Sunday, March 15, 2009

Academic and Illustration Museums

I was trying to compile a list of museums, and I wonder if you can help me. I'm looking for museums with an especially good selection of 19th century academic realism, fantasy or science fiction artwork, or golden age American illustration, where the collection is usually on display, not locked in the basement.

Here's what I've got so far:

Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, PA
Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, Delaware
Haggin Museum
, Stockton, California
Metropolitan Museum, New York, New York
Musee d’Orsay, Paris, France
National Museum of American Illustration, Newport, Rhode Island
New Britain Museum
, New Britain, Connecticut
Norman Rockwell Museum
, Stockbridge, Massachusetts
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts
Walters Art Museum
, Baltimore, Maryland

Please let me know if I've missed your favorite museum, specifically for this type of artwork.


Julia Lundman said...

the school that I went to in Chicago, The American Academy of Art, was a school that formerly trained illustrators from the 30's, 40's, 50's, and beyond. As a result, the school has many, many vintage illustrations hanging in the hallways and in classrooms.

I've always wondered why the school doesn't give tours, but I bet if someone were to call the office and ask, they'd allow it.

Victor said...

Here are some museums that I felt had some real gems of 19th century academic/naturalist/realist painting:

The Wallace Collection (London, UK)- Some great little Meissoniers and Delaroches.

Tate Britain (London, UK)- William Logsdail, Watts, Waterhouse, Pre-Raphaelites, Sargent, Draper etc.

The National Portrait Gallery (London, UK)- Lots of 19th c. British portraits

The Huntington Library (San Marino, CA)- American and British arts like Sargent, Reynolds, Beaux, Moran, etc.

The De Young Museum (San Francisco, CA)- a few awesome Frederic Church paintings, Sargent, Merritt-Chase, other Americans

I find that most major art museums these days have at least a couple 19th c. gems. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has a Gustave Surand and a Julius Stewart (obscure French academic artists) that are stunning, at least on a technical level. The Getty Museum, also in Southern California, has Alma-Tadema's Spring and a lovely David portrait.

Also, I'm going to be in Boston for a few days during spring break. I'll be visiting the MFA, Gardner museum, Fogg art museum and the public library to see Sargent's murals. Do you have any other recommendations for art/illustration sights in the area?

I really wish I could attend your lecture at the Academy of Realist Art in Toronto. You probably don't remember when I came to the Linden Tree Books signing before your San Jose State presentation, but I think I told you that I attend the ARA in the summers. Last summer when I was there, I actually showed the head instructor some of your work and suggested that he bring you up for a talk. I wish you could have made it while I was there because a lot of your knowledge is very relevant to what is being studied there. Oh well, maybe for the next Dinotopia book tour! Say hello to Fernando for me!

Unknown said...

Does the CNBDI in Angouleme, France, meet your criteria?

(Website is in French only, but Google can make a reasonable job of translation.)

Kendra Melton said...

The Frick in NY was a great collection featuring Whistler, Gainsborough, MW Turner, Vermeer, Anthony Van Dyck, Frans Hals, Rembrandt, etc. I would definitely recommend checking it out if you're in the area.

Here's a link to images of the collection:$47924?page=34

Kendra Melton said...

I just realized Society of Illustrators wasn't mentioned. It's kind of small, but it's free and has some inspirational art in there. I especially liked the Portraits you see as you walk up the stairs.

Andrew R. Wright said...

The Frederick Remington Art Museum, Ogdensburg, NY:

I grew up right around the corner from this place, which has a great collection of his paintings and bronzes!

Andrew R. Wright said...

and The Art Institute of Chicago:

There is a great collection of Homer, Sargent, Cassatt, Remington, Twachtman, Whistler, etc. It is one of the better collections in my opinion.

Unknown said...

Let's See. Two that I was going to mention, The Stockton and De Young were mentioned. One that has not been that has quite a bunch are the Smithsonian Museums.

Especially the Renwick

Great Thayers , Whistlers , Sargent , Benson , Wendt , Robinson, Moran too many to mention.

Marco Folchi said...

I can suggest this, i think that meet the criteria, it's in Rome:

Unknown said...


Oh and one more...someone needs to convince George Lucas to show his private collection of American Illustration. You will not believe what treasures he has at the Ranch. He owns Maxwell Parrish's "Garden of Allah" as well as Leyendeckers, Rockwells you name it. They are all over the Mahogany Walls.

Unknown said...

The Dahesh Museaum in Manhattan is great. Excellent if small permanent collection, plus great exhibits, usually all academic painting and illustration.

Carolyn A. Pappas said...

You might want to check out The Clark Museum in Williamstown MA. It has been some time since I was there but I really liked what I saw there.

Julia Lundman said...

Just remembered the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, OK. (or near it) It has a lot of Fechin's.

Unknown said...

Okay...just remembered the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Many Academics but 2 definite MUST sees. Lepage's " The Wood Gatherer " and Bouguereau's " Homer being led by the Hand" .

Jamie Pogue said...

