Princeton University Art Museum

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Princeton University Art Museum
Art Museum Princeton.JPG
Established 1882
Type Art Museum
Key holdings Chinese calligraphy, Putnam Collection, Henry and Rose Perlman Collection, Antioch mosaics
Collection size 92,000
Visitors 130,140 (2013-14)[1]
Director James Christen Steward
Public transit access Princeton (NJT station)
Nearest parking Nassau Street, Spring Street Parking Garage
McCormick Hall (1923)
Princeton University Art Museum Side View.JPG
Princeton University Art Museum is located in Mercer County, New Jersey
Princeton University Art Museum
Location McCormick Hall, Princeton, New Jersey
Coordinates 40°20′49.9″N 74°39′28.9″W / 40.347194°N 74.658028°W / 40.347194; -74.658028Coordinates: 40°20′49.9″N 74°39′28.9″W / 40.347194°N 74.658028°W / 40.347194; -74.658028
Built 1923
Architect Ralph Adams Cram
Architectural style Venetian Gothic
Part of Princeton Historic District (#75001143[2])
Designated CP 27 June, 1975

The Princeton University Art Museum (PUAM) is the Princeton University's gallery of art, located in Princeton, New Jersey. Founded in 1882, it now houses over 92,000 works of art that range from antiquity to the contemporary period. The Princeton University Art Museum dedicates itself to supporting and enhancing the University’s goals of teaching, research, and service in fields of art and culture, as well as to serving regional communities and visitors from around the world. Its collections concentrate on the Mediterranean region, Western Europe, China, the United States, and Latin America.

The Museum has a large collection of Greek and Roman antiquities, including ceramics, marbles, bronzes, and Roman mosaics from Princeton University’s excavations in Antioch. Medieval Europe is represented by sculpture, metalwork, and stained glass. The collection of Western European paintings includes examples from the early Renaissance through the nineteenth century, and there is a growing collection of twentieth-century and contemporary art. Photographic holdings are a particular strength, numbering over 20,000 works from the invention of daguerreotype in 1839 to the present. The Museum is also noted for its Asian art gallery, which includes a wide collection of Chinese calligraphy, painting, ancient bronze works, jade carvings, as well as porcelain selections. In addition to its collections, the Museum mounts regular temporary exhibitions featuring works from its own holdings as well loans made from public and private collections around the world.

Admission is free and the Museum is 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.[3]

In 2015 the Museum was named to Fodor's list of the top 15 best small-town museums in the United States.[4]


The Faculty Room of Nassau Hall in 1886, when it served as home to the Art Museum


The first art work owned and displayed by the College of New Jersey (renamed Princeton University in 1896) was a full-length portrait of Jonathan Belcher, the Governor of the province of New Jersey who had promoted the establishment of the College. The portrait was a donation from Belcher himself, given shortly before the College moved in 1756 to the newly built Nassau Hall. It was joined by a portrait of King George II, who had issued the letters patent establishing the College. The two portraits hung in the central prayer hall, and were displayed alongside various antiquities and objects of natural history. The two paintings were destroyed during the 1777 Battle of Princeton and further objects were lost in the 1802 Nassau Hall fire, but the College continued its commitment to collecting and teaching from works of art and historical note.[5]

The first building purpose-built for the Art Museum, in an 1894 photo


The creation of the Art Museum in a more formal sense took place under the leadership of James McCosh, who served as president of the College of New Jersey from 1868-1888. The Scottish McCosh brought with him from Europe new progressive academic disciplines, including the history of art. By 1882, McCosh charged William Cowper Prime, a Princeton alumnus and founding trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and George B. McClellan, the Civil War general and then Governor of New Jersey, with creating a curriculum in the subject. They argued: "The foundation of any system of education in Historic Art must obviously be in object study. A museum of art objects is so necessary to the system that without it we are of [the] opinion it would be of small utility to introduce the proposed department.” The intention was to go beyond the fields of art and classics to include, “many other branches of the collegiate course.” They anticipated, “large future growth,” as the College could “look with confidence to her sons, in all parts of the world,” for future donations.[5]

Hieronymus Bosch or a member of his circle, Christ Before Pilate, ca. 1520, gift of Allan Marquand[6]

Allan Marquand (1882-1922)[edit]

The Museum, and what is now the Department of Art and Archaeology, were formally created in 1882, with Allan Marquand, of the Princeton Class of 1874, serving as the inaugural lecturer in the new department and director of the Museum, a position he would hold until his retirement in 1922. Marquand was previously instructor in Latin and logic at the College and was the son of Henry Gurdon Marquand, a major benefactor of the College and one of the founders of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The collections of the Museum were initially held in Nassau Hall, along with the growing natural history collection of professor Arnold Henry Guyot, part of which is still on display in Guyot Hall. A new purpose-built fireproof Romanesque Revival Museum was designed by A. Page Brown and completed in 1890 on the site of the current museum.

