Figure and Image: The Selma Erving Collection 

February 6–May 3, 2015 



Selma Erving, class of 1927, was a discerning fine art collector and donor to the Smith College Museum of Art. Her generosity included a transformative donation of 724 prints, drawings, and books as well as guidance for the development of the Museum’s works on paper collection. With a focus on nineteenth- and twentieth- century European prints, her gift reveals a remarkable talent for perceiving the skill of the artist as well as the value of the work itself. As many of the pieces that she donated depict figures in various forms and poses, her collection also displays a diversity of representations of the human body.

The human figure is a ubiquitous theme in European art. Depictions of people can be seen in the earliest forms of artistic expression. As art changed over time, so too did the complexity with which European artists portrayed one another. Portraits and studies of models, friends, and even strangers became part of most artists’ repertoires.

Erving’s taste in these representations indicates an appreciation of diversity in its many forms. In her collection, one can see diversity of style and of the human figure as a subject. Many well-recognized European artists exhibit traditional depictions of the body while other artists present a more unique view. A multiplicity of artistic perspectives, in both technique and aesthetic, is present throughout Erving’s collection. This selection presents this diversity through the lens of human figures.
Image: Pierre Auguste Renoir. French, 1841–1919. Etude de Femme Nue, Assise [from Douze Lithograph Originales], 1904. Lithograph printed in black on wove paper. Gift of Selma Erving, Class of 1927.