I've never visted the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine, but it houses some work by N.C. (and Jamie) Wyeth, George Bellows, Rockewell Kent, and Edward Hopper.

Also, if anyone hasn't gone to Brandywine, please try to go at some point! It's our own little tucked away gem in southeastern PA.

James Gurney said...

These are fantastic, everybody...some that I just forgot, and a bunch that I've never heard of. It will be fun to expand the list.

For now, I'm kind of leaving the pre-1800 old masters and American or other regional impressionist or plein air movements off this list; I thought we could develop a master list for each of those big groups another time.

Has anyone been to the following to consider whether they have academic/classical/fantasy realism painting on show?:

Musee des beaux-arts de Rennes, FR
Groninger Museum, Copenhagen
Royal Academy, London
Tretyakov, Russia
Russian Museum
Hart Museum

Also, I thought of the Yale Center for British Art and Ponce Museum of Art, which has Leighton's Flaming June and a lot of Preraphaelite work.

Victor said...

The Royal Academy isn't really worth visiting if you're looking for an oasis of 19th c. academic art, as I was when I visited London in January. Most of their exhibition space is dedicated to the rotating exhibition so they only have a few pieces from their collection on display at a time. I did get to see a perfect Alma-Tadema portrait of his daughter, though, that made the visit worthwhile.

I learned about so many amazing British academic/realist artists that I had never heard of during my trip, but most of them were found at the NPG or Tate.

Erik Bongers said...

I guess you (JG) are also looking for Fine Arts museums that dare make a cross-over to illustration.
Modern/contemporary art museums of course already do this to some extend.
I know the Antwerp Royal Museum of Fine Arts did an exhibition on the work of graphic novelist Dick Matena.
What you had was one room filled with Rubens' paintings and the next one filled with comic book pages.
Though I don't think this museum already deserves a place in your list, it's a promising precedent.

Vertumno said...

Fascinating series of links: thanks to Mr Gurney and all the readers of this blog.
A quick question: I was browsing the site of the American Illustration in Newport and I noticed that they do not have any work by Andrew Loomis. Any idea why they decided not to include this author?

Making A Mark said...


Re the Royal Academy - drawings are accessible via their archive and a visit to the Library. In other words they're accessible you just need to ask in advance and make an appointment to see. They also do displays from time to time. I went to one by Laura Knight last year. I've also found their staff to be very helpful

Other museums you might want to include are:
- the Victoria and Albert, both for realist nineteenth century paintings and for what they've got in the drawing archives
- the Print Room at the British Museum (which includes drawings and illustrations). Lots of regular displays and again you can contact to get access to anything specific (and their online website is good for tracking stuff down)

I have been to the Farnsworth in Rockland and can confirm that work by NC Wyeth is on display. However you need to go to the building at the top of the street (the annexe?) and not the main museum (where the shop is)

You'll certainly find illustrations at Chris Beetles Gallery (opposite Christies). Their last (Christams) exhibition was THE ILLUSTRATORS: THE BRITISH ART OF ILLUSTRATION 1800 – 2008 They always overprint on the catalogues because they sell them to people all around the world. You can buy catalogues for this exhibition from past years - contact the gallery to find which ones are available.

James Gurney said...

Vertumno--I've never been to the American Illustration Museum in Newport, but I gather they focus more on earlier illustrators. There used to be a store in the San Fernando Valley called Carter Sexton that had a half dozen Loomis originals on display.

Katherine and Victor, thanks for the UK report.

Vertumno said...

Thanks for the answer!
Part of the Sexton collection has been sold last week at this auction house:

I was asking about Newport because there is a possibility I could visit the area in August. Looking forward to it :-)

Carl C said...

Hi James,
Just wanted to say the best places to find this sort of work in the UK are out of London in the town and city galleries in the north - Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool all have great collections of Victorian/Pre-Raphaelite paintings and even smaller town galleries have more than their fair share (we've got one of Brangwyn's best - 'The Slave Market' here in Southport).
Best of all is probably the Lady Lever Gallery in Port Sunlight near Liverpool - here's a link to just some of the stuff in there, which includes Holman Hunt's 'Scapegoat' and more Lord Leighton's than you can shake a stick at!

Laraine Armenti said...

There are Puvis de Chavannes murals permanently installed in the Boston Public Library.

artkitty said...

The Sid Ricahrdson museum in downtown Ft Worth TX is small but rotates their great Remington collection, also has some nice Russell and other western illustrators. The staff is knowledgeable and very friendly!

Amon Carter museum in Ft Worth has more Remington and lots of Russell, including bronzes, as well as a very nice NC Wyeth and a Sargent portrait.

Also I recall the Getty in LA has a pretty diverse selection with some nice portraits from lesser-known figural painters of the 19th century, including a Bouguereau.

Craig Daniels said...

The Legion of Honour in San Francisco has several French academic works

Parrish70 said...

