Tacoma Art Museum acquires rare Brown painting

Tacoma Art Museum unveiled on Wednesday, a rare landscape painting by artist Grafton Tyler Brown, whose works have a strong Northwest connection.

A Canyon River with Pines and Figures, painted by Brown in 1886 while living in Portland, hangs in Liliane and Christian Haub Gallery. Brown, who died in 1918, traveled extensively throughout the Pacific Northwest and the broader western region.
The stunning scene depicts the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone with pine forests in the foreground, rugged sunlit rock walls leading the eye into the distance, and the Yellowstone River winding through the canyon. At nearly five feet wide, it will have a big impact in the galleries at TAM.

The painting arrived in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, and is a fitting tribute to this American institution. Yellowstone is commonly regarded as the world’s first national park.

“We are delighted to acquire Brown’s stunning landscape painting. This is our first significant purchase to complement the Haub Family Collection of Western American Art since the opening of the Haub Family Galleries in November 2014. We are grateful for the community support that made it possible to acquire this exceptional museum quality work,” stated Stephanie Stebich, TAM’s Executive Director.

“This painting beautifully links TAM’s focus on the art of the Northwest with the art of the broader western region. It helps us to tell a more complete story of Northwestern art and artists.”

Brown was one of few 19th century African American artists to work in the landscape genre. His coveted works are among the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Oakland Museum of California, as well as the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma which has a Brown painting of Mt. Tahoma (Rainier). The first retrospective exhibition of his work, Grafton Tyler Brown: Visualizing California and the Pacific Northwest, was presented by the California African American Museum, Los Angeles in 2003. It traveled to Baltimore, San Francisco, and the Washington State History Museum.

“Grafton Tyler Brown has long been on TAM’s curatorial wish list, but his works have been rather scarce on the market until recently,” said Margaret Bullock, curator of collections and special exhibitions at TAM. “This is a lucky confluence of both the chance to acquire an evocative major work by this artist and having the funds to make it possible.”

The Tacoma Pierce County Black Collective and the museum’s Art Acquisition Fund supported the purchase.

In the 1870s, Brown moved to Canada, then to Portland, where he opened a studio and joined the leadership of the Portland Art Society. He traveled throughout the Pacific Northwest and broader western region, including the areas that became Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks. In the 1890s, he moved to St. Paul, Minn., where he remained until his death.