Celebrating Our Anniversary at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

We generally do not celebrate our wedding anniversary on the actual day–February 24, because it usually falls during the Preaching-Teaching Convention at Ozark Christian College. However, this year February 24 fell outside the convention dates. We celebrated our 51st anniversary at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

We drove seventy miles to Bentonville, Arkansas and had an early lunch at Atlanta Bread. We spent four hours enjoying the wonderful art collection at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.

The museum, founded in 2005 by youngest daughter of Sam Walton, Alice Walton, opened in November, 2011. The unique design by Israeli architect Moshe Safdie features a series of pavilions built around two creek-fed ponds, surrounded by 120 acres of forests and gardens with walking trails. We were impressed by the arched wooden beams in the pavilions.

Experts rate this museum as among the nation’s elite art museums. Walton, a billionare, spared no expense in assembling an outstanding collection. She paid a reported $35 million for Asher Durand’s “Kindred Sprits,” showing two men on a ledge in the Catskill Mountains. This painting shows amazing detail and impressive perspective. A reported $20 million acquired Thomas Eakins portrait of a medical professor. More than 400 works are on display, with 800 more in storage.

The permanent collection, “Celebrating the American Spirit,” features masterworks from the Colonial period through twentieth century contemporary art. Prominent in the Revolutionary War period are Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of George Washington (1796) (the one on a $1 bill) and Charles Wilson Peale’s of Washington (1779). As you move through the galleries you encounter early settlers, American Indians, Civil War paintings, landscape paintings, Rockwell’s “Rosie the Riveter” from World War II, paintings from the civil-rights era and twentieth century contemporary art.

We enjoyed James Henry Beard’s painting, entitled “It Is Very Queer, Isn’t It?” (1885). A chimp is pondering a human skull and an ape skull and holding a booklet titled Darwin’s Descent of Man. The artist seems to be questioning the validity of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

The museum will also feature special changing exhibits. Currently (November 11, 2011–May 5, 2012) “Wonder World” presents nature and perception in contemporary art. A painting of a clock repairman in his shop was my favorite here. Two items that caught my wife’s eye were an ear with an ear horn (inspired by Beethoven’s ear horn) and a figure with many antique toys attached to it. Very unusual was a picture of the Last Supper make up of 20,700 spools of thread. The upside-down picture turned right side up when you looked through a glass ball.

Due to a twenty million dollar grant from Walmart, the museum charges no admission fee. A restaurant is on site. We spent four delightful hours in the museum and did not get to all of the galleries. We plan on a return visit. For more information about the museum check out their website–www.CrystalBridges.org.