Clark Atlanta University Art Museum (CAUAM) possesses a permanent collection of 1215 works of art in two major categories: African American modern art and traditional African art. The two collections include paintings, murals, sculpture, works on paper acquired through annual purchases and donations. The largest and most historically significant body of work is the African American. It comprises works of art spanning seven decades (1914-1997). Significant works in the Collection include Henry Ossawa Tanner’s Disciples Healing the Sick, Snow Morning by Romare Bearden, Brownstones by Jacob Lawrence Negro Woman by Elizabeth Catlett and Art of the Negro mural series by Hale Aspacio Woodruff.
CAU’s tradition of fostering the arts began in 1942 when exhibition opportunities for artists of color were limited due to segregation. Then Atlanta University, under the direction of Hale Woodruff, inaugurated the annual Exhibition of Paintings, Prints and Sculpture by Negro Artists of America, later referred to as the Atlanta University Art Gallery, to provide black artists a national forum to exhibit their work. Over the course of three decades the juried exhibitions presented to the American public over 900 artists from across the country. Each year an average and 12 pieces were purchased for the University collections. In this way, works by artists who were virtually unknown to the mainstream art world, but later hailed as masters (i.e. William H. Johnson, Charles White, Lois Mailou Jones, Norman Lewis, John Biggers and Roy DeCarava) entered the University Collection.
Over the years, the University has received numerous gifts from such generous benefactors as Chauncey and Waddell, the National Collection of Fine Arts, Judge Irvin C. Mollison, James Baldwin, Richard Long, the Harmon Foundation, Louisa and Matilda Cartledge, Judith Alexander and many others. Their contributions have augmented the collection to include works by Beauford Delaney, Romare Bearden, John Marin, Isabel Bishop, Charles Dawson, William H. Johnson, Kapo, Nellie Mae Rowe, Sam Gilliam, Radcliffe Bailey, Larry Walker, Stefanie Jackson, Mildred Thompson, Freddie Styles and Diane Edison. The African art collection, acquired from several donors, is primarily comprised of a study collection of West African art.