The Mississippi Art Association, founded in 1911 with a small collection of paintings, evolved into the Mississippi Museum of Art as it has been known since 1978. Today the collection of more than 5500 objects has particular strength in American art from about 1865 to the present day, comprising paintings, prints and drawings, textiles, and photographs. Prominent artists represented in the collection include Thomas Sully, Albert Bierstadt, James McNeil Whistler, Robert Henri, John Sloane, Georgia O’Keeffe, Hale Woodruff, Dusti Bongé, George Wardlaw, Elizabeth Catlett, Andy Warhol, and Radcliffe Bailey. Many bequests and gifts have added strength and diversity to the collection such as those of Sara Virginia Jones, who left more than 100 excellent prints of 16th/20th-century origin, and of Oxford collectors Paul and Celia Mabry, who have given scores of works by American Modernists such as Arthur B. Davies, Robert Henri, Jerome Myers, George Overby “Pop” Hart, John Marin, Birger Sandzén, George Bellows, and Romare Bearden.
The Museum’s principal suite of galleries is devoted to an interpretive presentation of its permanent collection called The Mississippi Story, a thematic exhibition—always free to the public—that encompasses Mississippi artists of all stripes from the first native-born professional artist—James Tooley, Jr. (1816-1844) through Gaines Ruger Donoho, Thomas Eloby, Marie Hull, Eudora Welty, William J. Hollingsworth, Jr., John McCrady, Andrew Bucci, Marshall Bouldin, Sam Gilliam, William Dunlap, and Randy Hayes. The McCarty Foundation Gallery—known as the Icons Gallery—provides a forum for changing exhibitions assembled from all components of the permanent collection, ranging from Renaissance and Baroque prints to contemporary art. Selections from the distinguished collection of Pre-Columbian ceramics assembled by Sam Olden, of Yazoo City, are beautifully arrayed in custom-designed cases in the Corridor which leads all visitors from the entrance to the Barksdale Galleries where special exhibitions are presented.