Rhode Island School of Design Museum
20 North Main Street
|Director||John W. Smith|
|Public transit access||MBTA Amtrak Providence|
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Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD Museum), affiliated with the well-known Rhode Island School of Design, is a prominent art museum in Providence, in the U.S. state of Rhode Island. The museum was founded in 1877 and is the 20th largest art museum in the United States.
In September 2008, a new addition to the RISD Museum was opened to the public. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jose Rafael Moneo of Spain, the Chace Center connects the four old buildings of the RISD Museum with a glass bridge. The $34 million center was built on a parking lot, and named in honor of the late Malcolm and Beatrice “Happy” Oenslager Chace. The Chace Center serves as the main entrance to the museum and includes an auditorium, a retail shop, and exhibition and classroom spaces.
The RISD Museum contains a broad range of works from around the world, including ancient Egypt, Asia, Africa, ancient Greece and Rome, Europe, and the Americas. It also features many notable works by a range Rhode Island artists such as 18th century Newport furniture makers Goddard and Townsend and nineteenth century Rhode Island painters, such as Anglo-American impressionist John Noble Barlow and portraitist Gilbert Stuart. The museum also features prominent international and American artists such as Picasso, Monet, Manet, Paul Revere and Andy Warhol. The RISD Museum houses over 86,000 works of art.
The department of Ancient Art includes bronze figural sculpture and vessels, an exceptional collection of Greek coins (that grew out of the collection donated by Henry A. Greene), stone sculpture, Greek vases, paintings, and mosaics, a fine collection of Roman jewelry and glass, and teaching examples of terracottas. A number of objects represent the most outstanding examples in their categories. Among these virtually unique works of art are an Etruscan bronze situla (pail), a fifth-century B.C. Greek female head in marble, and a rare Hellenistic bronze Aphrodite. Among the Greek vases are works by some of the major Attic painters, including Nikosthenes, the Brygos Painter, the Providence Painter, and the Pan, Lewis, and Reed Painters. The cornerstone of the Museum's Egyptian collection is the Ptolemaic period coffin and mummy of the priest Nesmin. Among other highlights of the Egyptian collection are a rare New Kingdom ceramic paint box, a relief fragment from the temple complex at Karnak, and a first-class collection of faience.
The department of Asian Art contains ceramics, costume, prints, painting, sculpture, and textiles. One of the highlights of the collection is the peerless group of over six hundred nineteenth-century Japanese bird-and-flower prints that were collected by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. The collection of over 100 surimono (privately published woodblock prints) are considered the finest assemblage of such work held outside of Japan. The Japanese prints are shown, in rotation, in galleries dedicated to their exhibition. A major attraction is the important 12th-century wooden Buddha Dainich Nyorai, the largest (over nine feet tall) historic Japanese wooden sculpture in the United States. The Buddha is on permanent exhibition in its own gallery.
The Japanese textiles are the core and glory of the Asian textile collection. The kesa, or Buddhist priests’ robes, are the most numerous, with 104 examples. The 47 Japanese Noh robes, meticulously documented, form a comprehensive collection of nearly every type of costume in use in the Noh drama of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Japan. Their spectacular colors and patterns, embellished with gold and silver, express perfectly the splendor of the traditional and highly stylized Noh theater. The Museum's collection of Indian saris and Chinese ceremonial robes is superb. Examples from these collections are shown in rotation with the Japanese textiles in the Lucy Truman Aldrich Gallery, which is devoted to the display of Asian textiles. The Islamic and Indian collections include works of art in all media that celebrate the artistic heritage of the Arab, Indian, Persian and Turkish cultures.
Created in 2000, the department of Contemporary Art oversees an eclectic collection of painting, sculpture, video, mixed media, and interdisciplinary work, dating from 1960 to the present. In addition, the department regularly organizes exhibitions that highlight important issues, trends and individual explorations in recent art. Represented in the collection are significant paintings by Richard Anuszkiewicz, Sam Francis, David Hockney, Ellsworth Kelly, Franz Kline, Ronnie Landfield, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Mangold, Agnes Martin, Joan Mitchell, Cy Twombly, Wayne Thiebaud, Larry Rivers, and Andy Warhol, among others. The collection also includes important sculptural work by Richard Artschwager, Louise Bourgeois, Louise Nevelson, Tom Otterness, Lucas Samaras and Robert Wilson. The museum's video collection features experimental works by such pioneers in the field as Vito Acconci, Lynda Benglis, Bruce Nauman, Martha Rosler, Richard Serra and William Wegman.
