We have visited some of the best art museums in the world during our travels(e.g. the Louvre, Prada, Boston Museum of Fine Art, British Museum, etc.). So, it will be no surprise that, while in New York City, we made a stop at the largest art museum in the United States; the Metropolitan Museum of Art (colloquially known as “The Met”). With over seven million appreciators of art per year, this is the third most visited art museum in the world.
Incorporated on April 13, 1870 “... for the purpose of establishing and maintaining in (New York City) a museum and library of art...”, it first opened to the public on February 20, 1872 with a personal collection donated by railroad executive John Taylor Johnston. By the following year, it’s collections had outgrown its original available space. While additions were being made to the building, the museum’s collections moved to temporary quarters in the Cruger Mansion (also known as the Douglas Mansion) in West 14th Street. By 1879, the Met had opened its schools for classes in fine art. The New York legislature, in 1893, passed legislation stipulating that the museum’s collections “...shall be kept open and accessible to the public free of charge throughout the year” (although, in 2018, this was amended to exclude out-of-State and foreign visitors who now had to pay a $25 admission fee). The founders of the Met had developed a philosophy of wanting to bring art and art education to the citizens of the United States.
During the 1960’s, the estate of American Banker Robert Lehman (of Lehman Brothers fame) donated three thousand works of art to the museum. This bequest was described as “...one of the most extraordinary private art collections ever assembled in the U.S.”
Now measuring about a quarter mile long and encompassing over two million square feet of floor space, the Met is more than twenty times the size of the original building, and it contains more than two million works of art - from classical antiquity, ancient Egypt, European/American Masters, to modern art. While the city of New York owns the building, the collections belong to a private corporation of 950 persons. In 1986, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s main building was designated a National Historic Landmark. We were thrilled that visiting the Met became part of our memories.
It is very hard trying to pick out images of what is here to post in the blog. There is just so much. One of my favorites is this mantelpiece that dominated the entrance hall of Cornelius Vanderbilt II’s New York residence. Can you imagine what the rest of the house looked like?