IBM’s Art Collection

While going through my bookshelves recently, I came across a book called Contemporary Art of 79 Countries. What makes the book relevant to this blog is that it was produced by IBM, and it essentially is a catalog of the art collection Tom Watson put together for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. IBM commissioned one work of art for each country it operated in at the time.

After the fair, IBM displayed the collection in its headquarters and continued to add to it. When IBM hit the skids in 1995, it auctioned off the collection, which by then totaled about 300 pieces.

For the art aficionados, here is a list of the works in the book along with the countries represented. I was surprised by some of the countries where IBM had a presence in 1939. The Azores?:

Algeria: Paysage de Sidi-bou-Said, by Lucien Mainssieux
Australia: A Bathing Party, Sydney Harbor, by Fred Leist
Azores: Prayers, by Domingos Rebelo
Bahamas: St. Ames Church, Nassau, by Helena Stutevant
Belgian Congo: The Market of Matadi, by Alfred Bastien
Belgium: Blast Furnaces at Charleroi, by Pierre Paulus
Bermuda: Flowers in Color, by May Middleton
Bolivia: Indian Dance, by Victor Cuevas Pabon
Brazil: Pontao da Bandeira, by Funchal Garcia
British India: Village Kali Puja by P. Karmokar
British Malaya: Malayan Chieftain in the Jungle, by Franciscus Hermanus van Haelen
Bulgaria: Tirnovo, by Boris Deneff
Canada: Canada’s Regional Northland, by Alexander Young Jackson
Ceylon: Portrait of the Poet Tagore, by Mudaliyar A.C.G.S. Amarasekara
Chile: Sunset in the Cajon de Maipo, by Luis Strozzi
China: Flowers, by Shang Sheng-Po
Colombia: El Poeta Del Campo, by Ignacio Gomez Jaramillo
Costa Rica: Coffee Picker, by Esmeralda Lorin de Povedano
Cuba: Summer Squall, by Antonio Rodriguez Morey
Czechoslovakia: Prague in the Spring, by Vincenc Benes
Denmark: Autumn Morning, by Niels Bjerre
Dominican Republic: At the Market, by Jorge O. Morel
Ecuador: The Funeral, by Antonio Bellolio
Egypt: Happy Life of the Egyptian Peasant, by H. Banani
England: The White Cliffs of Dover, by Frank Graham Bell
Estonia: Estonian Landscape, by Alexander Kulkoff
Finland: Cutter’s Hat, by Tyko K. Sallinen
France: Church of St. Aigman at Chartres, by Maurice Utrillo
French Indo-China: The Tonkinese Delta, by Joseph Marie Inguimberty
Germany: Thuringian Glass Blower, by Rudolf G. Werner
Greece: Peasant Woman, by Demetre Vitsoris
Guatemala: Projections of a Hunt, by Carlos Merida
Haiti: Market on the Hill, by Petion Savain
Hawaii: Island of Oahu, Hawaii, by Henry Bernard Christian
Honduras: Quincho, by Maximiliano Euceda
Hungary: Harvest, by Istvan Szonyi
Ireland: A Flower Girl in Dublin, by Jack Butler Yeats
Italy: Romanticism, by Guiseppe Amisani
Jamaica: A Landscape, by John Dunkley
Japan: Twilight, by Shunzan Yagioka
Kenya: In Kikuyu, by Carrie Solomon
Latvia: Landscape in Latvia, by Ary Skride
Libya: Tomb of the Caramanlis, by Domenico de Bernardi
Luxemburg: Castle of Clervaux, by Joseph Kutter
Mexico: Spring Begins, by Doctor Atl
Morocco: Ben Djeloud Gate, Fez, by Emile Bouneau
Netherland India, Javanese Landscape, by Ernest Dezentje
Netherlands: Winter Landscape, by Hendrik Chabot
Netherlands West Indies: Hooiberg Aruba, by J.C. Pietersz
Newfoundland: Drying Cod, by Robert W. Pilot
New Zealand: On the Shores of Kawhia Harbour, by Edith M. Collier
Nigeria: Umu Ahia College Dining Hall, by B.C. Enwonwu
Northern Ireland: Irish Horse Parade, by William Conor
Norway: Summer Scene off the Oslofjord, by Per Deberitz
Palestine: In the Midst of Jerusalem, by Joseph Budko
Panama: Anayansi’s Dance of Love, by Roberto Lewis
Peru: The Flute Player, by Julia Codesido
Philippine Islands: After the Day’s Toil, by Vicente Alvarez Dizon
Poland: Fete of St. John, by Sophie Stryjenska
Portugal: View of Lisbon, by Carlos Botelho
Puerto Rico: Man of the Mountain, by Miguel Pou
Rumania: Carpet Seller, by Francis Sirato
Scotland: Isobel, by Robert Sivell
Siam: Siamese Women Preparing Flowers Before Worship, by Georges Barriere
Southern Rhodesia: The Crocodile Zareba, by Colonel A. Essex Capell
Spain: Enigmatic Elements in Landscape, by Salvador Dali
Sweden: Spring Day at Orretorp, by Rolf Mellstrom
Switzerland: Sunshine on the Swiss Alps, by Paul Emil Wyss
Trinidad: The Moulder and His Patterns, by Alice Pashley
Turkey: Return from the Market, by Mehmet Seref Akdik
Union of South Africa: Portrait of the Right Reverend Bishop Henneman of Capetown, by Edward Roworth
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics: At the Horse Pond, by Alexander Grigorievitch Tyshler
United States of America: Central Park, by Robert Philipp
Uruguay: Typical Uruguayan Landscape, by Cesar A. Pesce Castro
Venezuela: Vista del Avila, by Manuel Cabre
Wales: Welsh Coast and Hills, by Morland Lewis
Yugoslavia: Scene Near Belgrade, by Milo Milunovic

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7 comments

  1. José Lula · · Reply

    The Azores Islands (Açores) are part of Portugal. They are not a country. Get your geography right!

    1. Of course, this is true. The Azores Islands are part of Portugal now. In 1939 when the book was written, they were considered a Portuguese possession. They did not become one of Portugal’s autonomous regions until 1976. Perhaps this is why the book refers to it as a country.

  2. Very interesting. Are all the works illustrated in the book?
    I am interested in an image of the Nigerian entry (B.C. Enwonwu). Please let me know.
    Thanks.

    1. Yes, the images are in the book, but unfortunately in black and white. I’m sending you the scanned Nigerian entry separately.

  3. Good day, thank you for the list. Have been looking for a digital version of the book as my grandfather was one of the painters at this exhibition. He passed in 1960 and I was born twelve years later. My question is do you know how I could still get an original sample of the book? Or if there has been any pictures taken at the event in San Fransisco. My greatest thank you.

    1. Several dealers list the book on Amazon.com. I believe you can find it at Alibris.com, too. I bought mine on eBay.

  4. Carlos R Dorado · · Reply

    I have the book plus “Contemporary Art of the United States”, plublished in 1940 by IBM. Both books have the same format and in black hard cover with no dust jackets. Both were presented to the Minister of Bolivia, my father was the First Secretary at the Bolivian Embassy in the 1940’s.
    Now they are part of my art collection book and reference material.
    Thank you.

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