The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art boasts a permanent collection numbering more than 7,500 works. Works by prominent national artists such as Will Barnet, William Baziotes, Albert Bierstadt, Mary Cassatt, Walt Kuhn, Thomas Moran, Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Sully, and Andy Warhol are counted among its holdings. Through its collection, SAMA also strives to maintain a repository of western and central Pennsylvania’s contributions to American art and boasts a strong catalogue of local and regional artists including Franklin Dullin Briscoe, Frederick Counsel, George Hetzel, and William H. Rau.
Expanding the Collection
SAMA, like other museums, is always looking to expand its permanent collection. Occasionally, the Museum receives donations of art from friends and supporters.
Accepted donations are tax-deductible, whether they are accessioned into the collection or not. For more details and information on donating artworks to SAMA, please visit the planned giving page of the website.
SAMA serves as a repository for several distinctive collections. For more information on each collection, please select a link below.
The Colleen Browning Collection
Painter Colleen Browning was a member of the Magic Realist group that includes Paul Cadmus, Jared French, George Tooker, and Robert Vickrey. Adding to earlier gifts from the artist, the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in 2006 received a major bequest of Browning’s artwork and personal memorabilia from the estate of her late husband, Geoffrey Wagner. To date, the Museum has accessioned more than 100 paintings and drawings to its permanent collection. Objects range from early student work made in England during the 1930s to some of her last paintings, executed shortly before her death in 2003. In the collection are examples of the artist’s best-known work, including her images of Harlem and the New York subway. Attesting to the diversity of Browning’s oeuvre, there are also landscapes, figure studies, and a series of quasi-abstract compositions based on scrambled TV signals. Other works include mural studies, stage set designs, and book illustrations.
Browning studied at the Slade School of Art in London and commenced her career as a designer of costumes and stage sets. Her first solo exhibition was held in 1949 at London’s Little Gallery; shortly afterward, she married English novelist Geoffrey Wagner. Wagner’s career brought the couple to the United States, and after settling in New York City, Browning showed her paintings of Harlem street scenes to early acclaim. During the 1950s, her work was acquired by several American museums and featured in a number of national exhibitions. Settling into a routine of painting and exhibiting her work, Browning enjoyed a successful career despite the prevalence of Abstract Expressionism and other nonobjective styles during the 1960s and 1970s. In later years, she painted some of her largest and most complex canvases, including Iguassu III, Jubilee, and Picture of a Painting of the Great Circus Parade.
The Mark del Costello Collection
The Mark del Costello Collection focuses on American graphic design of the modern era. Numbering approximately 3100 pieces, it includes posters and ephemera related to a wide variety of topics such as music, theater, film, visual arts, product advertising, and political issues. Although most examples in the collection date to the second half of the twentieth century, there are outstanding earlier works by renowned illustrators Howard Chandler Christy and Norman Rockwell. Later artists of note include Saul Bass, Paul Davis, David Lance Goines, Edward Gorey, Alton Kelley, and Stanley Mouse. Apart from its artistic significance, the Mark del Costello Collection is also and important source for social history, touching on many of the noteworthy events and movements that have occurred in the United States of the last fifty years.
The Catherine and David O'Neill Collection of Old Master Prints and Drawings
Presented to the Museum in 2011, the Catherine and David O’Neill Collection of Old Master Drawings and Prints is among the Museum’s newest distinctive collections. A gift of the Frank and Margaret Sullivan Fund in honor of longtime SAMA supporters Catherine and David O’Neill, it features an outstanding group of works on paper by European Old Master artists. These include Albrecht Durer, Hendrik Goltzius, Pietro Novelli, Georg Pencz, and Rembrandt van Rijn along with the as-yet unidentified representatives of several distinguished artistic schools. Among the drawings and prints are studies for paintings as well as finished compositions. Subjects range from depictions of the Virgin Mary and other saints to allegorical figures and themes from literature. As a whole, the O’Neill Collection is particularly valuable in providing the historical context for the development of art in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Europe and, ultimately, the United States.
The Donald M. Robinson Collection
Donald M. Robinson is an internationally acclaimed photographer who has traveled the world in search of compelling images. Numbering in excess of 800 objects, the Robinson collection includes documentary and nature photographs taken on six continents and in more than 60 countries.
