Founded in 1959 and now comprising four
wings, more than 6,000 works, and more than 28,000 square feet of
exhibition space, the Colby College Museum of Art has built a
significant permanent collection that specializes in American and
contemporary art. The museum serves as a teaching resource for Colby
and as an active cultural institution for residents of Maine and
visitors to the state.
In the early 1950s Adeline and
Caroline Wing gave important paintings by William Merritt Chase,
Winslow Homer, and others. In 1956 Ellerton M. and Edith Jetté donated
their American Heritage Collection, consisting of 76 works by American
folk artists. The next year the Helen Warren and Willard Howe Cummings
Collection of American paintings and watercolors was given.
1973 the Jetté Galleries were added to the Bixler Art and Music Center.
That year Norma B. Marin and John Marin Jr. gave 25 works of art by
John Marin. Through the Marins' continued generosity, the John Marin
Collection at the Colby College Museum of Art has become the largest
collection of Marin's work in any academic museum in the world.
Though the majority of the museum’s works are American, excellent
examples of European prints, drawings, and paintings and special
collections such as the Bernat Collection of Oriental Ceramics are
integral to the museum’s holdings. The collection’s growth is assured
in part by the bequest of Jere Abbott, the first associate director of
the Museum of Modern Art, who established a significant acquisition
endowment, enabling Colby to purchase major works by artists such as
Robert Henri, Paul Manship, Robert Rauschenberg, Agnes Martin, Kara
Walker, and Hiroshi Sugimoto.
In 1992 the museum received a
gift of 414 works by Alex Katz from the artist, and in 1996 a wing
comprising more than 8,000 square feet was constructed to house this
collection. The Paul J. Schupf Wing for the Works of Alex Katz was made
possible through the generosity of Colby benefactor Paul J. Schupf.
Through rotating exhibitions it showcases a diverse collection of the
artist's work across media, and it is one of only a handful of museum
wings dedicated to the work of a living artist. The museum holds nearly
700 works by Alex Katz.
With a lead gift from Peter and
Paula Lunder, important benefactors of the College, a new wing opened
in 1999 for the exhibition of Colby's renowned collection of American
art. The Lunder Wing was designed by architect Frederick Fisher, one of
the world's leading designers of museum spaces, and it comprises 13
galleries and 9,000 square feet of exhibition space.
years site-specific sculptures by Richard Serra and Sol LeWitt have
been installed in outdoor spaces adjacent to the museum. In 2004,
through a partial gift of the artist and Universal Limited Art Editions
(ULAE), the museum became the sole repository of the complete print
oeuvre of Terry Winters. In 2006 Paul J. Schupf promised the museum his
collection of more than 150 prints and drawings by Richard Serra,
making Colby one of the largest repositories of Serra’s works on paper.
Recent gifts from the Alex Katz Foundation also have had great impact
on the contemporary collection, and they include important works by
Adolph Gottlieb, Rudy Burckhardt, Chuck Close, Jennifer Bartlett,
Elizabeth Murray, and others.
In 2007 Peter and Paula Lunder
promised their collection of more than 500 works of art to the museum.
This gift constitutes one of the most important art collections ever
donated to a liberal arts college. Significant works of 19th- and
20th-century American art, including more than 200 prints by James
McNeill Whistler, make up this extraordinary gift.