One of my favorite museums here in Seattle is the Frye. A too often overlooked museum that focuses mainly on a combination of realism and impressionism. They have a couple of Bouguereaus, Susanna and the Elders by Franz Winterhalter and a stunning landscape by Daniel Somogyi in their permanent collection. They often feature illustrative work in their temporary exhibits. The website is well set up and has good size thumbnails of the artwork in their founding collection. Enjoy browsing. =)

Ilaria said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ilaria said...

In London:
-Guildhall Art Gallery
(Victorian and preraphaelite paintings)
-Leighton House

innisart said...

Illustration House and Christie's and Sotheby's are not museums, and thereby do not house permanent collections, but they are great resources to see artwork from the periods/genres in question. It's like having a continuously revolving exhibit!

One little place of interest, quite out of the way, is the St. Johnsbury Atheneum in Vermont. It has Durands, Bierstadts and Bouguereaus!

Anonymous said...

The Groninger Museum is not in Copenhagen, but in Groningen, Holland.

In Copenhagen, we have The Hirschprung Collection, which is THE place to go for 19th century Danish painters such as Krøyer and Hammershøi.

Also the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, which has a nice collection of mainly French 19th century painting (Millet, Bouguereau, Manet, Vuillard, Gauguin, among others).

Frank said...

It drives me CRAZY that a place like Society of Illustrators has TONS of great illustrations LOCKED IN THE BASEMENT.

Excuse me, they actually have a very small collection on display in the bar on the 3rd floor, which you aren't even allowed to see unless you're a member or there's an event going on.

Anonymous said...

If you happen to be in Europe this coming month, do visit the Groningen Museum in The Netherlands.
Until May 3rd they are holding an exhibition of 93 works by JW Waterhouse. I went there last sunday and I felt almost uncomfortable: here was a 19th century artist and his work had almost an 1980's 'fantasy' feel to it. Beautiful stuff, though!

Anonymous said...

Umph, apparantly the Waterhouse exhibition mentioned above goes on an international tour this year. It will be in Royal Acadamy of Arts (London) from June until September this year, and in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts from October until February 2010.
Good news for all of you who would not travel to Groningen even for Waterhouse.

Alyson B. Stanfield said...

James, you have excellent suggestions here. For US museums, you can also go to a library (university library) and look for the "Official Museum Directory," which has detailed descriptions of museum collections. When I worked in museums, this used to be in my office. I've never worked with a digital version of it, but I imagine that would be preferable if they have it. It's a tome! And very expensive. Here's their site:

(Would love it if you allowed non-Google/Blogger comments.)
Alyson Stanfield,

Alyson B. Stanfield said...

James, you have excellent suggestions here. For US museums, you can also go to a library (university library) and look for the "Official Museum Directory," which has detailed descriptions of museum collections. When I worked in museums, this used to be in my office. I've never worked with a digital version of it, but I imagine that would be preferable if they have it. It's a tome! And very expensive. Here's their site:

(Would love it if you allowed non-Google/Blogger comments.)
Alyson Stanfield,

James Gurney said...

Hi, Alyson, Yes, I wish Blogger let people comment if they aren't signed up, but I don't think it's possible. I try to keep as few hurdles as possible. But unregistered people can always email me at, and if they want, I can post their comment for them.

Marionros, I also noticed that Waterhouse exhibition will be coming to the RA and Montreal. I hope to see it at one of those places. There's also a lovely book with the exhibition. I'm in contact with one of the curators, and I'll be doing a post on Waterhouse sometime in the next couple of weeks.

armandcabrera said...


The Cowboy Hall of Fame and western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma has Dunn, Cornwell, NC Wyeth,Fechin and contemporary and 19th century realists like Moran Beirstadt and others. The National Wildlife Museum in Jackson has Rungius and Kuhnert and contemporary wildlife illustrators.
The Crocker in Sacramento has Thomas Hill and other 19th century artists. The Freer in DC has a great collection of 19th Century work.

Alfred Munnings House in Dedham England has a big collection of his work. Edinburgh has a good American Section with Church(Niagra Falls) and Sargent( Lady Agnew).


James Gurney said...

Thanks, Armand, I knew you'd have some ideas that none of the rest of us thought of.

David Apatoff said...

Jim, in answer to your question about the State Russian Museum (assuming you mean the one in St. Petersburg) I have been there and it is terrific. They have the world's largest collection of Repin illustrations, which are an education by themselves, and a lot of excellent art by 19th century academic types that are still largely unknown in the west. Great work by Korin and Fechin too.

pete said...

The Frank Frazetta museum has some sci-fi and and fantasy paintings.

Mike McCarthy said...

Glad to see the Brandywine River Museum on your list. I grew up and still live about 20min from there. Others in my area...The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art (Thomas Eakins) The Phila Museum of Art has some Eakins stuff in the American section as well as several 19th century galleries. Sadly Frank Frazetta passed but he had a museum in the Pocono's which luckily I visited once. But, since his death I believe it closed.

bruce said...

I see mention of Lucas' collection so Ill just add this update for those who dont know. Opening hopefully in 2023.