The Columbia Museum of Art opened its doors in 1950 and could have been rightly characterized as architecturally small in size, nationally remote in location, and artistically modest in terms of collection. Now, the opposite is true: the CMA is housed in a sleek, state-of-the-art facility in the heart of downtown Columbia and most importantly, the collection has grown to include art of international significance.
Visitors to the CMA discover a world-class collection of Renaissance and Baroque art, a major gift to Columbia from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. Among the Kress masterworks is a tender and beautiful Nativity by the legendary Florentine artist, Sandro Botticelli. The Nativity is the only fresco by the artist in the United States and the only one in a location outside of Italy. Another masterwork is the soft and sophisticated portrait of St. Mary Magdalene by the renowned Ambrosius Benson, one of many stellar portraits given by Kress.
In American art, the CMA enjoys extensive holdings in all media. In sculpture, there is Frederic Remington’s classic and still-thrilling Bronco Buster; in painting, Charles Willson Peale’s sanguine portrait of our first President, George Washington; in furniture, Duncan Phyfe’s elegant sofa; and on paper, Edward Hopper's mysterious and evocative Night Shadows. These works and more serve as prelude to the CMA's growing collection of contemporary art that now features Tom Wesselman, Andy Warhol, Chuck Close and Sally Mann, among many others.
And, there is the CMA's spectacular View of the Seine by the immortal French impressionist, Claude Monet, the centerpiece of the museum’s later European art. It is a treasure for our audience to come upon, as is the CMA’s rich display of decorative arts that includes silver, stained glass and an impressive array of Chinese export porcelain.
To visit the CMA today is to take a journey both sensuous and spiritual through world history by way of the arts, a journey that only the most imaginative creations can make possible.
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