Prints, Drawings, and Photographs Collection
The Spencer’s renowned collection of prints, drawings, photographs, and other works on paper represents more than half of the Museum’s permanent collection. The collection is acknowledged as one of the nation's premier repositories of graphic arts among university art museums because of its depth, breadth, and the extensive manner in which it is used in teaching and research. Areas of particular strength include Northern and Italian Renaissance prints, 17th-century prints; Japanese prints; and 19th- and 20th-century prints, drawings and photographs.
The core of the Museum’s Old Master collection of prints was given by the Max Kade Foundation in the 1960s and 1970s. Additional areas of strength have emerged in large part thanks to generous donations, allowing the Museum to collect works by acclaimed printmakers and photographers, such as William Edgerton, Roger Shimomura, and Aaron Siskind. Eric G. Carlson’s 2014 gift of World War I–related graphic art established the Spencer as a major repository for this topic.
The Spencer is known for its collection of artwork designed for Esquire magazine, including pinups created by Alberto Vargas, and Diane Arbus photographs from the 1960s. Pop Art holdings are anchored by the bequest of the Kansas-born art critic, Gene Swensen. Prints from the 1930s through the 1950s representing aspects of regional art and the American Scene make up another highlight of the collection. This material, including examples of works by the Prairie Print Makers, draws from gifts offered by Bud Jennings, Steven Schmidt, Hal Davison, and the family of C. A. Seward. Other strengths include an archive of prints produced by the Lawrence Lithography Workshop and prints collected by KU Professor Emeritus and Honorary Curator of Prints John Talleur.