. With the exception of a few works such as the light-dappled etching Old Doorway, East Hampton (1920) by Childe Hassam (1859–1935), the majority trend toward abstraction, evident in the jagged outlines of Abstract City (1927) by Abraham Walkowitz (1880–1965), invented forms in Barber Shop Chord (1931) by Stuart Davis (1892–1964), and biomorphic shapes in the surrealist-inspired Study for Nighttime, Enigma and Nostalgia by Arshile Gorky (1904–1948).

Other highlights include an evocative pictograph by Adolph Gottlieb (1903–1974), one of Jackson Pollock's (1912–1956) finest drip paintings on paper, a fluent black-ink drawing by David Smith (1906–1965), and two abstract expressionist works by Willem de Kooning (1904–1997).

This exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art.

Jacob and Ruth Cole Kainen

Jacob and Ruth Cole Kainen were among the most important friends and benefactors of the Gallery. From Jacob Kainen's earliest donation in 1974 to Ruth Cole Kainen's bequest in 2012, the couple individually and jointly gave the Gallery a total of 1,289 European and American works, principally prints and drawings. To celebrate Ruth Cole Kainen's bequest, and more broadly the Kainens' achievement as collectors and benefactors, the Gallery has presented a series of three exhibitions dedicated to their key interests: northern mannerism, German prints and drawings, and now, American modernism.

Ruth Cole Kainen, who began collecting art in the early 1960s, served on the National Gallery of Art's Trustees' Council from November 1989 to December 1995 and again from March 2008 until her death in September 2009. Her 2012 bequest of 781 European and American works of art covers five centuries, ranging in date from 1531 through the 1980s. The 10 paintings; 39 watercolors and drawings; 731 prints and illustrated books; and one photograph represent a comprehensive range of schools, styles, media, and subjects, reflecting her delight in a diverse range of art.

Prints, Drawings, and Illustrated Books at the National Gallery of Art

The Gallery's collection of prints, drawings, and illustrated books consists of more than 111,000 European and American works on paper and vellum, dating from the 11th century to the present. Because works on paper are highly susceptible to overexposure to light, they can be exhibited only for short periods. For that reason, the Gallery maintains a schedule of changing exhibitions drawn from its own collection or on loan from other institutions and private individuals. Drawings and prints not on view may be seen by appointment by calling (202) 842-6380.


This exhibition is curated by Charlie Ritchie and Carlotta Owens, associate curators of modern prints and drawings, National Gallery of Art, Washington.

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]
Anabeth Guthrie
Chief of Communications
(202) 842-6804
[email protected]

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Exhibition Press Release

Checklist (PDF 222 kb)