On completion of the building the Museum received the Trumball-Prime collection of pottery and porcelain from William Prime and his wife. Early additions included the purchase of a large collection of Cypriot pottery from the Metropolitan Museum in 1890, and purchases of Etruscan, Roman, and South Italian pottery. Marquand established an endowment from his own resources to enable further purchases and it was significantly augmented by a donation from Edward Harkness.[7]


Paul Cézanne, The Bathers, 1898, gift of Frank Jewett Mather Jr.

Frank Jewett Mather Jr. (1922-1946)[edit]

Late Formative, Ameca-Etzatlán, Hollow female head, West Mexico, Jalisco, Mexico, 200 B.C.–A.D. 100, gift of Frank Jewett Mather Jr.

Frank Jewett Mather joined the faculty in 1910 and succeeded Marquand as Museum director in 1922. He was a collector of Medieval and Renaissance art but also led the University to large holdings of paintings and prints, including the 1933 bequest of several thousand objects by Junius Spencer Morgan II, of the Princeton Class of 1888. In 1923, the first of many expansions of the Art Museum was completed with the addition of the Venetian Gothic McCormick Hall, designed by Ralph Adams Cram and donated by the family of Cyrus McCormick, Jr., Class of 1879 and Harold Fowler McCormick, Class of 1895. The new building enabled the older structure to be devoted solely to the Museum, and led to the creation of a hall of casts on the ground floor.

As Marquand had before him, Mather augmented the Museum's collections through the use of his personal fortune, with contributions ranging from Classical and Pre-Columbian antiquities, to illuminated manuscripts, and what became one of the finest collections of American drawings in the country. Major gifts during the 1930s included a collection of more than 40 Italian paintings from Henry White Cannon, Jr., of the Class of 1910, and more than 500 snuff bottles, still one of the finest such collections in the country, from Colonel James A. Blair, Class of 1903. The decade also saw significant collections of Chinese and Japanese art added to support the courses of George Rowley, the first in those fields in an American university. The World War II years ushered in the first classes in American art.

Notable exhibitions during Mather's tenure included one of works by Paul Cézanne, borrowed from Duncan Philips, and one of highlights from the Museum of Modern Art. Before his retirement in 1946, he oversaw a massive influx of Antioch mosaics from the archaeological digs at Antioch-on-the-Orontes in which the University had played a leading part. Some of the mosaics can be found today not only in the Museum but also in various places in Firestone Library. He also welcomed the collection of Dan Fellows Platt, a massive assortment of fine objects which arrived by van during the war.[8]

Alfred Stieglitz, The Steerage, 1907, the first photo added to the Museum's collection

Ernest DeWald (1946-1960)[edit]

Mather was succeeded by Ernest DeWald, a graduate school alumnus of the Class of 1946, one of the Monuments Men who had been charged with protecting the cultural heritage of Europe during the war. A large number of Princetonians, both alumni and faculty, served with the Monuments program, leading the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna to loan the Museum The Art of Painting by Johannes Vermeer as a sign of gratitude. DeWald was noted for his conservation work, personally cleaning paintings in his office on the top floor the Museum. For the University's bicentennial in 1946, he refurbished the galleries, including displaying a new collection of Chinese scrolls donated by Dr. Dubois Schanck Morris, Class of 1893. Under DeWald's tenure, the Museum's collection of Asian art greatly increased, aided by the guidance of Professor Wen C. Fong, Class of 1951, who would go on to be the founding director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Asian department. In 1949, Alfred Stieglitz's 1907 The Steerage was the first of the Museum's now considerable collection of photographs.[9]

Henry Moore, Oval with Points, 1969-1970, part of the Putnam Collection, often called "Nixon's Nose" by students[10]

Patrick Joseph Kelleher (1960-1973)[edit]

Patrick Joseph Kelleher, Class of 1947 and another Monuments Man, succeeded DeWald as director in 1960. He spearheaded the construction of a new home for the Museum, made possible by the University's landmark $53 million capital campaign. In 1962 the collections were removed to enable the demolition of the A. Page Brown building and the northern wing of the Ralph Adams Cram structure to make way for the current, Steinmann and Cain designed, International Style building, completed in 1966.

