Avery Collection of American Indian Paintings

Navajo Maidens (1970) by Manfred Susunkewa

Navajo Maidens (1970) by Manfred Susunkewa, Hopi, Casein on Board, Catalog No.: 2000-186-202

About the Avery Collection of American Indian Paintings

Arizona State Museum is honored to be the home of the Avery Collection of American Indian Painting, 355 paintings. 

Marjorie Pierce was born in Phoenix in 1923 (1923-2015) to a farming and ranching family. While attending the University of Arizona, she met and married Harlow Avery, who was to become a doctor.  The couple settled in Pecos, Texas. In 1960, Mrs. Avery purchased a painting by Navajo artist Beatien Yazz and became hooked. By 1999, her world-class collection of original works by American Indian artists grew to over 500 paintings. That year she decided to share a significant portion of her collection with the people of Arizona and the public at large by donating 355 paintings to the Arizona State Museum. She also wanted to share stories about her collecting methods of the last forty years and the relationships or connections she built with the artists, whose strength of character and talents she greatly admired.

The paintings bracket the period 1935 to 1990, a time that brought many changes to reservation and rural economies. Tourism dating from the completion of a transcontinental railway system, was enhanced by interstate highways and improved infrastructure that brought customers looking for art and craft produced by the "first American" to rural and reservation communities. At the same time, expositions like the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial and Santa Fe Indian Market in New Mexico and the American Indian Exposition in Anadarko, Oklahoma provided important venues for artists and buyers to meet and make connections and friendships. Museums, commercial galleries and international expositions were also instrumental in bringing American Indian art into public view. These and other venues provided a marketplace for collectors and patrons like Mrs. Avery.

Southwestern American Indian artists are well represented in the collection along with some excellent representative paintings from Oklahoma and Minnesota artists. Among the artists are: Fred Beaver (Creek), Harrison Begay (Navajo), Shonto Begay (Navajo), Michael Chiago (Tohono O'odham), Woody Crumbo (Potawatomi), Tony Da (San Ildefonso Pueblo), David Dawangyumptewa (Hopi), Patrick Desjarlait (Ojibwa), Carl Gorman (Navajo), R.C. Gorman (Navajo), Helen Hardin (Santa Clara Pueblo), Valjean Hessing (Choctaw), Raphael Medina (Zia), Al Momaday (Kiowa), Gernonima Montoya (San Juan Pueblo), Raymond Naha (Hopi), and Beatien Yazz (Navajo).

Marjorie Pierce Avery

Marjorie Pierce Avery (center, seated) among friends and many members of her family at the opening of an exhibit of the Avery Collection in 2002.

Over forty years ago, the purchase of a single painting grew into what is now The Avery Collection. A very gratifying and unexpected side effect of collecting has been people -- those interesting, knowledgeable, charming, friendly, colorful, fun people! --Marjorie Pierce Avery, December 1999   

Selected Readings on American Indian Painting 

Archuleta, Margaret and Rennard Strickland
1991 Shared Visions: Native American Painters and Sculptors in the Twentieth Century. New York: The New Press.

Berlo, Janet, ed
1992 The Early Years of Native American Art History: The Politics of Scholarship and Collecting. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Bernstein, Bruce, and Jackson Rushing
1995 Modern by Tradition: American Indian Painting in the Studio Style. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press.

Blue Eagle, Acee
1959 Oklahoma Indian Painting - Poetry. Tulsa, OK: Acorn Publishing Company.

Brody, J. J.
1971 Indian Painters and White Patrons. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

1992 A Bridge Across Cultures: Pueblo Painters in Santa Fe, 1910-1932. Santa Fe: Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian.

Chase, Katherine
1982 Navajo Painting. Plateau, Vol. 54, no. 1. Flagstaff, Museum of Northern Arizona.

Chee, Robert
1975 The Navajo. Tucson, AZ: Mark Bahti.

Dittemore, Diane, ed
2002 Connections Across Generations: The Avery Collection of American Indian Paintings. Tucson: 
Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona.

DeHuff, Elizabeth Willis
1922 Taytay's Tales. New York: Harcourt Brace & Co.

Dockstader, Frederick J.
1961 Indian Art in America. Greenwich, CN: New York Graphic Society.

Douglas, Frederic, and René D'Harnoncourt
1941 Indian Art of the United States. New York: Museum of Modern Art.

Dunn, Dorothy
1968 American Indian painting of the Southwest and Plains Areas. Albquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Gorman, R.C.
1992 The Spirit of my People. Albuquerque: Santa Fe Fine Arts, Inc.

Gritton, Joy L.
2000 The Institute of American Indian Arts: Modernism and U.S. Indian Policy. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press

Hannum, Alberta
1945 Spin a Silver Dollar. New York: Viking Press.
1958 Paint the Wind. New York: Viking Press.

Highwater, Jamake
1976 Song from the Earth: American Indian Painting. Boston: New York Graphic Society.

1980 The Sweet Grass Lives On: Fifty Contemporary North American Indian Artists. New York: Lippincott and Crowell.

Lester, Patrick D.
1995 The Biographical Directory of Native American Painters. Tulsa, OK: SIR Publications.

Ruch, Marcella J. and Pablita Velarde
2001 Painting her People. Santa Fe: New Mexico Magazine.

Rushing, W. Jackson
1995 Native American Art and the New York Avante-Garde. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Seymour, Tryntje Van Ness
1986 When the Rainbow Touches Down. Phoenix: Heard Museum.

Shutes, Jeanne, and Jill Melnick
1996 The Worlds of P'otsúnú: Geronima Cruz Montoya of San Juan Pueblo. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Silberman, Arthur
1978 100 Years of Native American Painting. Oklahoma City: The Oklahoma Museum of Art

Snodgrass, Jeanne O.
1968 American Indian Painters: A Biographical Directory. New York: Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation.

Sloan, John, and Oliver LaFarge.
1931 Introduction to American Indian Art. New York: Exposition of Indian Arts.

Tanner, Clara Lee
1973 Southwest Indian Painting: A Changing Art. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Wade, Edwin, ed.
1986 The Arts of the North American Indian: Native Traditions in Evolution. New York: Philbrook Art Center and Hudson Hill Press

Williams, Jean Sherrod, ed
1990 American Indian Artists: The Avery Collection and the McNay Permanent Collection. San Antonio, Texas: Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum.

Wyckoff, Lydia, ed
1996 Visions and Voices: Native American painting from the Philbrook Museum of Art. Tulsa, Oklahoma: Philbrook Museum of Art.