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On the Road at the NC Museum of Art

NC Museum of Art
The West Building of the North Carolina Museum of Art. Image Credit: On the Road with Mickey.

On the Road at the NC Museum of Art

By Mike Ellis.

Yesterday we talked about the Museum Park that exists on the grounds of the North Carolina Museum of Art; today, we continue our look at this museum by exploring the museum itself, and tomorrow, to wrap up our look at this great museum, we are going to talk about the special exhibit that is wrapping up soon, featuring works of M. C. Escher and Leonardo Da Vinci.

The NC Museum of Art features two buildings; the West Building and the East Building.  East Building is where the special exhibits are featured, and where the Escher and Da Vinci exhibits are housed.  Today, Cindy and I explored the West Building, which is home to the permanent collection.  I don’t know exactly how big it is in terms of square footage, but it houses a large collection of paintings, sculptures, and more, including the tranquil Rodin Garden.  At just two miles from my house, the Museum of Art is conveniently located to be able to get over for a visit almost any time.

Background History

In 1947 the state legislature appropriated $1 million to purchase a collection of art for the people of North Carolina. The appropriation, which was unheard of at the time and drew national attention, was in response to a then-anonymous challenge grant from noted philanthropist Samuel H. Kress of New York through the persuasive efforts of Robert Lee Humber. Humber was an international lawyer and native of Greenville, N.C.

Humber worked tirelessly with the legislature to ensure the bill’s passage. An amended bill was finally passed in the waning hours of the last day of the legislative session. Rep. John Kerr of Warren County, in support of the bill, famously said, “Mr. Speaker, I know I am facing a hostile audience, but man cannot live by bread alone.”

The initial $1 million legislative appropriation was used to purchase 139 European and American paintings and sculptures.

The Kress Foundation matched the $1 million appropriation with a gift of 70 works of art, primarily Italian Renaissance, adding the Museum to its program of endowing regional museums throughout the United States with works from the Kress Collection. The Kress gift to the Museum became the largest and most important of any except that given to the National Gallery of Art. The Museum’s original collection, along with the Kress gift, established the North Carolina Museum of Art as one of the premier art museums. (NCMA)

Until today, I had no idea that North Carolina’s art heritage went back that far, or that the State had such an early attention towards the arts.  That in and of itself is pretty cool to me.  What follows is some of the pieces that I enjoyed the most, I hope you like them, and that it is a driving force towards getting you over to the Museum on a visit of your own one day!

Lines that Link Humanity, El Anatsui, 2008


Indian Fantasy, Marsden Hartley, 1914


A201 Ribat, Jackie Ferrara, 1979.


Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian, Michael Richards, 1999.


Untitled, Kay Hassan, 2013


Egungun Costume, Artist Unknown, 20th Century.


Coffin of Amunred, Egyptian, Possibly from Heracleopolis, Third Intermediate – Late Period Dynasty 25-26, circa 715-525 B.C.E.


Inner Coffin of Djedmut, Egyptian, possibly from Thebes, Third Intermediate – Late Period Dynasty 25-26, circa 715-525 B.C.E.


Sawfish Headdress, Artist Unknown, 20th Century


The Kiss, Auguste Rodin, Modeled circa 1881-1882, cast later.


Part of the Rodin Garden, a tranquil setting outside the NC Museum of Art.


The Eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, Pierre-Jacques Volaire, 1777


St. John the Baptist, Jusepe de Ribera, circa 1624.

I hope you have liked exploring the NC Museum of Art with me.  There is a lot to see and do here, and it is well worth your effort to make the trip if you are a local or in the area.  Have you been to the Art Museum? Tell me, what did you think of it?  Let me know in the comments, and thanks for stopping by!


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