The Morgan Library and Museum in Midtown Manhattan covers a vast field. Built upon the collection of an individual who had diverse interests, the Morgan covers the written word and music as well as the visual arts. Furthermore, it is housed in an architecturally important building.
The museum began as the private library of J.P. Morgan. Morgan was a very successful financier who rose to be perhaps the richest and most powerful person in the world
In 1902, Morgan commissioned architect .Charles McKim of the prestigious firm McKim, Mead and White, to design a building to house Morgan's collection of books, prints, drawings and works of art. The building would be at the corner of Madison Avenue and East 36th Street, next to Morgan's residence. The resulting Italian Renaissance building with its marble exterior is considered to be McKim's masterpiece.
Morgan's son and heir, J.P. Morgan Jr. (“Jack”), converted the library into a public institution in 1924. The new institution was called the Pierpont Morgan Library. And operated under that name until 2008.
In 1928, an annex was built on the site where J.P. Morgan's residence had been. Sixty years later, Jack's brownstone residence on the corner of Madison and East 37th Street was added to the complex.
This collection of buildings was brought together in 2006, when a new entrance building was erected on Madison Avenue. Designed by Renzo Piano, the building is done in a contemporary style. However, it does not call attention to itself and thus harmonizes with the rest of the complex's primarily 19th century architecture.
The new building doubled the museum's exhibition space , created a new reading room and provided space for a restaurant and a shop. When the museum reopened after this renovation it did so as the Morgan Library and Museum.
As one might expect, J.P. Morgan had an impressive collection of books, works of art and rare materials. Over the years, the museum's staff has added to this collection. As a result, the permanent collection includes drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Cezanne and Van Gogh. There are manuscripts by Lord Byron, Charlotte Bronte and Charles Dickens to name a few. Musicians are represented by written material from Beethoven, Chopin, Verdi and Bob Dylan. Of course, there are Gutenberg bibles.
Although the collection does contain some paintings, this is not the focus. Rather, its works of visual art are mostly drawings and prints.
With a collection of this size, not everything can be on permanent display. Therefore, the museum organizes temporary exhibits drawing from its collection. In these temporary exhibits, the museums items are sometimes supplemented with related paintings and works from other museums.
A visit to the museum is not complete without a look at J.P. Morgan's library and private study. Even though they date from the early 20th century, this series of rooms in the original McKim building are elaborate and grand in a way that only the 19th century could have produced. Not only are they visually awesome but it is fascinating that they were built for a private individual.
For more information about visiting the Morgan, see the Morgan Library and Museum webisite.
Above: The original McKim building.
Below: The entrance building.
Above: J.P. Morgan's study.
Below: J.P. Morgan's library.
ARTICLES AND REVIEWS
Exhibition Review: Poussin, Claude and French Drawing in the Classical Age
Exhibition Review: Henry James and American Painting
Exhibition Review: Drawn to Greatness - Drawings From the Thaw Collection
Places to see art - - New York City - - Morgan Library and Museum