Major Gift to Colby Establishes Lunder Institute For American Art

Colby today announced that it has received another gift of more than $100 million from Peter and Paula Lunder in support of the Colby College Museum of Art. The gift will add nearly 1,150 artworks to the museum’s collection and will launch the Lunder Institute for American Art, establishing Colby as the only liberal arts college with both an innovative art museum dedicated to cross-disciplinary study and a global research center for American art.

Romare Bearden, City of Brass, 1965.
Photostat and gouache on board mounted on panel, 29 x 40 in. (73.7 x 101.6 cm). Colby College Museum of Art, The Lunder Collection, 2012.330. © Christie’s Images

The institute will be dedicated to the practice, study, and exhibition of American art, and will transform Colby’s art collection and scholarly activities by bringing together artists, curators, scholars, and students through cross-disciplinary engagement. An intensive residency program will provide increased opportunities for students of all disciplines to interact with scholars and artists. The Colby Museum’s collection and exhibits are already integrated across Colby’s diverse curriculum in more than 30 departments and programs, ranging from biosciences and film studies to psychology and foreign language.

“The Lunders’ generosity has transformed Colby College and the arts landscape in Maine,” said Colby President David A. Greene. “Now, with this gift to significantly expand the collection and create the Lunder Institute, the museum will become a global destination for artists, scholars, and visitors. Colby students and faculty already make use of the museum in innovative ways, and this development will expand their opportunities for research and scholarship in all disciplines. We are grateful for Peter and Paula Lunder for their tremendous commitment to Colby, the Colby Museum, and the people of Maine.”

The gift includes paintings, sculptures, photography, and works on paper, dating from a 1501 engraving by Albrecht Dürer to a 2014 aquatint by Julie Mehretu, by more than 150 artists, including Mary Cassatt, Jasper Johns, Nina Katchadourian, Jacob Lawrence, Maya Lin, Joan Mitchell, Claes Oldenburg, Betye Saar, Vincent Van Gogh, Rembrandt van Rijn, Ai Weiwei, Fred Wilson, and James McNeill Whistler. The gift brings the total number of works given by Peter and Paula Lunder, longtime benefactors to the college and the museum, to more than 1,500—joining hundreds of pieces previously promised and given in 2007, valued at more than $100 million.

Maya Lin, Disappearing Bodies of Water: Arctic Ice, 2013. Vermont Danby marble on granite base (AP 1/1), 48 x 46 x 52 in. (121.9 x 116.8 x 132.1 cm). Colby College Museum of Art, The Lunder Collection, 2013.537. © Maya Lin, courtesy Pace Gallery

Linked to the academic mission of the college and the museum’s program, the Lunder Institute is poised to become a pre-eminent research center for American art. Colby students studying a range of disciplines, from anthropology to music, will have immersive access to a world-class art museum and research center; a unique space for dialogue and mentorship with scholars and artists; increased institutional exchange in the United States and internationally; and increased opportunities to work directly with artists, curators, and museum professionals on the installation of art, performance, and site-specific works. Currently, cross-disciplinary collaborations during the academic year generate 170 class visits to the museum’s collection from more than 100 different courses. More than half of all class visits are from the biology, psychology, English, foreign languages, and history departments.

The institute will build upon cross-disciplinary connections that students have engaged in to date, such as:

  • A biodiversity lab that used works in the museum to identify landscapes and determine the latitude and longitude of each site;
  • A psychology class that selected artworks to analyze the psychological dimensions of facial symmetry, aesthetic beauty, and other artistic principles;
  • An English poetry class in which students were asked to analyze and compare the poetic form in the writings of Emily Dickinson and prints of James McNeill Whistler;
  • A statistics class that used a computer program to generate a random sample of 25 museum pieces for a teaching gallery so that students could evaluate whether the selected items were a product of a random sample or representative of the museum’s collection; and
  • Groups of students who helped install Peter Soriano’s 100-foot wall drawing Permanent Maintenance in 2015.

“For many years, we have been inspired and impressed by Colby’s teaching mission and the many ways that the museum is deeply integrated into the curriculum to become a vibrant part of college life,” said Peter and Paula Lunder. “We are delighted that our art collection will be shared with future Colby students, the Waterville community, and visitors to Maine, and we know that Colby College will do a marvelous job enhancing the collection with their academic programs—we feel that Colby is the perfect home for our collection.”

Lunder Institute for American Art

The Lunder Institute will be integrated into the academic mission of the college and the museum’s program and is poised to become a preeminent research center for American art. The institute will create a unique space for scholarship, creative works, dialogue, and mentorship among visiting scholars and artists, Colby faculty and students, and the central Maine community; facilitate institutional exchange in the United States and internationally; and train future leaders in the field of American art through the Colby Museum and partner institutions around the world.

Jacob Lawrence, Builders #1, 1968.
Gouache and tempera on paper,
29 x 21 1/2 in. (73.7 cm x 54.6 cm). Colby College Museum of Art. The Lunder Collection, 024.2008. Photo by Peter Siegel, Pillar Digital Imaging LLC

“Colby is especially interested in bringing together innovative artists and scholars to reflect on the historical and cultural parameters of ‘American art’ as an evolving field of intellectual inquiry and creative practice,” said Sharon Corwin, the Carolyn Muzzy Director and Chief Curator of the Colby College Museum of Art. “This reflection comes at a moment when the field is calling for more expansive definitions of this term, urging the world to see beyond the borders of the United States and make transnational connections across materials and methodologies. The Lunders’ generosity will enable Colby to be at the forefront of this exciting moment in the field.”

