When the McNay first opened in 1954, the museum was considered a specialty of Modern European and American art that focused on French artists and Post-impressionism. Today, the collection has expanded from 700 to 20,000 pieces of art from areas that include American art since World War II, Modern European and American prints and drawings, and the Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts, which comprises over 9,000 theatre arts objects focusing on scene and costume designs.
The European collection has work from artists such as Henri Matisse, Amedeo, Pablo Picasso, and Alfred Sisley. Famous names in American art such as Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keefe, and Paul Cadmus have showings in the American Art Collection. Modern and Contemporary art of the 20th century has sculpture, painting, relief and many other mediums from artists such as Kiki Smith, Whitfield Lovell, and Radcliffe Bailey.
The Theatre Arts collection is comprised of depictions, drawings, paintings, of different theatrical scenes from the 16th century through the present. Henri Matisse has costume designs, Alexandra Exter has marionette dolls, Tony Straiges has dioramas of scenes that would happen in plays to help with staging, that are all featured in this area of the museum, along with many other important theatrical works. Images from Shakespearean plays, Baroque festivals, Broadway, and ballet can all be found in the Theatre Arts Collection.
The Southwestern Art Collection is focused on New Mexico and Native American Folk Art that McNay collected during her summer trips to New Mexico. Many of the Santos, decorative arts, jewelry, and watercolors that she collected came from the Taos Society of Artists. Many of the painting depict Navajo women, landscape, and even a painting by Marion McNay herself.
One of the largest areas of strength at the McNay is the Contemporary Latino Prints. Considered one of the finest collections in The United States, Cesar Martinez, Sam Coronado, Richard Montoya, and Carlos Francisco Jackson, among many others, all have prints on display in this collection.
The Prints and Drawings Collection of the McNay has been recognized for its contribution to the focus on graphics from the 19th and 20th centuries and the sheer quality of the works it has acquired. The French and American prints from the 19th century, along with German Expressionist graphics and post 1960 American works on paper, are particular strengths of this collection that have received much praise from the art community. Andy Warhol, Vincent Van Gogh, Edward Hopper, and Georgia O’keefe are just a few of the well-known artists whose prints are a part of this respected collection.
The French Art Glass Collection took decades for Jeanne and Irving Matthews to collect and even includes a library on the subject. The collection features glass works from 19th and 20th century France and is considered one of the finest in America.
Dr. Friedrich Oppenheimer and his wife donated their collection of Renaissance and Medieval art to the museum in 1955 shortly after the opening to the public. The highlights are sculptures and paintings by Albrecht Bouts, Master of Frankfort, and Taddeo di Bartolo.
The last collection is the outdoor sculpture collection that spans the 23 acres of land that the McNay sits on. Decorated with sloping lawns and wooded paths that journey through the Japanese inspired gardens, visitors can enjoy works by Alexander Liberman, Tony Smith, and Joel Shapiro, and many others.
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