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  • A Brief Museum History

    The Worcester Art Museum first opened its doors in the spring of 1898. The institution, founded by Stephen Salisbury III “for the benefit of all the people,” today houses more than 35,000 works of art representing more than 50 centuries of creative spirit.

    The internationally renowned collection bears tribute to the philanthropy and civic pride of the Museum's benefactors, as well as the pioneering vision of its distinguished directors and curators. Thirty-five galleries offer visitors a walk through time and across cultures. The journey begins with sculpture and decorative arts from ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece including the largest and finest group of Antiochin mosaics in America, on display in the Renaissance Court. The Museum's twelfth-century Romanesque Chapter House - one of the first medieval structures transported to the New World - adjoins galleries featuring paintings, frescoes and liturgical objects from the European middle ages. The Asian collection, established with the 1901 bequest of John Chandler Bancroft's Japanese prints, now includes textiles, prints, ceramics, sculptures and paintings representing the major periods of Persian, Chinese, Indian and Japanese art.

    Masterpieces of Italian, French, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch and British painting from the thirteenth through the twentieth centuries fill the European galleries. Highlights include important works by Piero de Cosimo, Andrea del Sarto, El Greco, Hals, Gainsborough, Goya, Turner, Renoir, Monet, Cezanne, Gauguin, Matisse, Braque and Kandinsky. Temporary exhibitions presenting drawings and prints from Durer to Warhol reflect the depth of the Museum's treasured works on paper.

    Goldwork, pottery, and sculpture represent the early history of art in the Western Hemisphere from Precolumbian America. Colonial and Federal silver, period furniture and decorative arts complement the American painting collection of oils and watercolors. Works by Copley, Stuart, West, Eakins, Bierstadt, Homer, Whistler, Cassatt, Hassam and Benson hang in five galleries. In 1998 the Museum opened the first New England gallery solely devoted to the permanent display of American portrait miniatures.

    The Museum was among the first to exhibit and collect photographs as fine art. The photography collection has grown to over 2,000 images that span the entire history of the medium. Works from the Civil War to the present by Matthew Brady, Cartier-Bresson, Steiglitz, Weston, Frank and Winogrand are displayed in changing exhibitions.

    The twentieth-century galleries feature the great names in modern art - Sheeler, Benton, Avery, O'Keefe, Kline, Kelly and Noland.

    Traveling exhibitions from museums and private collections throughout the world supplement the permanent collection. Temporary installations run the gamut from American folk art to African textiles; Old Master prints to Impressionist paintings.

    Special tours, concerts, family days, lectures, workshops, classes, films and special events are organized throughout the year to accompany specific exhibitions and works of art in the collection. A complete day at the Worcester Art Museum will include visits to The Museum Shop and The Museum Café, are both open during regular Museum hours.