the birthday collection

“To sense the invisible and to be able to create it — that is art.”

Hans Hofmann was born #onthisday in 1880. The abstract expressionist was also an influential modern art teacher, whose students included Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler, and Joan Mitchell.

[Hans Hofmann. Cathedral. 1959. Oil on canvas. Fractional and promised gift of Agnes Gund in honor of William Rubin. © 2017 Estate of Hans Hofmann/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York]

“I don’t mistrust reality, of which I know next to nothing. I mistrust the picture of reality conveyed to us by our senses, which is imperfect and circumscribed.“

Happy birthday, Gerhard Richter! Richter works in many mediums including #painting, #photography, and #sculpture. This self-portrait looks like a blurred photograph, but is actually an oil painting. View other works of Richter’s from the MoMA’s collection at

[Gerhard Richter. Self-Portrait. 1996. Oil on linen. Gift of Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder and Committee on Painting and Sculpture Funds. © 2017 Gerhard Richter]

Happy Birthday, Barnum Brown! Known as one of the greatest dinosaur collectors of all time, Barnum Brown helped the American Museum of Natural History establish its world-class fossil collection. Brown’s extraordinary fossil-hunting career—which took him from a frontier farm to the world’s top fossil sites and to the halls of the Museum—included the discovery of the first skeleton of the Tyrannosaurus rex.

Happy birthday Edvard Munch!

“Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye… it also includes the inner pictures of the soul.” ― Edvard Munch

Munch was born on this day 153 years ago in Løten, Norway! His 1893 painting The Storm is set in the Norwegian seaside village of Åsgårdstrand, where Munch often spent his summers. It is now on view on our fifth floor.

Happy birthday to Jeff Koons!

“You know the reason why I used a basketball over another object is for the purity of it. It’s an inflatable - it relates to our human experience to be alive. We have to breathe. If the ball would be deflated, it would be a symbol of death. But, it’s inflated so it’s a symbol of life.”

Learn more about the Three Ball 50/50 Tank (Two Dr. J. Silver Series, One Wilson Supershot) and how Koons views readymades in art. 

[Jeff Koons. Three Ball 50/50 Tank (Two Dr. J. Silver Series, One Wilson Supershot).1985. Glass, painted steel, distilled water, plastic, and three basketballs. Gift of Werner and Elaine Dannheisser. © 2017 Jeff Koons]


December 7th is the birthday of Harvey Dent, more infamously known as Two-Face.   (I always thought he would be a Gemini.) Happy Birthday, Harvey!

Created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, Two-Face first appeared in Detective Comics v.1 #66 in August 1942.

District Attorney Harvey Dent had the left side of his face disfigured by acid thrown at him by Salvatore “Boss” Moroni.  After his disfigurement, Dent had a mental breakdown and became the notorious villain, Two-Face.  Two-Face’s criminal activities often involve the number “two”.  Two-Face employs a double-sided coin, with one of the faces crossed out, in much of his decision-making.  The unmarked side represents “good” and the scarred side representing “evil”.

Harvey Dent was portrayed on film by Billy Dee Williams in Batman (1988) and Lego Batman (2017), Tommy Lee Jones in Batman Forever (1995), and Aaron Eckhart in The Dark Knight (2008).

These comics (and many more) are part of the DuGarm Collection at the University of Iowa: Special Collections.

Batman v.1 #398 (August 1986), cover by Tom Mandrake

Batman & Robin Adventures  #2 (December 1995), cover by Ty Templeton

Batman v.1 #397 (July 1986), cover by Tom Mandrake

Justice League of America v.1 #125 (December 1975), cover by Ernie Chan

Detective Comics v.1 #581 (December 1987), cover by Jim Baikie

Batman v.1 #346 (April 1982), cover by Rich Buckler 

Batman: Two-Face Strikes Twice!  Book One Part Two (November 1993), flip cover by Daerick Gross

Batman: Two-Face Strikes Twice!  Book Two Part One (December 1993), cover by Dick Sprang  

Batman v.1 #314 (August 1979), cover by José Luis García-López

Teen Titans v.1 #48 (June 1977), cover by Rich Buckler

Happy birthday Ad Reinhardt!

“The one thing to say about art is that it is one thing. Art is art-as-art and everything else is everything else. Art as art is nothing but art. Art is not what is not art.” - Ad Reinhardt

Ad Reinhardt was born on this day in 1913.

[Ad Reinhardt. Study for a Painting. 1939. Gouache on paper. Gift of the artist. © 2016 Estate of Ad Reinhardt/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York]


November 16th is the birthday of Dr. Jonathan Crane, better known as the menacing Master of Fear, The Scarecrow.

Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, The Scarecrow first appeared in World’s Finest Comics #3 (September1941) as an adversary for Batman.  He was a professor obsessed with rare books, who decided to become a criminal in order to purchase them.  I guess Gotham State University didn’t have a world-class library with a sweet Special Collections Department like The University of Iowa.  

Using fear as a weapon, he took on the nom de crime, The Scarecrow, because it symbolized both poverty and fear.

The Scarecrow made only a couple appearances during the Golden Age of Comic Books, and wasn’t heard from for decades until he was revived by Gardner Fox and Sheldon Moldoff in Batman v.1 #189 in February 1967.  The Brown Prince of Crime* has been a recurring member of Batman’s Rogues Gallery ever since.

Dr. Crane is quite the “joiner” and has been a member of the Injustice Gang, The Injustice League, The Secret Society of Super-Villains, and The Legion of Doom.  He was briefly deputized into the Sinestro Corps during the Blackest Night crossover.

The Scarecrow made his cinematic debut in 2005 with Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins.  He was portrayed by the dreamy Cillian Murphy.

These comics (and many more) are part of the DuGarm Collection at the University of Iowa: Special Collections:

interior art from Justice League of America v.1 #111 (June 1974), written by Martin Pasko, art by Pat Broderick

Batman v.1 #291(September 1977), cover by Jim Aparo

Detective Comics v.1 #503 (June 1981), cover by Jim Starlin and Tatjana Wood

interior art from Batman v.1 #456 (November 1990), art by Norm Breyfogle

Batman v.1 #373 (July 1984), cover by Ed Hannigan and Dick Giordano

Justice League of America v.1 #111 (June 1974), cover by Nick Cardy

Batman v.1 #540 (July 1984), cover by Gene Colan and Dick Giordano

interior art from  Justice League of America v.1 #143 (June 1977), script by Steve Englehart with art by Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin

Uncredited panel from the 1976 DC Comics Calendar

Scarecrow origin panels from Detective Comics v.1 #486 (November 1979), written by Jack C. Harris, with art by Kurt Schaffenberger and Jack Abel

*No one has ever called The Scarecrow, “The Brown Prince of Crime”.