Although diverse, Robinson’s subjects are united in the artist’s self-conscious search for beauty and universal empathy. Echoing nineteenth-century paintings of the Hudson River School, Robinson’s landscape photographs are notable for their amplitude and scenic grandeur. In his ethnographic and documentary portraits, a strong sense of human feelings emerges through even the most (to western eyes) alien of costumes. Robinson himself states: “I don’t look upon my subjects as curiosities…I look for stories in their faces- sadness, anger, and humor.”
Robinson studied photography with Cole Weston, Jay Masiel, William Neill, Arnold Newman, and Philip Hyde. His first mature works were made in Mexico around 1960; since then, Robinson has traveled extensively throughout the world and in the United States. He has exhibited his work widely, and has received numerous distinctions, including the title of EFIAP (Artist of Excellence) from the Federation Internationale de l’Art Photographique and the Galaxy Award of the Photographic Society of America.
The Charles M. Schwab Collection
Charles M. Schwab was one of the twentieth century’s most powerful industrialists. In 1985, Bethlehem Steel donated to the Museum a collection of presentation silver and other memorabilia associated with Schwab. Valued for its historical and social as well as artistic interest, the Schwab Collection contains fine examples of early twentieth-century decorative arts. Chief among these is the massive Commemorative Loving Cup by Tiffany and Company, given to Schwab on April 1, 1901, by officials of the Carnegie Steel Company “as a token of their affection and regard.”
A native of Loretto, Pennsylvania, Schwab attended St. Francis College before going to work for Carnegie Steel in Pittsburgh. Sixteen years later, he had risen through the ranks to become the company’s president. His most important achievement was assisting in the merger of Carnegie Steel with the Federal and National Steel Companies in 1901, resulting in the world’s first billion-dollar business enterprise, the United States Steel Corporation. After briefly serving as president of this new entity, Schwab became president of Bethlehem Steel, guiding it to a position second only to U.S. Steel in importance. Schwab built a considerable fortune during his career, but lost much of it due to risktaking and extravagant living. His Loretto estate, “Immergrun,” was a casualty of the stock market crash of 1929, and is now a community of the Franciscan Order. Schwab remained fond of Loretto to the end of his days, however, and was buried in his home town in 1939.
Walter Carlyle Shaw Collection
In 1992, Elizabeth Shaw Gamble donated a collection of 169 historical and contemporary paperweights in memory of her father, Walter Carlyle Shaw. The collection encompasses a wide variety of types and techniques, and includes crimp, crown, faceted, footed, millefiori, spiral, sulphide, and swirl paperweights in many sizes and colors. Celebrated manufacturers range from Baccarat, Clichy la Garenne, and St. Louis in France; the Whitefriars Glass Company and Perthshire Paperweights in the British Isles, and the American firms of Orient & Flume Art Glass and Vandermark-Merritt Glass Studios. Also in the collection are a number of antique and vintage paperweights attributed to the New England Glass Company, the Boston & Sandwich Glass Company, and Whitall-Tatum & Company. Contemporary glass artists represented include Rick Ayotte, Bob Banford, Chris Bussini, Ken Rosenfield, Daniel Salazar, Debbie Taristano, and others. The Shaw collection is on permanent view at the Museum’s Ligonier Valley facility, and is displayed in an attractive multi-level screen that permits inspection from many angles.
Nicholas Unkovic Collection
The Nicholas Unkovic Collection consists of 95 Steuben Glass sculptures dating from 1940 to 1980. Known as “ornamentals,” these pieces include figurines, paperweights, and other decorative objects. Like most Steuben produced after 1940, they are made of clear glass and are notable for their expressive, free-flowing forms. The quasi-abstract appearance of much of the collection reflects Steuben’s conscious effort to produce “modern” glass following a change of leadership in the 1930s. Struggling with the effects of the Great Depression, the company’s new president, Arthur Houghton, Jr., hoped to capitalize on the American public’s growing appreciation for the streamlined forms of Art Deco. The new look proved popular, and for decades afterward, the general appearance of Steuben’s ornamentals remained essentially unchanged.