About the Collection

Hillstrom Museum of Art

Reverend Richard L. Hillstrom, a 1938 graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College, began collecting art in the 1940s, when his ministerial career was just beginning. It was to become a lifelong passion, one that continued after his retirement, when he took a position in 1982 at Lutheran Brotherhood in Minneapolis and began building their renowned collection of religious art.

In his own collecting, Hillstrom initially concentrated on Swedish-American artists, such as Birger Sandzén (1871-1954), the widely recognized Kansas painter, or Elof Wedin (1901-1983), with whom Hillstrom was personally acquainted. Soon he branched out in other directions, focusing on more mainstream artists, especially of the American figural tradition. He acquired pieces by The Eight, a group of American artists dedicated to making art connect directly with life. The painter Robert Henri (1865-1929) was the spiritual leader of this group, whose other members included Arthur B. Davies (1862-1928), William Glackens (1870-1938), Ernest Lawson (1873-1939), Maurice Prendergast (1859-1924), Everett Shinn (1876-1953), John Sloan (1871-1951) and, later, George Bellows (1882-1925). All of these artists are represented in Hillstrom's collection, with special emphasis on Bellows, whose 1922 oil painting Sunset, Shady Valley remains a favorite of the collector and is recognized as one of the most important pieces in his collection. In addition to The Eight, artists of the Regionalist School of American art have been an important area of acquisition for Hillstrom. These artists, who in many ways typify the American non-abstract look, include the well-known Grant Wood (1892-1942), Edward Hopper (1882-1967) and John Steuart Curry (1897-1946), all represented in Hillstrom's collection.

As a form of prelude to these early 20th-century works, Hillstrom has also collected American art of the century before, including a fine drawing by the great John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), Winslow Homer (1836-1910) prints, and Luminist landscapes by Homer Dodge Martin (1836-1897) and John F. Kensett (1816-1872). Hillstrom has also collected a number of European works, including prints by Old and Modern Masters such as the great German Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) or French artist Georges Rouault (1871-1958).

Reverend Hillstrom has been a passionate supporter of Gustavus Adolphus College, and his many donations to the College include a large number of art works. He has very generously indicated his intention to give many more of the fine paintings, drawings and prints still in his possession, and these works will form the core of the permanent collection of the Hillstrom Museum of Art. It is fitting that this collection reflects his love of art and his perspicacity in acquiring works by significant American artists. It is equally appropriate that the Museum bear his name.

Donald Myers, Director
Hillstrom Museum of Art