Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Acquires Caves Collection of Modern and Contemporary Prints

BOSTON (July 21, 2022)—The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), has acquired the entire collection of more than 2,000 modern and contemporary prints assembled by Richard E. Caves (1931–2019), a professor at Harvard University and longtime MFA supporter. The collection encompasses more than 800 standalone works and a group of 125 print portfolios—a special area of Caves’ collecting—including 10 by Sol LeWitt. The portfolios comprise 1,150 individual works, radically transforming the MFA’s holdings of contemporary prints.

“Though his vocation was economics, Dick’s secret desire was to be a print curator,” said Patrick Murphy, Lia and William Poorvu Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings. “Dick was not just a supporter of the Department of Prints and Drawings, but a true collaborator. Over the past few decades, nearly every exhibition of contemporary prints at the MFA included loans from the Caves Collection. It’s a privilege for us to now be caretakers of this remarkable group of prints, and to be able to share them with the public for generations to come.”

Among the many strengths of the Caves Collection is a special focus on prints by British artists. These include earlier material by the avant-garde Vorticists from the period between the World Wars (Sybil Andrews, David Bomberg, C.R.W. Nevinson, Cyril Power, Edward Wadsworth); a large group of prints representing Pop art in Britain (Richard Hamilton, David Hockney, Allen Jones, Ronald Kitaj, Eduardo Paolozzi, Joe Tilson); and a strong representation of British printmaking in subsequent decades (Harry Eccleston, Terry Frost, Ewan Gibbs, Damien Hirst, Gary Hume). A second major focus of Caves’ collecting centered on Minimalism, with prints by Mel Bochner, Ellsworth Kelly, Sol LeWitt, Brice Marden, Frank Stella and others.

Apart from the twin anchors of British prints and Minimalism, Caves’ interests ranged widely, encompassing areas such as the School of Paris (Jean Dubuffet, Jean Fautrier, Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso); Bauhaus and Constructivism (Josef Albers, Naum Gabo, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy); Abstract Expressionism (Lee Bontecou, Willem de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell, Robert Motherwell); American prints of the 1960s (Richard Diebenkorn, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Wayne Thiebaud, Andy Warhol) and Photorealism (Chuck Close, Richard Estes, Philip Pearlstein). Among the most important contemporary prints in the collection are works by Christiane Baumgartner, Vija Celmins, Franz Gertsch, Dieter Roth, Kiki Smith and Terry Winters.

Caves served as Professor of Economics at Harvard for 40 years, from 1962 to 2003. Collecting prints was his lifelong passion, and he gave many major works to the MFA over the years, including an artist’s book by Jasper Johns—his first gift to the Museum in 1978—and prints by David Hockney, Lucian Freud, Brice Marden and Gerhard Richter.


Karen Frascona