The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art has been a Florida landmark for 75 years. Located on Park and Canton avenues in Winter Park, it underwent two moves and several expansions as it grew from its humble beginnings on the Rollins College campus. Today, the Morse Museum’s 42,000 square feet of exhibition space is home to the world’s largest and most complete collection of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany, as well as other 19th century and contemporary artists.
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The Morse Museum was established by Jeannette Genius McKean, who named the museum after her grandfather. Charles Hosmer Morse was a well-known 19th-century philanthropist who gave Winter Park its first town hall, created Central Park, and actively supported a variety of civic organizations such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, Rollins College, and the Winter Park Women’s Club. In founding the Morse Museum, his granddaughter Jeannette strived to carry on Charles Hosmer’s desire to preserve Winter Park’s unique character through its institutions. Together with her husband, Hugh F. McKean, Jeannette developed the museum’s collection of art over the course of half a century. The Morse Museum is currently owned and operated by the Charles Hosmer Morse Foundation with additional support provided by the Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundation.
Programs and Events
The Morse Museum hosts a variety of programs and events geared towards promoting an appreciation of the arts, both from a historical and practical point of view. Their annual Christmas in the Park event allows visitors to enjoy a concert by the Bach Festival Choir and Brass Ensemble against a backdrop of backlit Tiffany windows. From November to April, museumgoers can attend the museum free of charge, where they can experience art demonstrations and curator-led tours as well as live instrumental music. With a variety of talks, events, and programs, the museum engages visitors of all ages.
The Morse Museum puts together a variety of rotating exhibitions meant to showcase the prolific career of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Museumgoers can view his collections of leaded glass windows, furnishings, pottery, and much more. In addition, the Morse Museum has a well-developed collection that displays the works of many of Tiffany’s contemporaries, allowing visitors to understand the ways in which his work was informed by the Arts and Crafts movement. Lastly, through their collections of contemporary works on display, visitors are able to deepen their understanding of Tiffany’s legacy.
Their Louis Comfort Tiffany’s Life and Art exhibition chronicles the five main stages of his career. The 40 objects on display in this exhibition are taken from the museum’s permanent collection and are supplemented with archival photos, biographical information, and graphic panels.
One of the museum’s most recent expansions saw the addition of ten galleries, which comprise its Laurelton Hall wing, showcasing furnishings and artwork from the artist’s Long Island estate of the same name. In creating this well-known residence, Tiffany took great pains to ensure that its interiors, façade, and gardens properly encompassed his artistic sensibilities and philosophies, which we associate today with the Arts and Crafts movement in American 19th-century art. Everything, from the iconic Daffodil Terrace, which graces the entrance to his home, down to the Indian doors that embellish the entry way to his living room, demonstrates the artist’s assertion that everyday objects ought to combine aesthetic beauty as well as utility.
One of the centerpieces of the permanent collection is Tiffany’s award-winning leaded glass panels, which were displayed at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris. Tiffany’s choice of subject matter for the panels, the four seasons, is emblematic of his reverence of nature and the organic design elements that formed a prominent motif in his work.
Another on-going exhibit at the Morse Museum goes by the title of Art Nouveau from Europe and America from the Morse Collection. This collection of works provides viewers with a chance to further explore the way in which the Arts and Crafts era dovetailed into the art nouveau style, which characterized the late 19th century. While the 13 objects on display are everyday objects ranging from mirrors and lamps to tableware, their characteristic emphasis on fluid lines, nature-inspired shapes, and sensual curves mirror themes introduced by the Arts and Crafts movement and echo many of Tiffany’s creations. In addition, these works highlight the centrality of Middle Eastern and Asian design elements on the art nouveau aesthetic.
445 North Park Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32789, website, Phone: 407-645-5311