Current Exhibitions

Unknown Maker, Clown, about 1850–55. Daguerreotype, 2 1/4 x 2 3/4 inches. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri. Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc. © Nelson Gallery Foundation

Photographic Wonders: Daguerreotypes from The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Wonderful wonder of wonders!!...Here is a revolution in art!

This was the American reaction to the invention and introduction of the photographic daguerreotype in 1839. This winter exhibition presents 82 of the best daguerreotypes from the prized collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, now more than 6,500 strong. Wichita museum-goers will explore the advent of photography in these charming, imaginative historical photographs. Daguerreotypes reflect magical bits of reality from a bygone era. Well over a century later, they still hold wonder and appeal.

The daguerreotype was at once a science and an art, a documentary tool and a charged emblem of emotion and memory. Very early daguerreotypes are enchanting but technically crude: exposures took many minutes and the images are relatively faint. Rapid progress was achieved as practitioners explored the invention’s commercial potential, especially its use in portraiture. In 1840–1842, exposure times were reduced from minutes to seconds, and the tones of the images were greatly improved. The potentials of photography as we know it today were explored in the daguerreotypes of the 1840s and 1850s.

The Wichita presentation will be a reduced selection from the landmark show that opened the new wing at the Nelson-Atkins Museum in 2007. Hallmark Cards developed a world-class early photography collection of 6,500 works that the company donated to the museum as the Bloch Building opened. The scholarly reception of the exhibition and accompanying catalogue has been resoundingly positive and noted as "an unparalleled historical collection of American photography." Wichita audiences will be so impressed by these gems, the accessible learning, and the creative gallery presentation.

This exhibition has been organized by The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri.


Childe Hassam, The Cove, 1912. Watercolor and gouache on ivory wove watercolor paper, 14 x 20 inches. Wichita Art Museum, John W. and Mildred L. Graves Collection

Hold the Moment: American Modern Works on Paper from the Wichita Art Museum Collection

When modern photographer Alfred Stieglitz characterized his work, he once wrote: "What is important to me is to hold the moment... to put down something so completely that when you look at what you've put down, you will relive the original experience."

This point captures the driving mission for so many modern artists. Beginning in the late 19th century, artists turned away from the dominating art academies and traditions they considered rigid and stale.

Rather than continue with subjects and styles centuries old, progressive artist yearned to reflect their own time and to better express their experience. New forms of artistic expression--impressionism, cubism, futurism, as examples--went hand in hand with the moderns' pioneering vision for new art to reflect a new time.

The Wichita Art Museum holds a distinguished collection of American modernism. In conjunction with the touring exhibition of treasured gems of American modern art from the Brooklyn Museum, a selection of WAM's prized works on paper from this important moment in art history will be on view through the fall. The exhibition features glowing examples by Arthur Dove, Stuart Davis, Charles Demuth, John Marin, Maurice Prendergast, Alfred Stieglitz, and many others.

In turning away from confining artistic protocols and regulations, artists pressed for freedom of expression and innovation. As the American art critic Charles Caffin bemoaned in 1900, "a great deal of American painting is characterized by irreproachable table manners rather than salient expression, by a desire to be amiable rather than convincing." Moderns were renegades who championed self-expression, ignored the rules, and crafted their own, freshly original art. What appeared as radical at the time is now revered for boldness of vision and the depth of expression. This fall, the Wichita Art Museum galleries will sing with exquisite American drawings, watercolors, and prints from this dynamic moment of change in 1890 to 1950.


Peggy (Pegasus) Martin Nichols, Untitled (Self Portrait), about 1910–1925. Oil on board, 9 3/8 x 8 x 3/16 inches. Wichita Art Museum, Gift of Houston Martin


In 2013, Oxford Dictionaries named selfie the Word of the Year.

The use of the word increased 17,000% from January to December 2013. It was not only the use of the word that saw a dramatic jump, selfie images took over our computer and cell phone screens. Estimates suggest that over 18 million selfies are uploaded every week.

It seems like everyone who is anyone has posted a selfie somewhere on the internet: Pope Francis, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, and political leaders--including British Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama.

While the culture of social media created the word, selfie, this type of imagery is not new. It is simply the most recent version of a much older artistic standard—the self-portrait. This form of expression, which can be traced back to ancient Greece, has quietly persisted throughout the history of art, only to emerge in our time as the most common type of digital image.

Why is the self-portrait so important to us today? WAM invites visitors to explore the relevance of this digital trend and its long artistic history with 20 self-portraits from the permanent collection probing the different forms of the selfie.


