Cincinnati Art Museum, Ohio, United States

The Cincinnati Art Museum is one of the oldest art museums in the United States. Founded in 1881, it was the first purpose-built art museum west of the Alleghenies. Its collection of over 67,000 works spanning 6,000 years of human history make it one of the most comprehensive collections in the Midwest. Museum founders debated locating the museum in either Burnet Woods, Eden Park, or downtown Cincinnati on Washington Park. Charles West, the major donor of the early museum, cast his votes in favor of Eden Park sealing its final location. The Romanesque-revival building designed by Cincinnati architect James W. McLaughlin opened in 1886. A series of additions and renovations have considerably altered the building over its 120-year history.

Visitors can enjoy the exhibitions or participate in the Art Museum’s wide range of art-related programs, activities and special events. General admission is always free for all, plus Art Museum members receive additional benefits.

The Art Museum is open six days a week, making greater Cincinnati’s most treasured cultural asset accessible to everyone.

The museum is supported by the generosity of individuals and businesses that give annually to ArtsWave. The Ohio Arts Council helped fund the museum with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans. The museum gratefully acknowledges operating support from the City of Cincinnati, as well as our museum members.

In 2003, a major addition, The Cincinnati Wing was added to house a permanent exhibit of art created for Cincinnati or by Cincinnati artists since 1788. The Cincinnati Wing includes fifteen new galleries covering 18,000 square feet (1,700 m2) of well-appointed space, and 400 objects. The Odoardo Fantacchiotti angels are two of the largest pieces in the collection. Fantacchiotti created these angels for the main altar of St. Peter in Chains Cathedral in the late 1840s. They were among the first European sculptures to come to Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Wing also contains the work of Frank Duveneck, Rookwood Pottery, Robert Scott Duncanson Mitchell and Rammelsberg (Cincinnati’s premier 19th-century furniture manufacturer) and a tall case clock by Luman Watson.

In the late nineteenth century, public art museums were still very much a new phenomenon, especially as far west as Cincinnati. Following the success of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition held in Philadelphia, the Women’s Art Museum Association was organized in Cincinnati with the intent of bringing such an institution to the region for the benefit of all citizens. Enthusiasm for these goals grew steadily and by 1881 the Cincinnati Museum Association was incorporated. Just five years later, in May 1886, a permanent art museum building was completed in Eden Park and was heralded worldwide as “The Art Palace of the West.”

The Cincinnati Art Museum enjoyed the support of the community from the beginning. Generous donations from a number of prominent Cincinnatians, including Melville E. Ingalls, grew the collection to number in the tens of thousands of objects, which soon necessitated the addition of the first of several Art Museum expansions.

In 1907 the Schmidlapp Wing opened, which was followed by a series of building projects. The addition of the Emery, Hanna and French Wings in the 1930s enclosed the courtyard and gave the museum its current rectangular shape and provided the space in which our American, European and Asian collections are currently shown.

Renovations during the late 1940s and early 1950s divided the Great Hall into two floors and the present main entrance to the museum was established. The 1965 completion of the Adams-Emery Wing increased our facility resources further, adding space for the permanent collection, lecture halls and temporary exhibition galleries.

In 1993, a $13 million project restored the grandeur of the museum’s interior architecture and uncovered long-hidden architectural details. This project included the renovation of one of the Art Museum’s signature spaces, the Great Hall. In addition, new gallery space was created and lighting and climate control were improved. The museum’s temporary exhibition space was expanded to approximately 10,000 square feet to accommodate major temporary exhibitions.

By the turn of the twenty-first century, the museum’s collection numbered over 60,000 objects and, today, is the largest in the state of Ohio. In 2003, CAM deepened its ties with the Greater Cincinnati community by opening the popular and expansive Cincinnati Wing, the first permanent display of a city’s art history in the nation. In addition, on May 17, 2003, the museum eliminated its general admission fee forever, made possible by The Lois and Richard Rosenthal Foundation.

In 2006, CAM marked its 125th anniversary with 125 days of programs and events for the community to celebrate. In addition, a Facilities Master Plan, approved by the Board of Trustees in February 2006, provided a plan for growth that will serve the museum for the next two decades.

The renovation of the former Art Academy building was completed in January 2013 and opened as the Longworth Wing of the museum. The LEED certified building is now home to our staff offices and the beautiful new Mary R. Schiff Library and Archives. The rooftop library, overlooking downtown Cincinnati, has an extensive collection of over 100,000 items covering six thousand years of art and art history. The Mary R. Schiff library is available for rental and offers two conference rooms for small corporate meetings or the main Reading Room for cocktail hours with breathtaking views of the city below. This renovation has made room within the museum for approximately 15,000 square feet of gallery and exhibition space including the Rosenthal Education Center.

building designed by Cincinnati architect James W. McLaughlin opened in 1886. A series of additions and renovations have considerably altered the building over its 120-year history.

