Chrysler Museum of Art
Housed in an Italianate-style structure facing the picturesque Hague Inlet of the Elizabeth River, the Chrysler Museum of Art is home to an encyclopedic collection of nearly 40,000 objects spanning 5,000 years of history. Highlights include an impressive and comprehensive survey of European and American painting and sculpture, a world-renowned glass collection, a rich photography program, Art Nouveau furniture, as well as African, Asian, Egyptian, Pre-Columbian, and Islamic art. In the words of art critic John Russell, the Chrysler boasts objects “…any museum in the world would kill for.”
The national and international art scene is brought to Hampton Roads through a full schedule of changing exhibitions at the Chrysler. The work of Rembrandt, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Andy Warhol, Gordon Parks, Lino Tagliapietra, and Norman Rockwell are among the most recent, popular exhibitions. To enhance and augment our visitors’ appreciation of both the Chrysler collection and traveling exhibitions, the Museum presents an eclectic offering of public lectures, concerts, theatrical performances, and children’s activities.
The origins of the Chrysler date back to the late 19th century and an alliance between two teachers and friends, Irene Leache and Anna Cogswell Wood. Together they founded a female seminary whose alumnae were supremely dedicated to the support of art and education in the Norfolk area. In 1933, an outgrowth of the alumnae association, the Norfolk Society of Arts, funded the construction of the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences on the Museum’s current site. In 1971, the Museum was renamed in honor of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. in appreciation of his generous contributions to every area of the collection. Son of the founder of the Chrysler Corporation, Chrysler began collecting art at the age of 14 with the purchase of a Renoir watercolor. He evolved into one of the most adventuresome American collectors, never confining his interests to one period or culture.
Thanks in no small measure to Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.’s keen eye and generous spirit, today the Chrysler’s collection is a veritable “who’s who” in the visual arts. Paintings and sculpture by Filippino Lippi and Dosso Dossi highlight the Italian Renaissance; Gianlorenzo Bernini’s Bust of the Savior represents the Baroque sculptor’s final effort, and is considered, by many critics, to be the finest example of his work in America; the art of such masters as Velázquez, Boucher, Gainsborough, Copley, Millet, and Manet trace history of art from the Baroque through the modern era. Impressionism and modern French painting can be appreciated with seminal works by Renoir, Gauguin, Picasso, Matisse, and Braque, while major 20th-century artists include Roy Lichtenstein, Jackson Pollock, and Franz Kline.
The Chrysler’s 8,000-object glass collection is one of the most significant in the western hemisphere, and includes nearly encyclopedic holdings of blown glass made by Tiffany Studios and outstanding Tiffany lamps. The James H. Ricau Collection represents one of the finest concentrations on 19th-century American marble sculpture in the United States. The growing photography collection includes over 4,000 images depicting the entire history of photography, from calotypes and daguerreotypes to digital images.
The Museum also manages two Historic Houses in downtown Norfolk, providing residents and visitors with interpretations of life in federal-period America. The Moses Myers House, which retains three-quarters of its original contents, including a significant family archive, is of particular importance. The nearby Norfolk History Museum at the Willoughby-Baylor House is devoted to the rich history of Norfolk and the entire region.