May 23, 2019

The Poindexter Collection of Abstract Expressionism

by Jennifer Bottomly-O'Looney, MHS Museum Senior Curator 

Forest No 1, 1959, Robert Goodnough, MHS Museum X1962.03.04
The Poindexter Collection is an assemblage of 99 works of art (98 paintings and one photograph) representing the New York School of Abstract Expressionism—a defining art movement of the mid-20th century which had world-wide impact.  The Collection contains representative works by such leading artists as Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, Richard Diebenkorn, and Robert DeNiro (the father of the actor), as well as significant holdings of works by lesser-known artists like Earl Kerkam and Robert Goodnough.  

Untitled, 1947, Willem de Kooning, MHS Museum X1974.04.05
 It was given to the people of Montana by Everton Gentry “George” Poindexter and his wife, Elinor (the Poindexters also donated a similar collection to the Yellowstone Art Museum in Billings).  George was a third-generation Montanan who grew up in Dillon. His family was associated with the Poindexter & Orr Ranch in Beaverhead County, and his father was a judge and Attorney General of Montana.  George moved to New York City where he was a highly successful businessman. He fell in love with and began collecting abstract art, and he and Elinor eventually owned and operated an influential art gallery in New York. The Poindexters were friends with and supporters of the artists represented in the collection long before these artists became famous.

Untitled, 1943, Jackson Pollock, MHS Museum X1973.05.01
The collection was donated to the Society in increments beginning in 1960 (most of the collection was here on loan before it was officially donated). The last piece was given in 1987. The Poindexters’ motive in donating the collection was to give Montanans the opportunity to experience first-hand this type of art and, as George wrote, in “hope that the pleasure they [these paintings] have given me will be shared by the people of my native state.” Both George and Elinor are now deceased.

Flowers, 1955, Robert DeNiro, MHS Museum X1967.04.01