In 2003, a major addition, The Cincinnati Wing was added to house a permanent exhibit of art created for Cincinnati or by Cincinnati artists since 1788. The Cincinnati Wing includes fifteen new galleries covering 18,000 square feet (1,700 m2) of well-appointed space, and 400 objects. The Odoardo Fantacchiotti angels are two of the largest pieces in the collection. Fantacchiotti created these angels for the main altar of St. Peter in Chains Cathedral in the late 1840s. They were among the first European sculptures to come to Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Wing also contains the work of Frank Duveneck, Rookwood Pottery, Robert Scott Duncanson Mitchell and Rammelsberg (Cincinnati’s premier 19th-century furniture manufacturer) and a tall case clock by Luman Watson.

CAM is actively engaged in the digitization of our permanent collection, which contains over 67,000 works of art. While the entire museum collection is not currently online, images and information are frequently being added and updated. Please note that not all objects featured online are currently on view in our galleries.

The art museum has paintings by several European masters, including: Master of San Baudelio, Jorge Ingles, Sandro Botticelli (Judith with Head of Holofernes), Matteo di Giovanni, Mattia Preti, Bernardo Strozzi, Frans Hals, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (St. Thomas of Villanueva), Peter Paul Rubens (Samson and Delilah) and Aert van der Neer. The collection also includes works by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Claude Monet (Rocks At Belle Isle), and Pablo Picasso. The museum also has a large collection of paintings by American painter Frank Duveneck (Elizabeth B. Duveneck).

African Art
In 1889, three years after opening its doors, the Cincinnati Art Museum exhibited Carl Steckelmann’s extensive collection of African art and ethnographic material—the first museum to display such work. Steckelmann was a German American trader from Indiana who had worked along the coast of equatorial and central Africa in the 1880s and 1890s. The Steckelmann collection of nearly 1,300 objects was acquired by the museum in 1890 and it forms the core of the museum’s holdings. For more than a century, the museum has continued to expand its African collection, acquiring works of the highest aesthetic merit with a concentration of objects from central and western Africa.

American Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings
The Cincinnati Art Museum is one of the premiere venues for the study and enjoyment of American painting, sculpture, drawings and portrait miniatures, reflecting the city’s eminence as an art center in the nineteenth- and early twentieth-centuries. The museum is the institution of record for the masters associated with Cincinnati, including Hiram Powers, Robert S. Duncanson, Frank Duveneck, Henry Mosler, Elizabeth Nourse, John H. Twachtman, Henry Farny, Edward Henry Potthast and Robert Frederick Blum.

The inception of the American Art collection dates from the Cincinnati Art Museum’s founding in 1881. In 1893, the museum instituted its Annual Exhibition of American Art, from which several works were purchased each year. First-rate examples of American Impressionism by Childe Hassam, William Merritt Chase, John Singer Sargent and others thereby entered the collection. With the addition of paintings by such important figures as John Trumbull, Thomas Cole, Winslow Homer, George Inness, Thomas Eakins, Mary Cassatt, Grant Wood and Jacob Lawrence, the museum presents a strong survey of American creativity in painting. The watercolors and drawings collection features a wide range of artists from Duveneck, Nourse and Sargent to John Marin and Charles Burchfield. Excellent in quality, although not as comprehensive, is the representation of American sculpture. The museum is an essential stop for those interested in the art of Hiram Powers and Moses Jacob Ezekiel, in addition to Thomas Ball, Randolph Rodgers, John Quincy Adams Ward and Harriet Whitney Frishmuth.

Cincinnati is fortunate to have one of the finest and most comprehensive collections of portrait miniatures in the United States alongside extensive library holdings to support the study of the art form. America’s most famous practitioners such as William Birch, Edward Greene Malbone, Sarah Goodrich and the Peale family, are accompanied by numerous works by painters rarely found elsewhere.

Asian Art
The Cincinnati Art Museum houses one of the oldest Asian art collections in the United States, representing the diverse cultures of India, China, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia and Tibet with holdings of over 5,000 objects. Chinese art is the most comprehensive area of the collection, consisting of nearly 1000 objects and spanning 5,000 years of history. Among the many art forms represented in this collection are Neolithic pottery, ancient ritual bronzes and jades, Buddhist sculptures, paintings, screens, prints, ceramics, ivory, lacquer, enamel and metal wares and furniture.

The Japanese collection, with nearly 3000 objects, includes ceramics, paintings, screens, prints, arms and armor, lacquer and metal wares, ivory carvings and other crafts, is uniquely importantly as it chronicles a late nineteenth-century connection between Cincinnati and Japan.

