Monday, November 29, 2010

The Robert Hull Fleming Museum of Art

This is what Ive been working on, so I thought I'd share.

The Robert Hull Fleming Museum of Art
By Gewel Kafka
Photographs are from the Fleming Museum's website

            The Robert Hull Fleming Museum of Art was founded in 1931 in the heart of historic downtown Burlington, Vermont. The Fleming is located next door to the Fletcher Allen Hospital off Colchester Avenue on the campus of the University of Vermont (one of the nation’s oldest universities, chartered in 1791).  The Fleming is open every day of the week except Monday and admission is affordable making it accessible to the entire community: five dollars for adults, ten for the whole family, and three for students (K-12 and college) and senior citizens. The Fleming has ample parking, but is also on the bus line and in reasonable walking distance from downtown Burlington. The Fleming offers many educational resources that cater to the University of Vermont, local high schools and the community with lectures, tours, films, workshops, artists' demonstrations and non-credit courses.  “The University of Vermont's Robert Hull Fleming Museum is a cultural treasure prized by Vermonters and visitors for more than 80 years” (Fleming website, Home page).
The Fleming Museum of Art is an irreplaceable asset to Burlington with opportunities for education as well as personal enrichment.  To experience a wide variety of art from different cultures, from all around the world, check out the Fleming for all it has to offer.
            A Friendly student receptionist greets visitors in the front lobby.  For the entire museum is staffed by work-study students who attend UVM. In the front lobby is a snack and drink station with Green Mountain coffee, chips and soft drinks.  Drinks and snacks cannot be brought into the museum so they must be consumed in the dining area. Other items that are off limits include ink pens and cameras.  These rules are meant to keep the art safe so food or drink does not get on the valuables and so the flash from a camera does not damage the older paintings.  In the front lobby a small book store compliments the museum with diverse titles ranging from Picasso: Inside the Image, by Janie Cohen, to The Serpent Power: The Secrets of Tantric and Shaktic Yoga, by Arthur Avalon. In the lobby opposite the book store is a large globe-shaped sculpture by Lars-Erik Fisk.  The sculpture is also in the form of a red barn, right down to the stone foundation. It so resembles a globe that it looks like if it were bumped, it might go rolling. A barn window in the sculpture is meant for viewers to look inside the globe into a lighted, nest-like area filled with hay. The information card says the piece is meant to pay tribute to New England life with its barn-like appearance
            Visitors show the student receptionist identification and pay an admission fee. Three different entrances lead toward the main gallery and the experience is different depending on which way is entered. The two hall entrances on either side of the lobby have permanent glass display cases.  The hall entrance to the right is dedicated to 12th and 13th Century Islamic earthenware and 19th century metal work from India. The Islamic pottery is cracked and fragile; though the glazes are aged by time, the cobalt blue hues and painted designs remain vibrant. The hall entrance to the left is devoted to Chinese bronze and ceramic arts from the 19th century as well as a display of Japanese ceramics. A Qing Dynasty marble statue from19th century China, named Guanyin, ushers visitors into the main room with a peaceful gesture. 

            The central main entrance leads into a large wooden room, presently devoted to visiting art. A collection called Metals, Materials, and Culture is on display Until December 18th, 2010.  The collection consists of metal sculptures, head garments, and utilitarian objects from around the world and focuses on the way metal has been decorated, shaped and used.  A massive, brass chandelier from 1931 is the first piece seen if entering from the lobby and looking up. The information card says the chandelier was part of the original design for Burlington’s Wilbur Library when The Fleming was built in 1931; brass fixtures, such as this, typify 1930s colonial revival rooms and buildings. Other metal works on display include an intricately carved brass arm cuff from 18th century Nigeria and a silver Mongolian bridal helmet thought to be from the 19th century. The silver bridal helmet, inlaid with colorful stones such as coral, glass and turquoise, is decorated with intricate Celtic knots. Strands of vibrant red coral beads hang from the silver cap suggesting fiery hair. 

