The first acquisition in 1964 was Portrait of a Gentleman, an oil painting from 1824 by Jacob Marling (American, 1744-1833), a gift of Mr. and Mrs. James E. Hall of Lumberton. Marling had been the first director of the North Carolina Museum in 1813. A painter and a teacher, Marling was also an art collector. In 1966, CAM (then St. John’s) received 83 pieces of Jugtown Pottery as a gift of Woodrow W. Pruett and William Bridges in memory of Juliana Royster Busbee. This was followed by the gifts of two works by Minnie Evans by the artist herself in 1970. In 1972, artists Henry Jay MacMillan and Hester Donnelly gave 104 works by their teacher Elisabeth Chant to St. John’s. The trunk Chant carried when she arrived in Wilmington and its contents were also given to St. John’s. The identity of the museum and the core of its collection of North Carolina art began to be forged.
Jacob Marling (American, 1744-1833)
Portrait of a Gentleman, 1824
Oil on canvas
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James E. Hall
In 1984, Samuel Hudson Hughes (a donor and collector) encouraged his friend and former client Therese Thorne McLane of Millbrook, New York, and Southern Pines, North Carolina, to donate The Ten, a series of Impressionist prints by American artist Mary Cassatt that he encouraged her to purchase in the 1930s, to St. John’s. The works in the series are dated 1891-1897, and they depict domestic life of the late 1800s from a distinctly female gaze. Cassatt, an ardent supporter of women’s rights, was one of few women who exhibited with the Impressionists. The prints draw inspiration from the color palate of Japanese woodblock prints. At the time of donation, the prints were insured at a value of over $2 million.
Mary Cassatt (American, 1844-1926)
The Letter, 1891
Drypoint and aquatint on paper
Gift of Therese Thorne McLane in honor of Samuel Hudson Hughes and Zelina Comegys Brunschwig
In 1995, Dr. Isabel Bittinger of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, presented a gift of 108 Japanese ukiyo-e color woodblock prints to St. John’s Museum of Art. The prints were bound in an album and included two series: Tõkaidõ gojusan-tsugi (Fifty-three stations of the Tõkaidõ) by Andõ Hiroshige and Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji), attributed to Utagawa Kunisada II. Bittinger, the first female orthopedic surgeon in North Carolina, had met Claude Howell, who introduced her to St. John Museum of Art and encouraged her to consider St. John’s as a place to donate her collection.
These prints had remained in Dr. Bittinger’s family and were originally owned by Reverend Edmund Bittinger, a Presbyterian chaplain who traveled with Commodore Matthew Perry aboard the Susquehanna, on the 1853-54 U.S. naval entry into Japan. According to family tradition, Reverend Bittinger received the album of prints as a gift from the Japanese government during the voyage. They had remained in storage in the intervening years, accounting for the well-preserved condition and brilliant color of the prints, the colors that had inspired Impressionists like Cassatt.
Utagawa Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797-1858)
Station 53 of the 53 Stations of the Tokaido-Kusatsu, 1855
Woodblock print on paper
Gift of Dr. Isabel Bittinger
As the museum’s collection grew, so did its focus. In 1992, the acquisitions committee rewrote their policy stating, “St. John’s Museum of Art’s primary focus is collecting 19th and 20th century North Carolina art. In addition, the Museum collects American art to put the North Carolina collection in a broader context.”
In 2017, San Francisco resident Louis Belden bequeathed his art collection, the gift of his lifetime, to the CAM community. Belden had spent summers in Wilmington early in his life and had been a lifelong friend of CAM patron Samuel Hudson Hughes. He wanted to make a gift where he knew it would make a difference. This unprecedented gifts of 136 works by 54 artists elevated CAM’s collection and included American and European artists Josef Albers, Marc Chagall, Alexander Calder, Judy Chicago, Helen Frankenthaler, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Pablo Picasso, and Robert Rauchenberg. These works offer a range of expressionism, experimentalism, and expansion of the terrain of postwar modernism and post-modernism. Louis Belden’s gift to CAM extended the museum’s commitment to works on paper, as started with the donation of the Cassatts and continued with the Japanese woodblock prints. Belden’s gift deepened the museum’s collection in exciting and surprising ways, opening doors for scholarship, research, programming, and additional collecting.
Helen Frankenthaler (American, 1928-2011)
Color silkscreen print
Collection of Cameron Art Museum
Also in 2017, Director Anne Brennan founded the Compass Giving Society, an upper level giving society focused on acquisitions to the permanent collection. Information about membership to Compass can be found here. Compass acquisitions have included work by Diego Camposeco, Elizabeth Catlett, Phillip Freelon, Beverly McIver, Jaydan Moore, Faith Ringgold, Alison Saar, Lien Truong, Burk Uzzle, and Fred Wilson.
Diego Camposeco (American, 1992 – 2019)
Quince, from the series Transterrestria, 2018
Collection of Cameron Art Museum
Claude Howell Endowment for the Purchase of NC Art
CAM’s archival collection includes the personal documents, journals, and writings of North Carolina artists, the Minnie Evans Study Center, focusing on documents, photographs, and research on African American artist Minnie Evans and her life as a folk artist, and the Claude Howell Archives. The museum’s archives include documents, photographs, and research documenting over 60 years of the artistic heritage of the Cape Fear Region.
CAM, like many museums, includes its collection in rotating thematic exhibitions. The permanent collection is not permanently on view. Please call ahead if you are traveling to see a specific work of art.
In partnership with UNCW a portion of Cameron Art Museum’s permanent collection can be viewed here.
Gifts of art to the museum serve to increase both the quantity and quality of the permanent collection, and further enhance our ability to engage visitors in visual art.
Collectors can give works of art to the Cameron Art Museum:
- As an outright gift
- As an irrevocable promised gift
- As a bequest
- As the gift of a percentage of value over a time period designated by the giver
The museum recommends discussing your gift and estate plans with your own legal and financial advisors to ensure your personal and charitable goals are wisely met. We are grateful to all our friends and donors. For more information on giving art to the Cameron Art Museum, please contact Susan Whisnant at email@example.com
Conservation and Appraisals
The Cameron Art Museum is unable to appraise artworks. The museum recommends that an accredited appraiser be contacted directly. The following information is provided to aid in your search for an expert in a field related to your artwork. For assistance in finding an appraiser, please contact:
International Society of Appraisers
737 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 2100
Chicago, IL 60611
PH: 866.481.1689 toll-free or 312.981.6778
Before choosing a conservator, we suggest that you refer to the American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works “caring for your treasures guidelines”. This information can be found on the American Institute of Historic & Artistic Works website under publications.
For assistance in finding a conservator, please contact:
American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works
1156 15th St., NW, Suite 320
Washington, DC 20005-1714
The Cameron Art Museum does not recommend one appraiser, conservator, framer or other art professional over another. This list includes suggestions of organizations that may be consulted; but the museum will not be held responsible for conservation or appraisals. This information is provided solely as a resource, and not an endorsement of any entity.