Perhaps the most visible art on the campus is the Putnam Collection of Sculpture. The collection is the result of an anonymous million dollar 1968 donation in honor of Lieutenant John B. Putnam Jr., of the Princeton Class of 1945, who lost his life in a plane crash during World War II. The collection was assembled in 1969 and 1970 by a committee led by Kelleher and including Alfred H. Barr, Jr. and Thomas Hoving. It contains works by seventeen major twentieth century sculptors, including Alexander Calder, Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore, Louise Nevelson, Isamu Noguchi, David Smith, and Tony Smith.[11]

Kelleher's directorship also saw an increasing focus on photography as an important element of the Museum's collections. David Hunter McAlpin, Class of 1920, gave a major collection of photographs to the Museum in 1971 as well as endowing a fund for further purchases and a professorship, the first endowed chair in the history of photography in the country. That professorship was occupied by Peter Bunnell, who would go on to succeed Kelleher as director in 1973.[12]

Further Expansion[edit]

Peter Bunnell served as director until 1978, training a generation of leading scholars and curators of photography, and giving Princeton a preeminent place in the field with a collection in excess of 27,000 photographs, and significant archives of photographers including Clarence Hudson White, Minor White, and Ruth Bernhard. In 1980, Allen Rosenbaum became director, focusing on expanding the Museums collection of Old Masters, notably Renaissance and Baroque paintings in the Mannerist tradition. In 1989, Rosenbaum oversaw another expansion of the Museum's physical plant, the 27,000 square feet (2,500 m2) Mitchell Wolfson, Jr., Class of 1963, Wing. The new wing, designed by Mitchell/Giurgola, provided additional exhibition space, a conservation studio, as well as seminar and study-storage rooms for all areas of the Museum's collection.

Under Susan M. Taylor's directorship in the first decade of the 21st century, the Museum established its first endowed curatorships. The current director, James Steward, has leadership over a collection of more than 92,000 objects, supplemented by notable collections on long-term loan, including the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works of the Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation, modern art from the Sonnabend Collection, and perhaps the finest collection of paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat, on loan from Herbert Schorr, Graduate School Class of 1963, and his wife, Lenore.[13]


African Art[edit]

Yoruba artist, Stool for Eşu Priest or Priestess, late 19th-early 20th century[14]

The collection of African art is designed to reveal the immense diversity of artistic work across the continent. Objects are on display from west, central, and south Africa, ranging from royal regalia and objects of prestige, to sculptures marking rites of passage, to those intended to facilitate interaction with spiritual entities.

The first bequest to the Museum of African art was made in 1953 by Mrs. Donald B. Doyle, in honor of her husband. That collection was accumulated before 1923 in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and includes a distinctively shaped Kuba box and a rare double caryatid headrest from the Chokwe people. More recent gifts have been made by Perry E.H. Smith, including a Chokwe chair, and by H. Kelly Rollings, among whose gifts is an emblem of the Leopard Society, a notable example of an accumulative object from the Cross River region. A 1998 bequest of John B. Elliot includes many objects of daily use and adornment, as well as Akan gold pieces, from a linguist's staff to a chief's bracelet. In 2003, a Yoruba stool was acquired, considered a sculptural masterpiece that served as the focus of devotion to the god Esu.

The African art collection is small in comparison to others in the Museum, though it is an area of growing interest.[15]

American Art[edit]

Winslow Homer, At the Window, 1872[19]

The University received its first pieces of American art in the 1750s, but only started collecting in earnest under the directorship of Frank Jewett Mather Jr. (1922-1946). Few museums accorded significance to American art at the time, allowing Princeton to amass a collection that is among the finest of any academic museum. The collection is particularly strong in painting and sculpture, greatly aided by the large number of portraits of figures affiliated with the University. The museum is strong in the area of landscape painting, especially from the Hudson River School.

The Boudinot Collection of primarily 18th century fine and decorative art is on display at the nearby Morven Museum and Garden, whose original owners, the Stockton family, were relatives of the Boudinots. Alumnus Edward Duff Balken's donation of Folk art led to a substantial collection in that area. New acquisitions, enabled by a dedicated fund, are focused on areas where the collection is weak, notably still life and genre painting.[20]

Ancient, Byzantine, and Islamic Art[edit]

Roman, Antonine, Colossal bust of a goddess or personification, 160–190 A.D.[26]

Ancient art has played a central role in the Museum's collection since its beginning. The first major addition to the collection included many Etruscan vases, as well as those from Egypt, Greece, and Rome. There are now more than 5,000 objects in the collection, documenting the early civilizations of Mesopotamia, Iran, Asia Minor, and the Levant. The great diversity of artifacts also covers the various eras of ancient Egypt, from pottery to stone reliefs, amulets, wall paintings, bronze statuettes, and mummies. The Greek collection includes significant works of both black-figure and red-figure pottery. It spans the broad range of artistic work, from Archaic bronze statuettes to terracotta figurines, jewelry to funerary reliefs, pottery from Rhodes, Cyprus, and Corinth.

