July 2012

Hudson Walker: Curator, Patron, Friend

In a report compiled by long-time gallery director Ruth Lawrence to reflect upon the 25th anniversary of the Little Gallery in 1959, a section titled, “The First Curator,” described Hudson D. Walker’s background and his brief, though instrumental, role in the foundation of the Weisman Art Museum as The Little Gallery in 1934:


“The University was most fortunate in obtaining Hudson Walker, who in March, 1934, was appointed the Gallery’s first curator of art. Mr. Walker was experienced in Gallery operations and management. He was the grandson of Mr. T. B. Walker, founder of the Walker Art Gallery. Hudson Walker was no novice in the functioning of a museum. He had been trained at the Fogg Museum, Harvard University, for work such as this. He knew the practical side, the importance of shipping and care of works of art worth thousands of dollars. He was especially aware of the responsibility of borrowed works. He had developed a small gallery of his own in Minneapolis, dealing in such works as watercolors, woodcuts, etchings, etc.”

Walker was officially appointed to the title of “Curator of Art” at the University in March of 1934, and departed at the end of his appointment in June in order to pursue the establishment of a gallery in New York City. However, his role with the University of Minnesota and the Little Gallery did not conclude with the end of his employment. Walker’s relationship would inspire additional titles in relation to his contributions to the University and to the museum.

Lawrence’s description of the First Curator only briefly touches upon the work done by Walker in those few months he was employed at the U of M. For the very first exhibit that was held at the gallery, he arranged for the loan of 18th and 19th century paintings from regional art museums, and covered the expense to insure the works out of his own pocket. At his departure, Walker imparted some advice to university administration that would shape the formation of the gallery in its formative years. He emphasized to Assistant to the President Malcolm Willey that “There should be some anchorage provided in the way of a permanent collection to insure a permanency of interest” and added that the gallery should emphasize a “workshop character” as opposed to the “traditional notion of a museum as a place for safekeeping of rare objects.”

In 1950, Walker placed works from his private collection on loan to the University of Minnesota. The loan included many pieces by the artists Alfred Maurer and Marsden Hartley. He, along with his wife Ione, also made many generous gifts of artwork and additional donations to the gallery in the following years.

WalkerOutstandingService.jpgIn 1965, Walker became an award winner and honoree when he received the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Minnesota Alumni Association. A letter (at left, click for a pop-up to read) from the President of the Minnesota Alumni Association addressed to Gallery curator Betty Maurstad, extended a formal invitation to the ceremony that was held to present Walker with the award.

In conjunction with Walker’s receipt of this award, an exhibit titled One Hundred Paintings Drawings and Prints from the Ione and Hudson D. Walker Collection was held from November 4-December 19, 1965 at the University Gallery. A dedication by University of Minnesota President O. Meredith Wilson, printed within the catalogue that was prepared for the exhibition stated, “The collection of Mr. and Mrs. Walker is an important resource in furthering the University of Minnesota objectives of teaching, research and service and has aided immeasurably the University’s development of significant programs in the visual arts.”

Exhibition catalogue, One Hundred Paintings Drawings and Prints from the Ione and Hudson D. Walker Collection:
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Polaroid photographs taken at the exhibit opening show Walker amongst other attendees in the hallways and stairwell that lead to the gallery in Northrop Auditorium:
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WalkerExhibitOutline.jpgA drawing of a proposed gallery layout for the exhibit was found in the exhibition file in Box 11 of WAM’s archived administration records. From the drawing, (at left, click for pop-up to review) one can assume that the exhibit was split into sections-one section of 22 miscellaneous works from Walker’s collection, another section that contained 12 works by the artists Alfred Maurer, another room dedicated to 14 large Marsden Hartley paintings, and a final section of Alfred Maurer graphic works, that appear to have been placed in the hallway that lead to the gallery.

More polaroids were found in the exhibition folder that show the works displayed in the gallery space:

Alfred Maurer, “Portrait of a Girl with Gray Background,” 1930, oil on composition board

(1) Alfred Maurer, “Two Heads,” 1930, oil on composition board
(2) Alfred Maurer, “Two Figures of Girls,” 1926, oil on composition board
(3) Alfred Maurer, “Still Life with Cup,” 1929, oil on composition board


Artworks by Marsden Hartley, as displayed in the exhibit:

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An additional item found alongside the polaroids in the exhibition folder is a note from Walker to President Wilson that expressed Walker’s appreciation for the acknowledgement he received from the University:
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Two additional titles were given to Walker on the occasion of a 1977 memorial exhibition titled, Hudson D. Walker: Patron and Friend. The exhibition commemorated Walker and the bequest of his collection to the museum.

Regardless of how one refers to Hudson Walker when recalling the history of the museum – first curator, patron, or friend – it is clear that no appellation can truly capture all of the contributions that he has made to its legacy.

