On November 5, 1959, the museum opened Paintings by Clyfford Still. Organized by the artist, the exhibition was Still's first major survey and a project five years in the making. Albright Art Gallery Director Gordon M. Smith first visited Clyfford Still’s New York studio in 1954, and a few years later, with Seymour H. Knox, Jr.’s support, he acquired PH-49 (1954), 1954, for the museum’s collection.
Smith and Still spent nearly two years planning the exhibition, negotiating details over the course of their extensive correspondence and through a series of personal meetings. Still visited Buffalo several times during this period in order to make preliminary plans for the exhibition's organization. He then oversaw the exhibition's final installation, personally supervising the lighting and hanging of his works.
Through this relationship with Smith and Knox and based in part on the success of Paintings by Clyfford Still, the artist subsequently donated 31 works to the museum in 1964. This gift secured the Albright-Knox’s place as the most significant repository of the artist’s work until 2011, with the historic founding of the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver.