Montclair Art Museum

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Montclair Art Museum
Montclair Art Museum (Montclair, New Jersey).jpg
Established Chartered 1909; opened 1914
Location Montclair, New Jersey, U.S.
Type Art museum[1]
Collections Native American, American, Contemporary
Director Lora Urbanelli
Public transit access NJ Transit (bus and rail), Walnut Street Station; DeCamp Bus Lines

Montclair Art Museum
Montclair Art Museum is located in Essex County, New Jersey
Montclair Art Museum
Location 3 S. Mountain Avenue, Montclair, New Jersey
Coordinates 40°49′7″N 74°13′27″W / 40.81861°N 74.22417°W / 40.81861; -74.22417Coordinates: 40°49′7″N 74°13′27″W / 40.81861°N 74.22417°W / 40.81861; -74.22417
Area 2.8 acres
Built 1913
Architect Ross, Albert Randolph
Architectural style Classical Revival
Governing body Private
MPS Montclair MRA
NRHP Reference # 86002984[2]
Added to NRHP November 14, 1986

The Montclair Art Museum is located in Montclair, in Essex County, New Jersey, United States.


The Montclair Art Museum (MAM) is one of the few museums in the United States devoted to American art and Native American art forms. The collection consists of more than 12,000 works. The American collection comprises paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, and sculpture dating from the 18th century to the present. The museum's holdings of traditional and contemporary American Indian art and artifacts represent the cultural achievements in weaving, pottery, wood carving, jewelry, and textiles of indigenous Americans from seven major regions—Northwest Coast, California, Southwest, Plains, Woodlands, Southeast, and the Arctic; the work of contemporary American Indian artists is also represented.

The museum has the only gallery in the world dedicated solely to the work of the 19th-century American painter George Inness, who lived in Montclair from 1885 to 1894 and painted in the area. MAM's Inness paintings are, according to one critic, "the crown of the Montclair Art Museum's collection".[3] The intimate George Inness Gallery displays selected works from the museum's 21 Inness paintings, two of his watercolors, and an etching by the artist.[4] It also features the work of sculptor William Couper, who lived in Montclair for fifteen years while sculpting and another thirty in retirement.

Artists in the collection include Tony Abeyta, Josef Albers, Milton Avery, Will Barnet, Romare Bearden, Thomas Hart Benton, Carl Borg, Margaret Bourke-White, Alexander Calder, Thomas Cole, Willie Cole, Stuart Davis, Willem de Kooning, Richard Diebenkorn, Elsie Driggs, Asher B. Durand, Thomas Eakins, Lee Friedlander, Arshile Gorky, Marsden Hartley, Robert Henri, Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, George Inness, Ben Jones, Donald Judd, Michael Lenson, Helen Levitt, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Longo, Whitfield Lovell, Man Ray, Thomas Manley, Knox Martin, Ma-Pe-Wi, Robert Motherwell, Dan Namingha, Alice Neel, Louise Nevelson, Georgia O'Keeffe, Sarah Miriam Peale, Rembrandt Peale, Charles Willson Peale, Philip Pearlstein, Maurice Prendergast, Oscar Bluemner, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko, Morgan Russell, John Singer Sargent, George Segal, Ben Shahn, Lorna Simpson, Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, Joseph Stella, Kay WalkingStick, Andy Warhol, Max Weber, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler.


When the museum opened on January 15, 1914, it was the first museum in New Jersey that granted access to the public. It owed its existence to the donations of artwork and funding of its two founders, both Montclair residents: William T. Evans, civic leader and art collector who also donated works that helped seed the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and heiress Florence Osgood Rand Lang.

