Exploring Cleveland Museum of Art

While staying in the vicinity of Toledo, several people recommended the Toledo Museum of Art, reporting it was one of the best in the country. We got so busy seeing the birds at Magee Marsh, that we didn’t make it to that museum. Once we had moved on near Cuyahoga Valley National Park and closer to Cleveland, I set my sights on visiting the Cleveland Museum of Art. When I researched the best art museums in the U.S., this museum usually showed up as a top contender. I was excited to get to visit a museum of this caliber as we hadn’t seen one since full time RV traveling except for the fantastic Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas. That museum though focuses on American Art. The last time I was at a big art museum was in New York City in August 2012 for our son and daughter-in-law’s wedding and we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Royal patterned carpet designed for the dining room of Louis XV of France.

I found the Cleveland Museum an easy place to visit. For starters, there is no admission fee, so when I walked in the main door there was no counter or anyone to direct me. The Museum also had few visitors and in some rooms I was the only person there, except for the occasional security staff walking around. It was so great to see the art without fighting any crowds. Another nice thing was that the day we visited, Wednesday, it stayed open until 9:00 p.m., so no worries about not having enough time! My big decision had to be where to start and what to focus on as this place is huge!

My driver decided he didn’t want to spend hours at the Museum and since he was interested in checking out two coin shops (he is a collector) he dropped me off at a side door and went on his way. His plan was to return for the minimum acceptable art experience knowing also there was a nice cafe and sitting area in the Museum. I started off with the armor collection which is located in one big room and is quite impressive. It features European arms and armor from 1400-1700. There were exhibits of chain mail, helmets, plate armor, shields and cross bows. The horse and rider above are wearing armor from around the year 1575.

Yosemite Valley, 1866

I next spent some time looking at the paintings of American artists as well as the European Masters. Here are two of my favorite American artists. I really like the works of Albert Bierstadt and have enjoyed many visits to Yosemite, so his painting of Yosemite Valley in the photo above is one of my favorites.

White Flower, 1929

I love New Mexico and the Southwest with Georgie O’Keefe another favorite artist. I especially like her big flower paintings like the one above with the title, “White Flower.”

Gray and Gold, 1942

The colors on this painting, “Gray and Gold” really popped out when I walked in the room. The artist, John Cox painted it shortly after the U.S. joined World War II. The symbolic image is of amber waves of grain threatened by ominous storm clouds with two dirt lanes at a crossroad. Vincent Van Gogh is perhaps my favorite European artist and I always love getting a chance to see his paintings. I still remember reading the biographical book about him, “Lust For Life” when I was a teenager. It is one of the books from my early years that stands out. This painting is called “Poplars at Saint-Remy” and was painted while he was in an asylum near Saint-Remy in Southern France. It was so neat to be able to stand inches away admiring this work and think about Van Gogh applying these thick strokes of paint so many years ago.

Poplars at Saint-Remy, 1889

I found the Contemporary Section to be …. well, interesting. One of the more unique pieces was called, “Washing Away of Wrongs” and featured two stainless steel dryer doors that “speaks to the experience of loss and separation.” When doing a little research after my visit I read that each door supposedly transmits a different scent, but somehow I missed during my visit that you could open the door and sniff inside.

My favorite part of the museum were the antiquities. It is quite an experience to see works of art with some dating just a few hundred years after Christ. The antiquities section includes Egyptian, Near East, Greek and Roman works. The painted “Coffin of Bakenmut” from 976-889 BC was made for the priests of Amen and their families. It has amazingly preserved decoration.

Coffin of Bakenmut

I spent a lot of time looking at the antiquities and there was so much I enjoyed seeing. Here are a few pieces I thought were especially impressive. Below is a bronze Roman statue of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius from around 180-200 A.D.

The Emperor as Philosopher

The relief pictured below is from the palace of the Assyrian King, Ashurnasirpal II in Nimrud. It is believed at one time there were 300 reliefs decorating the palace. The city was destroyed in 612 BC and the palace lay buried for 24 centuries until rediscovered in 1845.

Saluting Protective Spirit, 883-859 BC

The museum has a huge central Atrium that is three stories high and nearly as big as a football field. It was completed seven years ago and is very impressive. Mark and I took a break and had a late lunch at the cafe which is situated at one end with table seating in the Atrium. After eating we both spent a little longer looking. I think I spent about five hours with the exhibits altogether and still didn’t see it all. But, I was so tired from all that I did see!

Museum Atrium

Below is a gallery of some main pieces the Museum lists as “Must See’s.” My favorite was the “Tomb Guardian” from China in the early 700’s. I was a little disappointed with Monet’s Water Lilies though. The one at this museum is part of a three panel with the two other panels at different museums. I guess it just didn’t grab me although I usually like Monet’s paintings but this one didn’t seem as colorful as I thought it would be.

One of the fun things about doing a blog is that I get to relive my travel experiences and I usually learn more about what I experienced because I do research that I didn’t do at the time of my visit. I hope you enjoyed following this post and stay tuned for next time when I write about our time in Ohio’s Amish country.

4 thoughts on “Exploring Cleveland Museum of Art”

    1. Thanks Shan, I really enjoyed the museum and the armor collection reminded me of the one we saw at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. Do you remember the armor there?

  1. I Lol’d when I read about your ‘driver’. Museum looks amazing. I’m with you on the Gray and Gold painting, very striking. Incredible how well preserved the antiquities are. I often times have a hard time appreciating modern art as well, doesn’t quite have the same effect. Big fan of the gallery at the end! Love seeing more pictures. Pretty impressed with the museum! Although Emma might have passed on it and gone with your driver to the coin shops instead if we were there with you 🙂

    1. Hey Matt! I do love art museums, glad you enjoyed reading this one. Yes, dad likes being the “driver.”

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