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Donation of 93 Works by Self-Taught Artists Given to Smithsonian

Gabriella Angeleti of the Art Newspaper writes that ninety-three works by self-taught artists from the collection of the late Margaret Robson have been donated to the Smithsonian by Robson’s son. Robson started acquiring pieces by self-taught artists in the 1980s when, according to Leslie Umberger, the museum’s curator of folk and self-taught art, “few grasped the inherent value of work that was often made amid challenging circumstances and by those who lacked the agency of the mainstream art world.” Some of the artists included in the donation are Bessie Harvey, Judith Scott, William Edmondson, Leroy Person, Thornton Dial, Ulysses Davis, Howard Finster, and the deaf artist James Castle, who often made work from his own saliva and soot.

This gift to the museum is the largest donation of self-taught work it has received in two decades. The institution is planning on organizing an exhibition dedicated to Robson’s collection sometime in the future. An exhibition on the work of Bill Traylor, who was born into slavery, is scheduled for 2018, and will feature five paintings from Robson’s collection.