The most notable areas of the museum’s Indian art collection include a small group of Hindu and Buddhist sculptures. In addition, approximately 100 miniature paintings spanning the fifteenth century through the early twentieth century represent both Mughal and Rajput disciplines, primarily from the Rajasthani school of Northwest India.

South Asian Art, Islamic Art and Antiquities
The Cincinnati Art Museum possesses a distinguished collection of ancient art from the Mediterranean region and the Near East. Spanning some four thousand years from the fourth millennium B.C.E. to the early centuries C.E. this notable collection features major examples of stone sculpture, decorated metalwork, painted wall carvings and ceramic vessels from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. The earliest acquisition of ancient objects was accomplished by the Women’s Art Museum Association in 1886, purchasing Greek and Etruscan antiquities. The museum was also the recipient of objects excavated in ancient Egypt and Sudan by the Egypt Exploration Society as well as donations by major individual donors, including Millard and Edna Shelt and William Tunstall and Louise Taft Semple. Among its Near Eastern archaeological treasures is an exceptional collection of Nabataean sculpture and decorated architecture—the largest collection of material of its kind outside of Jordan.

Since its founding, the Cincinnati Art Museum has supported the work of living artists through exhibitions and the acquisition of artworks. The growing Contemporary Art collection continues in this tradition, encouraging understanding of our times and cultures through art produced around the corner and around the world. The artists represented include those working in a wide range of media, such as Frank Stella, Jenny Holzer, Mark Bradford, Cindy Sherman, and Ellsworth Kelly. With the most extensive public collection of contemporary art in Cincinnati, it offers a living archive of today’s art while also preserving and documenting these works for future generations.

Decorative Arts and Design
Decorative Arts and Design objects were among the first acquisitions of the Cincinnati Art Museum at its inception in 1881, and collecting in this area has continued unabated to the present. The museum is recognized internationally for its fine collection of decorative arts and design which includes almost 7,000 works including furniture, glass, ceramics, metalwork and architectural design from the Western world dating from the seventeenth-century to the present. Highlights include furniture, ceramics and metalwork produced by Cincinnati artists and firms; eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English silver; eighteenth-century French furnishings and architectural elements; and nineteenth-century English and European ceramics. Other strengths include historic glass from South Jersey, New England and the Midwest; art glass produced by Lalique, Lobmeyr and Louis Comfort Tiffany; American folk art; Art Deco furnishings; and contemporary works in glass, ceramic and wood.

European Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings
The Cincinnati Art Museum has a world renowned collection of European paintings, drawings, sculpture and portrait miniatures. Highlights of the painting collection include Renaissance masterpieces by Andrea Mantegna, Titian and Lucas Cranach the Elder, as well as Baroque paintings by Guercino, Peter Paul Rubens and Claude Lorrain. The collection is particularly strong in eighteenth-century British paintings, including one of the finest works by William Hogarth in America as well as treasures by Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough. The museum also has a fine collection of French paintings of the nineteenth century, including landscapes by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet, Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh. Modernism is equally well represented, with paintings by André Derain, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró and Amadeo Modigliani. The drawings collection includes many sheets by the Old Masters and deep holdings in the work of the German nineteenth-century artist Carl Friedrich Lessing. Noteworthy watercolors by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Paul Cézanne are featured, as are important French pastels by Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Rosa Bonheur. European sculpture at the museum spans from medieval times to modernism.

The museum is an essential study center for the art of the portrait miniature, featuring nearly two thousand examples, a reference library and assorted objects that illuminate the art form and its history. The works range in date from the sixteenth through the twentieth centuries and represent the development of miniature painting across Europe, with depth in the artists of the British School. Among the numerous examples of astounding craftsmanship are those by Isaac Oliver, Alexander Cooper, Jean-Baptiste-Jacques Augustin and Richard Cosway.

Fashion Arts and Textiles
The Cincinnati Art Museum has been collecting fashion and textiles since its founding in 1881. Holdings of approximately 15,000 objects span centuries and encompass the work of renowned French couturiers, pioneering American fashion designers, dress, textiles and dolls from around the world.

The Fashion Arts and Textiles collection is broad-ranging including women’s, men’s and children’s dress and accessories from the late eighteenth century to the present day. Highlights include fashionable examples by groundbreaking European and American designers, such as Charles Frederick Worth, Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo, Gabrielle Chanel, Madeleine Vionnet, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Christian Dior, Halston, Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo, as well as traditional dress from diverse cultures around the globe. The museum holds a significant collection of the work of twentieth-century American designer, Elizabeth Hawes.

