Collecting and Preserving Alabama’s Artistic Heritage

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Clara Weaver Parrish, American; Selma, Alabama, 1861–1925, Study for “The Resurrection,” about 1902, watercolor on paper with original matting; Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Purchase in memory of Judge Sam C. Pointer, Jr. with funds provided by the Pointer Family Fund through the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham AFI.152.2016
Clara Weaver Parrish, American; Selma, Alabama, 1861–1925, Study for “The Resurrection,” about 1902, watercolor on paper with original matting; Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Purchase in memory of Judge Sam C. Pointer, Jr. with funds provided by the Pointer Family Fund through the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham AFI.152.2016

While the BMA collects art from all over the globe, it takes just as seriously the goal of collecting important work by the most significant artists born or active in the state of Alabama.

Well represented within the Museum’s collection are the Weavers, a multi-generational dynasty of women artists from Selma. Most famous among the Weavers is Clara Weaver Parrish (1861– 1925), who was born at Emerald Place Plantation in Dallas County, and raised in Selma. Encouraged by her parents, Clara was sent to New York to study art at the Art Students League, where she was taught by William Merritt Chase, whose Still Life with Watermelon hangs in the Museum’s Styslinger Gallery of American Art. By the 1890s, Parrish began working for Louis Comfort Tiffany as a designer of religious stained glass windows and mosaic murals at his renowned Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company. Thanks to the generosity of Paula Pointer, the Museum was recently able to acquire a preliminary study in watercolor for The Resurrection, the window Parrish designed in memory of her husband William Peck Parrish (1860– 1901) for St. Paul’s, their family church in Selma. The work—which descended in the family of Parrish’s brother-in-law—depicts Mary Magdalene at the moment she recognizes the resurrected Jesus. The watercolor retains its original matting, which matches the Gothic stone tracery used in the finished window at St. Paul’s. Parrish’s other windows in Alabama can be found at the Church of the Holy Cross in Uniontown, Christ Church in Tuscaloosa, and First Baptist Church in Selma.

Mary Wallace Kirk, American; Tuscumbia; Alabama, 1889–1978, Cabin with Gourds, 1935–1943, etching; Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Gift of Patrick Cather, Shoal Creek, Alabama, in memory of the late Bo Brown (1957–1992), Indian Springs School Class of 1976 AFI.129.2016
Mary Wallace Kirk, American; Tuscumbia; Alabama, 1889–1978, Cabin with Gourds, 1935–1943, etching; Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Gift of Patrick Cather, Shoal Creek, Alabama, in memory of the late Bo Brown (1957–1992), Indian Springs School Class
of 1976 AFI.129.2016

The Museum also has a small, but growing collection of early 20th-century works by printmakers from or working in the American South, including etchings, drypoints, woodcuts, and linocuts. Among the notable artists rep – resented in the collection are Alabamians Frank Hartley Anderson (1891– 1947), Lucille Douglass (1878–1935), Anne Goldthwaite (1869–1944), and South Carolinians Elizabeth O’Neill Verner (1883–1979) and Alfred Heber Hutty (1877–1954).

A recent gift by Patrick Cather, a longtime collector of the art of Alabama, has greatly strengthened the BMA’s holdings of southern prints, by both adding previously unrepresented artists to the collection and by expanding our holdings for artists by whom we had no examples of their work in the print medium. New to the collection is the work of Birmingham artist M. R. Hubbert Smith (1885–1957), Mary Wallace Kirk (1889–1978) of Tuscumbia, and Walter H. Swettman (1906–1994), a Pennsylvanian who taught architectural design at Auburn in the early 1930s.

John Kelly Fitzpatrick, Untitled [Dancers], 1938, linocut; Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Gift of Patrick Cather, Shoal Creek, Alabama, in memory of his beloved Lowndesboro, Alabama friend and mentor Dot Dickson, sister-in-law of the late Jimmy Kidd AFI.132.2016
John Kelly Fitzpatrick, Untitled [Dancers], 1938, linocut; Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Gift of Patrick Cather, Shoal Creek, Alabama, in memory of his beloved Lowndesboro, Alabama friend and mentor Dot Dickson, sister-in-law of the late Jimmy Kidd
AFI.132.2016
Cather’s gifts also add depth to the Museum’s current collection. A print by Alice E. Rumph (1878–1978), who in 1908 was among the co-founders of the Birmingham Art Club, joins an early watercolor accessioned in 1960. A rare example of Wetumpka artist John Kelly Fitzpatrick’s (1888–1953) printmaking complements two oil paintings accessioned in 1953 and 1960, respectively.