94% of a major artists is a whole lot. Does any other artist of Still’s stature have this much of their work in one place? Sure, the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Marcel Duchamp collection is large but does it even approach that percentage of Duchamp’s output?
For possible answers as to why there are soo few Still’s elsewhere, I would suggest reading Tyler Green’s interesting posts on the artist’s relationship with MoMA. I suggest starting here. He mentions in the post that, “During his lifetime, Still sold only about 150 paintings.”
The Clyfford Still Museum website has a more detailed description and explanation about their collection:
In the early 1950s, Clyfford Still ended his relationship with the prestigious Betty Parsons and Sidney Janis galleries in New York, and from that time forward, represented himself. Very few paintings entered the art market and subsequently the museum will house over 94% of the artist’s total output. The Clyfford Still Estate contains approximately 825 paintings and 1575 works on paper including:
100 paintings dating from 1920 – 1943: Still’s student years, Depression-era works, Surrealist-inspired works, and first forays into abstraction.
350 paintings dating from 1944 – 1960: Still’s “breakthrough period” and the years of “high” Abstract Expressionism. Many canvases span over ten-by-fourteen feet.
375 paintings dating from 1961 – 1979: later works, most of which have never been exhibited.
1575 works on paper spanning all aspects of Still’s career in such media as pastel, crayon, charcoal, gouache, tempera, graphite, and pen and ink. Few of these have ever been exhibited.
In addition to the artworks, the museum will also house the artist’s archives of letters, sketchbooks, manuscripts, photo albums and personal effects, most of which has never been seen by the public.
If you’re not familiar with the work of Clyfford Still, I would suggest travelling to SFMoMA (which has 28 Stills) or the Albright Knox Museum in Buffalo (which has 31!), but if you prefer to peruse art online, try these links:
- Still in the Hirshhorn Museum,
- James Kalm’s video from the Still show at the Denver Art Museum, and
- a trailer to a new documentary about Still via the Rocky Mountain PBS (it will air this October, around the time the Museum opens).
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