Miriam Matthews, Collector & Advocate

A note from the catalogue of our April 6 sale of African-American Fine Art.

 

 

Miriam Matthews (1905 – 2003)

 

Lot 88: Dan Concholar, The Shaman Moves Through Hollywood (Hollywood Series), color pastel, 1977. Estimate $1,000 to $1,500.

Lot 88: Dan Concholar, The Shaman Moves Through Hollywood (Hollywood Series), color pastel, 1977. Estimate $1,000 to $1,500.

 

Miriam Matthews was a trailblazer as a librarian, historian, preservationist and collector. Born in Pensacola, Florida, Matthews’ family moved to Los Angeles in 1907. She earned a bachelor’s degree in 1926 and a librarian certificate in 1927 from the University of California, Berkeley. In 1927, Matthews was hired by the Los Angeles Public Library System, becoming the first professionally trained African-American librarian in California.

 

Lot 82: Beulah Woodard, Untitled (Bust of a Mangbetu Woman), cast bronze with black patina, 1937. Estimate $5,000 to $7,000.

Lot 82: Beulah Woodard, Untitled (Bust of a Mangbetu Woman), cast bronze with black patina, 1937. Estimate $5,000 to $7,000.

 

Lot 93: Nathaniel Bustion, Bobo Festival Series 1, screenprint, circa 1978-90. Estimate $1,000 to $1,500.

Lot 93: Nathaniel Bustion, Bobo Festival Series 1, screenprint, circa 1978-90. Estimate $1,000 to $1,500.

 

After earning a master’s degree in library science from the University of Chicago in 1945, she was promoted in Los Angeles to the position of the regional librarian, becoming the first African-American branch librarian. She supervised twelve branches until her retirement in 1960. In 2004, a year after her passing, the Hyde Park Branch Library in Los Angeles was renamed after Matthews.

 

Lot 83: Priscilla "P'lla" Mills, Blues Singer, welded bronze on a wood base, circa 1960. Estimate $3,000 to $5,000.

Lot 83: Priscilla “P’lla” Mills, Blues Singer, welded bronze on a wood base, circa 1960. Estimate $3,000 to $5,000.

 

Committed to preserving the early history of African-Americans in California, Matthews established herself as an authority on the subject, building an extensive collection of historical materials. In 1929, Matthews promoted the launch of “Negro History Week,” which Los Angeles began observing in 1933, now celebrated as Black History Month.

 

Lot 89: William Pajaud, King Solomon and His Charging White Horses, oil and graphite on canvas, circa 1970. Estimate $5,000 to $7,000.

Lot 89: William Pajaud, King Solomon and His Charging White Horses, oil and graphite on canvas, circa 1970. Estimate $5,000 to $7,000.

 

Lot 80: Richmond Barthé (after), Feral Benga, cast bronze, circa 1960s. Estimate $8,000 to $12,000.

Lot 80: Richmond Barthé (after), Feral Benga, cast bronze, circa 1960s. Estimate $8,000 to $12,000.

 

She provided extensive research for the historical subjects in artists Charles Alston and Hale Woodruff’s 1948 mural commission The Negro in California History for Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company’s home office lobby, and spoke at the building’s opening in 1949. In recognition of her body of work, the Los Angeles Historical Society established an annual Miriam Matthews Award. Her archive is now housed in the Charles E. Young Research Library of UCLA.

 

Marion Epting, Outer Space, color linoleum cut, circa 1971. Estimate $1,000 to $1,500.

Lot 92: Marion Epting, Outer Space, color linoleum cut, circa 1971. Estimate $1,000 to $1,500.

 

John T. Riddle, Jr., Mother and Child, glazed fired clay mounted on a wood base, circa 1960-65. Estimate $3,000 to $5,000.

Lot 84: John T. Riddle, Jr., Mother and Child, glazed fired clay mounted on a wood base, circa 1960-65. Estimate $3,000 to $5,000.

 

Matthews was also active in community and cultural affairs in the Los Angeles and California. She was an active member of the California Library Association’s committee for intellectual freedom in the late 1940s and was appointed to the California Heritage Preservation Commission in 1970.

 

Lot 86: Betye Saar, Wood Nymph with Birds, color etching and aquatint, circa 1967-68. Estimate $1,000 to $1,500.

Lot 86: Betye Saar, Wood Nymph with Birds, color etching and aquatint, circa 1967-68. Estimate $1,000 to $1,500.

 

Lot 81: Beulah Woodard, Mask, sheet metal with copper patina, circa 1935. Estimate $7,000 to $10,000.

Lot 81: Beulah Woodard, Mask, sheet metal with copper patina, circa 1935. Estimate $7,000 to $10,000.

 

Beginning with her support of the sculptor Beulah Woodard in the 1930s, Matthews became an avid visual art patron. As a collector of African-American art in Los Angeles, she built a collection of more than 100 artworks which she lent to area institutions.

 

Herman "Kofi" Bailey, Sojourner Truth, brown and black conté, circa 1970-75. Estimate $2,000 to $3,000.

Lot 90: Herman “Kofi” Bailey, Sojourner Truth, brown and black conté, circa 1970-75. Estimate $2,000 to $3,000.

 

 

 

Lot 85: Yvonne Cole Meo, Cotton is Still King #4, etching, circa 1965. Estimate $1,000 to $1,500.

Lot 85: Yvonne Cole Meo, Cotton is Still King #4, etching, circa 1965. Estimate $1,000 to $1,500.

 

Swann Galleries is proud to honor Miriam Matthews, and present this selection from her estate’s collection.

 

Lot 87: Suzanne Jackson, The Flower and a Bird, graphite and pencil, circa 1970. Estimate $1,000 to $1,500.

Lot 87: Suzanne Jackson, The Flower and a Bird, graphite and pencil, circa 1970. Estimate $1,000 to $1,500.

 

Browse the full catalogue.