A visit to the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens in Jacksonville, Florida puts guests face-to-face with many of the most prominent figures from art history. Pursuing a passion in art typically begins with these names. The essentials. Artists whose work has stood the test of time – decades, centuries.
The art world is enormous. It has no sides or bottom. It allows for infinite investigation in whichever direction an individual pursues. These nooks and crannies ultimately prove rich beyond the wildest imagination.
Until a curiosity develops encouraging examination of these “deep cuts,” consider the Cummer Museum most famous artists a greatest hits album introducing visitors to painting’s most popular and prominent figures.
NOTE: All of the artists listed below can be found in the museum’s permanent collection; not included are artists with work on view in special exhibitions or via loans from other institutions or individuals.
Rembrandt van Rijn
Any list of history’s greatest artists includes Rembrandt near the top. He’s one-name famous. Perhaps art’s greatest draftsman – drawer. His “line,” be that in etchings where he knows no equal, or in his paintings, is unsurpassed. His self-portraits are matched for personality only by van Gogh and Frida Khalo.
The Cummer Museum has an exquisite example of his religious etchings for which he became known the world over.
Warhol didn’t invent Pop art all by himself, but he has come to symbolize the movement which dominated the American art scene during the 1960s. His iconic screen print images of celebrities are ubiquitous in American culture – Marilyn, Elvis, Liz Taylor.
The hair, The Factory, the voice.
Warhol coined the term “15 minutes of fame.”
Warhol by himself and with the help of studio assistants, collaborators like Jean-Michel Basquiat and mass production techniques produced an astonishing volume of work – hundreds of thousands of examples – from prints to paintings and experimental films and videos. A lifetime could be spent exploring his body of work.
The Cummer Museum’s Warhol Mao is a prime example of what he’s best known for.
Peter Paul Rubens
Rubens’ fleshy nudes became pervasive to the point of inspiring the adjective “Rubenesque.”
The Cummer’s Rubens stands as a jewel of the collection.
Like Rubens, Rockwell’s image-making from the early and mid-20th century in America became so popular his name now defines the traditional, puritanical, Christian, white middle-class American values and aesthetics of the period. Families, dinners, towns, streets, yards matching this appearance are said to be “straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.”
The Cummer’s Norman Rockwell painting surprises by taking viewers in a different direction.
John Singer Sargent
No contemporary status symbol exists equating to what it meant to have your portrait painted by John Singer Sargent around the turn of the 20th century.
Another surprise, the Cummer Museum’s John Singer Sargent is a landscape, not a portrait.
Thomas Moran and Albert Bierstadt
Moran and Bierstadt are every bit as formative to Western art – art depicting the Western United States – as Warhol is to Pop art. Their enormous landscapes featuring canyons and mountains fill museums and government buildings from coast to coast.
The Cummer’s monumental Thomas Moran painting highlights the problems inherit in this artist’s work as seen through a modern perspective. The much smaller Bierstadt is easy to miss – keep your eyes peeled.
The Cummer’s Homer sees the artist painting a local scene of the St. John’s River in the iconic, loose watercolor fashion for which he and his paintings of New England became renowned.
Henry Ossawa Tanner
Thomas Hart Benton
Known today primarily as Jackson Pollock’s mentor, Benton was a leader of the Regionalist movement in the 1930s and 1940s. The Cummer has one of the finest examples his work in this style.
Vasari is famous, although most prominently not for his paintings.
His iconic sculptures can regularly be seen in the background of photos taken inside the White House. Remington’s images of “cowboys and Indians” from the early 20th century cast a mold for what the “Western” aesthetic would forevermore entail.
America’s most famous Impressionist.