Ancient Italy is in particular well represented in the collection, from the Etruscan vases, metalwork, and sculptures to a great breadth of Roman antiquities. The Roman collection includes portraits, sculptures, sarcophagi, carved bone, coins, statuettes, and a spectacular silver-gilt wine cup. The University's heritage of archaeological work in Roman Syria has left a legacy of basalt sculptures from Hauran, funerary reliefs from Palmyra, and a renowned collection of Antioch mosaics.

Byzantine and Islamic art are an equally esteemed focus of the collection, with icons and jewelry from Constantinople sharing a gallery with pottery, metalwork, and glazed tiles from Egypt, Syria, and Iran.

In addition to works on display in the Museum, a study gallery with hundreds of additional works is open to students and visitors.[27]

Art of the Ancient Americas[edit]

Late Classic, Maya ('Codex' style), The Princeton Vase, A.D. 670–750, finest known example of Maya "codex style" ceramic art, depicting God L[31][32]

The collection of Ancient American art includes objects covering five thousand years of history, from the Arctic to Chile. The collection's primary focus is on small, portable works of art, typically ceramic or stone. Of particular note are the more than twenty prized polychrome ceramic works, and over thirty ceramic figurines, from the lowland Maya region. The collection of Olmec objects comprises smaller jade, serpentine, and ceramic works. Of the collection's works from South America, the most notable are those from the Mochica culture, which flourished in Peru between 200 B.C. and A.D. 700. The museum's holdings in Native American art include important collections of Arctic Walrus carvings, art of the Tlingit people, and a growing representation from the Mississippi Valley and the American Southwest.

The collection of Pre-Columbian works began in the 19th century through the efforts of the Reverend Sheldon Jackson, an 1855 graduate of the Princeton Theological Seminary. He donated a collection of Native American ethnographic objects to the Seminary, which transferred them to the University's E. M. Museum of Geology and Archaeology, then in 1909 to the Guyot Hall Museum, which, after its closure in 2000, gave them to the Art Museum. As with the art of Africa and Oceania, Indigenous American art was not a focus of the museum's historic collecting. Nonetheless, objects were steadily donated during the early decades of the museum, including in the Trumbull-Prime Collection and the donations of Frank Jewett Mather Jr. The collection of ancient American art received its proper attention following the 1967 appointment of Gillett G. Griffin as faculty curator, a position held by him until 2004. The current collection is largely the result of his efforts, both through his own collections and his influence on donors.[33]

Asian Art[edit]

Huang Tingjian, Scroll for Zhang Datong, A.D. 1100,[38] a canonical work of Chinese calligraphy[39]

The collection of Asian art began with the foundation of the museum, with the primary focus for the early decades being Japanese art. Major collections of Chinese art were incorporated in the 1930s and 40s, including the snuff bottle collection of James A. Blair and paintings from Dubois Schanck Morris. The late 1950s brought significant additions of Chinese ritual bronzes and archaeological artifacts from J. Lionberger Davis, Class of 1900, as well as acquisitions from the Chester Dale and Dolly Carter Collection.

The primary strengths of the museum's collection are in Japanese and Chinese art, including Neolithic jade and pottery, ritual bronze vesslels, lacquerware, ceramics, sculpture and metalware, and woodblock prints. The museum's collection of calligraphy and painting is among the finest outside of Asia, including rare masterpieces from the Song and Yuan dynastys such as Huang Tingjian's Scroll for Zhang Datong. The collection also has significant holdings in Korean art, including a growing collection of artifacts ranging from the Three Kingdoms period to the Joseon dynasty. The art of India, Gandhara, Southeast Asia, and Central Asia are also represented, with the influence of Islam and Hinduism on the artistic traditions of the subcontinent represented through sculpture, statuettes, and painted miniatures.[40]

Campus Collections[edit]

The Campus Collections comprise the multitude of paintings, sculptures, memorials, and monuments significant to the University's history and traditions. Central to the collection are the Princeton Portraits, numbering more than 600 paintings and sculptures which depict figures prominent in the history of the university. The portraits span the breadth of American history, including the landmark portrait, George Washington at the Battle of Princeton, by Charles Willson Peale. Washington himself provided the funds for the work. Another highlight is the series of paintings by renowned sculpture and natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins which depict dinosaurs and other prehistoric fauna. The series was commissioned by Princeton President James McCosh in 1876 as a progressive response to Charles Darwin's theories.

