A Recent Donation from Camille and Luther Clark

The Brooklyn Museum Library collection has recently been enriched with the donation of several rare items of African American art given by Camille and Luther Clark. This donation is one of many in response to the Museum’s collecting initiative that began in 2010 to focus on collecting art by African American artists who worked between the mid-nineteenth century and pre-contemporary times. To parallel the growth of the art collection, the Museum Library has tried to increase its holdings on African American artists and this recent donation is an excellent addition to the research collection.

Fifty books, periodical articles and other primary documents have been received from this major donation and several items are now featured in the Library Display Cases at the entrance of the Museum Library. On display are rare books such as the catalog for the seminal exhibition entitled The Negro artist comes of age; a national survey of contemporary American artists which was held at the Brooklyn Museum in 1945. According to the Brooklyn Museum Bulletin (November 1945, No. 2), the exhibition consisted of fifty-three paintings and nine sculptures “by the leading young Negro artists of the United States. A few of these, such as Jacob Lawrence and Horace Pippin, have been widely shown but the work of the large majority is only now beginning to be recognized as an integral segment of our native art.”

Negro Artist Comes of Age

This was an influential exhibition and led the way in how the Museum’s collection developed in later years. For example, the Museum acquired a work of art by Eldzier Cortor that was included in the 1945 exhibition.

Survey Graphic

Many of these items are illustrated essays found in periodicals such as the very rare periodical entitled Survey Graphic. The March 1925 issue showcased Harlem with a beautifully illustrated cover bearing the title Harlem: Mecca of the new Negro. The entire issue contains many interesting articles such as “The Making of Harlem” by James W. Johnson and is illustrated by several artists, including Winold Reiss. This and other journals in the Clark donation are not only of great interest textually, but also visually.

Negro in Art Week

Other illustrated covers of periodicals are on display such as The Black Scholar, Opportunity: Journal of Negro Life, and The Negro in Art Week exhibition catalog with its visual reference to Egyptian culture.

Portraits of a People

In addition to these historical materials, the donation includes key recent works such as Portraits of a People: Picturing African Americans in the Nineteenth Century and Artists and writers of the Harlem Renaissance.

The Camille and Luther Clark donation has greatly enhanced the Brooklyn Museum Library’s documentation on African American art and we are honored to have these important research materials here.