William & Mary

Muscarelle acquires photograph from Maya Angelou’s collection

  • 'With us always:'
    'With us always:'  The Muscarelle has acquired Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe's 1993 "Maya Angelou," silver print with extensive hand coloring.  Courtesy photo
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The Muscarelle Museum of Art at William & Mary has acquired a photograph of writer Maya Angelou by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe.

The photograph was acquired on Tuesday, Sept. 15, at an auction of the late poet’s private art collection. The Muscarelle’s $17,500 bid set a record for Moutoussamy-Ashe at auction, according to Fine Books & Collections. Muscarelle acquired the print with funds from the Board of Visitors Muscarelle Museum of Art Endowment.  

The hand-colored, black-and-white silver gelatin print was one of 44 lots included in Angelou’s extensive art collection. Angelou, who was forced to cancel a 2014 visit to William & Mary due to health reasons, was a lifelong supporter of the arts. She died on May 28, 2014.

“We are so fortunate to have won the bid to acquire this image of Maya Angelou and to honor her in doing so for our alma mater of the nation,” Muscarelle Director and CEO Aaron De Groft said. “Angelou transcends time and place as both a poet of our nation and in her tireless work for decades on behalf of civil rights.”

Moutoussamy-Ashe is an accomplished photographer who studied art at the Art Institute of Chicago. She discovered a love of the camera and the power of her voice from behind its lens when family friend Frank Stewart first introduced her to photography. She studied with renowned photographer Gary Winogrand and at Cooper Union and is represented in many museum and public collections internationally. She is also the widow of tennis star Arthur Ashe, Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient. With her hand-coloring of the image, the 1993 photograph of Maya Angelou is a unique original work.

Angelou visited the William & Mary campus several times over the years. Joanne Braxton, Frances L. & Edwin L. Cummings Professor of the Humanities and English, who interviewed Angelou several times and wrote extensively on Angelou’s writings, praised the museum’s efforts.

“While Angelou was a Wake Forest woman, she gave deeply of herself on her several visits to William & Mary,” Braxton said. “This is a fitting acquisition of an exquisite photograph of the iconic literary and cultural figure who was truly a 'phenomenal woman.' I am delighted that the Muscarelle Museum has acquired this portrait of Maya Angelou. Now she will be with us always.”