To advance critical and creative research in American art and related fields, the institute will host a residential program for scholars and artists on campus and in downtown Waterville. Summer and academic-year residencies, ranging from several weeks to a year, will be offered to graduate students, scholars, curators, and emerging and internationally renowned artists who could develop new site-specific works on campus and in the community. These fellows will be a strong part of the intellectual and creative life of the college, working directly with faculty, students, and community members, and inspiring a dialogue between art creation and scholarship. The institute’s activities also will include an exhibition program, a robust publication program, and the organization of major multidisciplinary symposia.

Lunder Collection

The more than 1,100 artworks coming to Colby are the result of decades worth of collecting by the Lunders, who have worked with the museum’s curatorial team to strategically identify works that deepen its holdings, illustrate the evolution of a particular artist through a great breadth of their work, and that relate to and enhance the Colby curriculum. For instance, the Lunders’ recent acquisition of a Joan Mitchell oil painting, Chamrousse (1967-68), adds a powerful abstract expressionist work to the collection, and a trove of 377 paintings and works on paper from the estate of Arthur Wesley Dow (1857-1922), a leading figure in the Arts and Crafts Movement who was inspired by Japanese woodcuts, will enable the museum to study the artist’s development and influence. A deluxe set of Pablo Picasso’s Vollard Suite (1939), a series of 100 etchings that is considered the artist’s most significant cycle of prints and a hallmark of 20th-century modernist printmaking, traces Picasso’s artistic development during a critical period in his career.

A major mission of the collection is to make connections between American and global art, inspiring a dialogue between places and cultures for Colby students and museum visitors. Expanding its already deep holdings in work by artists like James McNeill Whistler (346 artworks), an American-born artist primarily based in the U.K, and adding significant works by international contemporary artists like Ai Weiwei and Julie Mehretu, whose work speaks to cross-cultural themes, the museum can show that notions of “American art” have long reached far beyond national boundaries.

Utagawa Hiroshige, Evening Shower at Atake and the Ohashi Bridge (Ohasi Atake no Yudachi), 1857. Woodcut on cream Japanese paper, 14 13/16 x 10 1/16 in. (37.6 x 25.6 cm), Colby College Museum of Art, The Lunder Collection, 018.2014.

Works in the collection also will offer Colby students new perspectives on their classroom studies, as the museum’s curator for academic programs identifies creative ways that a wide range of Colby classes can expand their students’ understanding of diverse subjects through art. Environmental studies students can see the effects of climate change on the world’s ecosystems in Maya Lin’s 2013 marble sculpture from the series Disappearing Bodies of Water, which illustrates changes in the Arctic Ice Shelf, and Olafur Eliasson’s 2004 Jokla series of 48 photographs that document the watershed of Iceland’s Jokla River system as it appeared before it was flooded from man-made dams.

Peter and Paula Lunder

Formerly of Waterville, Maine, Peter and Paula Lunder have strong ties to Colby College and its museum. Mr. Lunder graduated from Colby in 1956, and both Mr. and Mrs. Lunder received honorary degrees from the college in 1998. Mr. Lunder is a life overseer. Mrs. Lunder joined the Board of Trustees in 1998 and served as its vice chair in 2003-04. In 2006 she was named a life trustee. Both Mr. and Mrs. Lunder have been committed to the college and the museum and have served on the museum’s Board of Governors since 1995. In that year, they pledged the lead gift to the museum’s Lunder Wing, designed by architect Frederick Fisher and inaugurated in 1999. That same year they also endowed a curatorial position at the museum, the Lunder Curator of American Art. In 2007 they promised their collection of more than 500 works of art to the college. In 2013 the museum opened the Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion, also designed by Frederick Fisher, to display this major gift. Mr. Lunder was the vice chairman of the Smithsonian Institution’s national board and served on the Board of Commissioners at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, where the Lunder Foundation endowed the Lunder Conservation Center and the position of Lunder Education Curator. They also endowed the Lunder Curator of American Art at the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, and the Lunder Curator for Whistler Studies at the Colby Museum. Mr. Lunder serves on the boards of the Harold Alfond Foundation and the Terra Foundation. Mrs. Lunder currently serves on a visiting committee at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

Colby College Museum of Art

Founded in 1959, the Colby College Museum of Art comprises five wings, more than 9,000 works of art, and more than 38,000 square feet of exhibition space. Major works by American masters including John Singleton Copley, Gilbert Stuart, Albert Bierstadt, Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, and William Merritt Chase form the core of the historical collection, along with significant holdings of American folk art. The modern movement is represented by important works by artists including John Marin, Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keeffe, George Bellows, and Rockwell Kent. The museum also maintains a significant collection of contemporary American art, including works by Alex Katz (with more than 900 works represented), Chuck Close, Agnes Martin, Sol LeWitt, Dan Flavin, Kara Walker, Elizabeth Murray, Richard Serra, and Terry Winters. Other principal areas of the collection include Greek and Roman antiquities, European prints and drawings, and early Chinese art. The museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.

Admission is free. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. It also is open Thursdays until 9 p.m. during the academic year. The public is invited to join the conversation online via dedicated social communities on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@colbymuseum and #colbymuseum). For additional information, please visit