Founded in 1959 and now comprising four wings, more than 5,000 works, and more than 27,000 square feet of exhibition space, the Colby College Museum of Art has built a significant permanent collection that specializes in American and contemporary art. Central to its mission is the museum's role as a teaching resource for academic departments and interdisciplinary programs at the College.
Major American works by John Singleton Copley, Gilbert Stuart, Winslow Homer, Albert Bierstadt, Mary Cassatt, and William Merritt Chase form part of the historical collection; the modern movement is represented by important works by John Marin, Marsden Hartley, Georgia O'Keeffe, George Bellows, and Rockwell Kent. The museum also features an important contemporary collection including works by Chuck Close, Agnes Martin, Sol LeWitt, Dan Flavin, Kara Walker, Elizabeth Murray, and Alex Katz. The collection includes 18th-century American portraits, the American Heritage Collection of Folk Art, primitive portraits, and weathervanes, as well as work by American Impressionist painters.
Though the majority of the museum's works are American, excellent examples of European prints, drawings, and paintings as well as special collections like the Bernat Collection of Oriental Ceramics are integral parts of the collection. Supplementing the permanent collection are a superb set of prints by James McNeill Whistler and a world-class collection of ancient Chinese ceramics, The Colville Collection of Early Chinese Art, on long-term loan to the museum. One semester every two years the Joan Whitney Payson Collection of Impressionist and Post-impressionist paintings is on view.
The Lunder Wing, designed by architect Fred Fisher and completed in 1999, presents 13 galleries of works that trace the development of American art from the 18th to the early 20th century. Two galleries are dedicated to the works of American modernist John Marin, who between 1913 and his death in 1953 spent most of his summers in Maine. The John Marin Collection, the largest collection of Marin's work in any academic museum in the country, includes the full spectrum of work produced during his long career, including oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, and etchings.
The Paul J. Schupf Wing for the Works of Alex Katz is one of only a handful of museum wings dedicated to the work of a living artist. In rotating exhibitions, it showcases a diverse collection of the artist's large-scale landscapes, portraits, cutouts, prints, and preparatory studies.
In 2000 the sculpture 4-5-6 by American artist Richard Serra was installed in the Paul J. Schupf Sculpture Court. In 2002 the 12-foot by 68-foot sculpture Seven Walls, designed by renowned conceptual artist Sol LeWitt, was installed on the museum lawn. In 2004, through a partial gift and purchase, the museum became the sole repository of the complete prints of Terry Winters. Also in 2004 the museum became one of the original institutions to receive recorded copies of more than 500 artist lectures that make up the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture's lecture archive. In 2006 Paul J. Schupf gave the museum his collection of more than 150 prints and drawings by Serra, making Colby one of the largest repositories of works on paper by this renowned artist. Information about the museum is online at www.colby.edu/museum.