Cameos of Art Museums' Collections of Historic American Art

The Montclair Art Museum

Montclair, New Jersey


George Inness, Delaware Water Gap

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Since its founding 1914, The Montclair Art Museum has acquired and exhibited fine examples of American and Native American art and artifacts. The Museum has therefore developed an outstanding collection and international reputation.

The Museum's directions for collecting were established by its patrons William T. Evans and Florence Rand Lang. Before his death in 1918, Evans donated a total of 54 paintings and two sculptures by such major American artists as Ralph Blakelock, Daniel Chester French, Childe Hassam, Theodore Robinson and Julian Alden Weir.

Florence Rand Lang, before and upon her death in 1943, donated more than 1,000 works of art. Particularly notable was Lang's large bequest of Native American objects representing all of the major cultural areas in the United States and the Artic. The Museum's Native American collection has grown to more than 4,000 objects, including both traditional and contemporary work by artists representing the Plains, Southwest, California, Intermontane, Pacific Northwest, Artic and Eastern Woodland regions.

Since the Evans and Lang bequests, the Museum's collections have grown to more than 11,000 objects dating from the mid-19th century to the present. Among the highlights of the 1,000 paintings in the collection are portraits by such 18th-century masters as Joseph Blackburn, Gilbert Stuart, Charles Willson Peale and John Singleton Copley, as well as 19th-century examples by Thomas Sully, William Sidney Mount, William Merritt Chase, Henry Inman, Thomas Eakins and John Singer Sargent. Gilbert Stuart's lively portrait of Englishman Caleb Whitefoord, (1782) was the first 18th-century painting to enter the collection in 1945. That year the Museum also acquired Asher B. Durand's Hudson River School masterpiece Early Morning at Cold Spring (1850), the centerpiece of a major 19th-century collection of landscape paintings, including works by Thomas Cole, Martin Johnson Heade, John Frederick Kensett, Thomas Moran, Jasper F. Cropsey and George Inness.

Thomas Ball, Emancipation Group

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Based in Montclair from 1878 until his death in 1894, Inness is represented here by one of the largest and most significant public collections of his work comprising 17 oil paintings and three rare works on paper. The recent acquisition Sunset at Montclair (1892) represents the height of this master's late achievements in spiritual landscape painting. It is among the more than 100 such depictions by Inness.

Highlights of the Museum's 19th-century collection also include works by such American Impressionists as Mary Cassatt, Robinson, Weir, and John Twachtman. Paintings and works on paper by Winslow Homer, Blakelock and Washington Allston are among the many other treasures of this collection. A superb group of sculptures by French, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Thomas Ball, Bessie O. Potter Vonnoh, Harriet Frishmuth and others completes the strong holding of the past century. William Couper's Crown for the Victor (1896) is one of the highlights of the Museum's sculpture collection and was donated by Lang in 1913. In its sculpture collection, the Museum has splendid examples of marbles, bronzes, terra-cottas and mixed media constructions.

Among the 19th century holdings, Thomas Ball's pieces exemplify the stylistic transformations from neo-classical idealizations of John the Evangelist to the realism and topicality of the Emancipation Group. Portrait subjects are an enduring interest among traditional sculptors and MAM's collection has excellent likenesses of New Jersey artist George Inness, and masters of American literature such as poets Ralph Waldo Emerson and Robert Louis Stevenson. Fin-de-siecle sculptural expressions include the exuberance and joyful depictions of dancers in motion and animal forms. Allegorical likenesses and playful animals appear in the designs of Frederick MacMonnies, who was often commissioned to make charming decorative subjects for the gardens of high society.

Asher Durand, Early Morning at Cold Spring

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More on the American art collection of the Montclair Art Museum.

This page was originally published in 1997 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 11/8/11

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