Cincinnati Art Museum

08/13/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 08/13/2019 10:20

Native Americans and Winold Reiss

When the Cincinnati Art Museum was founded in 1881, it collected much more than just art. In fact, it aimed to gather, preserve, and exhibit 'valuable and interesting objects of every kind and nature'. So, in its early years, the museum collected many things that you would not expect to see in an art museum today, such as natural history specimens, archaeological finds, and artifacts representing the indigenous cultures of many regions, including North America. In fact, the first three donations officially logged by the museum in 1881 were not paintings or sculptures, but pottery vessels excavated from a Native American site at Madisonville.

The Native American collection would grow to include tools, weapons, baskets, blankets, masks, clothing, and even a canoe. Some of these objects can be seen on display in the 1912 photograph accompanying this post. Initially, the materials were presented solely as ethnological specimens. They were seen as informative about the people who made them and their culture, but there was little consideration given to the artistic merit of the objects. This attitude gradually began to change, and in 1930 the museum held its first exhibition dedicated to Native American art.