The collection is also home to the celebrated Putnam Collection, which is comprised of 22 works by master artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. The collection was the result of an anonymous donation in honor of a Princeton alumnus who died in World War II. It is commonly regarded as one of the greatest collections of public art, providing a plain-air lesson in art history. Among the highlights of the collection are Oval with Points by Henry Moore and Five Disks: One Empty by Alexander Calder,[45] whose father, A. Stirling Calder, had previously created a statue of Saint George and the Dragon on Princeton's Henry Hall.[46] Calder's work was responsible for an accident during its installation where two men were killed after the sculpture was dropped on them due to a crane collapse. Another highlight of the Putnam collection is Pablo Picasso's Head of a Woman, which was designed by Picasso in 1962, though assembled by Carl Nesjar in 1971.[47]


  1. ^ "Annual Report" (PDF). Princeton University Art Museum. 
  2. ^ "Princeton Historic District" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  3. ^ "Visit". Princeton University Art Museum. 
  4. ^ "15 Best Small-Town Museums in the U.S.". Fodor's Travel. March 4, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Steward p. ix.
  6. ^ Steward p. 184.
  7. ^ Steward p. x.
  8. ^ Steward p. x-xii.
  9. ^ Steward p. xii-xiii.
  10. ^ Rhinehart, Raymond (2000). Princeton Universtiy: The Campus Guide. Princeton Architectural Press. p. 10. ISBN 978-1568982090. 
  11. ^ Maynard, William Barksdale (2012). Princeton: America's Campus. Penn State University Press. pp. 193–95. ISBN 978-0271050867. 
  12. ^ Steward p. xiii-xiv.
  13. ^ Steward p. xv-xvii.
  14. ^ Steward pp. 152-3.
  15. ^ Steward p. 147.
  16. ^ Steward p. 165.
  17. ^ Steward p. 163.
  18. ^ Steward p. 164.
  19. ^ Steward p. 248.
  20. ^ Steward p. 225.
  21. ^ Steward p. 228.
  22. ^ Bayley, Frank William; Perkins, Augustus Thorndike (1915). The Life and Works of John Singleton Copley: Founded on the Work of Augustus Thorndike Perkins. Taylor Press. pp. 254–5. 
  23. ^ Steward p. 233.
  24. ^ Steward p. 255.
  25. ^ Steward p. 254.
  26. ^ Steward pp. 98-9.
  27. ^ Steward p. 61.
  28. ^ Steward p. 76.
  29. ^ Steward p. 100.
  30. ^ Steward p. 104.
  31. ^ Steward pp. 128-9.
  32. ^ Gibbon, Kate Fitz (2005). Who Owns the Past?: Cultural Policy, Cultural Property, and the Law. Rutgers University Press. p. 251. ISBN 978-0813536873. 
  33. ^ Steward p. 107.
  34. ^ Steward pp. 116-7.
  35. ^ Steward p. 120.
  36. ^ Steward pp. 122-3.
  37. ^ Steward p. 130.
  38. ^ Steward pp. 20-21.
  39. ^ Patton, Andy J. (2013). ""A Painter's Brush That Also Makes Poems": Contemporary Painting After Northern Song Calligraphy". Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository, Paper 1302. 
  40. ^ Steward p.3.
  41. ^ Steward pp. 10-11.
  42. ^ Steward pp. 46-7.
  43. ^ Steward pp. 14-15.
  44. ^ Steward pp. 226-7.
  45. ^ "Campus Collections". Princeton University Art Museum. 
  46. ^ Maynard, William Barksdale (2012). Princeton: America's Campus. Penn State University Press. p. 248. ISBN 978-0271050867. 
  47. ^ Maynard, William Barksdale (2012). Princeton: America's Campus. Penn State University Press. p. 194. ISBN 978-0271050867. 
  48. ^ Steward p. 252.


  • Steward, James Christen (2013). Princeton University Art Museum Handbook of the Collections Revised and Expanded Edition (2nd ed.). Princeton University Art Museum. ISBN 978-0943012414. 
  • The Sculpture of Princeton University: The John B. Putnam Jr. Memorial Collection. Princeton University. 1982. 

External links[edit]