In addition to my job as a cataloger here at the Archives of American Art, I also keep our informal collection of obituaries. As I was going through them, it struck me that 2009 was a hard year for art.
We lost Andrew Wyeth, one of illustrator N.C. Wyeth’s kids, a realist painter who, at least to me, is best known for the painting Christina’s World, at the Museum of Modern Art. I remember being fascinated when I first saw photos of this painting and heard the stories behind it. I liked the starkness and muted colors of the image but I could also see a story in it; I wanted to know what was going on.
Sam Maloof, who designed simple, elegant furniture, died in May. One of my early assignments when I started working here, nine years ago, was cataloging our 2002 oral history interview with Sam Maloof.
I had only been here a year or so when I got this assignment, and I was still learning just what American art encompassed. Back then, I didn’t know it wasn’t just about painters like Jackson Pollock and Frank Stella or sculptors like Alexander Calder, but that it included designers as well.
Honoré Sharrer also left us. She was a realist painter that did a lot of work during the Depression. One of the Archives’ early exhibitions at the Fleischman Gallery was an in-depth look at her painting Tribute to the American Working People. It was really interesting to see the final finished piece along side the reference photos, prep sketches, and other ephemera related to the piece.
Michelle McDaniel is an archival cataloguer at the Archives of American Art.