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Print Portfolios: From the Paul R. Jones Collection at the University of Alabama

five exhibitions spanning January 15 - October 9, 2011


In 2011, the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts features a series of exhibitions of print portfolios by prominent African-American artists in its Williamson Gallery.  The prints are on loan from the Paul R. Jones Collection of American Art at The University of Alabama. This is one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of 20th-century African-American Art in the world, amassed over decades by Paul Raymond Jones (1928-2010), who was described by Art & Antiques magazine as "one of the top collectors in the country."  The collection includes works of art in a variety of media from more than 600 artists.(right: Phobe Beasley, Aunt Sue's Stories, 1998, Silkscreen on paper, Photograph courtesy of the University of Alabama, the Paul R. Jones Collection.) 

Unlike the typical collector of world-class art, Paul R. Jones was not independently wealthy, nor did he come from a wealthy family.  He was born and raised in Bessamer, Alabama, and began buying art while living in Atlanta in the 1960s. "At the time," he wrote, " I didn't think about devoting my life to collecting African-American art, but I knew I wanted to focus in that direction. I wanted to make sure that this art was not lost to the world. Once I had established a collection, I started to share it through exhibitions and shows so that others could become familiar with the art."  He also said, "I wanted to see the collection influence people to love African-American art and to collect it. I've also wanted to accumulate enough art to give to an institution, to have it there for the art-loving public and for students and scholars.  I set out to do that and I have done that. I didn't want to keep it close to my chest. I wanted to share it. I've always wanted to see African-American art woven into the teaching of American art, because I think that they are American artists who happen to be of color." Jones donated 1700 pieces of his collection, worth some $4.8 million to the University of Alabama in 2008. 

The five print portfolios being exhibited in Montgomery were issued in conjunction with the Limited Editions Club's publication of books illustrated with these images.  The Limited Editions Club was founded in 1929 by George Macy (1900-1956) to publish finely made and finely illustrated limited editions of the classics of literature and selected contemporary titles.  In recent years the club focused on producing Livres d'Artiste illustrated with original artwork by major fine art artists, rather than professional graphic artists and illustrators.  By the beginning of the 21st century it was publishing books by important black authors illustrated by prominent black artists. Publication of the limited edition print portfolios as adjuncts to the limited edition books was a natural move for the publisher-a move undoubtedly appreciated by Paul R. Jones as he expanded his collection during the last decade of his life. 

The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts exhibition schedule prints are on loan from the Paul R. Jones Collection of American Art at The University of Alabama is as follows: 

John Wilson (b. 1922), The Richard Wright Series: Down By the Riverside, 2001, 6 color etchings, Williamson Gallery, January 15 through March 27, 2011
Allan Rohan Crite, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, 1994, 15 engravings, Orientation Lobby, January 15 through March 27, 2011
Lois Mailou Jones (1905-1998), Poems of Leopold Sedar Senghor, 1996, 6 color lithographs
Williamson Gallery, April 2 through May 29, 2011
Phoebe Beasley (b. 1943), The Langston Hughes Suite, 6 serigraphs, Williamson Gallery, June 4 through July 31, 2011
Betye Saar (b. 1926), Zora Neale Hurston's Pages of Life, 2000, 6 serigraphs, Williamson Gallery, August 6 through October 9, 2011

Resource Library readers may also enjoy:

and biographical information on artists cited in this article in America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

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