Open Today 10am-5pm

Montgomery Museum of Fine Art

Click to view hours
Open Today 10am-5pm
Click to view calendar


The Improvisational Eye
Works on Paper by Self-Taught Artists

November 24 through February 03, 2019

On view in the Wilson and Williamson Galleries


Some of the twentieth-century’s most innovative artists, those now typically described as self-taught, revelled in the use of unusual and distinctive materials, many of which were not generally associated with the production of art. This reflects the importance of improvisation that is considered elemental and characteristic of their distinctive practices. This exhibition of works on paper by self-taught artists expands the typical consideration of their art, since paper has one of the longest histories of use in art-making.

Self-taught artists frequently utilized whatever resources they had at hand, including paper that may have had a previous use such as commercial packaging. The drawings of Bill Traylor (American, 1856–1949) are excellent examples of such “re-use”— in his case cardboard that he scavenged from empty boxes that had held candy or notions. Similarly, the artist Sybil Gibson (American, 1908–1995) used newspaper, brown paper shopping bags, or commercial wrapping papers as supports for her drawings. Others such as Juanita Rodgers (American, 1934–1985) obtained paper typically used for typing or printing. Thornton Dial (American, 1928–2016) worked in many media and made drawings later in his career using artist’s paper intended for the water-based media he favored.

The artists in this exhibition were improvisational both in their choices of material as well as the imagery they transferred to their paper media.

Organized by the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts

Related Programs

Gallery Talk

Thu, Feb 28
5:30 PM
Learn More

Exhibition Preview

Sybil Gibson (American, 1908–1995), Untitled (Floral Arrangement), 1993, tempera on paper, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Gift of Fred and Theresa Buchanan, 1995.6.4


Bill Traylor (American, 1856–1949), Figures, Construction, ca. 1940–1942, watercolor and graphite on cardboard, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Gift of Charles and Eugenia Shannon, 1982.4.14


Charlie Lucas (American, born 1951), Untitled (Man and Fish), date unknown, paint on paper, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Gift of Ron Drinkard, 2010.17.3


Featured image:

Clementine Hunter (American, 1886/1887–1988), Picking Zinnias, ca. 1950, oil on paper, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Gift of Micki Beth Stiller, 2016.5