Emma Amos, "The Reader," 1967, oil on canvas in artist's frame, courtesy the artist and Ryan Lee Gallery, New York.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville has announced its acquisition of a number of works by artists of color and women who are “pushing boundaries of representation,” including Kehinde Wiley’s “Portrait of a Florentine Nobleman” (2018).

Wiley, whose work often replaces heroic white subjects with African American figures,  was chosen by President Barack Obama to paint Obama’s official portrait. His “Portrait of a Florentine Nobleman” is based on Francesco Salviati’s 16th-century painting and features Shontay Haynes of St. Louis. On his website, Wiley writes that he has shifted to including women in his heroic poses:


The reason why I am painting women now is in order to come to terms with depictions of gender and the way it is featured art historically–a means to broaden the conversation. Any consideration of male power in painting naturally includes the presence of women within that dialogue.


The museum has also acquired one of Henry Ossawa Tanner’s “The Good Shepherd” (1917) paintings. Ossawa (1859-1937) was the first African-American painter to be recognized internationally; he decamped to France, which had more progressive attitudes towards race.


Other contemporary works acquired include Jordan Casteel’s “Ourlando” (2018), Loie Hollowell’s “Mother’s Milk” (2018), Nathaniel Mary Quinn’s “Dave Forsythe” (2019) and Emma Amos’ “The Reader” (1967).

Also, Crystal Bridges now has 23 artworks from the collection of scholar Gordon W. Bailey, a Los Angeles collector interested in untrained African-American artists such as preacher turned artist Leroy Almon, assemblage artist Thornton Dial, painter Clementine Hunter, carver Sulton Rogers and others.


The acquisitions reflect the museum’s lauded mission of racial and gender diversity in its collection. 

Edward C. Robison was the photographer for the images in the slideshow.

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