Billy Morrow Jackson, Reading, 1979–1980. Oil on Masonite, 47 1/4 x 71 1/4 inches. Wichita Art Museum, Purchased with funds donated by Mr. and Mrs. Donald C. Slawson

Ordinary Extraordinary: Billy Morrow Jackson

Billy Morrow Jackson's sensitive depictions of the everyday are at once beautifully simple and engagingly complex.

Describing his process, the artist noted, "It all springs from the initial feeling...there is something that sort of halts you like a movie suddenly stopping."

In Jackson's work, single moments are drawn out to a heroic scale until, in the final work, time appears perfectly suspended and every realistic detail is visible. In the artist's hands, a simple scene of a prairie home, a city street, or a quiet pastime yields a deeper expression of everyday life.


Julia Margaret Cameron, Carlyle, published 1913. Photogravure, 8 1/2 x 6 1/8 inches. Wichita Art Museum, Gift of Donna R. Bailey and Cornelia R. Yohr in memory of Grace Voss Ripley

Between You and Me: Artists' Portraits of Friends and Family from the Wichita Art Museum Collection

The relationships we have with our family and friends are fundamental to our development. What lies at the heart of these relationships is usually unspoken--love, admiration, thanks, or even competition or envy. Often, those unexpressed feelings in a relationship act as fertile ground for an artist. With artworks from the Wichita Art Museum, Between You and Me invites viewers to consider the nature of emotional ties and how those ties can be the catalyst for the creative process.



John Steuart Curry, Kansas Cornfield, 1933. Oil on canvas, 60 3/8 x 38 3/8 inches. Wichita Art Museum, Roland P. Murdock Collection

Storytelling: Highlights and Insights from the Wichita Art Museum Collection

Every work of art has a story to tell.

When John Steuart Curry was growing up in on his family farm near Dunavant, Kansas, he would often wander into the high fields of corn. "I remember," he wrote, "wandering through them and being over-powered by the fear of being  lost in their green confines."

At 35 years of age, Curry returned to those fields to capture in his work the same sense of drama he felt, "beneath our windblown Kansas skies." For Curry, Kansas Cornfield represented the story of his youth on a Kansas farm.

When Curry's Kansas Cornfield entered WAM's permanent collection, a new chapter in its tale was written and a new story began. The work was the first painting collected by the Wichita Art Museum. As the foundational work of art for the new museum, the painting came to symbolize WAM's commitment to both the highest caliber American art and to Kansas audiences.

Today, Kansas Cornfield has become a part of many visitors' personal stories. Brett Zongker, an Associated Press journalist based in Washington D.C., recently featured the painting on his popular Twitter feed. As a self-described "son of Kansas," the painting represents home to Zongker.

Museums, by their very nature, are repositories of incredible stories. The Wichita Art Museum has introduced its visitors to the best American artwork and has been a part of thousands of engaging stories. In celebration of the museum's upcoming 80th anniversary in 2015, Storytelling, a reinstallation of the permanent collection, celebrates the histories, mysteries, and anecdotes that make the Wichita Art Museum collection unlike any other.

Each and every one of WAM's objects has a story to tell. What influenced its creation? Who is pictured? How did the work come to Wichita? Storytelling invites visitors to take another look at familiar favorites from the collection as well as important works that have been off view for many years. We hope that the artworks inspire a meaningful encounter with the past, one that is relevant to everyone's personal story today.


Thomas Moran, The Waterfall, 1857. Oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 40 1/2 inches. Wichita Art Museum, Gift of the Robert M. Beren and Joan S. Beren Foundation

An American Salon: 19th-century Paintings from the Wichita Art Museum's Permanent Collection

The term salon style derives from the exhibition of the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, which began in 1667 in Paris.

In order to display work by all the Academy's students, the paintings were hung as close as possible from floor to ceiling. In the nineteenth century, this salon-style hanging became increasingly popular across Europe and in the United States.

WAM's Carlene and Lee Banks Rotunda Gallery has been transformed into an American salon featuring remarkable 19th-century paintings from the museum's permanent collection.


Steuben Glass, A division of Corning Glass Works (Kiki Smith, designer), Tattoo Vase, 2007. 16 1/4 x 8 1/2 inches. Engraved lead glass. Museum Purchase, F. Price Cossman Memorial Trust, Intrust Bank, Trustee

Steuben Glass from the Wichita Art Museum Collection

The Wichita Art Museum holds the largest collection of Steuben glass outside the Corning Museum of Glass, the museum in the city of the former Steuben Glass Works. An impressive selection of the Dr. Robert S. Burnstein collection is now on display in the Lulu H. Brasted Board Room and the F. Price Cossman Memorial Trust Gallery.


1400 West Museum Boulevard Wichita, KS 67203-3200 | 316-268-4921