Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My Backyard: RI School of Design - Museum of Art

"Summer" by Frank W. Benson. 1909.
I enjoy visiting museums. Unfortunately, my little state doesn’t have many. The one I wanted to see but had never been to is at the RI School of Design in Providence. The RISD Museum of Art began in the late 19th century and is housed in 6 buildings. It has thousands of pieces of art dating from ancient times to present: Asian, ancient artifacts, textiles/costumes, photography, contemporary art, sculpture, prints, and paintings. There's artwork by household names like Cezanne, Renoir, Picasso, Matisse, Stuart, Homer and O’Keeffe, and even a replica of a Federal-style home. The Museum definitely rivals art museums found in larger metropolitan cities. 
First off, let’s be clear. I’m not artistic in any way. I can't draw, paint or sculpt. (I gladly leave that to my 3 very artistic sons.) However, I appreciate the exceptional artistry, creativity and talent behind the art. So I had to finally find the time, and go! 

The Museum is open every day but Mondays; admission is free on Sunday. So on a recent September Sunday I left hubby at home to watch football and headed to the Museum. I didn’t do much research so I wasn't sure what I’d find. I didn’t realize then how pleasantly surprised I’d be at the end of my visit. I expected to see mostly contemporary artwork and I sure found that. But there was so much more. 
I entered from the Benefit Street entrance into the 3rd level and received a map of the sprawling Museum. The multi-levels were a bit confusing but helpful employees pointed me in the right direction and answered my questions.  
Here’s a quick rundown of what I found.
  • First Level: main lobby, gift shop.
  • Third Level: textiles, costumes, furniture, photography, visual art, contemporary art, paintings, ceramics, sculpture, access to 1st level.
  • Fourth Level: porcelain gallery, American paintings.
  • Fifth Level: ancient Greek/Roman artwork, Grand Gallery, entrance to Pendleton House, 12th-18th century artwork, 10th century French artwork, Renaissance-19th century European paintings.
  • Sixth Level: Asian art, ancient Egyptian art. 
Some highlights of my tour:
  • visual art called “Navigating the Personal Bubble” which shows how we use technology to create a cocoon around us in public spaces;
  • Greek artifacts from the 5th century BC;
  • Eyptian Ptolemaic period collection including a coffin and mummy;
  • a 9’ tall 12th century wooden Buddha which sits in its own gallery; and
  • the Grand Gallery which displays massive framed paintings on vibrant blue walls.
I found my favorite piece of art on the 5th level. It's a 7’ tall statue carved out of oak of a crucified Christ with outstretched arms. It was originally attached to a cross and hung in a church in Spain. It dates from 1150-1200.
I think the Museum has something for everyone. If you like contemporary art there’s a collection of paintings, sculptures and mixed media dating from 1960. If you like decorative arts you’ll find furniture, metalwork, wallpaper, ceramics and glass from medieval times to present. If you’re interested in textiles, you’ll find over 15,000 items, like costumes and fabric. If you like prints, drawings and photographs you’ll find artwork from the 15th century to present by the likes of Poussin, Manet, Monet, Van Gogh, and Degas.
Plan a visit to the Museum next time you have a few spare hours. I think you’ll be very glad you did. 

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