The Picker Art Gallery’s collection consists of around 11,000 objects from a wide range of cultures and time periods. Comprising extensive holdings of works on paper and photographs, as well as a significant number of paintings and sculptures, the museum’s collection actively supports the curriculum at Colgate University by making original works of art available for object-based learning, teaching and research.
The foundation for the collection was the gift of nearly 1,100 paintings, drawings, prints, ceramics, sculptures, textiles and decorative arts by Herbert Mayer ʼ29 in 1966. This donation included numerous works by important figures from the European modernist movement, including Paul Gauguin, Paul Klee and Karel Appel. The donation included works by an international cadre of mid-twentieth century artists from around the world, including many by Spanish, Italian, Greek and Scandinavian painters and draftsmen.
In the subsequent decades, the Picker Art Gallery continued to strengthen its holdings of works by important twentieth-century artists. The development of the museum’s photographic collection, which now numbers approximately 1,400 images, coincides with this period of growth and includes works by renowned photographers such as Lee Friedlander, Lucien Clergue and Diane Arbus. Of particular note is the museum’s collection of over 100 iconic photographs by Russian photographer Yevgeny Khaldei.
Other major donations have helped to shape and the collection. The group of more than 200 woodcuts produced in China during 1930s and 1940s given by former Colgate professor Theodore Herman and his wife, Evelyn Chen Shi-ying, is unparalleled in the United States. Thanks to donations by Robert Gordon ʼ50, the collection is also strong in twentieth-century British prints, including works by William Hogarth, David Bomberg and Julian Trevelyan. Continued donations by Dr. Luther W. Brady ʼ88 have ranged from baroque paintings to modern and contemporary prints and drawings. The Picker Art Gallery also holds an extensive collection of sketches, drawings and paintings by central New York artist and illustrator Lee Brown Coye.
Although heavily concentrated on twentieth century paintings, drawings, prints and photographs, the collection also it also contains a small number of ceramics from China, Persia and the Americas. The museum’s collection of approximately 300 sculptures is diverse, having come from around the world and a range in time periods—from classical antiquity to contemporary works.
The Picker Art Gallery continues to actively grow its collection through the acquisition of high-quality, original works of art that augment its holdings and enhance the museum’s ability to be a valuable cultural resource for Colgate and its surrounding communities.
For more information on some of the Picker Art Gallery’s collections, please expand the text below.
Herbert Mayer Collection
The arts space that would become the Picker Art Gallery opened in 1966 with a large gift by Herbert A. Mayer ’29. The works of art he gave to Colgate reflect the international scope of the exhibitions held at Mayer’s World House Galleries (1957–66) in New York City. Over time, the Picker’s collection has been supplemented by generous gifts by alumni, faculty, and friends.
The Herbert Mayer Collection offers an exceptional survey of the mid-twentieth century international art world through works of art created by hundreds of artists from around the globe. Herbert Mayer, a member of the Colgate class of 1929, turned an early interest in the arts into a business when he opened the World House Galleries in New York in 1957. He brought a global focus to the New York contemporary art scene and showed the work of international artists, both those of established reputation and younger artists making their mark abroad.
Between 1966, when the World House Galleries closed, and continuing through 1984, Mayer made a number of substantial gifts to the Picker Art Gallery, including more than 550 paintings, 500 drawings, 100 prints, and art in other mediums from the World House inventory and his private collection. Objects given by Mayer include works by well-known artists such as Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, and Paul Klee, along with works by artists who, although unrecognized in the United States, were leaders of postwar artistic developments in Europe and Latin America.
Dr. Luther W. Brady Collection
For more than a quarter of a century, Luther W. Brady, M.D., H’88, has been donating works of European and American art to Colgate University. A renowned radiation oncologist in Philadelphia, Brady is an active philanthropist and patron of the arts. His involvement with Colgate began with his gift of the sculpture Sunset by Eric Ryan. Brady donated that work—now permanently installed in the Eric Ryan Studio Center on campus—in memory of the artist, who was his friend and a beloved member of the Colgate Fine Arts faculty.
To date, Brady has given seventy-nine objects in various media to the Picker Art Gallery, and has placed a similar number here as deferred gifts. Ranging in scope from Baroque paintings to modern and contemporary prints and drawings, the Brady Collection is particularly strong in mid-century modernism—especially Abstract Expressionism and its successors.
Yevgeny Khaldei Photography Collection
The Ukranian-born Jewish photographer Yevgeny Khaldei is credited with many iconic images of World War II. The Soviet news agency TASS assigned him to cover the Red Army’s operations in central Europe, the Potsdam conference, and the Nuremburg trials. Khaldei donated almost 100 photographs to Colgate students and faculty during his first visit to the United States in 1995.
Herman Collection of Modern Chinese Woodcuts
The Herman Collection of Modern Chinese Woodcuts is unparalleled in the United States. It includes more than 200 prints made in China during the 1930s and 1940s. As historical documents, the prints offer a unique perspective on World War II, referred to in China as the Anti-Japanese War (1937–1945), and especially on the civil war between the Nationalists and the Communists (1946–1949). At the same time, the prints represent the mastery of a new medium and the first flourishing of the modern Chinese woodcut movement, with works by Li Hua, Wang Renfeng, and Yan Han, among others.
The prints were brought to the United States in 1948 by Theodore Herman, former Colgate professor and founder of the university’s Peace and Conflict Studies Program. He and his wife, Evelyn Chen Shi-ying, donated the prints to the Picker Art Gallery along with other objects from their collection of Chinese art. The Herman Collection of Chinese Woodcuts is one of only four such collections outside of China.