The Munson-Williams-Proctor Museum of Art boasts a renowned art collection, fascinating exhibitions, and education programs for all ages. These offerings are presented in a landmark 1960 International-style building designed by Philip Johnson and in historic Fountain Elms, a superbly restored 1850 Italianate mansion. In 1962 Architectural Forum magazine cited the Johnson building as one of 10 new structures around the world that contributed significantly to the art of architecture during the decade. The Johnson building and Fountain Elms are connected by a new Museum Education Wing that opened in 1995.
The art collection features more than 25,000 American 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century paintings, drawings, sculptures, 19th-century decorative arts, photographs, European paintings, and European and Asian works on paper. There are works in the collection by Copley, Dali, Frankenthaler, Kandinsky, Mondrian, O'Keeffe, Picasso, Pollock, Prendergast, Rothenberg, Stella and Whistler. Also featured is the popular "Voyage of Life" series by Thomas Cole. Decorative arts makers included are John Henry Belter, Herter Brothers, Alexander Roux and Tiffany & Co. Touring exhibitions feature selections from major collections worldwide.
Fountain Elms has been restored as a showcase for the finest in Victorian-era decorative arts. Galleries offer changing exhibitions of nineteenth-century furniture, silver, ceramics, glass, textiles, and the renowned Proctor watch collection.
The Permanent Collection
The Munson-Williams-Proctor Museum of Art's permanent collection of more than 25,000 objects originated in the taste and interests of the Williams and Proctor families, who collected American and European paintings, and decorative arts in the late 19th and 20th centuries. The expansion of the collection began in earnest after World War II. This effort intensified in 1957 when Edward W. Root bequeathed more than 200 major 20th-century American paintings and drawings to the Museum of Art, thereby distinguishing it as a major repository of the art of this era.
Modern & Contemporary Collection
The Modern and Contemporary department comprises artwork created since 1900. Visitors to the museum can see premier examples of paintings and drawings by The Eight (the Ash Can School), including Maurice Prendergast's Landscape with Figures, which was exhibited at the historical 1913 Armory Show in New York City, as well as paintings by Depression-era artists, such as Edward Hopper and Reginald Marsh. Visitors can also see major works by New York School artists Philip Guston, Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and David Smith. The museum owns several Charles Burchfield watercolors, bequeathed by collector Edward Root, which are exhibited on a temporary and rotating basis. Recent additions to the collection include works by Ida Applebroog, Louise Bourgeois and Melvin Edwards. The collection also boasts important paintings and sculptures by Alexander Calder, Georgia O'Keeffe and Andy Warhol, as well as large holdings of drawings and prints.
19th Century American Art Collection
The museum's historical American painting collection is noteworthy for its collection of works by the Hudson River School, a group of early 19th-century Romantic landscape painters based in New York City who painted realistic views of the Hudson River Valley and surrounding areas. One of the founders of the school, Thomas Cole, is represented by his famous four-part allegorical series of paintings, "The Voyage of Life," which Cole painted in 1839-40. There are other Hudson River School landscape paintings in the collection by Frederic E. Church, Jasper F. Cropsey, Asher B. Durand, Sanford R. Gifford, Henry Inman, George Inness, David Johnson, William T. Richards, Ferdinand Richardt, Francis A. Silva and Alexander H. Wyant.
Also included in the collection are 19th-century American and European frames, manuscripts, holographs, rare books, the Proctor watch, thimble and photograph collections, artistic book bindings and scrap books collected by the Institute's founders and benefactors, as well as Western and Asian graphic arts from the 16th century to the present.
19th Century American Decorative Arts Collection
The Decorative Arts Department comprises 19th-century American silver, glass, ceramics, furniture and textiles. The renowned furniture collection includes important pieces by makers such as Charles Baudouine, John Henry Belter, Herter Brothers, Kimbel & Cabus, Leon Marcotte, J. & J.W. Meeks, Anthony Quervelle and Alexander Roux. A silver-plated table exhibited by Tiffany & Co. at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition is featured in the silver collection, along with other pieces by Tiffany, Gorham Mfg., George Shiebler and Lincoln & Foss. The ceramic collection is highlighted by the largest public holding of Oneida County stoneware, made from the 1830s through the early 20th century.
Decorative arts are on view in the paintings galleries as well as in period room settings and galleries in Fountain Elms, an 1850 historic Italianate mansion and the former home of the Institute's founders. Recent publications relating to the decorative arts collection include Masterpieces of American Furniture from the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute (1998) and Jewels of Time: Watches from the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute (2001).
Thomas Cole's "The Voyage of Life"
Early in March of 1839, Thomas Cole was commissioned by the prominent New York banker and philanthropist Samuel Ward Sr., to paint an allegorical series of four paintings entitled The Voyage of Life, the subject of which he had conceived in the fall of 1836.
Cole began work with great enthusiasm on the first of the series, named Childhood in September 1839, using as his guide a number of preliminary pencil drawings and oil sketches. Despite the unexpected death of his patron several months later, he continued working on this picture until early 1840 when it was in large measure complete.
His great achievement inThe Voyage of Life was his synthesis of three related ideas: life is a pilgrimage; a person's life can be divided into four distinct stages; and the course of a person's life can be metaphorically compared to a journey on a river that winds its way through a magical landscape. Cole invented a program that combined these three universal themes in simple pictorial terms.
Events and Exhibitions
Artists often employ a variety of means to communicate and express themselves, including exhibitions to display their work. Through special events, like lectures, workshops, art performances, conversations, readings and receptions, they are able to offer greater insight into the work. These events, held in conjunction with exhibitions, help bring greater understanding and appreciation of the creative process to the public. For more information events and exhibitions, visit http://www.mwpai.org/museum/events/ or call (315) 797-0000.