The Nancy Sayles Day Collection of Latin American Art includes contemporary paintings by such important artists as Luís Cruz Azaceta, Fernando Botero, José Bedia, Claudio Bravo, Wifredo Lam, Jesús Rafael Soto, Joaquín Torres Garcia and Roberto Matta Echuarren.
The department has a natural and strong connection with Providence's contemporary art community, and numerous RISD faculty and alumni and local artists are represented in the collection. Among them are Howard Ben Tré, Jonathan Bonner, Richard Fleischner, Ruth Dealy, Richard Merkin and Bunny Harvey.
Costume and Textiles
The Museum has been actively exhibiting textiles for one hundred years and today the department of Costume and Textiles consists of over 15,000 objects, dating from antiquity to the present. The collection is divided roughly into eleven thousand flat textiles and four thousand costume and accessories that trace the history of fabric and dress. A collection of national significance, it contains outstanding examples of European and American costume and textiles from the 17th through 20th centuries, and is very strong in the areas of Peruvian, Coptic, African, Native American, Oceanic and Asian textiles.
The Asian textiles are particularly rich. Those given by Lucy Truman Aldrich in the 1930s are among the best in the United States. The Japanese Noh robes are generally considered the finest assemblage in the world. In addition, the collection of 19th-century Chinese robes displays the splendor of decoration, as well as the importance of social rank and status, in costume of the period. One of the earliest European textiles in the collection is an extremely rare medieval German embroidery fragment. Exquisite Italian and Spanish silks and velvets represent the height of luxury textiles in the 14th and 15th centuries. The department also cares for a large collection of European tapestries, the earliest of which dates from around 1520. Highlights of the European collection include an exquisite example of Elizabethan embroidery in the form of a man's nightcap, fine examples of 18th-century French and English costume, and an opulent train worn in the court of Napoleon. Examples from Charles Frederick Worth, Fortuny, Paul Poiret, and Liberty & Co. represent European fashion design achievements of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Included in the department are significant examples of early American needlework: quilts, coverlets, samplers and embroideries. The collection also presents a remarkable survey of the development of printed textiles, an integral part of Rhode Island history. The Museum has a collection of New England needlework of great rarity, and a collection beyond compare of schoolgirl samplers made at the Balch School in Providence. Experimental work in textile design in the collection includes work by Diane Itter, Cynthia Schira, Jack Lenor Larson and Junichi Arai. Among the important 20th-century designers represented in the collection are Charles James, Claire McCardell, Bonnie Cashin, Chanel, Halston and Geoffrey Beene. The department also houses more than three hundred early twentieth-century textiles and garments and eighteen cubic feet of records from Providence's Tirocchi Dressmakers’ Shop (fl. 1915–1947). Such complete documentation of an historical dressmaking business exists nowhere else in the United States. Thus, in addition to the splendor of the objects themselves, the Tirocchi collection is an unparalleled resource for understanding many wide-ranging historical issues, including Italian immigration, women as workers and consumers, and the transition from hand production of garments to ready-to-wear clothing.
The Decorative Arts collection encompasses European and American decorative arts (furniture, silver and other metalwork, wallpaper, ceramics and glass) from the Medieval period to the present. A major highlight of the department is the Charles L. Pendleton Collection of furniture made by 18th-century Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Newport cabinetmakers. Pendleton House, the "wing" of the Museum devoted to the exhibition of decorative arts, exhibits at least six pieces of furniture from the Goddard and Townsend circle of Newport cabinetmakers, including two of the renowned block-front, carved-shell desks-and-bookcases. Also on view in Pendleton House's period rooms are fine examples of English pottery, Chinese export porcelain, and a comprehensive survey of Rhode Island silver.
The Harold Brown Collection of French Empire furniture and objects with Napoleonic associations is another highlight of the department's holdings, as is the Lucy Truman Aldrich collection of rare 18th-century European porcelain figures. 360 examples of 18th- and early 19th-century French wallpaper from the M. and Mme. Charles Huard collection constitute the backbone of the Museum's wallpaper collection, which is among the finest in the world.
An extraordinary collection of silver (approximately 2,000 pieces) produced by Providence's Gorham Manufacturing Company from the mid 19th through the mid 20th century is the cornerstone of a fine collection of American silver that also includes work by colonial silversmiths such as John Coney, Paul Revere and Samuel Casey.
