The Met receives gift From Pinkowitz Collection of more than 300 prints by Mexican artists and 31 Chinese woodcut prints

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The Met receives gift From Pinkowitz Collection of more than 300 prints by Mexican artists and 31 Chinese woodcut prints
Elizabeth Catlett (American and Mexican, Washington, D.C. 1915–2012 Cuernavaca). Sharecropper, 1952 (published 1968–1970). Linocut printed in green and black. Image: 17 1/2 × 16 9/16 in. (44.5 × 42 cm); Sheet: 20 1/16 × 18 7/8 in. (51 × 48 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Richard and JoAnn Edinburg Pinkowitz, 2024 (2024.69.94)

NEW YORK, NY.- The Metropolitan Museum of Art today that it has received a gift from JoAnn Edinburg Pinkowitz and Richard Pinkowitz of more than 300 prints by artists from or working in Mexico. Created between 1890 and 2007, the prints are by renowned and lesser-known Mexican artists, from Leopoldo Méndez, Diego Rivera, and Isidoro Ocampo to Adolfo Mexiac, Roberto Montenegro, and Xavier González Iñiguez. Others are by American artists who worked in Mexico and were inspired by its culture, including some associated with the Taller de Gráfica Popular (Workshop of Popular Graphic Art), such as Elizabeth Catlett, Charles White, and Howard Cook. The gift significantly augments the Department of Drawings and Prints’ existing holdings of Mexican prints and books—one of the best in the world, with more than 2,000 examples spanning the mid-18th through the mid-20th centuries. Additionally, a group of 31 20th-century Chinese prints from the Pinkowitz collection was accepted by The Met’s Department of Asian Art in December 2023.

“We are grateful to JoAnn and Richard for entrusting The Met with these incredible works on paper,” said Max Hollein, the Museum’s Marina Kellen French Director and Chief Executive Officer. “Both the Mexican and Chinese prints are compelling in their emphasis on revolutionary politics and aesthetics. Combined with our outstanding existing collection, the Pinkowitz gift makes The Met one of the most important repositories of Mexican prints in the United States, one that is quickly becoming a resource much used by artists, students, and scholars alike.”

Most of the works in The Met’s collection of Mexican prints were acquired over three decades, from the 1920s through the 1940s, through the artist Jean Charlot, who spent years in Mexico and developed close relations with curators in the Department of Prints, as it was then called. The Pinkowitz gift fills important gaps in the existing collection through rare works such as Leopoldo Méndez’s portfolio Rio Escondido (1948), Isidoro Ocampo’s 10 grabados en madera (1941), and Elizabeth Catlett’s color linocut Sharecropper (1952, printed 1970). Most of the works are relief prints (woodcuts and linocuts) and their subjects mainly address social justice, reflecting the principal concerns of printmakers working in Mexico in the first half of the 20th century.

Mark McDonald, Curator in the Department of Drawings and Prints, said: “The Pinkowitz collection dovetails perfectly with our expansive collection of prints. JoAnn was well known to our department, where she spent a lot of time enthusiastically exploring our Mexican material. It is an honor to house and display this important group of works from her meticulously curated collection.”

The Museum’s Department of Asian Art received a group of 31 woodcuts from the Pinkowitz collection by major Chinese printmakers active in the 1930s and 1940s, such as Gu Yuan, Wo Zha, Yan Han, and Chen Yanqiao. The Modern Woodcut Movement in China was initiated by Lu Xun (1881–1936), the father of modern Chinese literature. Woodcuts were easily produced from inexpensive materials with relatively little training, and the technique, which was seen as a counterpoint to literati painting, was used extensively during the 1930s and 1940s by both Communist and Nationalist leaders to disseminate political messages in a graphically impactful, legible form. Some of the most iconic vignettes from the mid-century decades of war and revolution were produced in this medium.

Joseph Scheier-Dolberg, Oscar Tang and Agnes Hsu-Tang Curator of Chinese Paintings in the Department of Asian Art, said: “The Modern Woodcut Movement is an important but understudied chapter in the history of 20th-century Chinese art. The ephemeral nature of these prints and the humble circumstances in which they were produced and used means few survive, and not many exist outside China. Thanks to the Pinkowitzes, these excellent and well-preserved examples help make The Met a necessary destination for any student of this significant movement.”

JoAnn Edinburg Pinkowitz was a passionate collector of prints. She began collecting work by Mexican and other artists (mainly American) who worked in Mexico after being inspired, in 2009, by the exhibition Vida y Drama: Modern Mexican Prints at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where she was a volunteer. Since that time, JoAnn sought out the best impressions of works that interested her, amassing a considerable collection, most of which is coming to The Met. JoAnn died in 2022, and it was her wish—and that of her husband, Richard Pinkowitz—that the works enter The Met collection.

A display of select prints from the gift is planned for early 2025 in The Met’s Robert Wood Johnson, Jr. Gallery (Gallery 690).

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