You Gotta Know These Art Museums
- Louvre Perhaps the world’s most famous museum, the Musée du Louvre is located on the right bank of the Seine River in the heart of Paris. Housed in the Louvre Palace, which was a royal residence until 1682, the Louvre was permanently opened to the public as a museum by the French Revolutionary government in 1793. During renovations carried out in the 1980s, a controversial steel-and-glass pyramid designed by I. M. Pei was installed at its entrance. Works housed within the Sully, Richelieu, and Denon Wings of the Louvre include ancient Greek sculptures such as the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Venus de Milo, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, and Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People.
- Museo del Prado In 1785, Spanish King Charles III commissioned a building to house a natural history museum, but his grandson Ferdinand VII completed the Prado as an art museum in 1819. Deriving its name from the Spanish for “meadow,” the Prado’s holdings include not only what is universally regarded as the best collection of Spanish paintings, but also a number of works from Flemish masters, such as Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas, Francisco Goya’s The Third of May, 1808, and Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights.
- Uffizi Gallery Located in Florence, Italy, the Uffizi Gallery was originally designed by Giorgio Vasari to serve as offices for the Florentine magistrates under Cosimo de’ Medici — hence the name uffizi, meaning “offices.” After Cosimo I died in 1574, the new grand duke, Francis I, commissioned the conversion of its top floor into a galley. Its outstanding Renaissance holdings include The Birth of Venus and La Primavera, both by Sandro Botticelli, and Titian’s Venus of Urbino.
- Rijksmuseum RYKES-“museum” Located in Amsterdam, this is the national museum of The Netherlands. Currently housed in a Gothic Revival building designed by P. J. H. Cuypers and completed in 1885, its most distinguished works include Rembrandt’s Night Watch, Franz Hals’s The Merry Drinker, and Jan Vermeer’s The Milkmaid.
- Hermitage Founded in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1764 by Catherine the Great, its buildings include the Winter Palace, which was once the residence of Russia’s tsars. Its most famous pieces include Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son and Henri Matisse’s Red Room.
- Tate Originally known as the National Gallery of British Art when opened in 1897, it was renamed for its benefactor, sugar tycoon Sir Henry Tate. The original Tate Gallery has been renamed Tate Britain, and there are now three additional branches: Tate Modern in London, Tate Liverpool, and Tate St. Ives in Cornwall. The Tate awards the Turner Prize, a highly publicized award for British artists, and its collection includes Whaam! by Roy Lichtenstein and many works by J. M. W. Turner.
- Guggenheim The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is located in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Founded as “The Museum of Non-Objective Painting,” in 1959 it moved into its current home, a Frank Lloyd Wright building that features a spiral ramp connecting the exhibition areas. Focusing on modern art, its holdings include the world’s largest collection of paintings by Wassily Kandinsky.
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art Located on the edge of Central Park and colloquially known as “the Met,” its main building on Fifth Avenue was designed by Richard Morris Hunt. Its collection includes El Greco’s View of Toledo, Jacques-Louis David’s The Death of Socrates, and John Singer Sargent’s Madame X.
- Museum of Modern Art Better known as “MoMA” and situated in Manhattan, it has been connected with the Rockefeller family since its founding in 1929. Its collection includes Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night, Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Salvador Dalí’s The Persistence of Memory, and Piet Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie-Woogie.
- The Art Institute of Chicago Located on the western edge of Grant Park in Chicago, the main building of the Art Institute was built for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and features two lion statues at its entrance (which are often decorated for special occasions, e.g. with jerseys when Chicago sports teams are in the playoffs). It has an outstanding collection of French Impressionist and American works such as Georges Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s At the Moulin Rouge, Grant Wood’s American Gothic, and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.
- Guggenheim Museum Bilbao The Guggenheim Bilbao opened in 1997 and is — like its sister instutition in New York — less famous for its collection than its building, a Frank Gehry design that seems to be an abstract sculpture all its own. Richard Serra’s The Matter of Time is permanently installed here.
- The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square in London houses a synoptic collection of pre-1900 paintings assembled by government purchase and donation. It is home to British masterpieces including John Constable’s The Haywain and both Rain, Steam and Speed and The Fighting Temeraire by J. M. W. Turner. The museum also boasts several major highlights of European painting, from arguably the best known of Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers series to exemplar Baroque works like Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus, The Judgment of Paris by Peter Paul Rubens, and the Rokeby Venus of Diego Velázquez. Major works of the Italian and north European Renaissance are also represented, including Jan van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Wedding, Hans Holbein’s The Ambassadors, Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne, Raphael’s Portrait of Pope Julius II, and the later of Leonardo’s two versions of Madonna of the Rocks.
This article was contributed by former NAQT writer Edmund Dickinson.