During the late 19th century, the bucolic town of Montclair evolved into a lively community of artists and collectors. Among its most prominent inhabitants was one of America's greatest landscape painters, George Inness, who resided in Montclair between 1885 and his death in 1894, attracting a following of painters and sculptors and galvanizing the collective art consciousness that eventually gave birth to the museum. Others, such as the neoclassical sculptor William Couper, served on the town's Municipal Art Commission, established in 1908 to beautify Montclair and preserve the charm of a country town. Presiding over the commission was the civic-minded William T. Evans, a dry-goods magnate and prolific collector who had acquired the Montclair estate of George Inness, Jr., in 1900. Between the early 1880s and 1913, Evans purchased more than 800 American paintings, making his the largest collection of American art before World War I.

The American collection began with a gift of 36 paintings from Evans, including works by George Inness, Ralph Albert Blakelock, and Childe Hassam. He also contributed a sculpture, "The Sun Vow", by Hermon Atkins MacNeil, a signature piece for the museum. Situated at the circle at MAM's front entrance since 1914, the sculpture blends Native American and American themes.

Florence Rand Lang was inspired by Evans and the promise of a local museum, as well as by the opportunity to honor her mother, Annie Valentine Rand, a collector of Native American art. The Rand Collection given at that time encompassed several hundred objects, including baskets, clothing, jewelry, and household items that reflect the vitality and traditions of Native American cultures.

Needing a dedicated structure to house the collections, museum trustee Michel Le Brun hired Albert R. Ross to design a neoclassical building. Ross had worked on several Carnegie libraries and the Pueblo County Courthouse (1908–1912) in Colorado; he later won the design competition for the Milwaukee County Courthouse (1927).[5] The building has since expanded along with the collection. The museum underwent modest renovations in 1924, and 1931. The most recent renovation by architectural firm Beyer Blinder Belle in 2000-2001 added a new wing that doubled the museum's square footage.[6]

To mark its 75th anniversary, MAM published Three Hundred Years of American Painting: The Montclair Art Museum Collection. It provided detailed entries for 538 paintings, detailed discussion of 32 of them, and a set thematic essays.[7] In 1999, MAM collaborated on American Tonalism: Selections from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Montclair Art Museum.[8]

Following the stock market crash of 2008, the museum instituted a financial retrenchment program that included staff reductions. It started a new fundraising campaign with the goal of bringing MAM's endowment to $15 million by 2015. Museum officials said they hoped to raise $3 million to $5 million by selling about 50 items from its collections, either lesser works by artists well represented or areas outside its main focus, like costumes and rugs, with the proceeds dedicated to a special acquisitions fund.[9] In January 2009, the museum announced it had transferred most of its LeBrun Library to the Harry A. Sprague Library at Montclair State University, a public institution that accepts library cards from public libraries in Essex and Passaic counties.[10][a]

On occasion, MAM has mounted exhibits that bridge its interest in contemporary and Native American art. A 2001-2 exhibit explored Bierstadt's depiction of encounters between European settlers and Native Americans, using its collection of Indian art to create conversations with two monumental Bierstadt oils.[12] In 2005, it presented "Roy Lichtenstein: American Indian Encounters" to explore a 20th-century American artist's fascination with and use of motifs from Native American art to critique their clichéd use by earlier artists. It included a Lichtenstein parody of Bierstadt, a variation on the Indian head nickel, and attempts to incorporate Indian symbolism into cubist and sureralist imagery.[13]

In 2009, the museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art organized the exhibition "Cézanne and American Modernism," with 131 items, including 18 works by Cézanne. In a news release, MAM called the show "the largest, most ambitious exhibition in the 95-year history of the museum." After appearing in Montclair, the exhibition traveled to the Baltimore and to the Phoenix Art Museum.[14]

As its centennial year approached, MAM undertook a fundraising campaign to double its endowment to $20 million.[15] It also mounted an exhibition of contemporary sculpture based on the gifts of New Jersey resident Patricia A. Bell over the last 20 years to underscore its commitment to the contemporary arts scene.[16] To mark its centenary in 2014, on the anniversary date, it lit a new installation by Spencer Finch, Yellow, that filled the windows on the first level of the museum's facade with a soft glow that suggests someone is home, countering in some measure the formality of the architecture.[17][18]

Other programs[edit]

