The Max Kade-Erich H. Markel Department of Graphic Arts at the Spencer Museum of Art includes approximately 16,000 works of art on paper (prints, drawings, photographs, and artists' books). The core of our old master collection of prints was given by the Max Kade Foundation, whose president at the time of the gift was the late Erich H. Markel. The collection is acknowledged as one of the nation's premier repositories of graphic arts among university museums because of its depth and breadth and the extensive manner in which it is used in teaching and research. Areas of particular strength include northern and Italian Renaissance prints; seventeenth-century prints; Japanese prints; and nineteenth- and twentieth-century prints, drawings, and photographs.
Areas of particular depth within the collection have emerged in large part thanks to generous donations. In some instances these gifts focus on individual artists, such as Dr. Harold Eugene Edgerton, Roger Shimomura, and Aaron Siskind. The Spencer is home to a remarkable collection of Pop art due to the bequest of the Kansas-born art critic Gene Swensen, as well as a collection of artwork designed for Esquire magazine, including pinups created by Alberto Vargas and photographs by Diane Arbus from the 1960s. Prints from the 1930s through the 1950s addressing aspects of regional art and the American Scene are another highlight of the collection. This material, including 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 an expansive print collection formed by former KU Professor and Honorary Curator of Prints John Talleur.
The works on paper collection is routinely featured in temporary exhibitions and is available to classes through the use of a teaching gallery and through the Print Study Room. Classes from KU, area high schools, and other area university classes across many disciplines frequently visit this space to view works of art on paper as part of their learning experience. This page is intended to provide an overview of the broad scope of the works on paper collection, to aid in the development of personal knowledge about photographs and prints, and to provide educators with suggestions for how they might utilize the collection as a resource.