WILHELMINA COLE HOLLADAY

Collector and Philanthropist



Country: USA
Year: 1922

 

Founder of the National Museum of Women in the Arts

Holladay1-book-cover-photoWilhelmina Cole Holladay in 1981 with her private collection that would become the core of the museum’s collection

How the museum was born

wilhlelmina-cole-holladay-and-wallace-f-holladay_2005-Fall-Benefit_w
While traveling abroad, Wilhelmina Cole Holladay and her husband, Wallace F. Holladay, admired a 17th-century still-life by Flemish painter Clara Peeters.
Upon their return to the U.S., the Holladays sought information on Peeters, but found that the definitive art history text (H.W. Janson’s History of Art) made no reference to her, or any other female artist.
The Holladays began amassing works by women artists in the 1960s, establishing what would become the core of the museum’s collection.

Wilhelmina Cole Holladay
and 
Wallace F. Holladay
Photo from 
2005 Fall Benefit

 

 

First steps

clipping and catalogue coverMrs. Holladay incorporated NMWA in 1981 as a private, non-profit museum, and it opened its doors to the public in 1987 with its first exhibition of “American Women Artists, 1830–1930”.

LEFT, article on “American Women Artists, 1830–1930” by Eleanor Tufts curator.
RIGHT: Catalogue cover of  “American Women Artists, 1830–1930”

 

ellen-taaff-zwilich_5wTo underscore its commitment to increasing the attention given to women in all disciplines, NMWA commissioned Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich to write Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, inspired by five paintings in the permanent collection, for an inaugural concert. Photo: Ellen Taaffe Zwilich

 

 1983. An extraordinary new building for the Collection

nmwa bulding_wInitially drafted by architect Waddy Wood to serve as a Masonic temple, the 78,810 square-foot main building was completed in 1908 and the original structure is on the D.C. Inventory List of Historic Sites as well as the National Register of Historic Places. The exterior façade in Renaissance Revival style incorporates both Tuscan and Mediterranean design elements, in addition to Masonic symbolism.

In 1983, the museum purchased the building to house its collection and, after extensive renovation, it opened on April 7, 1987. The project received several awards, including the American Institute of Architects’ Prize for Excellence in Preservation of Historic Buildings.

In 1993, the museum purchased 5,300 square feet of adjacent property and, after further renovation, the Elisabeth A. Kasser Wing opened in 1997 making the entire facility 84,110 square feet. Not surprisingly, the building has become a Washington landmark.

Highlights of the Wilhelmina Cole Holladay Collection
donated to the National Museum of Women in the Art

1_peeters_stilllife-lilies-roses-pansies_0
Clara Peeters, 

A Still Life of Lilies, Roses, Iris, Pansies, Columbine, Love-in-a-Mist, Larkspur and Other Flowers in a Glass Vase on a Table Top, Flanked by a Rose and a Carnation, 1610

 

 

 

 

2_moillon_louise-bowl_lemons_oranges
Louise Moillon

Bowl of Lemons and Oranges on a Box of Wood Shavings and Pomegranates, ca. 1630s

 

 

 

 

 


4_ sirani_elisabetta-holy_family_saint_elizabeth_saint_john

Elisabetta Sirani

The Holy Family with St. Elizabeth and St. John the Baptist, ca. 1650–60

 

 

 

 

 


6_2.2.2.x-collection-detail-sirani_virgin_and_child
Elisabetta Sirani

Virgin and Child, 1663
Conservation funds generously provided by the Southern California State Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts

 

 

 

 

7_2.2.2.x-collection-detail-ruysch_roses_convolvulus_poppies_and_other_flowers
Rachel Ruysch

Roses, Convolvulus, Poppies and Other Flowers in an Urn on a Stone Ledge, ca. 1680s

 

 

 

 

 


8 2.2.2.x-collection-detail-peeters_still_life_of_cat_and_fish
Clara Peeters

Still Life of Fish and Cat,
after 1620 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9_2.2.2.x-collection-detail-leyster_the_concert
Judith Leyster

The Concert, ca. 1633

 

 

 

 

 

 


10_2.2.2.x-collection-detail-fontana-portrait_of_a_noblewoman
Lavinia Fontana

Portrait of a Noblewoman,
ca. 1580

 

 

 

 

 

 

13_spencer_lilly_martin-still_life_watermelon
Lilly Martin Spencer

Still Life with Watermelon, Pears, and Grapes,
ca. 1860

 

 

 

 

 


Mary-Cassatt_The-Bath 
Mary Cassatt

The Bath, 1891

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

18_2.2.2.x-collection-detail-gardner-the_shepherd_david


Elizabeth Jane Gardner Bouguereau

The Shepherd David,
ca. 1895

 

 

 

 

 



16_2.2.2.x-collection-detail-kasebier-the_manger
Gertrude Käsebier

The Manger, 1899

 

 

 

 

 

 



Lilla-Cabot-Perry_Lady-With-a-Bowl-of-Violets
Lilla Cabot Perry

Lady with a Bowl of Violets,
ca. 1910

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Suzanne-Valadon_The-Abandoned-Doll
Suzanne Valadon

The Abandoned Doll, 1921

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



20_albers_untitled_edited


Anni Albers

Untitled, 1969

 

 

 

 

 

 

abbema_portraityounggirlblueribbon_blackbackground
Louise Abbéma

Portrait of a Young Girl with a Blue Ribbon,
ca. 1985

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book “A Museum of Their Own”

catalogue _a_museum_of_their_ownHardcover, 240 pages
Over the centuries, until quite recently, great women artists had been ignored, forgotten, or somehow denied; they had been largely left out of museums and art history.

Wilhelmina Cole Holladay boldly decided to rectify this oversight by founding a museum in 1987 in a landmark building three blocks from the White House in Washington, D.C.

This book, written by Holladay, details the conception and first 20 years of NMWA’s history, paying homage to the remarkable individuals who helped cultivate the museum. 

 

 

 

The Museum today
NMWA’s collection features more than 5,000 works
from the 16th-century to the present
created by more than 1,000 artists. 

National Museum of Women in the Arts

NMWA is located at 1250 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C.
It is open Monday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m., and Sunday, noon–5 p.m.
For information, call 202-783-5000 or  visit nmwa.org