The Saint Louis Art Museum, located within the St. Louis Forest Park, is one of the principal U.S. art museums; today, including paintings, sculptures, cultural objects, and ancient masterpieces that have been sourced and collected worldwide. As a three-story building located within St. Louis’ famed park, more than half a million people visit the museum every year. Unlike other museums, admission is free through a subsidy from the cultural tax district for St. Louis City and County.
The museum is an active place, offering feature exhibitions, as well as rotating exhibitions and installations. One of these rotating exhibitions includes the Current series, which features contemporary artists. Regular exhibitions of new media art and works on paper can also be viewed at the museum.
History of the Saint Louis Art Museum
Founded in 1881, the Saint Louis School and Museum of Fine Arts was its first official name, housed within the Washington University in St. Louis. Wayman Crow built the original building as a memorial to honor his son, Wayman Crow, Jr. Crow employed Boston architects Peabody & Stearns to design the building located at 19th and Lucas Place, now known as Locust Street today. The school, led by Halsey C. Ives at the time, educated two generations of St. Louis artists and craftspeople and offered studio and art history classes supported by a museum collection.
Once the school moved to Washington University’s campus, the museum split and moved to Forest Park. The building fell into disrepair, and was eventually demolished in 1919.
After the 1904 World’s Fair, the museum moved to the Palace of Fine Arts, built for the fair from 1902 to 1903. Architect Cass Gilbert, inspired by the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, Italy, designed the building.
By 1908, the museum’s director, Halsey Cooley Ives, arranged for the municipal tax to support and fund the museum. The following year, the museum was officially separated from Washington University and renamed the City Art Museum. By 1912, an organizing board was installed to monitor the museum.
In 1971, St. Louis voters approved the creation of the Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District, which expanded the tax base for the 1908 tax to include all of St. Louis County. By 1972, the museum was finally given the name we call today: the Saint Louis Art Museum.
Collection at the Saint Louis Art Museum
The Saint Louis Art Museum is home to more than 30,000 artworks dating from antiquity to the present. The museum divides its keepsakes into eleven different sections:
- Ancient and Islamic
- Decorative Arts and Design
- Mesoamerican and American Indian
- Prints, Drawings, and Photographs
Their “Modern Collection” includes works by Matisse, Gaugin, Monet, Picasso, Giambattista Pittoni, and Van Gogh. The museum is also known for having a robust collection of 20th-century German paintings, including the world’s largest Max Beckmann collection, with pieces from Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery.
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