A pair of pictographs that traveled a circuitous route have found their way back home to the Saint Joseph Museums and will be on view to the public in January. The pictographs were part of a group of 17 works lent by the Saint Joseph Museums to The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art for an exhibition in 1961. The works were returned in 1962, but the two pictographs remained in the care of the Nelson-Atkins until recently.
“We are delighted that after 60 years, the piece, which has been so well taken care of by the Nelson-Atkins, will return to the Saint Joseph Museum to be displayed and enjoyed by our visitors,” said Sara Wilson, Executive Director of the Saint Joseph Museums.
The two pictographs, from the Harry L. George Native American Collection, will be on display beginning in late January 2020 at the St. Joseph Museums’ 3406 Frederick Ave. location.
“I am delighted that these pictographs will return to St. Joseph,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell CEO & Director of the Nelson-Atkins. “This is a testament to the friendship shared by our institutions, and an excellent example of museum collegiality.”
The pictographs show scenes of Native American life and were included in the seminal exhibition Sacred Circles: Two Thousand Years of North American Indian Art, which was on view at the Nelson-Atkins in 1977. The Sacred Circles catalogue described the works as “fine examples of crowded narrative style of later Plains painting, as it developed after trader’s muslin became available. Traders sometimes hung these works in their cabins, and others were retained as personal recorders.”
“Dr. Robert Corder, Past President of the St. Joseph Museums and a volunteer researcher on the Harry L. George Collection, was instrumental in identifying the importance of returning the pictograph for display in St. Joseph,” said Sara Wilson, Executive Director of the Saint Joseph Museums. “The George Collection is one of the best documented collections of Native American artifacts in the world. George’s collecting correspondence is preserved in two large ledgers at the Saint Joseph Museums and is available digitally to researchers online.”
The pictographs were originally acquired in 1915 by George, who passed away in 1923. His collection was lent to the Missouri State Resources Museum in 1924 and subsequently purchased by William L. Goetz and donated to the Saint Joseph Museums.
The Harry L. George collection of approximately 4,000 American Indian items became a cornerstone of the St. Joseph Museums' collection in the 1940s. Lines and Legacies: The Harry L. George American Indian Collection showcases many of the impressive items from this collection.
The George Collection is one of Saint Joseph’s greatest treasures. Experts such as Dr. Peter Welsh, Professor of Museum Studies at the University of Kansas and Jonathon Batkin, Director of the Wheelwright Museum in New Mexico and author of The Native American Curio Trade, have identified this collection as uniquely significant and well-documented.
Harry George was a textile broker at the turn of the 20th century in St. Joseph, Missouri. He amassed one of the largest encyclopedic collections of American Indian objects in the Midwest. This important collection preserves significant items from the 1800s as well as the history of the culture of collecting that took place in the early 1900s.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
The Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City is recognized nationally and internationally as one of America’s finest art museums. The museum, which strives to be the place where the power of art engages the spirit of community, opens its doors free of charge to people of all backgrounds. The museum is an institution that both challenges and comforts, that both inspires and soothes, and it is a destination for inspiration, reflection and connecting with others.
The Nelson-Atkins serves the community by providing access to its renowned collection of more than 41,000 art objects and is best known for its Asian art, European and American paintings, photography, modern sculpture, and Native American and Egyptian galleries. Housing a major art research library and the Ford Learning Center, the Museum is a key educational resource for the region. In 2017, the Nelson-Atkins celebrates the 10-year anniversary of the Bloch Building, a critically acclaimed addition to the original 1933 Nelson-Atkins Building.
The Nelson-Atkins is located at 45th and Oak Streets, Kansas City, MO. Hours are Monday, Wednesday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Thursday/Friday, 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. The museum is closed Tuesday. Admission to the museum is free to everyone. For museum information, phone 816.751.1ART (1278) or visit nelson-atkins.org.
Saint Joseph Museums Inc.
Founded in 1927, St. Joseph Museums, Inc. provides a gateway to the past by collecting, preserving, interpreting, and exhibiting items that reflect the interests and history of the St. Joseph area and its citizens. With the vision to cultivate transformative experiences that engage the community and inspire visitors to preserve and collaborate, the Museum is contracted to serve as the Municipal Museum for the City of St. Joseph. The organization includes the Glore Psychiatric Museum, Black Archives Museum, Doll Museum, Native American and History Galleries, The Eckel Collection, and the Wyeth-Tootle Mansion.
The Saint Joseph Museums, located at 3406 Frederick Avenue in St. Joseph, Mo., are open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. https://www.stjosephmuseum.org
(Source: Image and content courtesy of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.)