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Folk and Self-Taught Art

The Smithsonian American Art Museum has long championed works that were overlooked by many collectors, museums, and art historians. The museum was one of the first general museums to recognize the importance of folk art and to display it. The Smithsonian American Art Museum significantly increased its folk art holdings when it acquired the renowned Herbert Waide Hemphill Jr. collection and works from the Chuck and Jan Rosenak collection. Howard Finster’s painting (shown right) pays tribute to Hemphill, the collector who helped Finster become a folk art celebrity. James Hampton's spiritual sculpture, The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly, a collection highlight, represents the powerful vision of America's self-taught artists. These and works from Thornton Dial Sr., Mr. Imagination, Malcah Zeldis, and others remind us that creativity flourishes independent of formal art training.

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