The Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) has contributed 2,600 additional images of its permanent collection to the Artstor Digital Library, bringing their total to more than 2,750.* The selection in Artstor represents the Museum’s holdings across Western, African, Eastern, and ancient collections.

The current ample contribution reveals the diversity of the collection, as seen here in the juxtaposition of a Chinese painting on silk, Cranes in a Landscape, possibly after Lu Chih, possibly nineteenth century, and a Mughal miniature, Holy Man, Govardhan, c. 1610-1615 (above).

Further, the selection illustrates the depth of specific curatorial areas as in the African collection, represented here by three outstanding masks: Senufo People, Kpeliye’e (face of the jumping performer) Mask, twentieth century.; Hemba People, Mwisi Wa So’o (Chimpanzee-Human) Mask, twentieth century; Punu People, Mukudj (dance) Mask, nineteenth or twentieth century (above).

The variety of the museum’s holdings also stimulates cross-cultural study, as with the American painter Charles Prendergast (1863-1948) whose influences from Asia and Europe have been explored by Williams curator Nancy Mowll Mathews.1 The present contribution provides engaging examples of how the delicate and lyrical aesthetic of Persian and related Indian manuscripts might have inspired Prendergast: Charles Prendergast, Annunciation, c. 1912-1915 and the Rajput illumination of a Lady Beneath a Flowering Tree, early 19th c. (above); and his Circus, 1940, juxtaposed to Majnun in the Wilderness, c. 1560, a Persian miniature illustrating the epic of the celebrated poet Nizami (below).

The Williams College Museum of Art contains approximately 15,000 works representing a range of time periods and cultures, with an emphasis on American art. The museum was established in 1926 to provide Williams College students with the opportunity to observe works of art first hand. Karl Weston, the museum’s founder and first director, taught art history at Williams College for 22 years. The museum is housed in a nineteenth-century building designed by Thomas S. Tefft, which originally served as Williams College’s first library. In 1981, under the direction of the architect Charles Moore, the museum was substantially expanded.

As the collections have grown, the museum has focused on American, modern, contemporary, and non-Western art, as a complement to the European holdings of the nearby Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. In 1990, the museum founded the Prendergast Archive and Study Center to house letters, photographs, and other materials relating to the Prendergast brothers and their era. Through the generosity of Charles Prendergast’s widow, the museum has amassed the largest institutional collection of watercolors, oils, and sketchbooks created by the Prendergasts.

The Williams College Museum of Art collection is being released as part of a thematic launch on American college museums that includes selections from the Ackland Art Museum (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill); the Bowdoin College Museum of Art; The Davis Museum at Wellesley College; the Davison Art Center, Wesleyan University; the Ringling Theatre Collection (University of Florida); the Tufts University Art Gallery; the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Art Collection.

View the collection in the Artstor Digital Library, or learn more at the Williams College Museum of Art collection page.

1 Mowll Mathews, Eugénie Prendergast Senior Curator, WCMA, and Emerita, Williams College, curated the exhibition “Charles Prendergast: In Search of Innocence,” which took place at WCMA in the fall of 2010.

*Image totals may vary from country to country, reflecting Artstor’s obligation to address the specifics of international copyright.