The museum's educational programs serve a wide public from toddlers to senior citizens. Collaborations with numerous cultural and community partners bring artists, performers, and scholars to the museum on a regular basis. MAM’s Yard School of Art is a regional art school offering an array of classes for children, youth, adults, seniors, and professional artists.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "In 1913 the museum received a bequest from the estate of Michel LeBrun for the construction of a library and 40 volumes from his library for the LeBrun Library which opened in 1916, overseen by Michel's widow Maria Olivia LeBrun. In 1917, Michel's brother Pierre LeBrun, also an architect, donated an additional 100 volumes. Since the Montclair Art Museum's collection is limited to American fine arts and Native American art, the LeBrun Library's research materials are similarly restricted, for the most part, to these same fields. The LeBrun Library has been and still is the foremost art reference source in this limited field in the State of New Jersey. The library's holdings for its 84-year existence have increased more than one-hundred fold to some 14,000 books, plus some 5000 volumes of bound periodicals, 136 drawers of vertical file material on American artists, a collection of 20,000 slides, and nearly 8000 bookplates."[11]


  1. ^ a b Montclair Art Museum: About, ARTINFO, 2008, retrieved July 21, 2008 
  2. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 
  3. ^ Schwabsky, Barry (February 16, 1997). "A Haven for Creative Talents, Then and Now". New York Times. Retrieved February 24, 2015. 
  4. ^ Web page titled "George Inness Gallery" at the Montclair Art Museum website, retrieved December 18, 2012
  5. ^ Wright, Frank Lloyd (1943). Frank Lloyd Wright: An Autobiography. Duell ,Sloan and Pearce. p. 358. 
  6. ^ D'Agnese, Joseph (November 4, 2001). "Big Dreams for the Montclair Art Museum". New York Times. Retrieved February 13, 2015. 
  7. ^ Marilyn S. Kushner, ed., Three Hundred Years of American Painting: The Montclair Art Museum Collection (The University of Chicago Press), reviewed by Elinor Nacheman in Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America, vol. 9, no. 2 (Summer 1990), p. 112; available online
  8. ^ Kevin J. Avery and Diane P. Fischer , eds., American Tonalism: Selections from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Montclair Art Museum (Montclair Art Museum, 1999), reviewed by Martin Hopkinson in The Burlington Magazine, vol. 142, no. 1168 (July 2000), p. 453; available online
  9. ^ Vogel, Carol (March 26, 2009). "Attention, Millionaires: Rare Cat Needs Home". New York Times. Retrieved February 24, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Montclair Art Museum - LeBrun Library". Sprague Library Digital Bookplates. Montclair State University. Retrieved February 13, 2015. 
  11. ^ "Montclair Art Association". Bookplate Archive. University of Texas At Austin School of Information. Retrieved February 13, 2015. 
  12. ^ Zimmer, William (December 30, 2001). "In Montclair, a Controversial View of American History". New York Times. Retrieved February 24, 2015. 
  13. ^ Glueck, Grace (December 23, 2005). "A Pop Artist's Fascination With the First Americans". New York Times. Retrieved February 24, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Cézanne and American Modernism". Yale University Press. Retrieved February 18, 2015.  Published in conjunction with the exhibit: Gail Stavitsky and Katherine Rothkopf, eds., Cézanne and American Modernism (Yale University Press, 2009)
  15. ^ "Montclair Art Museum Retains Ghiorsi & Sorrenti as Campaign Counsel". Ghiorsi & Sorrenti. Retrieved February 24, 2015. 
  16. ^ McGlone, Peggy (September 29, 2013). "Montclair Art Museum celebrates 100th anniversary with new sculpture, exhibits". Retrieved February 24, 2015. 
  17. ^ Ebbels, Kelly (January 9, 2014). "At the Montclair Art Museum, it's lights on for the party". Montclair Times. Retrieved February 13, 2015. 
  18. ^ "Montclair Art Museum Turns 100". January 10, 2014. Retrieved February 13, 2015. 

External links[edit]