Pictures of the Best Kind celebrates the permanent collection of the Muskegon Museum of Art, highlighting over 100 years of art acquisition. Returning guests will find familiar favorites and forgotten treasures, while first time visitors will experience the surprise of a modest but international quality collection. Over 70 artworks, including painting, sculpture, and glass, will be on display.
In 1905, Charles H. Hackley bequeathed in his will $150,000 for the Muskegon Public Schools Board of Education to purchase “pictures of the best kind” for the Hackley Public Library. The Board purchased their first painting, a Tonalist landscape by Dwight Tryon, in 1910, the start of an endeavor that continues today. This exhibition, which takes its name from Hackley’s charge, features the artworks that define our collection and have led to national and international recognition of the Muskegon Museum of Art.
The greatest strengths of the collection rest in early 20th century American art, with additional highlights from 15th and 16th century Europe and several prominent European Impressionists and Dutch painters. The Muskegon Museum of Art’s best known, and most often requested paintings for both loan and reproduction, are Edward Hopper’s New York Restaurant and John Steuart Curry’s Tornado Over Kansas. Our early 20th century American holdings also include works by Robert Henri, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Jerome Myers, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Ralph Albert Blakelock, George Inness, Willard Metcalf, and Charles Webster Hawthorne. Impressionist paintings by Camille Pissarro and Alfred Sisley supplement our American paintings, along with early works by Joos Van Cleve and Lucas Cranach the Elder.
In addition to building on the early acquisitions, the MMA has continued to pursue contemporary American art, and has dedicated significant resources to building a large collection of works by African American artists, including Elizabeth Catlett, Whitfield Lovell, Hughie Lee-Smith, Winfred Rembert, and Palmer Cole Hayden. Also featured in this exhibition are some of our sculptural and studio glass objects, including those by artists Deborah Butterfield, Dale Chihuly, and Janusz Pozniak.
Pictures of the Best Kind represents not only the legacy of the MMA, but celebrates the overwhelming generosity of generations of donors and supporters, without whom this collection would not exist.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website