            Further into the Fleming is a large main marble room. There sits a life-size marble rendition of Penelope, carved by Franklin Simmons in 1891.  Penelope is the wife of the legendary Ulysses from The Iliad and the Odyssey. To the right of Simmons’s Penelope, on the other side of the room, is a sizeable granite relief from Iraq of a winged king mounted to the wall.  The relief was carved in 880 B.C.E and found in the ruins of a palace on the banks of the Tigris River.

            The other visiting art room is behind the stone relief of the winged king.  The room is presently displaying world famous modern artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude in The Tom Golden Collection on display until December 18th, 2010. Christo and Jeanne-Claude are a married artist couple, famous for wrapping objects of all sizes in cloth and twine as a type of installation art. The Tom Golden Collection involves many lithographs of finished wrappings, plans of some of the many objects they have wrapped, and a few small wrapped objects behind glass.  Wrapped Automobile by Christo, from 1984, is a lithograph of the plans to wrap the couple’s friend’s Volvo in cloth.  The lithograph borders on sculpture; the shape of the car protrudes out of the center of the lithograph making it three dimensional.  Another lithograph called The Paris Review, Wrapped, from 1985, is a flat image of a magazine wrapped in plastic. The collection documents the plans of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s work in a visually pleasing manner and epitomizes the couple’s art. 

            Back into the marble room and up the antique stairs is a tribute to Donatello, the sculptor (1386-1466): a metal replica of Saint George. Further up the stairs is a balcony/walkway for New England artists.  The first painting seen at the top of the stairs is an original Francis Colburn from 1937. The painting is a still life depicting a piano, apples and a lamp.  The lighting and the shapes are extreme and vibrant making the piece distinctly recognizable as Francis Colburn’s work. Francis Colburn was a Vermont artist who lived from 1909 to 1984. He is known for the cubist influence seen in his paintings.  Francis Colburn graduated from UVM in 1934 and is a Vermont state treasure. Another New England artist on display is Henry Schnackenberg with a landscape of Vermont’s Manchester Center painted in oil from 1938.  A more recent New England work on display is an oil painting by Kathleen Kolb of a snowy lumber yard called Grappling Logs at Dawn from 2007.
            There are two large rooms that shoot off the balcony/walkway devoted to Vermont artists. One room is for Egyptian artifacts as part of the Fleming’s permanent collection. A must see in the dimly lit Egyptian gallery is Mummy of an Unknown Woman from the 6th century B.C.E.  She is wrapped in linen, resting in a painted wooden coffin, behind thick protective glass.  Two mummified animals are behind glass directly across from the human mummy: a cat and bird wrapped in linen from 712-30 B.C.E among other bone and jade sculptures of Egyptian deities.

            The other room branching off the balcony/walkway is proudly labeled “The European American Gallery” and also part of The Fleming’s permanent collection.  Like the rest of the museum, this gallery is quite impressive. One of the first items seen when entering this room is a Dutch oil painting from 1684 called Couple with a Globe.  The painting captures the essence of that time: it depicts a rosy cheeked couple coddling a globe, dressed in 17th century garb.  Another remarkable oil painting from the American section of the gallery is from one of world’s most iconic painters: Norman Rockwell’s The Babysitter from 1947.  The Babysitter is an amusing image of a frustrated red-headed girl attempting to sooth a screaming infant.  

            The Fleming Museum brings art and culture to Burlington and therefore it is a great asset.  Whether looking at Metal sculpture, mummified bodies, 13th century Islamic pottery, 17th Century European oil paintings, or modern art it’s impossible to leave the museum without a better sense of the world and one’s self. 

The Robert Hull Fleming Museum of Art

Address: 61 Colchester Avenue | Burlington, Vermont 05405 USA

Museum Director: Janie Cohen



Phone: (802) 656-0750

Museum Mission Statement (from website):
The Robert Hull Fleming Museum serves as a gateway for active cultural exchange and critical thinking in our communities and an essential learning resource for the University of Vermont. Through the experience of our diverse collection, dynamic exhibition schedule, and innovative educational programming, people of all ages are inspired to discover the arts and cultures of the world.

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee,
    The image can be seen at who can supply you with a canvas print of it.