At First Sight: Collecting the American Watercolor reveals the early influences of Alice Walton, the founder of the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas

Georgia O'Keeffe, Evening Star No. II, 1917, watercolor

Georgia O’Keeffe, Evening Star No. II, 1917, watercolor

Every art collector has a first love. For Crystal Bridges’ founder and board chairwoman Alice Walton, it was watercolor painting that initially drew her attention. At First Sight offers a glimpse into how her early interest in watercolor grew into a lifelong love of art.

At First Sight; Collecting The American Watercolor

John Marin, Telephone Building, 1926, watercolor

John Marin, Telephone Building, 1926, watercolor

Making watercolor paintings has brought Walton great joy over the years, and it also contributed to her deep appreciation for the work of professional artists. As a child, Alice Walton became interested in art as she painted watercolor landscapes with her mother, Helen.

Walton has often recalled her experiences, when she was young, painting watercolors with her mother during camping trips, which references a kind of nostalgic motivation behind her initial fascination with the aqueous medium when she started collecting art during the 1970s.

Her love of art has grown over a lifetime and she wants to share it with the world.

Her initial interest in collecting watercolors grew into a fascination with American art, which soon inspired her to collect works by American artists in many media.

At First Sight: Collecting the American Watercolor offers the rare opportunity to view some of the paintings that sparked Walton’s earliest collecting interests, including works by Thomas Hart Benton, John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer, John Marin, Childe Hassam, Andrew Wyeth, Georgia O’Keeffe and Willem deKooning.

The At First Sight exhibition includes over 30 watercolors from Alice Walton’s private collection.

The exhibition dates are: January 18 through April 21, 2014. Other highlights for 2014 include a traveling exhibition of American and European masters of Modernism and a ground-breaking exhibition of contemporary American art.


Childe Hassam, Isles of Shoales, 1886, watercolor and gouache

Childe Hassam, Isles of Shoales, 1886, watercolor and gouache


John La Farge, Peonies in a Breeze, 1890, watercolor

John La Farge, Peonies in a Breeze, 1890, watercolor

The Crystal Bridges Description

Located in the heart of the country in Bentonville, Arkansas, Crystal Bridges explores the unfolding history of America by collecting and exhibiting outstanding works of art that illuminate our artistic heritage and enrich our understanding and appreciation of our nation and ourselves.

Located on 120 acres of native Ozark forest, Crystal Bridges’ grounds invite visitors to enjoy the natural environment as a continuation of their museum experience. The Museum’s distinctive architecture immerses visitors in the landscape, while three miles of nature trails encourage exploration and reflection.

Through our ever-expanding permanent collection of American art, temporary exhibitions, and a wide variety of entertaining and educational programs, Crystal Bridges has become an invaluable resource for our community, and a must-see attraction for tourists to Northwest Arkansas.

In addition, a number of ground-breaking exhibition and education initiatives place Crystal Bridges at the forefront in scholarship and outreach innovation.

The Artists Eye“The Artists’ Eye: Georgia O’Keeffe and the Alfred Stieglitz Collection”

Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, November 9, 2013 through February 3, 2014

When artist Georgia O’Keeffe died in 1996, she donated her late husband Alfred Stieglitz’s extensive collection of modern art to six different institutions: Fisk University; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Philadelphia Museum of Art; The Chicago Art Institute; and the National Gallery of Art and the Library of Congress, both in Washington D.C.

The works presently in Bentonville are now co-owned by Crystal Bridges and Fisk University. The collection will travel between the two institutions every two years.


John Marin, 'Taos and Vicinity No. 2,' a 1929 watercolor on paper, Alfred Stieglitz Collection

John Marin, ‘Taos and Vicinity No. 2,’ a 1929 watercolor, Alfred Stieglitz Collection


Charles Demuth, Cyclamen, 1916, watercolorTitled “The Artists’ Eye: Georgia O’Keeffe and the Alfred Stieglitz Collection,” the show features the artists Stieglitz most favored, including O’Keeffe, Charles Demuth, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley and John Marin, alongside some of the early European Modernists who inspired them, including Paul Cézanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

This exhibition showcases the rise of American Modernism, a cause Stieglitz championed throughout his life. He began his career as one of the first gallery owners in the United States to exhibit European Modernists such as Toulouse-Lautrec and Cézanne. The European gems in “Through the Artists’ Eye,” are highlighted by canvases from Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cezanne and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Also on display are four works by 19th-century African artists, including a stunning Kota reliquary guardian figure.

Over time, however, Stieglitz became completely committed to supporting and encouraging artists he felt were creating a uniquely American style of Modernism.

Alice Walton, Founder

Alice Walton, Founder

Alice Walton, Founder, The Crystal Bridges Museum

Alice Walton, the daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton, spearheaded the Walton Family Foundation’s involvement in developing Crystal Bridges. It is the first major art museum (over $200 million endowment) to open in the United States since 1974. Over $317 million of the project’s cost has been donated by Alice Walton. In 2005, art historian John Wilmerding was hired for acquisition and advice on museum programming. He stated that often when an artwork became available through a private sale Walton would state ‘Wait, it will come to auction where we can get it at a better price,’ and she was usually correct. He also stated that the museum ranks at least in the top half dozen of American art museums. The museum’s “quality and its range and depth already place it among one of the very best.”


VIDEO: Alice Walton’s Crystal Bridges Museum, CBS

Walmart heiress Alice Walton has for many years had a dream of building a world-class museum of American art in her hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas. Now, since she is the world’s third-wealthiest woman, Walton used the money to make this dream a reality. Martha Teichner reports. (November 6, 2011)



A Look At The Crystal Bridges Museum

Crystal Bridges Museum of Art


Crystal Bridges Museum Of American Art By Safdie Architects

Crystal Bridges Museum Of American Art By Safdie Architects

Other Resources

A Billionaire’s Eye for Art Shapes Her Singular Museum, New York Times

Inside The World Of Walmart Billionaire Alice Walton, America’s Richest Art Collector, Forbes, October 7, 2013

Walmart heiress Alice Walton’s new institution, a series of pavilions in a forested ravine, links nature to a major collection of American works. Architectural Record

Alice’s Wonderland, A Walmart heiress builds a museum in the Ozarks. The New Yorker


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