The Corcoran Gallery of Art is the oldest public art museum
in the nation's capital, opened to the public in 1869. From the outset,
works on paper have been a significant part of the permanent collection.
The founder of the gallery, William Wilson Corcoran, included volumes of
lithographs and photographs as well as 818 portrait engravings by Charles
Saint-Memin among his earliest gifts to the collection. Today, the Corcoran
has approximately 8000 prints, drawings, and artist's books in their
permanent graphic collection. The collection is predominantly American,
with prints and drawings dating back to the colonial period. The holdings
also include a select group of European works from the fifteenth century
through the present.
Landscape XXXI by Evan Summer
Under Corcoran Director Dr. Herman W. Williams, the collection assumed
new importance in the 1950s, with a systematic re-organization of the
graphics and the creation of separate storage facilities for the print
and drawing holdings. The bequest of Frank B. Bristow in 1968 added over
one thousand American and European prints to the Corcoran collection, which
had grown n the 1930s and 40s to include works by Winslow Homer, William
Merritt Chase, Sargent, Whistler, Dewing and La Farge. In 1977 a gift of
approximately two hundred American drawings from J. William Middendorf helped
to give needed depth to the nineteenth-century collection. Later in the
decade the Women's Committee of the Corcoran Gallery of Art purchased a John
Marin watercolor for the museum, beginning their regular support of the
collection of works on paper.
Dr. Peter Marzio was responsible for the creation of the Print and Drawing
Department in 1982. Under his guidance, space was allocated for a Print and
Drawing Study room, and Linda Simmons was appointed the first Curator of Prints
and Drawings. Under Simmons the importance of the graphic collection was
re-emphasized, and standard practices for the handling of works on paper
were established. She was responsible for the first systematic survey of the
collection, and the initial condition examinations for purposes of conservation.
With grants from the NEA and the Institute of Museum Services, Simmons supervised
the production of the first collection catalogues. She began the program of
exhibitions from the permanent collection that are still a part of the
Corcoran's regular offerings. During her sixteen-year tenure the Department of
Prints and Drawings attained a level of professionalism commensurate with the
painting and sculpture departments. Graphic arts burgeoned into one of the most
vibrant areas of the museum, with regular acquisitions almost doubling the
already significant holdings of graphics. The largest single acquisition was
Armand Hammer's gift of two thousand Daumier lithographs, but many other
important additions were made to the Corcoran during these years. Rauschenberg,
Lichtenstein, and Steinberg are among the important modern printmakers whose
works were added to the collections in the 1990s.
Three Birds by Jack Boul, monotype, 8" x 4 1_4", 1989.
In the last three years the
Corcoran has acquired over four hundred prints and drawings with an eye to
broadening the representation of modern American printmakers, and to
strengthening the collection of Washington area artists. Recently, important
groups of works by Wayne Thiebaud, Evan Summer, Jack Boul, Prentiss Taylor, and
Grace Albee have entered the collection.
The department has worked diligently to acquire first rate impressions of
contemporary printmakers, including nationally recognized artists such as
Jane Hammond, Jim Dine, and Richard Diebenkorn. We have also made a concerted
effort to show and add works by excellent local, national, and international
artists whose work has not received the serious attention it richly merits.
During the last two years solo exhibitions of Jack Boul and Evan Summer brought
these artists deserved attention. Thanks to the generosity of The Friends of
the Corcoran we have added important works by Erik Desmazieres, Edda Renouf,
Igor Makerevich, and Andrew Krieger to the collection. These artists, as well
as Joseph Goldyne, William Kentridge, Joseph Norman, Edda Renouf and many others
have been seen in recent acquisition exhibitions that distinguish the Corcoran
Gallery as a place where innovative, exciting, and challenging prints regularly
are shown. Our mission is to collect and exhibit both historical and contemporary
work, the most engaging and original prints created.