Monday, November 23, 2009

Haggin Museum

This outing again comes from the AAA recommendations and I have to say that this is a GEM of a museum. The Haggin Museum is a small museum in Stockton, about an hour and 15 minutes away from where we live, but it is definitely worth the drive. The admission is only $5 for adults- which is such a steal to see such amazing pieces. It is located in the center of a park with several mini-lakes and fountains.

The main draw for me to the museum was their special exhibit- "American Legacy: Our National Parks"- that they have in conjunction with the national parks documentary by Ken Burns. The exhibit mainly featured paintings that had happened in plein air- only a couple were done in the studio- and all of them had been painted within the last few years. Something that I had not expected was that these paintings were actually for sale- some had already been purchased. I glanced at the price list to see that the prices ranged from $3000-10,000. It was fascinating to look at all of these different paintings of our national parks because they each evoked a different feeling than a photograph. Several of the nearby plaques detailed how several of the artists struggled to not exactly document the scene like a photograph but rather to capture a deeper level of emotion of the paintings. I particularly enjoyed this special series they had of Zions (a place I still need to visit) where they had 14 artists paint in the park for a week. It just re-enforced to me how unique each artists perspective is because most of them chose different objects and scenes to focus on, and it was fascinating to view the individual emotional experiences of each.

The main highlight of the museum for me was that they had about 10 paintings by Albert Bierstadt- this incredible landscape painter. Bierstadt took nature and elevated it to the spectacular. For me, his works evoke very spiritual feelings about the majesty and grandeur of nature, and that these masterpieces were designed by a greater hand. I have only seen a handful of his works in all of my other museum travels and so this was an unexpected delight. My favorite of his was entitled "Sunset in Yosemite Valley" and this image does not do it justice. You definitely have to see it in person to get the full effect. They also had several works by Thomas Moran, another great landscape painter of the time, and my favorite was "A Woodland Temple." These pieces alone made my visit, but there was still much more to be seen.

They have a small collection of Egyptian artifacts (including a mummified cat), Greek, Roman, Mayan, and Aztec, as well as beautiful elaborate French clocks and vases, Wedgewood china, and Chinese Jade. They also had a Renoir and a Gaugain mixed in among some portrait paintings. The opposite side of the museum houses artifacts, models, and replicas of the history of Stockton. I though that this area was particularly well done in that they had spent an enormous amount of time customizing backdrops for each scene- like this one about the Spanish missions- and and the shipyard where boats were constructed.

They had rooms decorated to illustrate what a Victorian home looked like, as well as a school, blacksmith shop, stores, Indian lean-tos, and they had an incredible gift shop. It was already elaborately decorated for Christmas with several trees, lots of art books, and other trinkets. And the staff was so friendly. I honestly cannot rave enough about this museum. I will definitely be back.


K. Marie Criddle said...
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K. Marie Criddle said...

So I'm finally catching up on all my blog guys sound like you're having so much fun out in CA! Next time we're out there, I'm printing out your blog as a travel guide. No joke. Then we're coming to your house for dinner. :) mua ha ha...

The Richardsons said...

Someday I am going to go on a museum binge and I am going to hire you as my tour guide. We will travel the country, plus china. I'll be sure to schedule in advance :)