Thompson Library Now Display Site for World Renowned Private Art Collection

Thompson Library is proud to host works from the privately owned Mott-Warsh Art Collection.  The art collection, owned by The Maryanne Mott and Herman Warsh Collection, contains samples of some of the very best late 20th century works by African American artists.

While the collection consists of works in several mediums (including 3-diemensional works, sculpture, photographs, videos and mixed-media), Thompson Library will display examples of paintings from this esteemed collection.

The mission of the Mott-Warsh Collection is to present contemporary fine art to public audiences in non-traditional venues as well as educational and cultural institutions.   University of Michigan-Flint (with its strong historical ties to the Mott family of Flint, Michigan) and the Thompson Library in particular fit perfectly with the mission and vision statements established by Maryanne Mott and her late husband, Herman Warsh.

The Collection currently consists of works by over 125 artists, featuring 20th century masters such as Romare Bearden and Elizabeth Catlett to new and innovative artists of the early 21st century, and includes a broad array of work from the abstract to the representative.  Common to all pieces within the collection is the focus on unique cultural and social experiences of Africans and Americans of African descent living and working in western (American) society.

Maryanne and Herman begun collecting their art with the intent to assemble and preserve rare works of art endemic to the African community and make them available to the wider audience through its lending program with the intent to educate viewers in art appreciation, art making processes, art history, 20th century American history and the history of the African diaspora.

The Collection contains over four hundred works and is supported by the Mott-Warsh research library which has assembled monographs, exhibition catalogs, auction catalogs and journals with subject concentrations in African American art as well as information on fine arts collection management.

Selected works from the Mott-Warsh Collection are currently on display at several locations around Flint, including the Flint Institute of Music, the Flint Public Library, the Ruth Mott Foundation, Mott Community College, Applewood, Kettering University Innovation Center and other locations.

Nationally, pieces are on loan at such renowned institutions as the Museum of Contemporary Art (San Diego), Wexner Center for the Arts (Ohio State University), Walker Art Center, Denver Art Museum, Rudenstine Gallery (W.E.B. DuBois Institute, Harvard University), the Seattle Art Museum, the Atlanta Center for Contemporary Art, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art (Hartford), the Institute of Contemporary Arts (Boston) and many other museums and art galleries around the nation.

Thompson Library is proud to be numbered among such fine institutions in being selected as a location to display pieces from the Mott-Warsh Collection.

We would like to acknowledge the efforts of Mr. Michael Doyle — Mickey — who numbers among our reference librarians and serves as our Head of Access Services — for being instrumental in arranging our library’s participation as a display site for works from this esteemed collection.

Our first pieces were installed during the evening of Tuesday, March 17th and can be now viewed in Thompson Library, hung directly across the room on the far wall from the main entrance (3rd floor).

There are five pieces in total in our current display, all works by the late artist Jacob Lawrence.   This group of paintings, collectively entitled The Toussaint L’Ouverture Series, depicts the Haitian Revolution from the turn of the 19th century.  The impact of the Revolution on the then existent Napoleonic Empire forced France to sell the Louisiana territory to the young United States, changing the world forevermore.

Due to his circumstance, the artist was forced to use inexpensive paint materials available to him during the late 30s and early 40s.  Over time, his paintings in gouache (an opaque, water-based paint, sometimes referred to as “poster paint”) deteriorated.  Lawrence attempted preservation of some of these older works by silkscreening selected prints from his earlier series of works.  The five pieces currently on display are the result of his efforts, and remain vibrant images.


Pieces (titles and descriptions) are as follows:

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General Toussaint L’Ouverture, 1986

General Toussaint L’Ouverture, Statesman and military genius, esteemed by the Spaniards, feared by the English, dreaded by the French, hated by the planters, and reverenced by the Blacks.


The Opener, 1997

General Toussaint L’Ouverture attacked the English at Artibonite and there captured two towns.


The March, 1995

General L’Ouverture collected forces at Marmelade, and on October the 9th, 1794, left with 500 men to capture San Miguel.


Marc, 1994

On March 24, he captured Mirebalois.


Contemplation, 1993

Returning to private life as the commander and chief of the army, he saw to it that the country was well taken care of, and Haiti returned to prosperity. During this important period, slavery was abolished, and attention focused upon agricultural pursuits.

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Please stop by soon to view this limited collection, and others that will be on display in our library in the future.