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10 Museums in the U.S. Where You Can Learn about Art and History

By- Angela Padrón

Looking at art on a computer screen or in a book is one thing, but seeing it in person is another thing altogether. That’s why visiting art museums is a great way for students to learn more about art and develop a deeper understanding of history as seen through artists’ eyes. By viewing works of art in person, students can witness the true size, read about materials used to create the works, and come to appreciate the hard work, imagination, and talent the artists put forth to create the masterpieces.

Here is a list of ten not-to-be-missed art museums in the United States:

#1- Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) – New York City, NY  

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“For as long as I can remember, I've been collecting and rearranging found pictures of other women as a way to negotiate my own identity. The process—investigating what it means to perform and inhabit a certain ‘female-ness’ for the camera—is at once revelatory and inconclusive. There is no single or essential female ‘self,’ and yet certain experiences do belong to us and appear over and over again in our lives, and in our pictures of our lives.”—Carmen Winant (@carmen.winant) … How do you use photography to investigate the self? We asked photographers now on view in “Being: #NewPhotography2018" to share the ideas and techniques that influence the exploration of personhood in their work. See their responses: … [Artwork: #CarmenWinant. “My Birth .” 2018. Found images, tape. Installation view, Being: New Photography 2018, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2018 Carmen Winant]

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The Museum of Modern Art (or MoMA) houses works of art from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Its permanent collections include Architecture and Design, Drawings, Film, Media, Painting and Sculpture, Photography, and Prints and Illustrated Books. Several famous works are displayed at MoMA, including Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night and Salvador Dalí’s The Persistence of Memory, along with pieces by modern artists, including Matisse, Monet, O’Keeffe, Pollock, and Warhol.

#2- Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York City, NY

This massively huge museum has seventeen curatorial collections and more than two million objects, including an Egyptian temple from 10 B.C, Greek and Roman art, an American wing, the European Paintings Galleries, and the Anna Wintour Costume Center. In addition, there is a wing filled with contemporary art. The museum displays many masterpieces of Persian art, as well as works by the likes of Vermeer, Sargent, Rembrandt, Degas, and others.


#3- The Art Institute of Chicago; Chicago, IL

This institution holds more than 300,000 artworks and artifacts from all over the world, from ancient times to the present. These include Japanese prints, pieces of Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings, and a Modern Wing filled with architecture and design collections. There are several famous paintings housed here, including Van Gogh’s The Bedroom, Grant Wood’s American Gothic, George Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.


#4- National Gallery of Art; Washington, D.C.

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Today we’re looking at Picasso’s early work in gallery 217C on the Mezzanine of the East Building. Picasso’s Rose Period began in 1904, after he emerged from the depression of his Blue Period (1901–1903). Motivated by the feeling of belonging he developed in Paris and his budding romance with Fernande Olivier, the artist began to use warmer tones to paint more uplifting scenes. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Picasso’s frequent visits to the Circus Medrano in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris are reflected in the circus performers and harlequins that were the focus of much of his work from the era. The performers became symbolic for the artist—he identified with their vagabond lifestyle and practice of masking their true selves. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ “Family of Saltimbanques,” from 1905 shows a family of nomadic circus performers waiting motionless in an ambiguous, deserted landscape. The figures do not make eye contact but rather look in different directions, creating a feeling of alienation. The figure on the far left donning a typical diamond-shaped harlequin pattern, is Picasso himself. His lover, Fernande Olivier, is at right, removed from the group and gracefully gazing into the distance in the same direction as Picasso. Members of the couple’s social circle appear as the other characters in the painting, which conveys the feeling of disconnectedness and transience the group of young artists in Paris felt at the time. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Check out our Instagram story to learn more about the other works by Picasso in gallery 217C on a tour led (from home) by Weezie Haley, the current John Wilmerding Intern in American Art. Each day during our temporary closure, join us as we take you on a tour, gallery by gallery. #MuseumFromHome #MyNGADC ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ © 2012 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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In this museum, visitors will find European and American art from the 13th to the early 20th centuries, including Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci, Botticelli’s Adoration of the Magi, and Jan van Eyck’s Annunciation. There are also galleries filled with sculptures, including the largest collection of Edgar Degas’s wax and mixed-media sculptures. In addition, there is an exhibit of abstract expressionist masterpieces, including work by Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko.

#5- Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA); Los Angeles, CA

LACMA is a large museum with creative installations and works covering hundreds of years. In this museum, visitors will see works such as Diego Rivera’s portrait of Frida Kahlo, George De La Tour’s The Magdalen With The Smoking Flame, and Henri Matisse’s La Gerbe. 

#6- Philadelphia Museum of Art; Philadelphia, PA

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Today let's visit one of our Impressionist galleries. The art in this gallery was once considered radical. In color, brushwork, and subject, these paintings and sculptures shocked the French art establishment when publicly exhibited in the 1870s. Their makers—a loose association of independently minded men and women—had become frustrated by the rules and traditions of the official French art of the day, which prized realistic depictions of great moments in history and religion. They instead wanted to capture the everyday world around them in ways that felt immediate, honest, and lively. With pure, unmixed colors, visible brushstrokes, and roughly sculpted surfaces, these works sometimes left audiences wondering if they were made as sketches (“impressions”) for subsequent, more polished pieces. Head over to our Facebook page for a 360 view of this gallery. #MuseumFromHome

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The Philadelphia Museum of Art has more than two hundred galleries with about 227,000 objects dating from the first century A.D. to present day. It houses American paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts from artists like Thomas Eakins. There is also 18th and 19th century furniture and silver on display, as well as collections of German art and modern works of art.


#7- The Cleveland Museum of Art; Cleveland, OH

The Cleveland Museum of Art has been around for over one hundred years and sits at 592,000 square feet. It is best known for its Asian and Egyptian works of art, its medieval art collection from Europe and America, and its postwar masterpieces.


#8- Museum of Fine Arts; Boston, MA

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston holds about 500,000 objects. It contains an American Art Wing with objects like Paul Revere’s silver Liberty Bowl and paintings by John Singleton Copley. There is also a Contemporary Art wing, including works from artists like Ellsworth Kelly, Kara Walker, and Rachel Whiteread. In addition, the museum holds an Egyptian collection, the first Japanese collection in America, and Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, including the second largest collection of Claude Monet’s paintings in the U.S.

#9- M.H. de Young Museum; San Francisco, CA

This museum’s structure is a work of art in itself, with 27,000 paintings, sculptures, objects, crafts, and textiles created between the 17th and 20th centuries. These works come from all over the world, including Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. The museum’s exhibitions rotate and span various time periods and genres, including findings from King Tut’s tomb to paintings by Impressionists to works by artists like Edward Hopper and Keith Haring.


#10- High Museum of Art; Atlanta, GA

The High Museum of Art is made up approximately 300,000 square feet of space. It holds a permanent collection of more than 15,000 works of art, including American and decorative art from the 19th and 20th century. The museum also has a large collection of contemporary art and photographs from various time periods in American history.


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