The Museum's collection is particularly strong in the area of 19th-century decorative arts. Important highlights include furniture by the American companies of Vose and Coates, Herter Brothers, and Alexander Roux; the Englishman Edward William Godwin (E.W. Godwin); and the French makers Guillaume Beneman and Hugnet Frères. Other highlights of the 19th century are works of art in glass by Lalique, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and Hector Guimard; ceramics by Wedgwood, Sèvres, and Royal Doulton, and silver by Christopher Dresser, Charles Robert Ashbee and the Gorham Manufacturing Company.
20th-century design in the collection includes furniture by Alvar Aalto, Verner Panton, Josef Hofmann, and Charles and Ray Eames; metalwork by Erik Magnussen; ceramics by Auguste Delaherche, glass by Frederick Carder, and wallpaper designs by Nancy McClelland, Alexander Calder, and Roy Lichtenstein. The mid 20th-century's revived interest in "craft" is represented by the work of Tage Frid, Wharton Esherick, John Prip and Peter Voulkos. The RISD Museum is a leading collector of American contemporary craft and studio furniture and many of the artists represented in the collection have ties (either as alumni, faculty or both) to the School. Among the many contemporary craftspeople whose work is in the collection are: Dale Chihuly, Michael Glancy, Akio Takamori, Kurt Weiser, Judy Kensley McKie, Jere Osgood, Rosanne Somerson and Alphonse Mattia.
Painting and Sculpture
The Painting and Sculpture collection contains more than 2,500 works of European and American art from the medieval period to 1960. The Italian Renaissance and Baroque periods are represented by the work of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Lippo Memmi, Jacopo Sansovino, Alessandro Magnasco, and others. The collection also includes major work by such northern European masters as Tilman Riemenschneider, Hendrick Goltzius, Joachim Wtewael, Salomon van Ruysdael and Georg Vischer.
17th- and 18th-century masterpieces include paintings by Francisco Collantes, Sébastien Bourdon, Gabriel-Jacques de Saint-Aubin, Nicolas Poussin, Angelica Kauffman, and Joshua Reynolds. Early 19th-century European art is represented by Thomas Lawrence, Hubert Robert, Louise-Joséphine Sarazin de Belmont, Joseph Chinard, Théodore Géricault and others. The department has excellent examples of French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism schools by such artists as Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. There is important work by 19th-century French sculptors Auguste Rodin, Charles Henri Joseph Cordier, Jules Dalou, and Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux. Among the 20th-century European painters in the collection are Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Henri Matisse, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Fernand Léger, Oskar Kokoschka and Henri Le Fauconnier.
The 18th- and 19th-century American collection is particularly strong, with important examples by such artists as John Singleton Copley, Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Cole, Winslow Homer, William Merritt Chase, Martin Johnson Heade, Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, and Edward Mitchell Bannister, an African-American landscapist who spent his career as a painter in Rhode Island.
Significant works by George Wesley Bellows, Robert Henri, Charles Sheeler, Maxfield Parrish, Georgia O'Keeffe, John Twachtman, Hans Hofmann, Paul Manship, and Nancy Elizabeth Prophet, among others, represent American artistic achievements of the early 20th-century.
Prints, Drawings and Photographs
The department of Prints, Drawings and Photographs oversees approximately 18,000 European and American works on paper from the 15th century to the present. Included in the collection are important examples of Old Master drawings and prints, among them works by Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt and Goya.
The department has one of the largest collections (over 800) of British watercolors in the United States. Included among them are fine examples by J.M.W. Turner, George Chinnery, John Sell Cotman, William Blake and Thomas Rowlandson. The collection of French prints and drawings includes work by Nicolas Poussin, Hubert Robert, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Honoré Daumier, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso and others. Notable in the collection of American watercolors and drawings is work by Benjamin West, Mary Cassatt, Thomas Eakins, Eastman Johnson, Winslow Homer, Maurice Prendergast and Maxfield Parrish.
Among the important 20th-century artists represented in the collection are Franz Kline, James Rosenquist, Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Motherwell, Jennifer Bartlett, Eric Fischl, Wayne Thiebaud, Kara Walker and Francesco Clemente.
The history of the art of the book is represented, in one of its earliest forms, by the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1499), a masterpiece of Renaissance illumination. In later centuries, work by masters of printing and illustration provides a link between the earliest books and twentieth-century "artists’ books" that push limits and challenge traditional interpretations of the form.
A summary of the history of photography is provided by 5,000 photographs, among them significant works by Gustave Le Gray, Julia Margaret Cameron, Nadar, Frederick Sommer, Carrie May Weems, and the past RISD professors Aaron Siskind and Harry Callahan. The department also oversees the Aaron Siskind Center for the Study of Photography, which is open to photography students and Museum visitors alike.
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