Melvin began collecting African American art in 1985 with his purchase of Sargent Johnson’s The Cat. Inspired by his research on Johnson, Melvin decided to educate himself about African American art by studying books and exhibition catalogues. As he read, he began to search for the artwork he saw in those books. Self-educated in the subject and with no family background in collecting art, Melvin invented a collecting process that suited him, driven by focused research, detective work, self-manufactured “luck,” and intuition. He also worked with dealers on both the east and west coasts. He quickly came to feel the importance of acquiring and preserving this work and his increasing knowledge drove the evolution of his collection in scope and importance.
At the time of his death, Melvin’s collection comprised at least 360 pieces by more than 100 different African American artists, made between 1853 and 1992 and with a concentration of works dating from 1920 to the end of the 1940s ranging from venerable artists like Henry Oshawa Tanner, Clementine Hunter, Aaron Douglas, Sargent Johnson, Romare Bearden to Elizabeth Cattlett and the list goes on.
This website is dedicated to showcasing the breadth of the collection.