George Lucas’s Narrative Art Museum Acquired Robert Colescott’s Burlesque of the American Revolution for $15.3 Million at Auction

The museum won the painting after a seven-minute bidding war.

Robert Colescott George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware: Page from an American History Textbook (1975). Image courtesy Sotheby's
Robert Colescott George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware: Page from an American History Textbook (1975). Image courtesy Sotheby's

A biting interpretation of the American Revolution by the late painter Robert Colescott was sold at Sotheby’s this week for $15.3 million after a seven-minute bidding war. Now it has been revealed that the buyer was the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which in an announcement today called the picture “the apex work” in the artist’s career.

“The acquisition of this significant painting brings into our collection a dynamic vehicle for exploring the many dimensions of narrative art,” Sandra Jackson-Dumont, the museum’s director, said in a statement. “It is at once a contemporary and historical work of art. Visitors to the Lucas Museum will be able to explore and unpack racially, socially, and historically charged and significant figures, such as George Washington Carver, Aunt Jemima, and Uncle Ben, that Colescott intrudes into the patriotic narrative known from popular culture and Emmanuel Leutze’s iconic, 1851 Washington Crossing the Delaware.”

The work, which was guaranteed by the auction house, sold above its pre-sale estimate of $9 million to $12 million, shattering the artist’s previous auction record of just $912,500, which was set in 2018. (Pre-sale estimates do not include premiums; final prices do.)

According to the auction house, the painting has remained in the same Midwestern collection since 1976, when it was purchased from John Berggruen Gallery in San Francisco. Sotheby’s declined to share information about the identity of the consignor, but the Art Newspaper reports that it belonged to the late Robert and Lois Orchard of St. Louis, Missouri.

George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware was included in the critically acclaimed retrospective of Colescott’s work that opened at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati in 2019 before traveling to the Portland Art Museum. The exhibition, curated by Lowery Stokes Sims and Matthew Weseley, will wrap up its tour this summer at the Sarasota Art Museum.

Colescott’s profile has been on a steady incline in recent years, spurred in part by support from artist Kerry James Marshall, who has been vocal about Colescott’s influence on his own work. Blum and Poe began representing the artist’s estate in 2017.


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