San Antonio Museum of Art

The San Antonio Museum of Art is on the North side of town, on the river, and a 20 or 30 minutes brisk walk along the “Museum Reach” of the River Walk. It’s home is the former Lone Star Brewery building, on the bank of the river, where they moved in 1981.I went to visit on the Sunday morning during my stay in the city and was pleasantly surprised that it was free entry – they waive the entry fee Sunday mornings and Tuesday evenings.
The museum with it’s collections of art and artefacts from civilisations from all the continents and spanning history rather reminded me of the Ashmolean in Oxford. I was particularly impressed by their collections of Contemporary Art (mainly, but not exclusively, by American artists) and Latin American Modern Art.
There was a strong social and/or political aspect to many of the works on display
 
 
Latin American art is poorly represented in European galleries so it was really interesting to see a very comprehensive display of works by artists from across the region. I discovered a lot of artists new to me and some really good works.
There were rooms devoted to art and artefacts from all the major ancient European and Asian civilisations – Greece, Rome, Egypt (African in this case of course), China and Japan.
 

And there was an comprehensive collection of artefacts from South A merican civilisations which are generally not so well represented in European Museums.

 

 

Sculpture at the McNay Art Museum

The McNay Art Museum have a good collection of 20th Century sculpture displayed in a gallery in the Jane and Arthur Stieren Center for Exhibitions , in a sculpture garden outside this wing and a few other pieces scattered throughout the grounds. There were also a few pieces displayed inside the main galleries. Here’s a selection.

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The McNay Art Museum – the Collection

Marion McNay was an American painter and art teacher who inherited a substantial oil fortune upon the death of her father. She was an enthusiastic collector of Modern Art and on her death bequeathed her collection of some 700 paintings and other works of art to found the first Modern Art Museum in Texas. The Museum has built on the bequest and now has almost 20,000 works in their collection.

The gallery spaces are light, bright, spacious and airy and there was an excellent range of works on display.

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The collection particularly focuses on 19th, 20th and 21st-century European and American paintings, sculptures and photographs. It also includes medieval and renaissance works, art and artefacts from New Mexico and an extensive collection of theatre arts.

The 19th and early 20th Century is represented by artists including Monet

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Gauguin

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Modigliani

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Braque

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and Picasso

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Post War European art included works by

Ben Nicholson

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and Barbara Hepworth

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Not surprisingly there were a large number of works by American artists, including Joan Mitchell

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Hudson River Day Line (1955)

Willem de Kooning

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Eddy Farm (1964)

Sue Fuller

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String Composition #T220 (1965)

and two small paintings by Jackson Pollock

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I liked this little sculpture, Snake on a table (1944) by Alexander Calder

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This painting by Diego Rivera was one of the first works purchased by Marion McNay.

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Delfina Flores (1927) by Diego Rivera

Upstairs in the old house there works from the Medieval and Renaissance collection and the collection of artefacts from New Mexico. I wasn’t so keen on the former but rather liked the display of paintings, pottery, textiles and other objects that constituted the latter.

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I particularly liked the examples of Pueblo pottery, created by Native Americans, they had on display.

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Overall an excellent gallery, well worth the ride out there on the bus.

They also had a good collection of sculpture (besides the two works above). I’ll return to that in another post.

The McNay Art Museum – Architecture

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The McNay Art Museum is off the beaten track in the wealthy suburb of Alamo Heights in the north east of the city of San Antonio. I took the bus there from the city centre – an experience in itself.

The Museum was opened in 1954 based around the collection of the wealthy collector of Modern Art, Marion McNay.

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The core of the museum is the Spanish Colonial Revival house that McNay had built. It’s been extended several times with modern style buildings creating an entrance lobby, exhibition space an auditorium and a library.

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The Museum is set in very pleasant grounds planted with trees, with well kept lawns and water features.

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The original house has three wings built around a central patio.

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The entrance hall and landing in the old house are particularly attractive

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This is the former library which has a very ornate wooden ceiling.

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The extensions have been built in modern styles, but to me this has been done sympathetically and they don’t intrude on the old house.

The most recent addition is the Jane and Arthur Stieren Center for Exhibitions which was opened in 2008. It was designed by the French architect Jean-Paul Viguier and it contains the main entrance lobby, the gift shop, a lecture hall, a sculpture hall and the space for temporary exhibitions.

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With it’s large glass facade and flat roof it rather reminded me of Ludwig Mies Van de Rohe’s Neue National Gallerie in Berlin.

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Another extension on the other side of the old house houses the Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts  and the library. The latter is located in the basement and is accessed via an impressive spiral staircase underneath a glass walled atrium.

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The King William District

The King William District lies on the east bank of the San Antonio river, just to the south of the downtown area of the city. It was named in honour of Kaiser Wilhelm 1 by German immigrants who had started to settled there in the 1840’s.

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The district went into decline in the early 20th Century, but started to be renovated in the 1950’s. Today it’s a very fashionable, pleasant, leafy, shady area of Colonial and Italianate style houses.