Social Icons

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Worcester Art Museum

Early in the summer the Worcester Art Museum, also known by its acronym WAM, announced that it would offer free admission for the entire month of August.

As a young kid I spent lots of time in the museum. My parents enrolled my brother and in in the school vacation art sessions every year. We made all kinds of interesting artwork mimicking some famous artist selected for the class. Living nearby has its conveniences and I decided that I would make the effort to visit this world class museum once again.

The Worcester Art Museum houses over 35,000 works of art dating from antiquity to the present day, representing cultures from all over the world. The WAM opened in 1898 in Worcester, Massachusetts, and is the second largest art museum in New England. The institution, founded by Stephen Salisbury III "for the benefit of all the people".  In 1905, Stephen Salisbury died and left the "bulk" of his five million-dollar estate to the museum.

The Worcester Art Museum continued to grow and slowly gathered a world-class art collection. The WAM became the first museum in the United States to purchase works by Claude Monet as well as Paul Gauguin.

We started our visit in Renaissance Court admiring the museum's treasured Antioch mosaics. The centerpiece of Renaissance Court is the impressive Worcester Hunt mosaic unearthed in 1936 during the excavation of the ancient city of Antioch.

Just off the Renaissance Court is the fully intact 12th century Chapter House. It was the first medieval building move from Europe to the United States.  As a kid I can remember this room as one of my favorites. It is one of the places that evoked my interest in traveling by taking me a continent away in my very own back yard.

This chapter house is from the Benedictine Priory of Saint John at Le Bas-Nueil and its ceiling is the most significant architectural feature. It is divided into six compartments of quadripartite vaults supported by two monolithic columns. Its symmetry has always fascinated and inspired me.

After enjoying the Charter House we moved on to the medieval galleries where an early 13th century French sarcophagus now sits. Also included is a copper gilt Crozier Head designed to top a bishop’s staff. It spirals around ending with a serpents head.

Next to the Medieval gallery is a small Egyptian exhibition which includes a few impressive pieces such as a statue of Hapidefai and a sandstone relief of Prince Arikankharer Slaying His Enemies from the first century AD. No Egyptian exhibit would be complete without a bronze statue of a cat.  The Cat depicts Bastet who is believed to reveal himself in the form of a cat.

Another impressive exhibition is the Chinese and Asian art. Some of the pieces that really impressed me was the Large Basin of Nephrite with a design of Five Dragons. Another that I loved reminded me of a Jar my family has covered in Plum Blossom’s. Other typical styles like a table screen with a Mountain Landscape carved intricately into a pale green nephrite and a Tang Horse and a Chinese Warrior made of terracotta were amazing.

Next we made our way up the grand staircase to the [remastered] exhibit.  The [remastered] exhibit purpose is to give the museums 16th to 18th century holdings and its visitors a fresh new look at some of the impressive lineup of great masters like El Greco, Rembrandt, and Bernardo Strozzi.

Next we moved on to the new special exhibition called ‘Knights”. This new exhibit is a fraction of the Higgins Armory collection which is now housed in the Hiatt Wing after its acquisition when the Higgins Armory closed last year.

While it only had a few full sets up armor on display it didn’t disappoint. It has numerous helmets and many swords on display. It also included a more modern knight. It had a full Batman costume as worn by Michael Keaton in the Tim Burton 1989 Batman film. One of the coolest features of this exhibit was the armor glove that visitors could try on.

The Contemporary Gallery is currently set up as a temporary exhibit and included a few unique pieces such as “Me as a Pendant” and another more grotesque one called “Treats” which is a fusion of synthetic flesh and teeth by artist Rona Pondick. It was a huge number of these little critters covering a white box on the floor.

The next two galleries we visited reminded me of home. It was the American Decorative Arts and the Early American galleries which were filled with early American furniture, portraits and landscapes of a less developed nation. Some of the pieces we saw were from the collection of Stephen Salisbury and we saw replicas of them when we visited the Salisbury Mansion. There was also a beautiful marble statue of a cupid riding on the back of a tortoise called “Cupid Bound” They also have an impressive collection of Tiffany glass and a few Willard Clocks. One such stunning example was a Aaron Willard tall clock.

The next exhibit which I had a great appreciation for was the Jeppson Idea Lab where they displayed two recent portraits that had been restored. The portraits of William James and Elizabeth James by William Hogarth were purchased in 1909 and were the first Hogarth paintings acquired by an American museum. After nearly a century on display they were no longer a fair representation of the artist’s skills. After an extensive restoration these paintings were brought back to their former glory.

Every museum has a few iconic pieces that no matter where or who seems them they are instantly recognizable. The Modern Art exhibit just such a piece. Known around the world for his unique pieces is Andy Warhol. The Worcester Art Museum has Cambell’s Tomato Soup Can.

On the fourth floor of the museum is the Pre Columbian Collection. It includes some amazing artifacts such as the ceramic Animal Head from the State of Veracruz. Another favorite piece of mine is the ceramic Pot-bellied Dog figure from the State of Colima. Other impressive pieces include gold Eagle Pendants and a large Mayan carved column of a Warrior with Two Dwarf Attendants from the state of Campeche.

Across the hall from the Pre-Columbian gallery is the American Modernism exhibit. It contains some of the most impressive works of art in the museum’s collection. It includes a Winslow Homer piece depicting the “Coast in Winter” It also included some other impressive pieces like a pewter water fountain by Carl Miles.

While only a small fraction of the museum’s 35,000 piece collection is on display what makes it even more impressive is that it all started with a small tract of land and a 100,000 in cash and plaster casts of antique and renaissance sculptures in 1898.

No comments:

Post a Comment