Cummer Museum Visit

When I was first told I was to visit the Cummer Museum I thought, “This is going to be boring. How can I write a paper on just art? ” However, after my visit, I found there were more things to write about than I had imagined. I come from Washington, D. C. and I’m used to visiting museums but I had never seen one with so many different kinds of artwork. From various oil paintings and ancient sculptures to modern photography and ceramic figures. There was even a beautiful garden to enjoy.

According to literature, the Cummer Museum is the largest arts museum in Northeast Florida. It was founded in 1958 by Ninah Cummer who had a very nice art collection started in her home. She also loved gardening hence her including the Cummer Gardens with the museum. Mrs. Cummer wanted to share her collection for all to enjoy and also to expand. That is when she and her husband opened the museum. My visit started in the Nancy Reilly Schultz gallery which included the arts of the ancient americas and ancient mediterranean.

This art was done by ancient cultural groups from central Mexico, Egypt, Greece which depicted their versions of “humanism” and Italy. Artwork from ancient Central America based on the human form. Different cultures depicted human beings differently. The Mayans created lifelike carvings. The Mezcala reduced the human figure to geometric angles. Ancient Egyptian art is based on the idea of order. In order to clearly define the social hierarchy of a situation, figures were drawn to sizes based not on their distance from the painter’s point of view but on relative importance.

Ancient Greek art was based on religion and revolved around the Greek gods. Most of the ancient Italian art was based on or copied from Greek and Egyptian artworks. I found these techniques interesting. It makes understanding the artists visions easier. There were so many different styles of artwork from the different cultures. The Haskell gallery included various versions of the Madonna (paintings and sculptures) and other religious figures. My favorite in that room was the painting “St. Christopher and the Christ Child. I enjoyed how the artist depicted this man of great size and strength who devoted himself by helping travelers cross a dangerous river. He first pledged his allegiance to Satan and one day a child asked for help crossing the river. He found out after they crossed that child was Christ. He pledged his allegiance to Christ and remained faithful until his death. I had never heard of St. Christopher but his faith and devotion inspired me. There was an area that had artwork from the film company that created the first all African-American movie cast.

This film company was the Norman Film MFG Company. It was based in Jacksonville. I would have never known this important piece of African-American history if I hadn’t visited the Cummer museum and I have been to several African-American museums. While talking to one of the museum workers, I found out that most of the film industry started in Florida and later moved to California. That bit of information made me feel even better about my move to Jacksonville considering I’m African-American. I was very surprising considering history of the treatment of African-Americans in the south.

The featured display at the time of my visit was in the Betsy and William Lovett Gallery. The Royal Dish Collection by Ralph and Constance Wark was started in 1922. It has grown to over 700 pieces. The collection of early Meissen Porcelain is one of the 3 finest in the world. It includes various beautifully colored pieces, most trimmed in gold. There were collections of red stoneware, japanese and chinese inspired collections, and the most popular style is called “Tischenmuster” which means little table. I’m not a big porcelain fan but those pieces were beautiful.

I enjoyed the re-creation of the room in the Cummers’ home in which the original art collection was started called the Tudor Room. It included actual pieces of furniture from their home. There was also the Cummer Legacy room that showed the plans for the building of the Cummer home and various pictures of it during development and during events held there. I felt this allowed spectators to feel like they were able to share first hand what the Cummers started. One of my favorite pieces was an oil on canvas painting called “Passions of Christ” by Romare Bearden.

He was an African-American artist and writer. I found out that this was one of several paintings in a series created by that artist. He felt that Christ’s life, death, and resurrection were the greatest expression of man’s humanism. I felt this was a wonderful tribute to Christ’s sacrifice for man. There was another display in the Thomas Jacobsen Gallery of American Art called “One in 3. ” A photographer by the name of Ingrid Damiani took pictures and stories from various youth about the high school dropout rate. The youth she displayed were the ones who made it dispite their odds.

Her purpose was to let other youth know that they can have a positive outcome. I agree with her concept and hope that it will make an impact on as many youth as possible. The last place I visited was the Cummer Gardens. It was so beautiful. It reminded me of the garden by the lake that I got married in Las Vegas. Having a garden filled with different flowers and trees with statue fountains in pools next to the St. Johns river was breathtaking. And, I had never seen an oak tree as large or as old and beautiful as the Cummer Oak.

I was told that tree was over 200 years old! Coming from up North, I wouldn’t get to see anything like that. I was also shown the docking station were the Cummers docked their boat when they visited the museum depicting some of what life was like in the 1920’s. I felt having the Art Connections Interactive center was a good idea for the children to interact with the art and make their own contributions. I really enjoyed the Wall of Celebration done by the students with disabilities and the interpretations of the Cummer Gardens by the students at Douglas Anderson school.