Whitney Museum

The Whitney's Collection: Selections from 1900 to 1965

28 Jun 2019 - 01 May 2022

Norman Lewis
American Totem, 1960
Oil on canvas
73 1/2 × 44 7/8 in. (186.7 × 114 cm).
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund in memory of Preston Robert and Joan Tisch, the Painting and Sculpture Committee, Director’s Discretionary Fund, Adolph Gottlieb, by exchange, and Sami and Hala Mnaymneh 2018.141. © Norman Lewis. Courtesy Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY
This exhibition of more than 120 works, drawn entirely from the Whitney’s collection, is inspired by the founding history of the Museum. The Whitney was established in 1930 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, a sculptor and patron, to champion the work of living American artists. Mrs. Whitney recognized both the importance of contemporary American art and the need to support the artists who made it. The collection she assembled foregrounded how artists uniquely reveal the complexity and beauty of American life.

The exhibition begins with a gallery devoted to selections from the Museum’s founding collection, followed by galleries that weave their way through major art historical movements and genres. Key achievements by individual figures, including Georgia O’Keeffe and Jacob Lawrence, are interspersed throughout the show. Icons of the collection such as Calder’s Circus and the work of Edward Hopper are featured as well as more recent acquisitions—in particular, Norman Lewis’s American Totem (1960), a painting made at the height of the civil rights movement by an under-appreciated protagonist in the story of Abstract Expressionism. Such additions demonstrate that the Whitney’s collection is a dynamic cultural resource that allows us to continually reframe the history of American life and artistic production.

This exhibition is organized by David Breslin, DeMartini Family Curator and Director of the Collection, with Margaret Kross, senior curatorial assistant, and Roxanne Smith, curatorial assistant.

Generous support for The Whitney's Collection: Selections from 1900 to 1965 is provided by the Jon and Mary Shirley Foundation.


Gertrude Abercrombie, Charles Henry Alston, George C. Ault, Cecil Beaton, George Bellows, Thomas Hart Benton, Ilse Bing, Isabel Bishop, Oscar Bluemner, Peter Blume, Margaret Bourke-White, Charles Burchfield, Mary Ellen Bute, Paul Cadmus, Alexander Calder, Federico Castellón, Elizabeth Catlett, Ed Clark, Joseph Cornell, John Steuart Curry, Allan D'Arcangelo, Stuart Davis, Jay DeFeo, Willem de Kooning, Charles Demuth, Jean de Strelecki, Rosalyn Drexler, Elsie Driggs, Andreas Feininger, Jared French, Herbert W. Gleason, Anne Goldthwaite, John D. Graham, Marsden Hartley, Edward Hopper, Jasper Johns, Rockwell Kent, Franz Kline, Henry Koerner, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Gaston Lachaise, Jacob Lawrence, Arthur Lee, Norman Lewis, Roy Lichtenstein, Man Ray, Marisol, Nick Mauss, Joan Mitchell, George Morrison, Archibald John Motley, Jr., Alice Neel, Barnett Newman, Georgia O'Keeffe, Horace Pippin, Jackson Pollock, Kay Sage, Katherine Schmidt, Charles Sheeler, Madeline Shiff, David Smith, Joseph Stella, Hedda Sterne, Florine Stettheimer, John Storrs, Yves Tanguy, George Tooker, Robert Vickrey, Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann, William Winter, Beatrice Wood, Andrew Wyeth