Thursday, November 29, 2012

Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Richmond

While in Richmond I visited the lovely Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.  The beautiful original building, seen above, was designed in 1936 by Norfolk VA,  architects Peebles and Ferguson in English Renaissance or Georgian style.
Sadly that is no longer the main entrance, but rather a nice but blandly modern addition by London architect Rick Mather from 2010 serves that purpose. I know I know, I'm always baised towards beautiful early 20th century classical buildings, so sue me, it's my blog afterall!
The recent additions include a lot of work to the extensive site which holds a lot of other structures from the former lives of the property.
I admit to loving the landscape and hardscape, especially the water features.
The full length of Mather's addition.
The interior is large, bright, and open and features nicely detailed modern stairs.
It's a huge museum!
If you do a little wandering, you can find the original entryway and stair which is reminiscent of an English country house foyer.
I love this limestone detailing.
And the ironwork and wood railing is beautiful.
This colorful enclosed Roman courtyard in the original building houses an amazing Roman mosaic depicting the 4 seasons. More on that tomorrow when I share some of my favorite pieces from the collection.
As I mentioned the site has had previous incarnations, primarily as the Confederate Soldier's home campus until 1941 when the last resident passed away.
The charming carpenter Gothic style chapel, known as the Confederate Memorial Chapel, was designed by architect Marion J. Dimmock in 1887.
The other large building on the grounds is the Home for Needy Confederate Women (what a name!). 
Designed in 1932 by architect Merrill Lee, the residence was in use until 1989 when the last residents were moved to a nearby nursing facility.
And I know you're thinking it; Yes, Lee based the neoclassical structure on the White House!


Hels said...

I don't want to be too picky about classical and modern elements being combined in the one building complex. Richmond would not be the first museum or gallery to try that. The trouble is that the Roman courtyard and the Roman mosaics tend to get lost. Even the ironwork and the limestone lose their power.

I suppose the more important question for viewers is how the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts displays its treasures - chronologically, stylistically, regionally, mixed art media?

Divine Theatre said...

I'm with you. I prefer the original entry! Frankly, modern architecture feels like a dentist's office to me. *shrug*
Thanks for the post. I learned a lot! I am going to check it out.



Parnassus said...

The Cleveland Museum of Art has similar old/new sections, and I remember the feeling of pleasure and satisfaction whenever the maze of galleries led into the older section. I was amused at Divine Theater's comment, because the word 'antiseptic' was what had sprung into my own mind.

The Virginia Museum is famous, and I am looking forward to your introduction of its collection.
--Road to Parnassus

Loi Thai, Tone on Tone said...

Thanks for the tour! I've never been to this museum, and plan to catch the Chihuly exhibition soon. Do you think 2 to 3 hours is enough to see the collection?

Kerry Steele- Design du Monde said...

This is pretty high on my "to visit" list now that I am back in Virginia.
I don't begrudge your preference for Classical vs. modern. It pretty, why not like it?

Mark D. Ruffner said...

I remember visiting this museum in the 1970s (pre-new addition), and its drawing power at that time was that all the exhibition spaces were in the style of the individual exhibits. For example, medieval art and armor was in a stone hall, Victorian art was amongst potted palms and red plush, and Egyptian artifacts were in a darkened vault. It was really very imaginative, and I hope that hasn't changed.

Leah Moss said...

I've never been, what a great diverse collection. I especially love the stained glass windows, so unusual. Thank you for the taste of culture, as always, friend!

anthemion said...

You're far too charitable in your assessment of the Mather addition. So many architects and clients are still trapped in the modernist architectural idiom of the twentieth century, while time has rendered that idiom obsolete. While the original great modernist works warrant preservation and celebration, new work in that style is the purview of the vain, the vulgar and the aged. Old people, with their outdated tastes, are continuing to waste money building cancerous growths on beautifully classical buildings. As a passionate and impatient millennial, I say out with the old and in with the (much) older!