Facets of Morgan Tour

FACETS OF THE MORGAN TOUR BEGINS THIS FALL

Press release date: 
Thursday, August 28, 2003

Facets of the Morgan is a series of exhibitions that is touring the country while the Morgan Library undergoes an extensive expansion project. The series begins in fall 2003. Audiences in cities around the United States will have the opportunity to see a selection of the some 350,000 exquisite works from the Morgan's renowned collections.

The Princeton Art Museum; the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati; and the Frick Art and Historical Center, Pittsburgh, are among the host venues.

"We are pleased to share an array of some of the finest objects in our collections, during the Morgan's closure, with audiences located throughout the country," commented Charles E. Pierce, Jr., director of the Morgan Library. "The roster of host institutions is particularly gratifying and represents some of the finest museums in America."

Once the private domain of the financier-collector Pierpont Morgan (1837–1913), the Morgan Library is now a museum, independent research library, architectural landmark, and historic site. Nearly a century after its founding, the Morgan maintains a unique position in the cultural life of New York City and is considered one of its great treasures. The collections are vast and eclectic, representing the combined and evolving tastes of Pierpont Morgan; his son, J. P. Morgan, Jr. (1867–1943); four Library directors; and a succession of other curators and collectors down to the present day.

About the Morgan

Pierpont Morgan was an important figure both in this country's financial history and its development of culture. His immense holdings ranged from Egyptian art to Renaissance paintings to Chinese porcelains. Rare books and manuscripts, however, were his first passion, and it was primarily to house them that he commissioned Charles McKim of the architectural firm McKim, Mead & White to build his Library. Majestic in appearance yet intimate in scale, the structure was to reflect the nature and stature of its holdings. The result was an Italian Renaissance-style palazzo with three magnificent rooms epitomizing America's Gilded Age. Completed three years before McKim's death, it is considered by many to be his masterpiece.

As the head of the mighty financial firm that bore his name, Morgan controlled much of America's burgeoning economy at the turn of the century. His personal fortune allowed him to collect as few others had. Descended from five generations of prominent citizens of Connecticut and Massachusetts, the young Morgan enjoyed a highly sophisticated education for a child in the pre–Civil War era. While studying in Europe, he systematically visited important historical and artistic monuments and came to admire many of the preeminent art collections and libraries, both public and private. Upon his return to America, he began his banking business on Wall Street and set out to emulate the magnificent collections of western Europe. For his library, Morgan acquired illuminated, literary, and historical manuscripts, early printed books, and old master drawings and prints. To this core, he added the earliest evidence of writing as manifested in ancient seals, tablets, and papyrus fragments from Egypt and the Near East. Morgan also collected significant manuscripts and printed materials related to American history. In his study, he surrounded himself with his favorite treasures, demonstrating his deep appreciation of the finely wrought small art object.

In 1924, eleven years after Morgan's death, his son, J. P. Morgan, Jr., known as Jack, realized that the Library had become too important to remain in private hands. He made the collections "permanently available for the instruction and pleasure of the American people" by transforming the Library into a public institution as a memorial to his father's "love of rare books and manuscripts and his belief in the educational value of the collections." In what constituted one of the most momentous cultural gifts in this country's history, the private library became an institution dedicated to serving scholars and the public alike. Over the years—through purchases and generous gifts—the Library has continued to acquire rare materials as well as important music manuscripts, a fine collection of early children's books and manuscripts, and objects from the twentieth century (as well as earlier periods). Nevertheless the focus on the written word, the history of the book, and master drawings has been maintained.

Fulfilling the vision of its founders, the Morgan Library has become both a museum accommodating a diverse public and an internationally recognized research library for scholars and other specialists.

Exhibitions

Facets of the Morgan comprises three distinct exhibitions that represent the richness and diversity of the Library's collections. Audiences in cities around the United States will have the opportunity to see some of the great masterpieces of Western civilization.

The Book of Kings: Art, War, and the Morgan Library's Medieval Picture Bible uses medieval works from the Morgan and The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, to explore ways in which Christian, Muslim, and Jewish cultures used storytelling to define themselves and their values. The Picture Bible—one of the greatest illuminated manuscripts produced in thirteenth-century France—is disbound for conservation and study, offering visitors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view twenty-six of the book's pages in a single exhibition. The Book of Kings, on view at the Princeton University Art Museum, from March 6 to June 6, 2004, has been organized by The Walters Art Museum in collaboration with the Morgan Library.

The Picture Bible is illustrated with saturated colors and exquisite detail. In order to make its lessons relevant to readers, the creators of this Bible set Old Testament stories in contemporaneous environments. For example, depictions of architecture evoke the castles and houses of thirteenth-century French towns, and battle scenes are replete with thirteenth-century armor, weapons, and battle insignia. Also on exhibition are contemporary religious artifacts and everyday domestic items from The Walters Art Museum, many similar to those seen on the pages of the manuscript itself. By including objects from the Middle Ages, the exhibition will provide a more accurate understanding of the manuscript as well as its historical context.

