Rhode Island School of Design Museum

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RISD Museum of Art
RISD Museum of Art Chace Center entrance.jpg
Location20 North Main Street
Providence, RI 02903-2723 United States
Coordinates41°49′36″N 71°24′31″W / 41.826745°N 71.408553°W / 41.826745; -71.408553
DirectorJohn W. Smith[2]
Public transit accessMBTA Amtrak Providence Disabled access
WebsiteRhode Island School of Design Museum
Entrance on Benefit Street

Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD Museum) is an art museum in Providence affiliated with the Rhode Island School of Design, 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.

Chace Center[edit]

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.[3] 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.[4]


General overview[edit]

The RISD Museum's collection of about 100,000 objects contains a broad range of works from around the world, including ancient Egypt, Asia, Africa, ancient Greece and Rome, Europe, and the Americas.[5] Among the prominent international and American artists represented are Picasso, Monet, Manet, Paul Revere, Chanel, Andy Warhol, and Kara Walker. The collection also features notable works by Rhode Island artists and designers, including 18th-century Newport furniture makers Goddard and Townsend and 19th-century Rhode Island painters such as Anglo-American impressionist John Noble Barlow and portraitist Gilbert Stuart.[6]

Ancient art[edit]

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.

Asian art[edit]

The RISD Museum's Asian Art collection contains ceramics, costume, prints, painting, sculpture, and textiles. One of the highlights of the collection is the peerless group of more than 700 19th-century Japanese prints that were collected by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, considered among the finest assemblages of such work held outside Japan. The Japanese prints are shown, in rotation, in a gallery 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.[7]

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 18th- and 19th-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. 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.[8]

Contemporary art[edit]

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-García 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, Bunny Harvey and Merle Temkin.

Costumes and textiles[edit]

Swing Coat (1954), designed by Pierre Balmain

The RISD Museum has one of the finest collections of historical textiles and items of dress in this country, with a range that spans the centuries from at least 1500 BCE to the present and that includes representative cloth and clothing from as many geographic areas as possible. Starting with items such a pair of Native American moccasins and a Hawaiian barkcloth acquired in the museum’s early history, the collection has grown to include more than 26,000 objects today. The earliest piece in the collection is an ancient Egyptian tomb fragment, and a major focus of the department's present collecting agenda is the acquisition of contemporary fashion and textiles from all over the world. The richness of the Costume and Textiles collections extends from examples of Elizabethan needlework, Italian Renaissance textiles, French printed toile de Jouey, Navajo chief’s blankets, and fashions from the most celebrated European and American designers of the 19th and 20th centuries to a world-renowned group of Japanese Noh theater robes and Buddhist priest robes donated by Lucy Truman Aldrich, the greatest single donor to the RISD Museum’s textile collection.[9]

Decorative arts[edit]

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[edit]

Chief Ninigret (1681)

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.

Vincent van Gogh, View of Auvers with Church (1890)

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[edit]

The Prints, Drawings, and Photographs collection comprises more than 25,000 works dating from the 15th century to the present. The holdings include a large group of Old Master engravings and etchings, and particular strengths in prints and drawings of 18th-century Italy, 19th-century France, and 19th- and 20th-century America. The department also holds one of the largest collections of late 18th- and early 19th-century British watercolors in the United States, featuring work 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. Both the Nancy Sayles Day Collection of Modern Latin American Art and the Richard Brown Baker collection of contemporary British art have depth in works on paper.[10]

14th century Anatolian Qur'an manuscript

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 20th-century "artists books" that push limits and challenge traditional interpretations of the form. Contemporary works on paper in all media are the fastest growing segment of the collection.

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 Mae Weems, and the past RISD professors Aaron Siskind and Harry Callahan. The department also oversees the Minskoff Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, which is open to students, faculty, and researchers.[11]


  1. ^ a b "RISD Museum: About". ARTINFO. 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-24. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ Geoff Edgers (16 Jun 2011). "RISD names new art museum director". Targeted News Service. Retrieved 16 Jun 2011.
  3. ^ "A fitting addition to RISD's world". Retrieved 2014-05-09.
  4. ^ "Chace Center Opens in Providence". Retrieved 2014-05-09.
  5. ^ "RISD Museum: Mission and History". RISD Museum. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  6. ^ "RISD Museum: Collection". RISD Museum. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  7. ^ "RISD Museum: Asian Art". RISD Museum. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  8. ^ "RISD Museum: Asian Art / Costume and Textiles". RISD Museum. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  9. ^ "RISD Museum: Costume and Textiles". RISD Museum. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  10. ^ "RISD Museum: Prints, Drawings, and Photographs". RISD Museum. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  11. ^ "RISD Museum: Minskoff Center". RISD Museum. Retrieved 20 April 2016.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°49′36.42″N 71°24′25.94″W / 41.8267833°N 71.4072056°W / 41.8267833; -71.4072056