The Stanley Museum of Art has core strengths in modern art because it began acquiring in this domain starting from the 1930s in support of the first MFA program in the world. Early key acquisitions include works by Max Beckmann, Jackson Pollock, Joan Miró, Marsden Hartley, among others. Then, when the museum opened its building in 1969, its first director was Ulfert Wilke, himself an abstract painter, renowned collector, teacher, and well-connected figure in the New York art scene. Because of Wilke, the museum has notable strengths in mid-century abstraction, which led to the gift of paintings by renowned painters including Richard Diebenkorn, Leon Berkowitz, and Jules Olitski, among others. Throughout the '70s the museum was cultivating donors who would gift abstract paintings by artists under-recognized in their time but whose work is now acclaimed. Monumental works by Sam Gilliam, Yayoi Kusama, Joan Mitchell, and Alma Thomas entered the collection during that first decade of the museum’s existence. The collection also includes significant holdings of work by Grant Wood, Lee Allen, and Marvin Cone, representing American regionalism.
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