The Book of Kings is on view at three additional venues in the United States, displaying facsimile folia of the Morgan's Picture Bible along with objects from The Walters Art Museum: Academy Art Museum, Easton, Maryland, September 12 through October 24, 2003; The Mitchell Art Gallery, St. John's College, Annapolis, Maryland, November 14 through December 26, 2004; and Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts, January 30 through April 25, 2005.

Comprising fifty-eight examples in manuscript or printed editions, Painted Prayers: Medieval and Renaissance Books of Hours from the Morgan Library examines the tremendous popularity of Books of Hours through an exploration of their customary prayers and the kinds of pictures that traditionally accompany these texts. The exhibition is on view at the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, from October 12, 2003, to January 18, 2004, and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, from October 18, 2005, to January 8, 2006.

For three hundred years, from about 1250 to 1550, more Books of Hours were commissioned and collected, bought and sold, given (and stolen), bequeathed, and inherited than any other type of book, including the Bible. The Book of Hours has rightly been called the "bestseller" of the late Middle Ages. The reasons behind this popularity are revealed by the inspiring textual and dazzling pictorial contents of the Books of Hours on view.

Presenting the Library's most beautiful illuminations and finest examples of printing, the exhibition allows visitors to "walk through" a typical Book of Hours. The first section focuses on Calendars, the first part of any Book of Hours; the second section is devoted to the four Gospel Lessons; the third to the Hours of the Virgin, and so forth, ending with the Office of the Dead.

To Observe and Imagine: British Drawings and Watercolors, 1600–1900, is a major survey of the Morgan Library's important collection of British drawings. The basis of this group dates to Pierpont Morgan's well-known 1909 purchase of virtually all the holdings of Charles Fairfax Murray, the English Pre-Raphaelite artist and collector. Over the years the Library's holdings in this area have continued to grow, and this exhibition provides an opportunity to view highlights of the collection. To Observe and Imagine is on view at the Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, from May 14 to August 15, 2004, and the Frick Art and Historical Center, Pittsburgh, from September to December 2005.

The exhibition features approximately a hundred drawings and watercolors produced over a three-hundred-year period. Seventeenth-century examples include works by Inigo Jones and foreign-born artists working in England, such as Wenceslaus Hollar and Sir Peter Lely. Emphasis is on the major draftsmen of the eighteenth century, including William Blake, Thomas Gainsborough, and William Hogarth. A number of beautiful nineteenth-century drawings and watercolors by John Constable, Thomas Girtin, Samuel Palmer, John Ruskin, and J. M. W. Turner also are on view. The exhibition culminates in several outstanding works by the Pre-Raphaelites and a selection of artist's sketchbooks.

The Morgan Library–Renzo Piano Project

The Morgan Library, located in the heart of New York City, is in fact, a campus of historic buildings: the original 1906 library designed by Charles McKim of McKim, Mead & White; the 1928 Annex; and the nineteenth-century Morgan house, the former home of J. P. Morgan, Jr.

The Morgan, however, has outgrown its present space. Following several years of study and analysis, in 2000 the Library engaged the Renzo Piano Building Workshop to develop a comprehensive architectural plan to expand and better integrate its campus. The scheme by the Piano Workshop, in conjunction with New York–based Beyer Blinder Belle, well known for its superb preservation work, retains the time-honored ethos of the Morgan—its elegance, intimacy, and commitment to excellence. New and old elements are persuasively integrated, in part because the new structures will be no higher than existing buildings and in part because Piano's scheme combines a Renaissance appreciation of geometry with a modernist celebration of clarity.

A century after its founding, the expanded Morgan—with an additional 75,000 square feet—in a parklike setting in midtown Manhattan, will feature:

  • a welcoming entrance on Madison Avenue,
  • a spacious central court, the heart of the public spaces,
  • improved internal circulation,
  • new and renovated galleries,
  • a modern performance hall,
  • a larger café and shop,
  • a new Reading Room, and
  • much needed space for collections storage.

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and community and municipal groups have enthusiastically endorsed the project as a beautiful, imaginative response to the Morgan's needs. Work on the $100 million project ($65 million for actual construction and $35 million for related costs) began in late spring 2003. Because the project has an impact on virtually every part of the facility, the Library closed to the public in May 2003. When it reopens in spring 2006, the Morgan will more capably serve both the general public and its scholarly audience. And it will be able to serve greater numbers while preserving the sense of intimacy that has always characterized the visitor's experience at the Morgan.

Teaser text: 

Facets of the Morgan is a series of exhibitions that is touring the country while the Morgan Library undergoes an extensive expansion project. Audiences in cities around the United States will have the opportunity to see a selection of the some 350,000 exquisite works from the Morgan's renowned collections.

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