The textile collection is cross-cultural ranging from fifth-century Coptic textiles to contemporary fiber art. In-depth collections include Flemish, French, and English tapestries, nineteenth-century quilts, an impressive collection of Kashmiri and paisley shawls, Javanese batiks and printed designs by William Morris and Herman Miller among others. The collection also holds outstanding examples of Neo-classical and Etruscan-revival jewelry with a collecting emphasis on the work of mid-twentieth-century modernist jewelers.

Musical Instruments
The Cincinnati Art Museum began to collect musical instruments as early as 1888. Today the collection includes over eight hundred musical instruments that span four centuries and represent over thirty musical cultures on four continents. Because of its global scope, it is one of the most important collections of its kind in the world. These instruments were designed, crafted and embellished to look as intriguing and beautiful as the sounds they produce. As a collection, they demonstrate both the shared human need to express oneself creatively and the importance of the arts (visual as well as performing) to the strength and traditions of communities across the globe.

Native American Art
The Cincinnati Art Museum began acquiring Native American objects before it opened its doors in 1886 thanks to a handful of key donors who understood the importance of preserving objects made by our nation’s first inhabitants. In fact, many of the artifacts predate The Exposition of Indian Tribal Arts, the first exhibit of Native American Art held in New York City in 1931. The Exposition’s organizers included American artist John Sloan, anthropologist Oliver LaFarge and Amelia Elizabeth White, an activist and gallery owner. White championed native peoples’ rights and encouraged them to make artistic objects in the tradition of their ancestors. Her contribution of more than 130 objects, including some of the earliest Pueblo paintings, was significant in building the Museum’s collection. Holdings encompass notable examples of Pueblo pottery both traditional and contemporary, including works by Virgil Ortiz and Maria Martinez. In particular, the peoples of the Great Plains, Pueblos, Northwest Coast and Mesoamerica are represented by textiles, dress, and pottery.

The Cincinnati Art Museum exhibited photography for the first time in 1896 and acquired its first photographs for the collection in 1899. The collection spans the history of the medium, from a salted-paper print by William Henry Fox Talbot to contemporary photographs by emerging artists. The museum’s holdings are notably strong in several areas: nineteenth-century travel photography, in particular photographs from Japan; mid-twentieth-century modern American photography by such acknowledged masters as Walker Evans, Aaron Siskind and Harry Callahan; and contemporary photography, from blue-chip figures like Hiroshi Sugimoto, William Eggleston and Andreas Gursky to younger practitioners like An-My Lê and Lisa Oppenheim.

The Cincinnati Art Museum’s Print and Drawings collection includes prints, posters and illustrated books from the fifteenth century to the present, including a strong representation of twentieth-century Japanese prints. At its core is an old master collection donated by Herbert Greer French with notable examples of master printmakers Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt van Rijn, William Blake and José Francisco y Lucientes Goya. The Albert P. Strietmann collection of color lithography features the work of Toulouse Lautrec and a cross section of international printmakers from the 1950s and early 1960s. The collection is strong in the work of American printmakers from Frank Duveneck and James Abbott McNeill Whistler to Jim Dine.

The Cincinnati Art Museum found it impractical to spend as much as $2.5 million a year on special exhibitions, given its declining endowment when it has unexploited holdings like circus posters and Dutch contemporary design. As a result, in 2010 the museum mounted “See America,” nine small shows that highlighted different parts of the country through the museum’s collection. Attendance at the museum has increased by 30 percent since it started emphasizing its permanent collection.

Admission and hours of operation
General admission is always free to the Cincinnati Art Museum’s 73 permanent collection galleries and the REC family interactive center of the museum, thanks to The Richard and Lois Rosenthal Foundation, the Thomas J. Emery Endowment and an endowment established by the Cincinnati Financial Corporation/The Cincinnati Insurance Companies. Education program fees may apply to adults and children. Special exhibition pricing varies.

The Art Museum, located at 953 Eden Park Drive in Eden Park, is open Tuesdays through Sundays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. starting November 3, 2016. Parking is free every day, starting September 26, 2016.

By 2011, the museum’s endowment was down to about $70 million from about $80 million in 2008. The endowment soon recovered to pre-recession levels, valued at $87 million in 2014.

In 2012, the City Council of Cincinnati had to issue an emergency ordinance to allow artist Todd Pavlisko to shoot a rifle on the grounds of the Cincinnati Art Museum as part of an exhibition titled “Crown,” whereby a bullet will be fired from the ground floor’s Schmidlapp Gallery into a chunk of bronze in the institution’s Great Hall. The bullet, to be fired by one of the country’s leading snipers, will in turn be filmed by Pavlisko using high-speed cameras and video, with the resulting documentation making up the bulk of the exhibition.