Artist Spotlight: Diego Rivera

Dos Mujeres (Two Women)” by Diego Rivera, 1914, oil on canvas, 77 3/4 x 63 1/2.


The AMFA Foundation collection was built through the support of both local and national donors and strategic purchases. Early gifts of art, made in the 1930s soon after the institution was established, include Italian paintings “Martyrdom of St. Stephen” (circa 1400), attributed to Lorenzo di Niccolò, and “Adoration of the Shepherds” (circa 1580) by Francesco Bassano II. These paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation set the precedent for developing an international collection. Additional gifts of 18th and 19th century American paintings contributed to the growth of the fledgling collection, such as “Mother and Son” (1765-1778), attributed to John Hesselius, and “Study for June Shower” (1853) by Asher B. Durand, among others, from Frederick W. Allsopp, business manager of the Arkansas Gazette newspaper.

Beginning in the 1950s, significant works of early 20th century Mexican, American and European modernism entered the collection through Governor Winthrop Rockefeller and his family. These include “Dos Mujeres” (1914) by Diego Rivera and “Andromeda” (1912) by Odilon Redon to more recent gifts, including “Black Iron” (1935) by Charles Burchfield and “A Bouquet” (1928) by Charles Demuth. The annual juried Delta Exhibition — inaugurated in 1958 to highlight artists active in Arkansas and its adjoining states — became a steady source of additional acquisitions, establishing a deep collection of contemporary art from the region with works from artists such as David Bailin, Tarrence Corbin, Lisa Krannichfeld and James Surls.

In 1962, the board of trustees established a focus of collecting works on paper. With the arrival of executive director and chief curator Townsend Wolfe in 1968, a more refined focus was developed that set AMFA on a defining course: a steadfast dedication to drawings. In 1986, AMFA inaugurated the National Drawing Invitational, a series of exhibitions that have contributed to the growth of the collection of works on paper. Similarly, AMFA established the National Craft Invitational and the Regional Craft Biennial, a series of exhibitions that promoted national and regional artists and contributed to the growth of the contemporary craft collection. 

Six major works in a variety of media from the landmark traveling exhibition “Objects: USA” became the foundation for AMFA’s collection of contemporary craft. These gifts from the S.C. Johnson Company include “Vertical Sculpture” (1963) by John Mason, “Rendering Lorraine” (1969) by Gerry Williams, “Valentine for Sabina” (1968) by Stephen J. Daly, “Ruby” (1969) by Boris Dudchenko, “Wall Hanging” (1963) by Rachel Appleton and “Wild Sister and the Other Brother” (1968-69) by Jean Stamsta. In the 1970s and 1980s, Little Rock’s Diane and Sandy Besser generously donated their collection of British studio ceramics and sculptural baskets, while fellow Arkansans Robyn and John Horn donated ceramics, turned wood and additional baskets, further strengthening the craft collection. Recent acquisitions by contemporary artists, such as Raven Halfmoon’s “Do You Practice Your Culture?” (2019) and Peter Pincus’ “A Familiar Kind of Riddle” (2018) continue to advance the museum’s ceramic holdings.

Since the appointment of executive director Victoria Ramirez in 2019, the museum has acquired 800 works for the AMFA Foundation Collection.

In 2022, the AMFA Foundation received a $1 million grant from the Windgate Foundation to establish an endowed fund to support acquisitions of works by living artists and living artists of contemporary craft. 

(Provided by the AMFA) 

Learn more about the AMFA’s grand opening celebration on April 22 at

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