• By Rob Norwood
  • Posted Monday, December 11, 2017

Permanent Art Collection Draws Visitors to the New Central Library

The newly renovated Central Library has many good reasons for you to visit, not least of which is the permanent art collection on display throughout the building. The development of this collection was begun by Ralph Philip Hanes in the 1950s and 60s. Hanes believed the library should be a place of enrichment for the community, and he thought that fine artwork on display would be a complement to the books and other materials in the library. Many traveling exhibits from around the state and the country were brought to Winston-Salem during those years and exhibited in the library through the generous support of Hanes and the Junior League. Starting in 1952, the Lucy Hanes Chatham Fund (named in honor of Hanes’ sister) was created to acquire art to be part of a permanent collection. Ralph Hanes selected many of these pieces during his travels to Europe and New York.

You will find artwork exhibited all through the new building on every floor. Some highlights of the collection are on display on the second floor. A watercolor by Andrew Wyeth, Watering Trough, was acquired in 1960. Depicting a winter landscape with a watering trough buried in the snow, this painting was done when the artist was living in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Hanging next to the Wyeth is a large portrait of the romantic poet Anna Seward, The Swan of Lichfield, painted by British artist George Romney. This painting was acquired by Ralph Hanes’ brother John W. Hanes and donated to the library. Also in this same area on the second floor is the large landscape painting Norristown, by Walter Stuempfig. The painting depicts a small Pennsylvania town at dusk, and it gives this landscape the grandeur of the European romantic painters. This painting was the first acquisition of the Lucy Hanes Chatham Fund.

The library’s collection has continued to grow since Ralph Hanes’ time. The Portrait of Dr. S. Clay Williams and His Son by Winston-Salem artist Joe King (Vinciata) was donated for the reopening of the library. This portrait is done in King’s recognizable style, with the portrait subject in the foreground and a dark landscape in the background. This painting is hanging in the North Carolina Room on the second floor. The most recent addition to the collection is the impressive outdoor sculpture by Alabama artist Deedee Morrison. Called Timeless Purpose, this large metal sculpture of a book on a book stand was commissioned for the reopening of the new Central Library. On the pages of the open book is the word “library” written in different languages, indicating the universal appeal of libraries.

The library’s collection also includes a set of etchings depicting various North Carolina scenes displayed in the North Carolina Room, two sculptures by Jean Rene Gauguin, the son of Paul Gauguin, located on the second floor, and a set of engravings depicting the Tudor monarchs of England, located on the third floor. Also, along the south wall of the third floor next to the study tables is an interesting assortment of paintings, drawings and etchings. These are only some of the artworks on display.

The Central Library continues to be a place of enrichment for the entire community. We hope you’ll take some time to enjoy the permanent art collection. A self-guided art tour handout is available at the third floor Information Desk.