Crosscurrents: Modern Art from the Sam Rose and Julie Walters Collection

Media - 2001.38 - SAAM-2001.38_1 - 63291

Alex Katz's Black Scarf, 1995

American artists in the twentieth century were deeply influenced by European modernism. Crosscurrents: Modern Art from the Sam Rose and Julie Walters Collection features stellar paintings and sculpture by major American artists Alexander Calder, David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein, Georgia O’Keeffe, Wayne Thiebaud and others alongside European giants such as Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró. 


The exhibition examines what chief curator Virginia Mecklenburg describes as a “river of intellectual and artistic commerce that flowed both ways between America and Europe.” Crosscurrents is organized by Mecklenburg and features several gifts to the museum as well as artworks that are rarely seen by the public.

Visiting Information

October 29, 2015 April 9, 2016
Open Daily, 11:30 a.m.–7:00 p.m
Free Admission


Crosscurrents: Modern Art from the Sam Rose and Julie Walters Collection
In eighty-eight striking paintings and sculptures, Crosscurrents captures modernism as it moved from early abstractions by O’Keeffe, to Picasso and Pollock in midcentury, to pop riffs on contemporary culture by Roy Lichtenstein, Wayne Thiebaud, and Tom Wesselmann—all illustrating the complexity and energy of a distinctly American modernism.



Crosscurrents: Modern Art from the Sam Rose and Julie Walters Collection is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum with generous support from Robert Castellini in honor of James Dicke, the Gene Davis Memorial Fund, The James F. Dicke Family Endowment, Tania and Tom Evans, Paula and Peter Lunder, Michael A. and the Honorable Marilyn Logsdon Mennello Endowment, the James F. Petersen Charitable Fund in honor of Tania and Tom Evans, and Pam and Scott Ulm.

Online Gallery

Looking back from our vantage point in the twenty-first century, the massive arc of the modern movement dominates the past century. It reshaped all aspects of life and art and permeated every field of endeavor. Modernism’s first expression was rejection—of realism, rationalism, classical physics, and other certainties. In their place, it ushered in subjective concepts and unmoored our visual and philosophical convictions. Artists, impatient to leave behind exhausted traditions, altered not just the “what” of art—its subjects and themes—but the “how.”

The figure of Picasso stands astride the century like a modern colossus. His destruction of figurative traditions was total, and his reconstituted cubist world challenged subsequent artists to populate it with their own inventions. As the works in the Rose-Walters Collection reveal, artists in the avant-garde—Romare Bearden and Stuart Davis are just two—assembled figures and landscapes in a personal, idiosyncratic way, bypassing narration in favor of a powerful, more iconic approach. 

The experience of two world wars; travel by car and plane; and movies, radio, and television that broadcast news and culture around the world brought a new internationalism. Ideas swirled around and circled back as they reached across time and national borders to explore parallel themes. The art and myths of ancient people inflected the work of Joan Miró and Marsden Hartley; nature was the starting point for Georgia O’Keeffe and David Hockney. Picasso and Alice Neel probed likeness and autobiography; Fernando Botero and Roy Lichtenstein make us chuckle in wry recognition. David Smith and Richard Diebenkorn, who explored the materiality of the tangible world, redefined relationships between man and the physical environment. What unites them is their ambition to reach some elemental idea that concentrates the mind on a numinous vision. 

Virginia Mecklenburg, Chief Curator
Smithsonian American Art Museum


Media - J0050013_1b.jpg - 89707
Alexander Calder
born Lawnton, PA 1898-died New York City 1976

Sculptor, world renowned for his stabiles and mobiles begun in the 1930s.

David Hockney
born Bradford, England 1937
Roy Lichtenstein
born New York City 1923-died New York City 1997

Born in New York City, Roy Lichtenstein attended the Art Students League, where he studied with the painter Reginald Marsh. He then attended the School of Fine Arts at Ohio State University, earning his B.F.A.

Media - portrait_image_113620.jpg - 90333
Georgia O’Keeffe
born Sun Prairie, WI 1887-died Santa Fe, NM 1986


Media - portrait_image_113683.jpg - 90362
Wayne Thiebaud
born Mesa, AZ 1920-died Sacramento, CA 2021

Born in Mesa, Arizona, Wayne Thiebaud became one of the most well-known Pop artists in America. His iconic images of food may have stemmed from his beginnings as a freelance cartoonist in 1939.