The drive down Museum Way road to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
reminds visitors that something will always be new at the museum. Because such effort was made to integrate the museum into the landscape of the area, the changing seasons provide an ever-changing quality to the museum complex.
When day turns to night or when clouds give way to sunshine, the look of the buildings change. The trails
are open and, currently, beautiful spring flowers welcome guests to America's newest museum. The buildings themselves and the landscape, both natural and man-made, are works of art.
Visitors are made aware of what's in store for them inside upon arriving at the museum's covered parking deck. Arrows directing the way to the entrance are accompanied by images of artwork in the museum's permanent collection along with witty sayings.
Just beyond the main entrance to Crystal Bridges is Eleven
, the museum's restaurant. What's new at the entrance to Eleven is a sculpture by Claes Oldenburg
(b. 1929) called Alphabet/Good Humor (1975, Painted fiberglass and bronze).
Crystal Bridges has a number of works by Hudson River School artists
in its permanent collection, but among the things that are new at the museum is the The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision
While some of its galleries were closed for renovation, the New-York Historical Society
loaned forty-five of its 19th-century American landscape paintings to four museums in the United States. The exhibition appeared in Ft. Worth, TX, Salem, MA, and Columbia, SC. The final stop for the iconic paintings before returning to New York is at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
in Bentonville, AR.
A private preview
for Crystal Bridges' Guild- and Circle-level members was held on May 3, a second member preview was held on May 4, and The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision
exhibition opened to the public May 5.
At the member preview, I had the opportunity to view the breathtaking paintings, but photography was not allowed. The exhibition is arranged as Kevin Murphy, curator of American art, said. “The show is arranged by geography. We start in New York City. The scenes of the paintings then progress to the harbor and up the Hudson River, and then to points west and south," Murphy told nwaonline
. The landscape of the Catskills is also featured as is that of Italy.
For those who enjoy admiring Asher B. Durand's Kindred Spirits
while at Crystal Bridges, more of his masterpieces are available for viewing at the exhibition. I found Albert Bierstadt's (1830–1902) Donner Lake from the Summit
(1873, Oil on canvas) to be both beautiful and intriguing. Martin Johnson Heade's (1819–1904) Study of an Orchid
(1872, Oil on canvas) is simply stunning. The colors of the orchids and hummingbirds are vivid and their emergence from a rugged, yet scenic, background is worthy of a long look by viewers.
As I made my way to the back of the exhibit, I was greeted by what Niall Ferguson
described in this way, "There is no better illustration of the life cycle of a great power than The Course of Empire, a series of five paintings by Thomas Cole that hang in the New-York Historical Society. Cole was a founder of the Hudson River School and one of the pioneers of nineteenth-century American landscape painting; in The Course of Empire, he beautifully captured a theory of imperial rise and fall to which most people remain in thrall to this day."
Through September 4, all five paintings in Cole's allegorical series hang in
"The Museum, founded in 2005 by Alice Walton" who Forbes
describes as an "heiress, art patron" with a net worth of 23.3 billion as of March 2012. As my eyes gazed at each marvelous painting, I looked up for a moment and into the eyes of Alice. For those who are natives of Bentonville, she is "Alice" to us, not Ms. Walton.
Alice Walton was admiring Cole's paintings and greeting guests, many by first name because she had grown up with them. She spoke of the incredible joy it gives her to view the paintings and to share them with so many people who appreciate them as she does.
The Museum Store
was my next stop. There, numerous Hudson River School-themed items are available for purchase including reprints, books, and postcards.
Crystal Bridges is preparing for an upcoming exhibition called American Encounters: Thomas Cole and the Narrative Landscape
. This exhibition will take place May 12 - August 13, 2012.
For special exhibitions, according to Crystal Bridges
, "Reserved, timed tickets are required to view The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision
. Tickets are $5 per person for non-Members, or free for Museum Members and guests under 18."