Legacy Gifts from the Holladay Collection

Blog Category:  From the Collection
An opulent, footed silver bowl overflows with ripe cherries in front of a dramatic dark background. Additional fruits lie on the table below the bowl, and a butterfly flutters to one side.

Following the passing of NMWA Founder Wilhelmina Cole Holladay in March 2021, the museum has received more than sixty artworks from the personal collection that she built with her late husband, Wallace. This gift is the culmination of hundreds of art donations from the Holladays over decades. We at NMWA are grateful and proud to welcome these additional works into the museum’s collection, where we will share them with the public and honor the Holladays’ legacy. 

Personal Favorites 

A woman with light skin tone wears elegant, old-fashioned attire, including a pleated silk gown and soft red hat topped by two voluminous, pale feathers. She leans against a large portfolio on a tabletop; the portfolio and surface both hold papers that feature musical scores and drawings.
Adèle Romany, Portrait of an Artist, Traditionally Identified as Mademoiselle Halbou, ca. 1795; Oil on canvas, 59 1/4 x 46 1/4 in.; NMWA, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

French art of the 18th and 19th centuries was a particular favorite of Wilhelmina Cole Holladay’s, so it is no surprise that this gift includes four paintings, all portraits, from this period, including two works by Adèle Romany (1769–1846). In Portrait of an Artist, Traditionally Identified as Mademoiselle Halbou (ca. 1795), Romany depicts a fashionably dressed woman standing at a table on which she rests a large folio with sheets of paper protruding from the edges. Visible on one is a human figure, while another is a crumpled sheet of music, indicating that the sitter is practiced in both the visual and musical arts.

A closely cropped painting shows the face of a light-skinned woman against a blue background, gazing slightly to the side. She has brown hair contained by a cap or bonnet, and her age is implied by wrinkles crossing her broad forehead.
Paula Modersohn-Becker, Head of an Old Peasant, ca. 1903; Oil on panel, 18 x 17 1/2 in.; NMWA, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Among the many works from the early twentieth century is a painting by Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876–1907). Modersohn-Becker was an Expressionist, a movement concerned with communicating emotion through art, and she is known for her stark images of individuals, such as Head of an Old Peasant (ca. 1903), as well as her female nudes. She captured her sitters in thick, impasto paint in a subdued and earthy palette. Tragically, Modersohn-Becker’s life was cut short at the age of thirty-two; she died, most likely from a blood clot, shortly after giving birth to her first child. 

A bronze statue in warm brown shows the figure of a woman who gently steps forward, hand on hip. The forms of her body are stylized and geometric, and she wears a dress or skirt that is revealed where it gathers across her legs as if pulled by a breeze. Her face is simplified, upturned, and her hair is styled in a high bun.
Elizabeth Catlett, Stepping Out, 2000; Bronze, 33 1/2 x 8 x 8 1/4 in.; NMWA, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; © 2022 Mora-Catlett Family / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Among the latest-dated works in the Holladays’ gift are two sculptures, one by Elizabeth Catlett (1915–2012) and another by Magdalena Abakanowicz (1930–2017). NMWA has multiple vibrant print works by Catlett, but Stepping Out (2000) is the first sculpture by the artist in the collection. Made of bronze, Catlett’s female figure confidently strides forward, wearing a dress and high-heeled shoes. Abakanowicz’s sculpture Kayser Infant II (2001) is part of a series of faces on poles she created from the 1980s through the early 2000s, which evoke archaeological artifacts or death masks. This work joins Abakanowicz’s fiber sculpture 4 Seated Figures (2002), already in the collection. 

Other highlights include works by Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010), Sonia Delaunay (1885–1979), Claude Raguet Hirst (1855–1942), and Jane Peterson (1876–1965). While this is not a complete list of the works in this extraordinary gift, it represents the Holladays’ broad collecting practices.

Giving Thanks 

We look forward to sharing many of these new additions to the collection upon our reopening. This autumn marks the centenary of the birth of Wilhelmina Cole Holladay, who devoted the later decades of her life to NMWA. Thanks to the Holladays’ foresight and generosity, the world not only has a museum dedicated to showcasing art by women, but a collection that encompasses a large swath of women’s achievements of the past 500 years.

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