Flowers to the Living

Web_WAM_003_StaffPhotographs_4.jpgFor the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the University Gallery, the retired former director, Ruth Lawrence, was asked to compile a history of the University of Minnesota’s Gallery of Art. In 24 typewritten pages, Ruth outlined the origin — and resulting ebbs and flows — of the gallery as she had experienced it. At the end of “Mrs. Lawrence’s 25 Yr. Report,” in a final paragraph titled, “Flowers to the Living,” Ruth expressed her gratitude to those who had contributed to the growth and development of the gallery over the years:

From the beginning, a loyalty and devotion which is touching to observe had been brought to the Gallery by almost everyone who came to work for it or who has been associated in any way with it. Perhaps its difficulties, struggles and working against great odds has engendered a feeling of fondness and of protectiveness. These people have offered to go the extra mile not required. They develop a faithfulness above personal plans and interest and energetically pour themselves fully into the work to be done.

Ruth goes on to name “gallery mechanic,” Carl Hawkinson, and curator/registrar Betty Maurstad to recognize their many years of service to the gallery.

Ruth ends her report with the following statements, “Too numerous to mention were those who were friendly with helpful counseling and suggestions. One cannot begin to list the names of our benefactors. To them we say, humbly and gratefully–Thank you!

Having now read through hundreds of letters written by Ruth, I have come to appreciate that when things need to be said, Ruth often said it best. The sentiments Ruth used to describe past museum employees can also be used to describe the museum’s current staff of registrars, curators, crew members, and others, who offered to go the extra mile to make the exhibit, The WAM Files: The Art of the Archives, possible.

To them, this humble and grateful graduate student says–Thank you!

You’re Invited: Women in the Weisman Collection

Each summer at WAM, an exhibit opens with a theme that focuses on the permanent collection. In the summer of 1998, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention–the milestone meeting that signaled the beginning of the women’s rights movement, the museum held an exhibit titled Women in the Weisman Collection: The Spirit of Seneca Falls.

An announcement sent out to promote the opening reception, concert, and exhibit was found in the archives:

*Click on the image for a larger pop-up version


Several of the female artists exhibited in the 1998 Women exhibit have works currently on display in WAM’s summer show, Tenuous, Though Real. Visit WAM through September 16th to view works by Harriet Bart, Hazel Belvo, Clara Mairs, Laura Migliorino, and Judy Onofrio.

Korean Art Exchange

WAM is noted first and foremost for its collection of American modernism – works produced during the first half of the 20th century. This is certainly due to the presence of the world’s largest collection of the works of Marsden Hartley and Alfred Maurer, as well as a large collection of pieces created by Works Progress Administration (WPA) artists.

Yet many events significant in the history of the University of Minnesota, of which the museum is a part, also relate to the museum’s permanent collection. One such event occurred in 1957, when the University participated in an art exchange with Seoul National University in Korea. Work completed by University of Minnesota students and faculty were sent to Seoul National University and vice versa, in an exchange that contributed an artistic component to the on-going partnership that the two universities established in 1954.

WAM_006_January_Poste-r.jpgThe exhibit of Korean student and faculty work was held at the University Gallery in the winter of 1957. Several of the works within the exhibit were presented as gifts to the University from Seoul National University, and are now part of the museum’s permanent collection. (Three of these works are currently on display in the museum’s Korea Foundation Gallery, and compliment the museum’s collection of Korean furniture: Soo-Hyun Ro, “Autumn,” 1956; Woo Sung Chang, “Chrysanthemum,” 1956; “Grapes,” 1956.)

Prior to the art exchange, a partnership with Seoul National University began with a request from the Foreign Operations Administration to the University of Minnesota to aid Seoul National in recovery and reconstruction following the aftermath of the Korean War. An advisory committee was named by University President J.L. Morrill to implement a program of improvement at Seoul National. Architects, doctors, agricultural researchers, engineers, and higher education administrators spent time in residence at Seoul National to advise and assist with the development of coursework and training. Young faculty from Korea traveled to Minnesota to train at the university. The desired result was to rebuild the infrastructure at Seoul National – upgrade heating and plumbing systems, train faculty in emerging technologies, and build supplies of textbooks and equipment. Read a full description of the collaboration in the December 1956 edition of The Minnesotan on the Digital Conservancy (PDF page 35).

Clippings from various local print sources found within the University Gallery Press Books report upon the exhibit and include photographs that capture some of the works displayed:

*Click on the image for a pop-up of a larger version.

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Summer Exhibits

July is here! In a matter of weeks the The WAM Files: The Art of the Archives exhibit will open at the museum. While we patiently wait for the opening date, take a look back at exhibits from summers past through some of the promotional materials that were created to publicize them :

*Click on the image for a pop-up to a larger version.

Summer, 1956

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Summer, 1957

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Summer 1958

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Stop by WAM July 14th to see some of these posters (and others) in person!