Small Victories:

One Couple's Surprising Adventures Collecting American Prints

An illustrated journey through American prints, illuminated by the victories, defeats & discoveries of two intrepid collectors.

For more than four decades, Dave Williams and his wife Reba White formed what is certainly the most comprehensive and adventurous treasury of American prints ever assembled by private collectors. In the 6,000 prints they personally selected, they cover both familiar and totally unknown ground. What stands out about their collection is not the expected holdings of iconic images by artists known to anyone even remotely familiar with the field, but their sustained effort to break new ground, to include artists and entire schools of art that have been unknown to-or routinely ignored by-both academics and fellow collectors. Here, in force, are the regionalists who worked on the shores of Cape Cod and northern California, in Dallas and Charleston, SC, as well as the Ashcan School of New York, Hayter’s Atelier 17, and countless other small ateliers and workshops well off the beaten paths and often unknown and unseen.

Here are the hundreds of WPA artists, supported by the federal government during the Great Depression, who worked, often anonymously, in smaller cities and undocumented workshops, and here as well are the masterpieces of Bellows and Homer, Lewis and Sloan-all illustrated and treated with due respect. But the real value is the light shed on lesser known connections, venues, personalities, and visionaries. Who remembers the bounty of prints created by African Americans in the 1930s-40s? What did the Americans learn from (and give to) the artists of the Mexican revolution-Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros? What influence did the Vorticists exert on American printmakers? How were the WPA policies able to introduce so many artists to printmaking? By structuring the book primarily as a memoir, a personal story, the Williamses’ collection is presented as an adventure, a unique look into this populist corner of the duplicated image, of its reflection of and impact on popular culture, and into the nature of collecting in general.

Generously illustrated in full color, with extensive indices and bibliography, this will be judged among the indispensable and totally original print reference books for years to come.

Small Victories is a seminal work…impressively informed and informative original print reference book. As ‘reader-friendly’ as it is diversely encompassing, [it] is a critically important and strongly recommended addition to reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.”—Julie Summers, Midwest Book Review

Small Victories—part memoir, part user’s manual, part criticism and part art-historical survey—Dave H. Williams offers a much more nuanced and compelling look at the lives and concerns of art collectors. The real pleasures of the book come from its biggest surprises, which are the understanding that Dave Williams has of his collection, and the erudition with which he expresses it. Williams provides commentary on his favorite pieces worthy of any art history professor…As valuable as this book is in academic terms, it will also be useful, if not indispensable, for would-be collectors. This book is not only a lesson in collecting, but also one in how to appreciate whatever your passion—indeed your reason for living—may be.”—Nicholas Mancusi, American Arts Quarterly

“This is first and foremost a story about collecting. In the mid-1970s, when Dave and Reba Williams set out to assemble the world’s greatest collection of American Fine Art prints, prints were relatively affordable, [and] the Williamses were able to develop ambitious collecting goals — also to break their own rules — which is one of the delights of Small Victories: One Couple’s Surprising Adventures Building an Unrivaled Collection of American Prints, in which Dave Williams chronicles their experience collecting, cataloging, and promoting art on a global scale…Williams writes conversationally, making the reader feel as if he’s been invited to dinner party to hear old ‘war stories’…David Williams has written a valuable and pleasurable book. In addition to all the stories and prints, the reader gets a crash course on major European and American art movements and dozens of tasty art history tidbits–many of them vital to understanding the progression of 20th-century American art.”—Robert Fay, Los Angeles Review of Books

“The images from the eclectic collection provide something beautiful for everyone, along with a wealth of instruction in art history.”—Publishers Weekly

Small Victories manages to both sweep informatively through the history of American printmaking and stir the reader to ask herself how she too might pursue her creative projects with the same rare combination of joy, sense of mission, intensity, shrewdness, and humility that the Williamses exemplified.”—Sonya Chung, Bloom

Born in Texas, Dave Williams is a graduate of the University of Texas and the Harvard Business School. For forty years he worked in investment management, the last twenty as CEO of Alliance Capital Management. Since his marriage to the scholar and art historian Reba White in 1975, the couple has assembled what is considered the largest and finest private collection of American prints, published seventeen exhibition catalogues, and donated the majority of their collection to leading museums both here and abroad.