Click on photos to enlarge.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Princeton Uniniversity Art Museum

McCormick Hall, the Princeton University Art Museum.
It hasn't always been the case, but today, most major universities have at least modest art collections, perhaps even their own campus museum tucked away in some converted office space all but hidden away in some remote corner of a sprawling campus. Quite frankly, some such art holdings are a good deal more modest than others...some relatively recent in fact. In many cases the art collection (such as it is) may be spread quite thinly among various university offices, more in tune with decorating blank walls than serving any academic purpose. And, all too often, such works reflect donations by university's faculty or art alumni of their own work. In such cases these art collections are usually as insignificant as they are "modest." There have even been cases when such works have been liquidated when the university, for one reason or another, suddenly needs ready cash (new restrooms at the football stadium, for instance). However, standing well above many such shortsighted institutions, is Princeton University, located (of course) in Princeton, New Jersey.
The original Princeton art collection occupied the faculty lounge located in the university's first Princeton campus edifice, Nassau Hall.
Naturally, when you've been around since 1746, (Originally the College of New Jersey), that does tend to provide a head start as to art collecting over all the other such legendary institutions which date back only to the 19th century. Likewise, Princeton's art holdings didn't come overnight. Early works were heavy laden with semi-nude sculpture, portrait busts, and dinosaur bones precariously cluttering up the faculty lounge as seen in the 1886 photo (above). All that changed in 1894 when the college spent $49,000 to build a museum specifically designed to display its art (below), Then became Princeton University two years later.
One of the first museums designed and built specifically
for the housing and display of art. (The building was
demolished in 1963 to make way for the present-day museum).
Although some of Princeton's 92,000 items date back to the 18th-century when the governor of the colony donated a painting to the college (of himself). Shortly thereafter was hung next to it a portrait of England's then reigning monarch, a painting of King George III arrived soon thereafter (both destroyed during the Revolutionary War, as was much of the college's original art holdings due to a fire in 1802). In any case, the founding of the art museum is listed as 1882. For many years the new museum housed both art and artifacts of natural history, in line with the University's philosophy of teaching through the use of actual objects. As the university grew along with its horde of collectibles, space limitations caused most of the non-art items to be farmed out to the appropriate university colleges, leaving only the art.

Having grown prodigiously during the early 20th century, it's not surprising that the Princeton University Art Museum now sprawls
over some pretty significant acreage (outlined in red above).
The Steerage, photo by Alfred
Stieglitz, part of the university's
20th-century art collection.
The museum's original purpose had little to do with training artists, and everything to do with art history. The museum received it's first of many extensions in 1922 with the addition of McCormick Hall, a Ven-etian Gothic style wing financed by the Cyrus McCormick family. During the re-maining years of the 20th-century, weal-thy benefactors (of which Princeton had a lengthy list) continued to buy or donate additional works of art and build wings to house them. Before long the university was receiving gifts of historic Greek and Roman artifacts from all over the world, making their holding in this area some of the most outstanding on this side of the Atlantic. Donations included not only European paintings, but also important pieces of more recent art history such as Alfred Stieglitz's The Steerage (above) and numerous examples of Asian art.

Works by European painters from all eras.
The Princeton Art Museum mounts regular temporary exhibitions featuring works from its own holdings as well as loans made from public and private collections around the world. Admission to the museum is free but admission to the college is about $35,000 per year (which tends to cover the ticket price to see their art. They're open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Thursday, 10:00 am to 10:00 pm, and Sunday 1:00 to 5:00 pm. The University is open from the second Monday in September to the end of May (not an ideal time to visit).

High above the University Art Museum entrance
are Circus Acrobats, a 1981 sculpture by George Segal.
Princeton University Art Museum
Seventy Years Ago,
 1877, Thomas Eakins


No comments:

Post a Comment