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Museum of Fine Arts

August 09, 1999

Museum of Fine ArtsBy ERIN HEATH / Staff photographer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




Pablo Picasso said, "Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."

Feeling a little "dusty"? Don't worry. You can see some excellent works of art at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in scenic Hagerstown City Park.

The museum boasts more than 6,000 pieces of art, displayed in a series of changing exhibits in its 11 galleries. It also hosts a number of temporary exhibits each year. Built in 1930, the museum is now accredited by the American Association of Museums.

The permanent collection features a range of artists, from the Renaissance to the present, with a focus on American art of the 19th and early 20th century.

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That focus stems from the museum's founders, painter William Henry Singer Jr. and his wife Anna, who immersed themselves in the art world during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The first thing you're likely to notice after passing through the museum lobby are the portraits, still-life paintings, sculptures, and other art works that adorn the hallways. The sculptures include pieces by Paul Wayland Bartlett and Auguste Rodin, who is well-known for his pensive, bronze figure "The Thinker."

Turning right from the lobby, you will hit some of the largest exhibits. They include the Marshall Collection of late 19th- and early 20th-century paintings; the Lewison collection of Lalique glass; and a themed display of gorgeous landscape paintings called Sun and Sky.

The Marshall Collection features scenes of nature and village life that make you want to jump inside the canvas and explore. One piece that struck me was an oil painting done on sheet music, Louis Michel Eilshemius' "Two Figures in a Moonlit Landscape." Look closely and you will see vertical lines of music in an evening sky.

The not-to-be-missed Lewison Collection features more than 150 works of glass by renowned French artist Rene Lalique, whose work followed the Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The Old Masters and modern art exhibits are both relatively small, but both feature some well-known artists. The Old Masters collection, mainly portraits and religious-themed works, includes art by Renaissance painter Titian. Modern artists include pop-art notable Roy Lichtenstein, known for his comic-book-inspired illustrations.

Other objects worth mentioning are landscape paintings by museum founder Singer, pieces by leading U.S. glassmaker Louis Comfort Tiffany and clothing worn by Jonathan Hager, the founder of Hagerstown.

A word of advice: Take the time to read the information next to each object. Besides revealing the artist's name and time period and the piece's title and materials, you can find out some interesting tidbits about the artist and his or her work.

For instance, I discovered that artist Eduard Steichen burned most of his paintings, declaring them a "dead art form," after he served as a military photographer in World War I. Luckily the museum managed to get one of his few paintings that wasn't destroyed.

The great things about this museum are its optimal location, intimate atmosphere and constantly changing exhibits, which give art lovers new reasons to return each month.

Upcoming displays include WPA Prints, starting Aug. 6; Paintings by John Bannon, beginning Aug. 13; and Structures and Street Scenes, opening Aug. 13.

-- If you go-Museum of Fine Arts

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