Selections from the Graham D. Williford Collection of American Art

The Dallas Museum of Art exhibition There and Back Again: Selections from the Graham D. Williford Collection of American Art celebrates the significant American paintings and silver collection of a longtime supporter of the Museum and explores a rich relationship between the American and European art worlds after the U.S. Civil War. The exhibition will be on view through August 20, 2006 in the Tower Gallery on the fourth floor.

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, early American artists modeled the new nation’s fledgling art institutions and academies on European models. There and Back Again investigates the ways in which American art later struggled to create its own traditions, away from the looming influence of the Old World.

The exhibition showcases rare and little-known examples of late 19th-century American painting and silver, studying the search for a national artistic identity through “American” styles and subjects back home. It includes more than three dozen important American pieces created by artists who were studying, working and exhibiting in Europe and America within that critical era.

“After the Civil War, the relationship between American and European art could very well be called contentious,” said Dr. William Keyse Rudolph, The Pauline Gill Sullivan Associate Curator of American Art and co-curator of There and Back Again. “American artists were fighting to cultivate their own artistic styles and institutions.”

Drawn from the holdings of Fairfield, Texas native Graham D. Williford, who began collecting art in the 1950s, the works assembled represent one of the most distinctive private collections of its kind.

“The richness of Mr. Williford’s silver holdings marks the unparalleled achievements of the American silver industry in the last decades of the 19th century,” said Kevin W. Tucker, The Margot B. Perot Curator of Decorative Arts and Design at the Dallas Museum of Art. “They equally reveal a collector of prescient vision and dedicated connoisseurship.”

Williford’s collection consists of more than 400 works and includes major silver pieces by Tiffany and Gorham, with a substantial range of rare flatware and pieces by William Vanderbilt. The selection includes silver in the Japanese taste inspired by the displays of Japanese art at the renowned Paris Exposition of 1867; as well as works emphasizing the later movement toward naturalism, with pieces such as Tiffany & Co.’s Hopi vase, suggesting the design of a period Native American vessel.

Both well-known and less celebrated silverware by Tiffany & Co., Gorham, and George W. Schiebler & Co. will be included in the exhibition, along with paintings by artists such as Thomas Wilbur Dewing and Elihu Vedder.

“Graham Williford has a distinctive and highly refined taste for fine objects,” said Rudolph, one of the exhibition’s co-curators. “He also had a taste far in advance of his moment. When museums and galleries only concentrated on nationalistic subject matter, Mr. Williford daringly explored the international exchange between America and Europe. Fortunately for us, this selection from his collection allows us to investigate the important and richly textured history of American artists and designers working, exhibiting and studying abroad in the critical final decades of the 19th century.”

Still other Williford collection paintings and silver works are on view in the DMA’s permanent collection galleries, including several works in our new American Silver Gallery.

There and Back Again: Selections from the Graham D. Williford Collection of American Art is organized by the Dallas Museum of Art and co-curated by Dr. Rudolph and Kevin W. Tucker.

About the Dallas Museum of Art
The 23,000 works of art in the Museum’s encyclopedic collections span 5,000 years of history and represent all media with renowned strengths in the arts of the ancient Americas, Africa, Indonesia and South Asia; European and American painting, sculpture and decorative arts; and American and international contemporary art.

The Dallas Museum of Art is the anchor of the Dallas Arts District and serves as the cultural magnet for the city with diverse programming ranging from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary readings, dramatic and dance presentations, and a full spectrum of programs designed to engage people of all ages with the power and excitement of art.

The Dallas Museum of Art is supported in part by the generosity of Museum members and donors and by the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas/Office of Cultural Affairs and the Texas Commission on the Arts.